Episode 09: Bringing No Barriers into Business — Meet SVP Steve Rae

about the episode

After establishing Steve and Dave’s Chicago connection, the hosts dive into why he’s been brought on as a guest: after Steve attended a No Barriers Corporate retreat he was able to recognize the core No Barriers elements that he could bring back to his own company to reinvigorate his teams.

Steve Rae

Corporations face their own types of barriers but in more “invisible” ways. Steve talks about how employees are not willfully disengaged but they have perhaps lost their connection to the mission or are checked out:

“Something about their environment is disabling for them to give their best and have the fulfillment that comes from work.”

By providing the No Barriers elements to employees Steve feels can reinstall a sense of agency to their job life.

We dive into Steve’s background growing up overseas. His father’s job involved moving the family around quite a bit and exposed him to diverse experiences and cultures, igniting his sense of curiosity and passion for learning and adventure. He tries to carry that over into his style of leadership:

“The most innovative companies, they stimulate a sense of curiosity in their employees and encourage risk-taking.”

Jeff asks how difficult it is to “turn the tide” for struggling companies: What causes the shift? Steve explains that it has to come from leadership and their understanding of the importance of the culture of the company. He talks about the elements and how each of them contributes to the process of confronting these barriers and ultimately leading to positive change over time — it’s not as simple as hearing one speech and walking away ready to change everything.

“Culture trumps strategy.”

Steve’s thoughts on motivation stem from the importance of motivating employees behind a “Vision” and rallying the troops to see the bigger picture as to why they are showing up for work. By providing leadership that’s respectful and with a focus on the mission, it enables employees to really engage and come to work ready to take risks and branch out.

“Empowering people to do their best and bringing them a vision they could really relate to and treating everyone with respect.”

Dave, Jeff, and Erik all ponder how No Barriers translates from the mountain experiences that corporate leaders attend or the speakers they hear and how they can bring those types of abstract concepts down to the everyday work environment. Steve muses on a few perspectives: one being that, no matter what, there are always about 10% of employees who will not engage regardless and to keep that in mind and it is largely about receptiveness. The second is that No Barriers has authenticity and folks like Erik who are living examples of what is possible and therefore this isn’t just about buzzwords and clever marketing but effective principles.

“These principles that you’re teaching are proven effective ways of sort of rewiring human software to create a belief system of what is possible and arming them to achieve things they never thought were possible.”

And then, to actually experience these transformations in the field — like climbing up a daunting mountain — that experience “creates the permanency” and translates to the workplace.

The concepts of struggle and risk are discussed as positive vehicles for change for businesses and leaders. Steve talks about one of his first international sales jobs that was initially a source of struggle for him and ended up propelling him to success. Another problem he faced was having difficult employees, but it drove him to learn how to be nimble, how to motivate others, and how to ultimately be a better leader.

A final discussion point is about “cutting the rope” and figuring out how to retain or not retain employees who are not helping the team. Steve speaks from a place of compassion and how he came to realize that letting go of employees who are not fulfilling their duties was actually an act of kindness to not only that individual to find a better job fit for themselves but it helped the rest of his team to perform better and not drag them down.

Our hosts wrap up some of their thoughts on Steve’s points about bringing change to struggling companies or leadership with values like authenticity, culture, and ownership.

Learn more about participating in a No Barriers Corporate Leadership Program.

Episode Transcript

Steve: I believe so much that this can’t be a lecture in a room with a bunch of leaders and just a little bit discussion. You got to build these experiential missions that people go on. They realized that when you apply these things to these challenges, that it actually works, and they feel that little bit of transformation happening. It’s the experience that transforms them and creates the permanency, I think.

Erik: It’s easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn’t get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, climbed the tallest mountain in every continent to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It’s been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. Part of the equation is diving into the learning process, this process of growth and change and transformation that we’re all a part of and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way like holds on a rock face that lead us forward and give us clues to why it’s so important we get there.

Erik: In that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit exists a map, that map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

Dave: Today, we’ll meet Steve Rae. Steve is a senior vice president of customer experience at Berlitz. He’s also the CEO of Connect Ed Planets, a learning consultancy focused on the design, development, and management of innovative learning programs through the application of social, experiential and gamification strategies that maximize learner engagement. Prior to Berlitz, Steve built learning solutions at both Apollo Education Group and was a senior executive at IBM. His passion is to bring transformative experience to the virtual learning platform so that we can reach millions of people.

Dave: Welcome to the No Barriers podcast. My Name is David Shurna. I’m the executive director and co-founder of No Barriers. Thrilled to have everyone here with us today. We’ve got a really exciting guest here, Steve Rae, that we’ll be talking to in just a minute about no barriers type topics, but I thought we’d get started, Jeff, Erik. One of the things I happen to know about our guest today that probably will not come up in today’s conversation is that he’s a passionate Cubs fan.

Dave: I grew up in Chicago, so I’d have to do a little shout out for a world series Champs Chicago Cubs, but my question to you guys is do you have a team when you were growing up or even now that you were just like very passionate about?

Erik: It’s definitely not the Cubs. That being said, I love the Chicago passion for the Cubs.

Dave: Exactly.

Jeff: I like the Mets, but 1980s’ Mets when they went to the World Series with Lenny Dykstra and Strawberry and Keith Hernandez and all those superstars of my youth. I lost interest after that.

Erik: There was a lot of mustaches on that team. [Inaudible 00:03:48]. One of the things that was surprising to me when I moved out to Colorado from Chicago was the lack of passion around the sports that I was very passionate about, but the knowledge of other kinds of athletes like climbers for example, and people just knew the names of people from these more outdoor sports. That’s always just been an interesting thing for me.

Jeff: We’re not watching baseball, Dave. We’re out slaying the pal here in Colorado.

Erik: Exactly, slaying the pal.

Dave: Do they still say that, Jeff, slaying the pal?

Jeff: No. A 48-year-old guy won’t say it. 25-year-old guys do. That’s great. It gets to pass.

Dave: Well, I think we should introduce our guests and get started here. Steve Rae is with us. Steve has been a long time member of the No Barriers community, comes to us from the business world which is an interesting take on our story today because Steve is very passionate about how do you teach business leaders to harness adversity and to live purposefully and to be engaged in their work. Steve, we’re just really grateful to have you. Thank you for coming from Chicago to our podcast.

Steve: No, it’s awesome to be here. Really delighted to be in your company. Thanks.

Dave: Well, let’s get started with just a little bit of background for our listeners. Tell us how you came to this No Barriers mindset and what got you interested in it.

Steve: Well, the first time I got connected with No Barriers was a meeting that we had about two years ago, I think, somewhere in that vicinity that we had in Boulder. It was a two-day planning session that you guys have put together to really think about what would be the application of the No Barriers mindset toward the corporate world that struggled with its different kinds of adversity, but nonetheless adversity. We had a chance to be around great business leaders. I had heard a little bit about Erik before then and just was blown away to be in the presence of such a dynamic group of people.

Steve: It was a really interesting couple of days when you look at some of the chief learning officers and the head of HR. They were in that session together. It was almost like we were so unified in our thinking about the application of these principles and the lifestyle that I really felt like something very special was going on that did not exist currently in any kind of offering that corporations had at their disposal to start to take the challenge of the adversity they faced, whether it was disengagement or a tough year or some bad PR and have a way to galvanize their employees around how to overcome those.

Erik: Steve, you know that the origins of some of our no barriers work was working with people with physical disabilities, but we soon realized that that’s not the majority of the world. Most people aren’t like me. They could see, but we talked about invisible barriers. What’re your thoughts on so much of the world and the invisible barriers that they face?

Steve: I’ve been around a lot of companies. When I worked at IBM, I was a consultant that had a chance to interact with a lot of different companies when we were doing these services, engagements and also have worked in a number of different environments as well. When I look at companies that are struggling, they’re dealing with an invisible barrier. They’re dealing with employees that come to work a little checked out. I remember one time going to an insurance company and walking through the floor and seeing employees literally with their head in their hands asleep at their desk.

Steve: When you look at that, you were looking at people who don’t come to work necessarily with an intention to fail, but something about their environment is disabling them to give their best in the context of work and have the fulfillment that comes from work. When I think about these no barriers principles, and I’ve thought about them a lot since that workshop we had a couple of years ago. When I look at some of the challenges that even my team faces, I can absolutely see how these guideposts of vision and alchemy and reach and summiting, all these different ideas can be applied in this world to get these employees a little bit more motivated, engaged, and realize that they have some to contribute and they’re not victims of an environment.

Steve: They’re able to be champions to turn that environment around. Really, a lot of that has to come from leadership, but for me, it is such a great way. The way you guys enable somebody to live a full life can enable an employee to be a full employee and be in a corporate culture that is healed and thriving and full of vigor. That’s what I see.

Jeff: You seem like a lifelong learner. You’re interested in the process, the learning process, how we all learned subjectively and objectively. Reading your bio and understanding that’s been your professional trajectory, tell me about when you were a kid. Were you hungry? We’re you an avid reader, and were you just ravenous for more knowledge and the human condition or was this something that came to you as you started to grow professionally?

Steve: It’s an interesting question. I don’t know how much I’ve reflected on that, but I would say that I find the root of this comes from a couple of places. One is being exposed to a diverse set of experiences. My Dad was an employee of General Motors overseas divisions, so we traveled around a lot, not quite like a military brat, but I was born in Brazil. We grew up in Belgium. I went to boarding school in England, a couple of years in Denmark. My Mom’s from Denmark, so we have this very international experience that is for me, I just thought everybody had this, but it was really very atypical, especially when I came to the states and I know a lot of people who have never been out of the country.

Steve: For me, it just fueled this curiosity and sense of adventure that I don’t think I’ve ever lost. For me, that’s one of the things I also think makes companies innovative is the most innovative companies, they stimulate a sense of curiosity in their employees and encourage risk-taking. Amazon’s a great example of that. If you’re an Amazon employee, you may make all your numbers, but if you haven’t challenged the status quo in some way, you don’t get a very high rating as an employer or a manager. For me, that’s where some of that came from.

Jeff: That’s good. Well, I know that the three of us have spent a lot of time sticking our nose in different industries along the way and getting a little bit of a sense of the pulse of the health of different companies. I know I have as a speaker, and I can almost always tell when a company feels healthy. Just from the first few hours to maybe a day, you just get that sense. It’s obviously cultural. It’s the energy. It’s the vibrancy or lack of all those things. You mentioned it one time you saw this, the head down thing.

Jeff: I mean, in your mind, is it trying to turn the titanic 180 degrees for some of these companies because the culture is flawed in some fashion and because of whatever reason of leadership, or is it something that you can come in and change the paradigm just like that by doing some basic things?

Steve: I think it’s a little of both. Struggling cultures, first of all, have to have leadership that understands what’s going on. When you have that leadership in place, the transformations are easier because you have leaders that stand behind what they’re trying to achieve in terms of bringing a different culture and a different context. There’s an interesting saying that culture trumps strategy. You may have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t have a good culture, you’re never gonna achieve anything.

Steve: I think the leaders that get that first understand that they’ve got to invigorate the employee base. Another expression I quote a lot is, “Businesses don’t succeed or fail. People do.” You have to have at a core engaged employees. There’s a crisis of engagement right now when companies are doing their engagement services. They’re finding that about 30% of the employees are really fully engaged. When you look at that …

Dave: That’s not a good number.

Steve: That’s a terrible number. I come into these companies and I see employees that somehow feel like they have nothing to do with their circumstance. They’re victims. They looked at this and they go, “You know, there’s nothing I can do about this.” I think there is this symbiotic relationship between leaders and individual contributors that have to go together that facilitate those transformations.

Erik: I mean, so you’ve spent a lot of your life trying to understand how to invigorate a culture. What are some of the secrets that you’ve learned?

Steve: As a leader and before I came in touch with No Barriers, I always was a student of great leadership around me, and I had some very good mentors along the way, but there are some principles that first believe in is that when you’re dealing with your employees, you got to paint a picture that they can all identify with as a cool place to go. A lot of the things that I’ve done through my career have been creating things that didn’t exist before. When I was at IBM, I started this thing called knowledge factory, which was a way to produce online learning very quickly and efficiently.

Steve: I remember hiring my first employee and saying, “You know, we’re going to do this thing called knowledge factory and it’s going to be huge.” He’s in a room. There’s one table in the corner with a laptop, and he’s trying to imagine this, but if you, if you have this vision and you can transplant it into other people, you start to create a pretty interesting dynamic. People start coming to work feeling like there’s nothing that can stop them. I also had the benefit of someone that managed up very well, that I worked for someone that cleared the bricks for me, cleared the rubble out of the way, so I had a clean lane that I could create growth in and then we were doubling every year.

Steve: That dynamic for me when I think back on it was empowering people to do their best, bringing them a vision that they could really relate to, treating everybody with respect. As a leader, I always believe in servant leadership, which is the idea that I work for my employees, not the other way around, and I’m here to support them and help their day be a little bit easier. Through that leadership, they feel a little more empowered to take risks, to go outside of their comfort zone.

Steve: They feel like they’re in an environment that’s not political, so they can form things like rope teams and collaborate well, and then have a great time when you achieve something together, celebrate together, and make sure you recognize the people that contributed to that. These principles I think, were things that I was doing instinctively, but when I saw it out in this framework, the no barriers lifestyle, that’s why I connected with it on such a visceral level.

Erik: But we do our stuff in the mountains and in the rivers. How do you take that to a company? We’re doing these very authentic experiences with teams, where people are flailing and bleeding and working through a process. How do you do that in a company?

Steve: When you’re transforming a business from something that’s very disconnected and disengaged, and it’s something that creates vision and purpose is you’re changing the belief system in that business. You gotta know who around you are the people that can carry the message and go, “You know, something different is going on right now. And I’m changing my belief system.” Who are those people that can start to influence the others? You’re always gonna this … I relate to quitters campers and climbers a little bit, but you’re going to have these three categories of people.

Steve: There’s the automatic 30% that are going to come with you on this journey no matter what. There’s about 60% that are going to sit around and they’re going to figure out whether this is a worthy journey. Eventually, they’ll come around, and then there’s 10% that are just never going to get it. They don’t want anything to change. They already checked out. It’s very similar to this idea. The goal is you got to get all that 60% who are standing on the sidelines to jump in and trust this journey that you’re going even if they don’t necessarily know the full destination.

Jeff: Well, this is very pointed what you’re saying. Erik and I almost had a verbatim conversation on some of our programming from last year. I think we even used the same numbers that you just did. It reminds not to understate the obvious, but everything you’re saying that works in a professional atmosphere also translates very, very perfectly to lives in general. I’m not just talking about the No Barriers community and the messaging that comes from that, but I’m just talking about it as a dad. I’m raising my son, as parents.

Jeff: We’re parents here, and that’s part of being a parent is to try and be nurtured, and trying to be supportive, try and establish a really nice safe a “political atmosphere” so that your child can grow to be the person the best version of themselves. I think that’s why. You were instinctively finding and teaching this throughout your professional career and then through a pretty serendipitous event, it’s like, “Oh well, that’s actually what we’ve been doing, but now it really makes sense and it’s really come together, and it’s galvanized in a way.”

Dave: I’ve got a question about … Clearly, you’ve explained well how you connected to this message and how it can make a difference in companies in your mind. I know one of the things that Jeff and Erik experience as they go around the world talking to companies is this feeling of, “Are we the next sort fad?” The company will bring in the speaker to talk about No Barriers, and the message will be there for that one year. We’ll bring some programming in.

Dave: How do you make it last and how do you make it sticky so that it’s not just a one and done experience, whether it’s a speaking engagement or a program where you bring some senior execs out in the mountains or you send some people through online? how do you make it really be deeply impactful and not the thing for the year?

Steve: When I think about the corporate world and this idea of, “Is this a fad, or is it just another quick program,” I think you’re dealing with something that’s a little bit different. There’s an authenticity to what you’re doing. Look, you’re in a very crowded market. There’s hundreds and thousands of leadership development programs and employee engagement programs and things like that, but a lot of those are built around clever wording. These principles that are on paper seem very obvious, but I don’t know that they come from the same inspiring place that No Barriers comes from where you’re taking something that you’ve transformed lives with.

Steve: You’re taking some of your ambassadors who are living examples of what’s possible. You’re bringing that into a context that has absolute complete authenticity. It’s not somebody that became famous and wealthy because they figured out a clever thing to say, and it connected with a lot of people. This is a little different because you’re living it, and these principles that you’re teaching are proven effective ways of rewiring human software to create a belief system of what is possible, and then arming them to achieve things that they never thought were possible.

Steve: I think the confirmation and the stickiness come from experiencing it, which is why as we’ve worked together, I believe so much that this can’t be a lecture in a room with a bunch of leaders and just a little bit discussion. You got to build these experiential missions that people go on, that are part of how they realized that when you apply these things to these challenges, that it actually works, and they feel that little bit of transformation happening. Just like if you’re taking someone that is handicapped and putting them on a bicycle for the first time, it’s the same thing. It’s the experience that transforms them and creates the permanency, I think.

Erik: When you talk about that, I remember a couple years ago, we had this guy called Rogers. He was born with pretty limited mobility and 90-pound kid, really awesome, and he wanted to climb the mountain with us. We put them on an action track chair, this really incredible technology. It’s like a tank with huge treads that can crank up a mountain. About 100 yards from the summit, the electric motor broke down of course. We are thinking, “Okay, how do we get you to the summit? Maybe we’ll just carry you.” He said, “I want to crawl,” and so this guy got out of his action track and he crawled. He left a trail of blood and skin on this tundra. He was smiling the whole time.

Erik: It took him about half an hour to crawl his way to the summit. There are about 100 people all walking very slowly all around him. Now, I bring that energy, that inspiration with me in my whole life now. I bring that with everything I do when I’m feeling down, when I’m feeling jaded. I bring that experience to the table, and it elevates me. Is there a way to do that when people are so busy trying to get things done, really important things done in the office, in the workplace? How do you translate that energy that I felt to something that you’re doing as a team?

Steve: I don’t know that it’s ever going to be quite that momentous, but in a small microcosm, it’s the same way. When you’re in an environment in a corporation where somebody takes on a challenge and you know they’re putting themselves out there at risk, and then they achieved something remarkable with it and they’re recognized for it. They feel that same feeling of, “This never would have happened if I hadn’t taken that risk.” It’s similar. I got to put it in a slightly different category because what you experienced with that young man was just something that I will always carry with me as well.

Erik: Me, as a team member, I’m getting out of my confinements and I’m crawling my way to the summit. I’m important. I’m doing something that I might not have done without the right kind of culture.

Steve: When somebody sees somebody else really struggling and then achieving that kind of alchemy, the benefits come from the struggle. There’s a lot of analogies for it. There’s one that I use sometimes which is the grape that struggles for its existence makes the best wine. There’s something that happens in the struggle that I think many, many corporate employees that developed into supreme leaders and achieved greatness with their careers, they can all relate to things that they really struggled with at some point in their career that transformed their belief system about what was possible.

Steve: Without that, they’re lucky to be where they are. They probably got promoted sometimes for the wrong reasons, but it’s the ones that struggle, that have this genuine sense of how to achieve things. That I think is the corporate analogy for that.

Dave: I’m glad you brought that up because one of the things I wanted to ask you was I think of you as one of those incredibly successful business leaders, and you’ve connected to this message in a lot of different ways, but tell us about a struggle that you’ve had and how the process of working through that struggle make sure that we connect to this no barriers’ message.

Steve: I don’t know if the struggles are in the same category, but everything that I developed really was from something that I was getting wrong. I’m an experiential learner. Put me in a classroom and I have a tendency to maybe check out a little bit, but put me in a real-life situation. That for me sticks with me and it’s something I connect with. The experiences that I had, my first job was with IBM in South Africa. I was a brand new sales rep. I’ve never sold anything before. I was dealing in a new business territory, so I had to quickly figure out as a person with an American accent, not a South African accent, how to go and call in companies in South Africa and close pretty complex deals. It was pretty hard. I had a manager that supported me and was coaching me along the way, but I had to figure a lot of that out on my own. The principles that I developed around how you can influence and how you bring about shared exchange of value and what win-win was all came out of those early days.

Steve: I ended up moving back to the States and then took on a territory in the States and was awarded the rookie of the year. That success wouldn’t have happened if I haven’t had that struggle in South Africa. There’s a lot of things like that that I’ve experienced in my career, whether it’s the first time I was a manager and struggling with difficult employees where I didn’t know how to get them in the right place mentally or in line, but over time as I started to again learn from leaders around me about what they were doing in those situations, and then I learned some of the principles of management that created passionate employees in the teams that I was working with and supporting.

Steve: I don’t know if that connects, but it’s adversity on a very different level, I think, but nonetheless, those things shape the breakthroughs that you have that then you have cemented in your skill set going forward.

Jeff: Then as you progress professionally and get to a point where you’re still learning but you are now the teacher and you go in to consult or discuss the dynamic within a particular culture in whatever industry it is, and the leadership team says, “Well, we’ve got some good rope teams but there’s one or two that just aren’t cutting it. And my managers don’t want to cut the rope and let them go. You know, we want them to be better.” It’s one of the questions that I think we get asked a lot is we use the metaphor of the rope and being on a rope team. When you’re up on a mountain and you got somebody that’s just not pulling their weight or contradictory to the mission that’s going on, you can’t just cut the rope and send them flying down the mountain.

Jeff: To you, how do you handle that and what’s a good strategy? I’m sure it’s hard to put a blanket statement on that, but give it a shot. Good luck.

Steve: This is a really interesting question actually. I do remember the first person I fired and how much I struggled with that decision because I really didn’t want to harm them. I want it to be empathetic and kind as a manager, but there was an interesting thing that I believed as worked through this process in my head. The first thing was that I was thinking of … IBM had this principle of respect for the individual. I’d put that in my head. “Well, that means you’ve got to give everybody a chance, right? And you got to do everything you can as long as you can to help them out.” I just could see that there was no way of creating the right environment for this one person, so I ended up letting him go and everybody that was on that team came in my office to thank me.

Steve: What I realized at that moment was respect for the individual had to do with them as much as it is for that person.

Dave: So true.

Steve: The other thing I was thinking about was this guy was in the wrong job and the wrong environment. This was not going to be anything that he was ever going to be successful in, and that actually letting him go was opening the door to something he could potentially be more successful in. That was the way I processed it. How I’ve processed ever since is that sometimes when you close that door for somebody, you’re opening a door on their life that could be an even greater opportunity for them. You’re also helping the team that you’re also immediately responsible for their success achieve a little bit more because they don’t have that.

Steve: It’s not really a liability, but they don’t have that individual that’s dragging down the rest of the team.

Erik: It’s funny, I have a story. When I first was starting speaking and climbing, I was in Europe speaking at a company. After the talk, this guy comes up to me and he goes, “That was the most inspirational thing I’ve ever heard. I realize I’m out of here. I’m leaving tomorrow.” I went, “No, no, [inaudible 00:30:13] my goal.” I was young, so I didn’t quite know how to process that. My friend said, “You got to realize you did that guy the biggest favor you could have done because you released him to go off and do something to reach his potential. He clearly was not … This was not it.”

Steve: His manager might not have liked it too much, but he did.

Erik: But I did his manager a favor.

Steve: You did. You did them all a favor, for sure.

Erik: I liked that a lot. Cutting the rope sometimes is the best thing you can do.

Dave: I can imagine among our listeners, there could be people working in a company hearing this and hearing other podcasts thinking, “I want to bring this message to my company.” They might be if we’re lucky the CLO that can make that happen or the CEO. Most likely, they’re not. They’re just someone that’s listening in and saying, “I love this message. I want to bring it to my company.” What’s your advice to those listeners? How might they go about doing that?

Steve: The first thing I do is I’d try to get one of your summit flags, and I would create a goal for myself that I want to achieve, and I’d put that summit flag up on my cubicle and create a little curiosity around it and say, “You know, what is that? What are you doing?” You can now start to share. Well, I just believe that I’m here to achieve something. I’m not a victim of this environment, and I’m a change agent. I’m going to create something remarkable for all of us, and that my specific goal, whatever it may be, when I achieve it, I’m gonna have you all sign this summit flag.

Steve: When you’re that person that has the courage and conviction to do that, you’re going to start influencing people around you. You’re going to get somebody’s attention. Leadership will start paying attention and going, “What’s going on over here?” For me, it’s don’t be a victim. Be the climber, not the camper, and challenge yourself to achieve something and do it with the summit flag as your … I have a summit flag right now that actually I should have brought with me because … We can talk about that later, but I had a goal that I set very specifically for my personal summit flag. It’s been achieved. I now want another summit flag to set my next goal.

Dave: Awesome.

Steve: I think that’s a great metaphor for how you start taking No Barriers and doing something with it. The idea of the summit flag is a personal record that you’re putting something on the wall that says, “I’m trying to achieve something, and I know what it is. And when I do, you know, there’s going to be a celebration, but that’s how I do it.”

Jeff: It creates accountability, right, personally and socially. Like, “This is what I’m doing. I’m doing it.”

Steve: So true.

Jeff: You can all hold me accountable, but I’m going for it now.

Dave: Well Steve, it’s been awesome to have you here on our No Barriers podcast. We really appreciate you making the trip out to visit with us. Look forward to many more conversations about No Barriers and how to bring it to the corporate world. Thank you.

Erik: Thanks, Steve.

Steve: Thanks for having me.

Jeff: It was really great, man. Thank you.

Dave: Well, Erik, Jeff, as always, we like to conclude our podcast reflecting on a little bit of what we’ve heard and know what it might mean for No Barriers and connections we saw. Erik, what’d you hear?

Erik: What I heard loud and clear from Steve was that companies are craving very authentic experiences of transformation and engagement, and how do you bring that to the workplace? I think that is a fascinating thing that we could all devote our lives to.

Dave: How about you, Jeff?

Jeff: Well, what I, what I really took away from Steve is it’s all about culture. It’s about culture and professionally, personally. Then there’s some pillars that lie within that, trust and then ownership of things. Everyone feels like they are a part of something. They’re not just an accessory. They’re a part of something. They’re involved. They’re invested. They want this whole organism to move forward. I think that’s what I heard from Steve.

Erik: They want to be a part of something bigger than them.

Jeff: Yes.

Erik: That’s powerful.

Jeff: It’s very powerful.

Dave: One of the big things I heard was this piece at the end that is often reassuring to remind ourselves. I was talking to the staff at No Barriers recently about how we have big, bold goals for building this global community, but that the strength of No Barriers has always been the power of one and our commitment to each individual and the transformation we cause with those individuals. I love what Steve said at the end is you don’t have to … Sometimes it can feel really big to say, “We’re going to change IBM’s culture. We’re going to change this company’s culture,” that it really does start even though that might be your ultimate goal with those individuals that begin the movement and begin to have those experiences and it ripples from there.

Dave: I think that’s always been what we’ve done in No Barriers is believe in the power of transforming that single individual and that that’s going to change the world.

Jeff: Germinate the world.

Dave: Well, thank you Jeff. Thank you, Erik. Thank you, Steve. It’s been a real pleasure. As always, there’s a couple ways you can help No Barriers. One is if you heard this podcast and enjoyed it, please share it with someone else. That’ll generate some momentum around our listening community. Please get involved in No Barriers community. It’s been a pleasure to join you in this conversation today.

Erik: No Barriers.

Dave: Thanks to all of you for listening to our podcast. We know that you have a lot of choices about how you can spend your time and so we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoyed this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song, which is called Guidance. The production team behind this podcast includes producers, Didrik Johnck and Pauline Shafer, sound design, editing and mixing by Jesse Singer and Tyler Cottman, graphics by Sam Davis and marketing support by Laura Baldwin and Jaime Donnelly. Thanks to all you amazing people for the great work you do.

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Program Manager


Moriah (Mo) Leuthauser grew up in a small town in Western Colorado. There she spent time outside with her family- skiing, backpacking, climbing and camping. She was introduced to adaptive recreation through an internship with a nonprofit organization that offered recumbent cycling tours from Telluride to Moab for disabled veterans. She was inspired to get involved with adaptive recreation after seeing the joy and healing that she had witnessed it bringing.  She attended Grand Canyon University, where she worked as a guide in the outdoor recreation program and received her Wilderness First Responder certification. Then, she worked at the National Ability Center as an adaptive ski instructor and as an adaptive raft guide for multi day rafting trips. During this time, she earned her PSIA Adaptive Level 1 cert and her Swift Water Rescue Level 4 cert. She now works for No Barriers as the Warriors Program Coordinator, but most enjoys opportunities to be in the field. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, board games and gardening. She hopes for a future where outdoor recreation is more accessible for all people and she plans to devote her career to this cause.