Q&A with Michael Hornsby

Q&A with Michael Hornsby

Michael Hornsby shares what brought him to Brimstone, what makes Brimstone distinctive, and his biggest mistake.

Michael Hornsby

What led you to Brimstone? Describe your journey.

I started with Brimstone in 1995 – 26 years ago! I tell people I was one of the last people that got a job answering phones and opening mail – when those were still things anyone did! No mobile phones really, no internet really. I facilitated teambuilding activities during the day and taught myself QuickBooks at night. Pretty soon the teambuilding took me around the world delivering for a leading international energy company. Smart people, great team…and global. Maybe 2 of the best years of my career, but my shoulder still hurts from humping heavy bags of gear and 60 sets of rain gear around the globe. From there to coaching teams and leaders to be more effective. For the last 7 years, I have managed all aspects of Brimstone’s biggest client. It is a journey full of talented leaders, gifted colleagues, and good meals after a good day.

What makes Brimstone unique?

I am not sure we can claim to be unique, as in one of a kind. But I think we are distinctive? And I would say that what I hope sets us apart is our level of caring for and about our clients – the leaders we partner with. We don’t do transactional work; we are always working for someone, amplifying their reach and effectiveness, helping them and their team and their organization. But it is all based on individual relationships of caring and trust that we strive to build. We get very invested in people, we work for their success. We have no agenda outside of your agenda. We push and provoke and recommend and give feedback and coach and have difficult conversations – all because we care about you and your desire to get better at what you are trying to do. I rarely think I have said something to someone they have never heard before; but I may have had a different impact because I listened, I was patient, I supported and I built trust.

Which of our values do you most relate to? Why?

To be of service. My life makes sense and has meaning when I am helping people – honestly, with humility, with gratitude for the opportunity to be helpful and make an impact.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Show up,” which I have interpreted as “make the effort to be there.” I travel a lot and always tell clients “it is my responsibility to come to find you.” I make the effort, often one that is met with “you didn’t have to do that.” But, I think it matters and makes my work effective. I have also taken it to mean “be present.” Being there is not enough if you wish you were somewhere else or can; t listen and focus. So “show up and be present for others.”

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made? What did you learn from the experience?

I have never responded to the idea that “we learn from our mistakes.” I learn from reflecting on things that didn’t go the way I hoped they would. So I am going to re-frame mistakes as regrets, and my regrets are always about people and relationships. Usually, a conversation I wish I had had, the courage to be more honest than I was, the willingness to end a meaningful relationship rather than let it wither from neglect or a lack of courage. And I have also learned to understand that my regret is not something I always need to fix or address. Sometimes it is kinder to let it be, to learn to live with regrets and accept them with humility. Sometimes you get a chance to do it better…and sometimes you don’t. It can be hard, but be OK with that – think of mistakes as “things I did wrong,” and I try and forget those. I think of regrets as “things I wish I had done better,” and I am always trying to be better.

How do you recharge?

With a wide lens, the answer is “travel and be in a different environment.” I often go back to places I like, so it is not about seeing new places; I often recharge by going back to a place I love. There is usually food involved as well as the outdoors – water, skiing, biking, the mountains. On a more micro level, I begin every morning at home with a 15-minute walk around my meditation labyrinth. And finally, it may not be re-charging, but when I need to think about nothing or something else, I chop and stack wood; “take big things, make them into small things, put in a nice pile…repeat.” Simple. Satisfying

What are the three adjectives that best describe you?

Responsible; Loyal; Caring…do I get a fourth? Boring.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s at the bottom of every email I send – “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr.


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Jeremy McNamaraSara Sheehan