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Foster curiosity: Chandler Cutler

Michael Hunter


Welcome to Uncommon Leadership.

I’m Michael Hunter with Uncommon Teams.

Today I’m talking with Chandler Cutler.

Chandler embarked on his entrepreneurial journey at just twenty-one. In the two decades since, he has mastered the art of leadership, communication and resilience, facing real-world business challenges head-on, culminating in the founding of CorEthos. Chandler and CorEthos emphasize the humanity behind every business operation.

They help you transform your business with a people-first approach that keeps humanity at the core while ensuring long-term commitment and transparent communication as they collaborate on your path to elevate and scale your business.

Welcome, Chandler!

Chandler Cutler

Thanks so much, Michael, thanks for having me.


I’m happy to have you here today.

In your journey to seeing people as people and learning to leverage their unique gifts to best accomplish your goals, when did you first recognize this might be a valuable approach?


Good question.

It would have started in a previous life when I was working in construction.

It’s a very authoritative space, very driven by “Do what I say, don’t ask questions, just get it done, whatever the stakes.”

Learning to include and participate with everyone that’s working on the site.

Now more than ever, it’s more apparent in the workspace to recognize that everyone has unique gifts, unique opinions, unique perspectives that should be listened to, considered, and included in the ongoing or next steps that are involved in what’s going to get accomplished. Specifically, when you’re working with people uniquely trained and have unique experiences within a space that you’re hiring for today, with the gig economy and looking to work with independent contractors and more solopreneurs than ever before, you’re bringing them in as professionals and as experts within those fields that allow them to offer their insights and listening to them and leveraging those skills, those skill sets, those experiences, really allows that lift and that scale most efficiently and most effectively. We find, anyway.


How do you help teams who maybe aren’t used to being asked to bring their most efficient, most effective, most themselves self into that workplace, how do you help teams start doing that?


Great question.

A lot of that comes with building relationships.

Taking time, taking moments, to build trust and explore those connections and those opportunities to learn from one another.

In a lot of instances, the pushback is, “We don’t have time to learn about every nuance of every team member.” Totally fair and reasonable rebuttal.

The issue with that is that if you don’t take the time as a manager, as someone leading a team, you don’t really know that team.

You don’t know who is uniquely capable and willing to participate in a higher level or at a higher level to excel that project forward with tenacity or with grit or with any type of getting down into it and doing the heavy lifting that needs to get done to maybe get that project across the finish line in alignment with the expectations that are set out from the onset.

That’s where we see a lot of the trips or troubles that many of our clients face.

You may know the answer, your team may know the answer, but you’re not taking the time to map it out and create that plan in allowing everyone to recognize, realize, and fully understand the plan and their part in that plan so that they can take accountability for getting those things across the line.

Where we’re seeing the challenge and the frustration point, and this is leading to the quiet quitting that many people were speaking of at the end of COVID, in as much as I don’t feel heard, I don’t feel listened, I don’t feel valued, I don’t understand where I fit in. I’m just a cog in the wheel. I’m just a number.

For the teams that are seeing the success and seeing the involvement and seeing the value come from their teams isn’t from what everyone points to, for Google with the ping pong table or the beanbag chairs or the this or the that.

It’s really building those relationships and having that accountability for those team members to really push those things through.

Did that answer your question?


It does.

Do you have specific tools or techniques that you find tend to work well to help start those relationships building?


Collaborative, structured events, meetings and not death by meeting.

We don’t need to be meeting on every single topic.

But when we have meetings, make them meaningful.

Make them a space for vulnerability, open sharing.

It’s not a space for criticism.

It’s a space for building upon ideas and suggestions and thoughts.

And that doesn’t necessarily have to be in a boardroom. It can be in a setting such as this. It can be in a setting that’s an offsite, it can be in a cafe, it can be in a park that’s around the corner from the office. It doesn’t need to always be in the same place.

The importance is listening and taking time and moments and letting everyone know that there are no bad ideas. Everyone’s ideas are listened to. They may not be actioned, but they’re heard.

Bits and pieces of everyone’s participation and involvement get included.

Recognize those bits and pieces of involvement and inclusion.

Give credit to the people that helped formulate those ideas and plans.

 Create that roadmap and make sure that everyone understands it, sees it, and is able to carry it forward.

That’s one of many. Creating inclusion and making sure that there’s participation from everyone in creating those guiding lights that you’re following.


How do you encourage that participation?


That’s a tricky one.

Especially when people have, for lack of a better term, a trauma from a previous experience or a previous manager or a previous teammate that stood in the way of that voice being heard, or maybe never being asked before.

It’s always easier to opt out than opt in.

It’s being aware and attentive, having active listening during those sessions where you’re together, and recognizing when those team members aren’t necessarily maybe participating, and either looking to include them in the conversation in some way without calling them out.

If you’re concerned about that; we never want to embarrass. That’s never a tool that we want to leverage.

So after a meeting, you’re able to connect with them and have a one-on-one session and just try to pull out those strings that they’re looking to participate with.

And in the next meeting, asking if it’s okay if you share those ideas and thoughts from the conversation, the one-on-one, and looking to build them in, and looking to lift those individuals on the team that aren’t as open or extraverted with their communication.

Working with someone like myself, where you’re able to bring us in and facilitate those types of discussions in positive manners, to build up the confidence to be participatory and create that culture that you’re looking to have at the end of the project to roll into your next sprint.


I like that idea a lot. You’re encouraging participation during the meeting, not forcing it.

Some people aren’t comfortable talking yet, or don’t, haven’t had enough time to understand what they want to say yet. Then you follow up with at least the people who didn’t speak up in the meeting, maybe with everyone afterwards, when everyone has had time to think through what they want to say and you’re talking to them one-on-one. So it’s hopefully a much less scary environment than speaking up in the big meeting.



Curiosity plays a part in that. Leaving assumptions, leaving ego at the door, and being willing to just ask the question, “I noticed that there are some areas that I thought you were really strong in that you didn’t speak into. Do you want to share any thoughts or ideas with me now?” in that one-on-one.

Just curiosity, maybe there’s something going on at home.

Maybe there’s something going on outside of office.

There’s always the potential for; let’s not assume that we know everything that’s going on because they don’t share it at the office.

It doesn’t mean you have to pry.

You can professionally be open about challenges that you’re experiencing without being unprofessional or exposing yourself to something that might embarrass you.

As managers, one of the things that I always point to is team members don’t necessarily leave a job for many reasons outside of they don’t have a good relationship with their manager.

There’s a lot of science coming out speaking to bad managers, bad bosses who are leaders are more traumatic and more damaging to your mental health than anything else. Spending time in those environments.

In all fairness, maybe the managers just aren’t good leaders, haven’t had training and they aren’t even aware that the words that they use or the way that they treat people are necessarily damaging and traumatic to their team members.

When you see attrition, when you see turnover within a team, that lies at the foot of the leader.

That’s not to say you don’t know what you don’t know.

Being able to recognize that and work with the people that are leading those teams to facilitate that culture that you’re looking to create within your space, that’s a majority of the work that we do with many of the owner-founders, department heads. It’s a lot of communication, coaching, and building with them in how to navigate those hard conversations.


What do you find is the most challenging for leaders who want to start building this relationship?


It’s unique to each.

Some struggle with time management, some struggle with creating the inclusive atmosphere, some struggle with laying out expectations.

It’s all some form of communication in some way or another.

Being able to recognize those blind spots, ask for feedback from your team, without feeling like you’re lacking in self-confidence.

It’s actually a sign and a trait of strength to ask for feedback, ask for help, ask for suggestions and directions on what you can do better.

It’s also a sign of vulnerability and trust that you’re looking to get that feedback.

Sometimes that feedback comes unsolicited. Sometimes those words cut and they’re hard to listen to.

But don’t get defensive.

It was probably incredibly difficult for that; well, it depends on the scenario. Sometimes it’s quite easy.

Getting that feedback and taking that in, taking the good, leaving the bad.

You don’t want to fill your backpack with rocks.

You do want to, “I felt like you were really coming down on me in that meeting when I suggested this idea.”

You could feel like you weren’t being critical at all.

But pause, take a moment, and put yourself in their shoes or in their position and imagine how it could have felt having your leader, your boss, your head, criticizing your comments, your suggestions, your ideas.

If you’re not one that openly offers that feedback or those suggestions, that was a really big trust exercise for you to speak up and lay it out.

It may not have been the most brilliant, maybe you didn’t pick the best words, but you’re really struggling to put yourself out there.

So be willing to hear those ideas, hear those considerations, and hear those suggestions, and build on them.

The whole theory of improv, the “Yes And” perspective.

“Yes, that’s a great idea. And maybe we could shape it in this way or present it in this way and build on,” to create those bridges to trust and relationship, rather than setting up those walls or building those barriers to prevent people from commenting and participating in those sessions.


I love “Yes, And.” I have yet to find a situation where it doesn’t apply.


Exactly. I completely agree.


It’s maybe one of the three exclusions to the Rule of Three, which would say there’s at least three places where that doesn’t apply. This may be one of the three times where the Rule of Three doesn’t apply.


There’s always those blatant “No”s, but we try to stay away from definitives. Always. Never.

It’s good to try to have that inclusivity, that collaborative method of shouldering beside someone rather than walking in front of or behind.


If I’d like to start helping my team become more open, more inclusive, and I don’t know where to start, what do you suggest I start with?



Always yourself.

Look at the things that scare you a little.

If you’re really uncomfortable leading meetings, lead a meeting and identify that out the gate. “It terrifies me to be up here in front of all of you and speaking, but it’s something that I’m challenging myself and I encourage everyone else to challenge themselves.”

You’re working with a team of developers and maybe you’re not completely familiar with Python or HTML or some sort of language that they’re working with. Start learning that language and ask for advice and feedback and come to them with your problems.

It’s very rare that you find someone that’s an expert in a space that isn’t willing to share their knowledge, provided that it’s reasonable and they have time and they’ve set the time aside to have that conversation.

Be respectful.

That’s a good way to start bridging those gaps with your team: asking for advice, being vulnerable, and looking to allow them to help you build yourself up into a better leader.


That seems like a ninja trick, going to your team, each person on your team, and asking them to help you with something that you know they are great at, because you are being vulnerable in asking for help and acknowledging their expertise all at the same time.


It’s incredible. The quietest mouse on the team all of a sudden starts roaring like a lion.

And that’s what you want.

You want those meetings to be boisterous and noisy because that’s when everyone’s contributing and participating and no one’s sitting there with their guard up, that they’re going to get unduly criticized or think that their feedback, their suggestion, their recommendation is undue.

That’s really where you get the best creativity, the best ideas, the fastest execution.

You want to have all of those ideas out on the table when you’re planning and building.


Say that as a leader, I’m starting doing this, we’re starting great. I start getting overwhelmed with how much participation I’m getting in meetings or how many suggestions and ideas I’m getting outside of meetings. How do I rein this in without reining in the enthusiasm and excitement?


A lot of meetings are rabbit holes. They get caught up in going through conversations and discussions and things that may not necessarily be relevant to everyone that’s been invited to participate in a particular meeting.

If you have a schedule, you have an agenda that’s shared, you’re able to speak to those points.

If you’ve allotted a certain amount of time to discuss a certain detail and you’re running over because there is so much participation, feel free to reconnect outside of that dedicated time that you’ve set for that meeting so that it doesn’t run over time and you make sure that those ideas are getting captured, you’re not wasting anyone’s time sitting through a conversation that they’re not necessarily as excited about or as participatory with it, allowing for that time to be recaptured and invested in a better way, and also maintaining the flow and excitement, because when you get that lift from that participation, that can carry over into other areas and you want to sort of keep that momentum happening.


Thank you.

Now, if, when I start being vulnerable with my team and the reactions I’m experiencing are not acceptance or excitement or even neutrality, but anger or antagonism or, “I’m not comfortable with this. I don’t know how to handle this. I don’t want this,” how can I, as a leader, show up the way that I want to and also help that work for people who don’t want that?


Good question.

It’s a tricky one to navigate.

Especially when you’re getting and emotions and feelings tied into a response that you weren’t expecting.

Being able to focus on the individual that is getting a little agitated or uncomfortable with this situation.

You can pause the meeting and say, “You know what? This is going a direction that I’m not necessarily comfortable with. We have a couple or more items to cover. If everyone wants to put a pin in this and come back to it tomorrow, next week, we can do that. Otherwise, let’s reconnect on this specifically one-on-one after the meeting, and we can sort it out, or maybe we can set a time tomorrow.”

A twenty-four-hour rule is always a good thing to allow people to defuse, reflect, and take a moment to think about the incident.

Maybe there was a miscommunication, maybe there was a misunderstanding.

Typically, very few people want to come off unprofessional in a professional environment, especially if your team is curated in the way that it should and the culture is the way that it should.

Having those outbursts or having the team members that aren’t able to emotionally present themselves appropriately, those are things that need to get managed outside of a group environment.

The whole concept of “praise in public, criticize in private,” that’s definitely something that would be employed in such a scenario.

Defusing is always the path that we would recommend.

Definitely a tricky scenario to navigate, for sure.


That brings us back to what we talked about earlier, of meeting with the person one-on-one afterwards and being curious about what was going on for them. How can I help you be more comfortable with whatever was going on and work through that so that you can be the helpful and productive part of the team that I know you want to be?



A majority of the time, in the moment, without being able to have a direct dialogue and an unveiled dialogue with the individual.

Leave the ego and the assumptions at the door and have a curious conversation and get to the why of why the reaction was what it was, or the lack of reaction was what it was, and dig into that and build that relationship and those trust.

Some of the best friends that you have throughout your life are the ones that you fought with the most at the front end of your relationship. Those battles and those challenges are what build the binding fibers of relationships.

I very adamantly encourage digging for conflict or mining for conflict with our team members. The idea and the concept behind that is to build that trust that even if we’re upset with each other, we’re going to be upset.

Let me rephrase that.

Even if we’re upset, we’re not upset with each other. We’re upset with what we’re discussing, the concept, what was proposed, the idea.

We’re not actually upset with, I don’t have any lack of respect or lack of appreciation for you as an individual.

There’s that deep love and appreciation for what you offer to the team and what you bring to the table.

Being willing to sit in that conflict is such a rare experience today because everybody wants to be comfortable and I get that.

But relationships and strong working teams aren’t born outside of conflict. Calm seas does not a good sailor make. You need the challenges and the butting of heads. “I see it this way.” “Well, I see it this way.” You need to tear it apart and put it back together again. There needs to be trust that that’s okay. I can disagree with you as my boss, my leader, my director, and still maintain my job tomorrow. It’s a willingness to have dissent in an idea or concept. Being able to have trust that the person on the other side of the table is going to listen, hear, reflect, and have a conversation around why they’re making the decision that they’re making to carry forward. As long as everyone agrees that that decision is the best decision or they can get behind that decision, then they’re able to move forward.

It’s when there isn’t that conflict and everyone’s just sort of nodding the idea, “yup yup yup yup yup,” that’s when you get the breakdown in execution.

Because the next time someone passes someone in the hall, it’s going to be, “Can you believe that they suggested this and this is what’s going on?”

That’s indicative of a broken culture or relationship within that particular team, because there isn’t that trust to identify and advocate for their ideas or their suggestions.


If I know that or I suspect that what we’re about to talk about in this meeting or even the next item on the agenda is likely to bring up these kind of reactions, I can remind the team of what our working agreements are, or even just say right now, “Whatever’s going on the next ten minutes stays in this room. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in this conference room stays in this conference room. I’m not going to take things personally. I hope that you don’t either. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it. And like you said, at the end of the meeting, we’re all still this team that enjoys working together and we’re going to do what it takes to keep that outlook and feelings with each other.”


When that needs to be said, that’s a bit of a concern.

When you need to voice that out front and it’s not just understood in the midst of the meeting, there’s some backroom chatter that’s going on and maybe some commiseration.

When I come into meetings and come into teams and come into businesses that I’m working with, one thing that absolutely has to be recognized is that praise goes down, criticism goes up.

There’s no lateral conversations, because if there’s lateral conversations around criticism, then that’s indicative of that toxic culture and it becomes a real problem, because it’s indicative of a leader, a manager, a boss that isn’t willing to listen or hear or lacks trust that those criticism and that feedback is going to be heard.

 And not only heard, but actioned, because that’s sort of that pivotal step.

 It’s all great to be the one that everyone wants to talk to, but if you never do anything with the information, you’re really not bettering the cause, you’re just commiserating or gossiping.

So that’s a tricky one for me.

Where I see a better relationship is where you see team members openly criticizing in caring ways. “Hey, Michael, I really disagree with that point of view for this reason, this reason, this reason,” It’s not, “God, you’re such an ass.”

There’s validity and counterpoints to what that looks like, focusing on the idea, the concept, what’s being discussed, rather than the individual.

So while I’m all well and good to what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the reality is that when that’s the spoken word, that’s not the reality.

When that’s the spoken word, it’s saying, “We’re going to say some things in this meeting that I don’t trust to be said outside of this room,” and that should never be said.

If you’re not willing to say it at a companywide meeting, you shouldn’t be willing to say it within a conference room, in a meeting room.

That’s a bit of a tricky concept for many people to grab onto and participate with.

You want to create a culture and an environment where gossip is not allowed, commiseration is not allowed,

Not even not allowed, but not tolerated.

If someone commiserates with someone on a situation, maybe they just need someone to hear them to get it off their chest. That’s fine.

But at the same, the feedback from the person listening needs to be, “Have you spoken to John or Susan about this issue? Because it sounds like you’re really hurt.”

If the response is, “I just needed to be heard so that I know that I’m not crazy and now I can go talk to them,” then that’s great. But if it’s, “No, they won’t listen, it won’t get action. I talked to them about this, that, the other thing,” that’s when you have a problem that needs to get managed and that leader needs to work on their communication.


I was just thinking, we’re back again to communications, which is what you said is at the root of everything.


It’s surprising how often communication manifests in so many different ways. That’s a real challenge.

I was working with a client the other day who said, “Chandler, how do you market your services? How do you find new clients? Because you really have to go in and say, ‘What you have here is a communication problem. You’re not communicating well,’ and nobody wants to hear that. So how do you navigate that?”

It’s a tricky one, I’ll tell you.

It manifests in when you’re leading a team, you set a deadline and that deadline gets missed.

You’re leading a team and you have expectations around how a project or report is going to be filed, given, presented, and it doesn’t meet your expectations.

It manifests in, you had this amazing team member that always crossed all the t’s and dotted the lowercase j’s, and now they’re coming up short on everything.

It manifests in the person that you got hired with at the same time, got the promotion and you didn’t.

None of that at face value, anyone would say, “There’s a communication problem there,” but that’s really where it is.

Do you have blind spots where you’re not asking for feedback?

Have you discussed what happened with that high-performing team member that is no longer hitting the mark?

Did you paint done and explain clearly who was going to do what, when it was going to be due, and what it was going to look like when it gets completed?

Those are all communication mechanisms and systems that need to be in place for successful teams to rise to the occasion and succeed. That’s where that communication point circles full circle.



What else should I ask you today, Chandler?


The power of curiosity would be one.

I was going through some of your previous guests in preparation for our conversation. It was surprising how often curiosity came up.

Along with grit, tenacity, curiosity is a skill and a superpower.

To be willing to be curious about why something didn’t turn out the way that it should have.

To be curious about why someone’s behaving the way that they are.

To be curious about how something works the way that it does.

It unlocks and opens so many doors.

Curiosity is something that ties very nicely with communication for becoming a better leader, creating that work culture that you want to be working within, and accelerating or scaling that business that you’re looking to work within.


Curiosity is core to who I am. It’s something that pervades everything. That’s one of the reasons I do these interviews, because I am curious how successful leaders like you got that way, what your journey has been like, and how you help your teams and the people that you work with to be successful.


That’s one tenet that everyone can use a little bit more of.

I marvel at my three-, soon to be four-year-old and her degree of curiosity and why we lose that as we age. T

he playfulness and the willingness to just dive full body, full self, into anything and learn and listen and participate.

As much as everyone sort of discourages it, pushing that red button. You got to know what it does.

Curiosity is one of those things that really needs to be embraced a lot more in work culture.


And now I’m curious to hear more about the gifts you have for our audience.


One is speaking to work culture and being able to; it’s a quick bullet point item that we put together that really, if you’re hitting all of those points and you’re leveraging those consistently, you will see a deep result in how your team collaborates, communicates, and engages in what you’re looking to achieve.

For me, I’m not sure if you had an opportunity to look at it, but I really appreciate everything that’s been put together there.

And then I believe the other one is setting up agendas for meetings and being able to share with your team your expectations for what you’re going to connect on, how you’re going to connect on it, and what it’s going to look like on the other side.

Being able to have an agenda set in place, how to frame it out, how to look to include everyone in participating in building that agenda so that everyone’s voice is heard, and then being able to go through the meeting and come at the other side with something tangible.

Being able to have an understanding of what the actual items are out of that session and then who’s going to accomplish it, how it’s going to get done, when it’s going to be ready for review, and what that’s going to look like to set that project and that task, whatever you were meeting about, up for success.


Those are great. Thank you so much.




If people would like to contact you to learn more about how you work with teams, inquire into their communication challenges and curious about how they might be able to have you help them, what’s the best way for them to do that?


Best way would probably be through the website, and then alternatively connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m always open for communication, and @corethos on any platform comes to me and our team. We’d love to hear from you and we’re always open for a conversation.


Great. And I’ll have all those links, including your downloads, in the show notes.


Perfect. Thank you.


What would you like to leave our audience with today?


That curiosity point and being willing and open to allowing that bit to be curious and learn a little bit about someone in your office or someone on your team or someone just in your life.

Reach out to them, let them know that you appreciate a certain aspect or something about their work style or them as a person.

Open that door to that communication and that curiosity about how you could maybe better show up for them and what that bit of support would look like.

Lifting your head up a little bit and seeing who’s around you and experiencing those relationships a little bit deeper to create that connective tissue and build that team and that culture that you’d like to see a little bit more of in your space.


Thank you. Thank you for a great conversation today, Chandler.


It was a pleasure. Michael. Thanks for inviting me.


You’re very welcome.

And thank you, audience for being here with us today.

Chandler and I are curious: What are you curious about, from everything we talked about today? How can we help you refine your communication skills? Give us an email, LinkedIn message, and let us know.

Thanks, and have a great day.

Thanks for joining us on Uncommon Leadership today.

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