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Daniel LeMoine is a social entrepreneur, change-maker, and writer. Here he writes at the intersection of faith, work, & building a matterful career.

Filtering by Category: culture

Haters Gonna Hate: Leading Through Input, Criticism, and Suggestion

Dan LeMoine

Whenever you lead up, whenever you seek to solve meaningful problems, whenever you take intentional steps to build a career that matters, there will be no lack of people giving you feedback and “input.”

From what I can tell, whenever you do the emotional work of putting yourself out there, taking responsibility for an unmet need or problem, there will likely be someone there scoffing or suggesting. And too yet often, these suggesters are unwilling to get dirty and provide a solution with their critiques or jump in the trenches with you.

From my experience, we humans love to complain and criticize without proactively being part of a solution. It’s the path of least resistance. My challenge to myself (and you!), is that when we have criticism or suggestions, we bring them with possible solutions and we find ways we can contribute to the solutions we offer.  Every A-players I know takes responsibility and spends less time criticising, complaining or blindly suggesting and more time actually doing.

There will never be a lack of armchair critics, idea-only people, and well-intentioned fools unsolicitedly offering their ’shoulds’, yet failing to step up, take responsibility, and and actually do the work to make change happen.

And guess what, that’s okay. It’s part of life.

The skill we must develop as leaders is figuring out how to make these friends feel validated and significant.  Yet we must be self aware enough to know who to listen to. We must become adept at knowing when to take input to heart, and when to kindly acknowledge the input, make the input-er feel heard, then swiftly get back to crushing it.

If you listen to no one, you can become myopic and proud, unchecked and inflexible. And if you listen to them all, you’ll find yourself mired in self-doubt, unsureness, fomo, and with soft resolve. This selective listening while maintaining focus is a skill; one that matures the more you face criticism and suggestions as you do meaningful work.

The conventional wisdom I’m seeing from many other thought leaders is to rid your life of these type of people. They tell us to get rid of negative people, ignore the haters completely, and scoff at the scoffers. But I’d like to challenge that.

I’ve seen it done differently. Sure, hatin’ the haters is the easy route (just like complaining or criticising — it’s the other side of the same coin in some ways). And yes, there is a time to tune out this feedback completely. It may even be biblical (see Proverbs 9:8 below). But we must have grace and choose to engage. How will we ever invite others into a higher good — a better story — in their work and life, if all we do brush them off.

I’m learning that leadership isn’t just leading the agreeables, the playmakers, and the responsibility-takers. It means working to seek the highest good of even the criticizers, the scoffers, and the suggesters. 

Haters gonna hate.
— Proverbs 9:8a, paraphrased by yours truly[1]



[1] This of course is a paraphrase. Proverbs 9:8a is "Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you..."



Is Your Boat Taking On Water? Here's What To Do If It Is...

Dan LeMoine

I recently got to know an inspiring new friend by the name of Bill Latham.

Bill gave a keynote alongside my wife at a recent conference, where he spoke on creating a culture of transformation. He (and his company Meteor) are leading the way in disrupting their industry, rethinking the 21st century classroom, and innovating in creating high impact learning environments for schools across the nation. When my wife Danae told me about Bill and the mission he is on, I couldn’t not reach out.  

During a recent chat we had, the topic of culture and employee engagement inevitably arose.

Based on recent GALLUP findings [1] on employee engagement, Bill painted an analogy of a boat:

“Say you’ve got 10 people in your boat.
You’ve got 3 people actively paddling;
5 people will paddle if asked, but if you look away they will be on their phones, playing with their oars, splashing in the water, etc.;
and you have 2 people in the back of the boat actively drilling holes causing the boat to actively take on water."

This is what is actually happening in our workforce today — according to the GALLUP findings, of every ten workers:

  • 3 people are positively and actively engaged,
  • 5 people are not engaged, and
  • 2 people are actively disengaged.

This means 70% of customers are being underserved, 70% of kids are receiving an inadequate education, 70% of hospital patients are not getting the treatment they deserve, 70% of public servants are underserving the taxpayer…you get the idea.

Bill continued by asking, "What would you do with the two people drilling holes in the boat?"

My answer: “Well, you’d get them to stop.” 

Bill: “And if they don’t?"

Me: “Throw 'em overboard."

We talk about making culture and fancy ourselves "culture-makers," at least to some extent. Yet we overlook, ignore, or forget our responsibility to, not only make culture, but to protect and guard the shared set of values as well.

[Of course, the caveat and important first step is creating a clearly defined set of values which are communicated effectively and shared corporately among your team.]

He reminded me that cultural guardianship is a responsibility of everyone in the boat.

It’s not just for the leader, or for a few zealous rah-rah culture police. Each one of us must take an active role in the creation, championing, and guarding of the cultural environment we desire to operate within. We have this amazing choice, opportunity, and responsibility to ensure that what we do aligns with the corporate identity we want to live out and into. As leaders, we are all vanguards of culture.

It’s real easy to complain that the boat is taking on water while sitting and doing nothing about it. It’s another thing entirely to guard the boat from those people who are actively engaged in drilling holes.

We have a duty to keep the boat afloat and moving in the right direction.

[1] "Majority of U.S. Employees Not Engaged Despite Gains in 2014":



The Real Casualty of Us-versus-Them (Instead of "We")

Dan LeMoine

The biggest casualty of having an attitude of 'us-versus-them' (instead of the inclusive ‘we’) is that we rob ourselves of the ability to experience the true fullness of life and the true richness of our humanity. I'm not talking about geo-politics or macro-economic policies. I'm talking about the most basic of human opportunities.

I’m ashamed to say that I was once much more an ‘us-vs.them’-type of person. By the grace of God I’ve grown tremendously in my openness to engaging with humanity — particularly the humanity that doesn’t talk like me, look like me, vote like me, laugh at the same jokes as me, believe like me, worship like me, dress like me, or smell like me. It’s not often easy. Nor is it clean and ordered, black and white. It’s messy and uncomfortable lots of the time.

If I’d continued to remain fixed in this mindset of separation and fear (that’s often what the us-them’ mindset is rooted in) — approaching those different than me with an aire of superiority and a closed mind and heart — I’m reluctant to think how shallow and less colorful my life would be.

Being driven by an us-versus-them mentality means we’d never have met our Syrian friends in a random park on the Canadian shore of Lake Ontario. I’d never have experienced the taste of their homemade grape leaves, the smell of the rich smoke from their argylle, the feel of their warm mint tea in tiny styrofoam cups, heard the pleasant sound of their Arabic and Syrian languages, or the comforting laughter we shared while sharing stories of kids and freedom and religion and life.

Old mindsets could’ve easily labeled them (<—see what I did there) as “weird,” felt superior about my clothes, my food, my skin tone, my language. Man, what an utter tragedy that would have been.

The real casualty of not having a “we”-attitude is us. When we put up walls (figurative and literal), the thing we are hurting is ourselves by choosing a safe, sterile, and hollow life. By choosing a life of fear and scarcity and segregation instead of a life abounding in love and connection, we hurt ourselves by living outside of God’s call to engage and be in community.



One of the most entrepreneurial things you can do

Dan LeMoine

I think the most entrepreneurial thing someone can do is move to countries where they don’t speak the local language...
— Entrepreneur Robert Reffkin, co-founder and CEO, COMPASS

As someone who has moved to a country where I did not speak the language I have some inside perspective on this quote. Below are several entrepreneurial traits and qualities which are magnified and grown by living in a culture outside your own. Living in a culture which does not speak your native language forces you to:

Be resourceful.

You will find effective solutions for your everyday habits and routines which will inevitably be shaken up. You will find the best way to learn the culture and language quickly for you. You’ll identify your strengths and weaknesses and find tools and resources and routines to help you navigate based on those strengths. When you have no easy way to communicate, you will be forced to be more scrappy and gritty in order to communicate your message and intentions to survive. 

Think on your feet.

When you have to find the bathroom or you get thrown in front of local television cameras with no notice (#truestory) you will need to react quickly. To navigate another language and culture being adaptable is paramount. This think-on-your-feet adaptability is also a quality highly prized in the entrepreneurial ventures and positions.

Gain perspective (which results in empathy).

In the same way a fish likely doesn't even know what water is (video link), we often don’t know the wonderful, horrible, beautiful, ugly, amazing, broken, admirable and disgraceful aspects of our own culture. Not until we spend some significant time outside of it, can we have a more rightly oriented perspective of the best and worse parts of our own culture (and the culture we’re in). This more-realistic perspective results in empathy and critical thought as to how to bring the best of both cultures into your work and life.

Take risks (which grow your comfort zone). 

A friend told me about a conference where the keynote asked the audience to give a four-letter word which described how to be happy. Answers of love, cash, golf, abounded. The word the keynote speaker then offered was “risk.” Lives of fulfilment and happiness often have a healthy level of risk. Beyond fulfilment entrepreneurs are often very savvy at weighing and navigating risk within and for their organizations.

There’s risk in living in and navigating another culture. There’s risk in trying to speak a new languageYou’re forced to take risks everyday. Not to sound overly cliché, but the saying holds true in this regard: "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."[1]

Determination in doing hard things.

There is massive value in doing hard things, in life and career. Not only does it expand your comfort zone, but it teaches us dependence, which is a virtue we don’t put much weight in in the Western world. Opening yourself to uncomfortableness, trials, situations where failure (if only social) is imminentcircumstances outside our control, and even suffering is something we tend to avoid at all costs.

This is unfortunate because these thing actually produce perseverance, endurance, emotional aptitude, self-awareness, and understanding. Moving to a culture where they do not speak your language exposes you to all of these things. I can’t help but think of Hebrews 12: 

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

To Develop and learn. 

Entrepreneurs crave learning and developing. Just like in the entrepreneurial landscape, in new culture, if you don’t develop you atrophy and die (not literally, I hope). I’ve found that the higher up and deeper into the Caribbean-Latino culture of the Dominican Republic I go, the more I crave (and need) to develop my linguistic and cultural knowledge. Where I am with my Spanish today is what I would have considered fluent four years ago, but not that I’m here, my definition of fluency has changed. I want more. I desire to continue growing out of a love for this language and the power it holds in allowing me to connect with others in this culture. Continual development is key to avoiding plateau and mediocrity.

To grow your confidence.

Your confidence grows, not only because you’re pushing the limits within yourself, but also because the constant failure of bludgeoning through a different language forces you to decouple your value, worth, and identity from how you look or perform. You’re forced to put your identity, if even just incrementally more, into something solid — in my case, my identity in Christ — which results in a more quite, peaceful strength and confidence. In our work, what we do is important. The problems we solve, the people we connect with, the growth we facilitateBut our confidence is not rooted in something (or Someone) deeper.

Comfortable with failure.

Every entrepreneur I know understands failure is part of the game. And I can’t think of any situation more than language learning where failure is so inherent. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and to deploy that learning to grow. Like the time my friend Curtis went into the local market looking for a pineapple (piña), but ended up asking for a penis (pene). HAAA. 

In another culture we have no other option than to laugh and move on past these failures, and hopefully this translates to our comfort with failure in our professional journey as well.


My path — as a believer, a husband, and as someone looking to build a matterful career — was forever altered (for the better) when we moved to the Dominican Republic in 2012. The extent to which my spiritualrelational, emotional, and vocational trajectories have been enhanced is beyond measure, and the value of my experiences living and serving in another culture will be something I’ll be uncovering and leaning on for the rest of my life.

It is inevitable that you’ll develop the values of learning to do hard things, grow your comfort zone, learn to be resourceful and scrappy, (re)orient and expand your perspective, learn to think quick on your feet, and have ample opportunities to develop, when you ever decide to take the leap and live outside your home culture. Whether it’s a few months, a few years, or a few decades, if you have the chance to live abroad in some capacity in a culture foreign to your own, I promise you will not regret it. The growth from living in a different culture and learning a different language is already proved to be massively valuable on my own entrepreneurial journey.

[1] Author Neale Donald Walsch
[2] Robert Reffkin quote from "In it to Win it: Compass Founder on Switching Up a Business Model" Creator Magazine (Nov. 2, 2015)



What Seth Godin & Jim Collins Say About Building A Culture of Discipline

Dan LeMoine

Jim Collins on "The Culture of Discipline"

"Entrepreneurial success is fueled by creativity, imagination, bold moves into uncharted waters, and visionary zeal. As a company grows and becomes more complex, it begins to trip over its own success—too many new people, too many new customers, too many new orders, too many new products. What was once great fun becomes an unwieldy ball of disorganized stuff. Lack of planning, lack of accounting, lack of systems, and lack of hiring constraints create friction. Problems surface—with customers, with cash flow, with schedules."[1]

And to continue with a paraphrase: But then, out of a need for organization and to rein in the mess, a new wave of playmakers are brought in to bring order to the chaos, to help the organization grow into it’s next level of maturity. With them comes necessary procedure and process and structure. But if not implemented with intention, they risk killing the entrepreneurial spirit and slowly suffocating the egalitarian environment. As I’ve noted before the purpose of any policy or proceedure is to seek the highest good (for the individual and the organization).

As Jim Collins notes, veterans begin to get disenchanted that these forms and processes and procedures are slowing down the ability they once had to GTD, and the “creative magic” begins to slip away. What was once an innovative entrepreneurial culture is replaced by hierarchy and bureaucracy and mediocrity.

So how do we guard against this from happening?

How do we stay organized and efficient, but also continue to push the boundaries, innovate and be massively effective?

Here’s what Jim Collins continues with:

"…the purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline—a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place. [Yet] an alternative exists: Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a cultures of discipline. When you put these two complementary forces together—a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship—you get a magical alchemy of superior performance and sustained results."[1]

Similarly, this reminds me of a post by Seth Godin where he affirms this human-first approach. Seth says,

"The most important part of a race car is the tires. Good tires will always beat bad ones.

The most important part of a cup of coffee is the beans. The grinder, the machine, the barista pale in comparison to the quality of what you start with.

And the most important parts of an organization are the people you begin with. Not the systems or the policies or even the real estate. Great people make everything easier.

And yet...

And yet we spend money on 4 wheel drive instead of snow tires.

And yet we upgrade our coffee maker instead of buying from a local roaster (or roasting our own).

And mostly, we run classified ads to find the cheapest common denominator employee and spend all our time building systems to protect our customers from people who don't care..."[2]

What Jim Collins and Seth Godin are saying here has been true in my experience as well.

I have a unique perspective of serving in an organization going into it’s second chapter of maturity. I was blessed to serve under the founder and in a culture that was super scrappy entrepreneurially-driven culture. I’ve watch the transition of the founder to new leadership (my beautiful wife), and I feel we’ve played a key role in fostering a new culture — one of discipline and organization. As I reflect, the moments where a culture of discipline and a culture of innovation both seemed very far off where the moments when, looking back, we can see that we had the wrong people on the bus (or in the wrong seats).

What we’ve seen work, and what Seth and Jim have validated—

Focus on the right people (not everyone, necessarily).
Focus on building a culture where your a-team can flourish and perpetuate their 'a-team-ness'.
Build a culture your proud of — one that naturally expels the cancers, and attracts the playmakers.
Give your team freedom to navigate their way into the right positions to best serve your organization.

[1] Jim Collins, Good To Great (p. 121)  
[2] Seth Godin, "Tires, Coffee, and People" (