Episode 005 – Patrick Hughes Shares Practical Lessons Every Leader Needs to Know

Patrick Hughes, a skilled organizational development practitioner works with fortune 500 companies, non-profits, schools and other organizations to create experiences that generate sustainable change and inspire growth. In this episode, Patrick talks about Organizational Development and explores some basics of leadership. He started his career facilitating high-ropes courses and some twenty years later, is leading change in organizations of all types. 

Show Notes:

In this episode, we talk about Patrick’s work in Organizational Development, ranging from fortune 500 companies to local non-profits. We also discuss some foundational principles of leadership and some ideas that everyone can benefit from, no matter their leadership experience. 

Patrick Hughes is a skilled and highly sought-after facilitator and coach in the areas of organizational development, leadership, and inclusion.

In this podcast you will learn about:

  • 2:27 Patrick discusses his work in Organization Development.
  • 8:07 When did Patrick figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up?
  • 10:01 Patrick’s advice to organizations to hire a coach or facilitator. 
  • 12:12 Patrick’s ideas about leadership development and foundational principles.
  • 15:00 Lessons that helped define Patrick as a leader.
  • 19:56 What impact does Patrick see or wish to leave on the world?
  • 22:53 What is Patrick currently working on that has him curious and excited? 
  • 23:55 What is the hardest thing you see when it comes to being inclusive? What do people struggle with the most?


  • 25:52 Patrick defines success.
  • 27:33 What books are Patrick currently reading?
  • 29.50 What is Patrick’s favorite phone app right now?
  • 30:36 How would Patrick invest fifty million dollars, to impact the world? 
  • 32:18 Final thoughts from Patrick.

2:27 Patrick discusses his work in Organizational Development.

Organization development is working with all levels of systems. Instead of working on a specific aspect such as team building, coaching, or helping organizations. Organizational Development is all about looking at every level of the system, as a way to make organizations better.

Patrick got involved right out of college. His graduation plans fell through a month before graduation, and he was left without a job. He heard about a job at a camp in California. So, within a week he applied for the job at the camp,  was hired, packed his bags, and moved across the country to work at the camp. And he saw his first High Ropes Course. He fell in love with the idea of experienced education and team building on the High Ropes Course. From there he continued his education and ended up getting his Master’s degree and in doing so learned the theory behind the high ropes course team building.


How do you help clients? 

It depends on the client and their needs. Step one is getting clear about the objective. Every client’s need is individual, and a program is set up to address that client’s actual need.


Patrick is known for his favorite cheese!

The first group Patrick ever worked with on High Ropes Course, started off with introductions, who are you, who am I? He was sitting in a group of about twelve fifteen-year-olds looking at him. So he begins and asks them to say their name, and their age and his mind suddenly went blank. The next thing that comes to mind was, “what’s your favorite cheese?” Ever since that time, that is what he asks groups to tell them during introduction time. Patrick’s favorite cheese is Smoked Provolone!


8:07 When did Patrick figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up?

He is still trying to figure it out! He has been consistent with facilitating groups,  he enjoys creating sustainable change, and creating growth opportunities for individuals. But his primary work continues to evolve. He believes when you stop growing, that is when you essentially die. You have to continue to grow and evolve yourself. But when he really figured out what he wanted to do, was when he saw that first High Ropes Course. It is the same peace around creating experiential opportunities and processes that help people find their greatness. It helps people find what they want to be or teaches a group what they want to become.


10:01 Patrick’s advice to organizations to hire a coach or facilitator. 

Patrick wants to work with someone that wants to change and find a new perspective. The best coaches and facilitators believe they don’t have all the answers for organizations, but they craft processes that help organizations find their own answers. That’s when you get meaningful change.

When you start talking with training organizations, you need to find out what is their mindset, and philosophies concerning coaching and facilitation. There are many coaches and facilitators that have five tools in their tool kit that promise you that if you engage in their course, it will make you better. But in the end, it will leave you lacking. You need someone that is nimble and can bring an arsenal and experience of different theories and perspectives to you.


12:12 Patrick’s ideas about leadership development and foundational principles.

Patrick talks about a question that everyone needs to answer for themselves as to whether leaders are born, or leaders can be developed. Patrick believes that leaders can be developed. There is no one set way to do leadership. That way everyone has the potential to become a leader. You just have to be there to support them and help them find it.

  1. You have to come with a growth mindset. You have to continue to grow yourself as an individual. Vulnerability and authenticity are a necessity as a leader. You must realize that you are not going to have all the answers, and that is okay. In fact, it is preferable than being a leader that says they always have the answer.
  2. Focus on your people. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Your team and organization are going to be better because you are finding people, better than you.


15:00 Lessons that helped define Patrick as a leader.

He is always growing and evolving as a leader. The downside to that is, that he always looks back and thinks, if only he was the leader he is now, five years ago. Imagine what he could have done with that group or that individual. He constantly realizes his mistakes. And at the same time, he comes from the knowledge that he did the best that he could at that moment, with the information he had at that time. He doesn’t look back and constantly laments about them.


19:56 What impact does Patrick see or wish to leave on the world?

Patrick’s greatest core value is freedom. The legacy Patrick wants to leave behind is for a whole bunch of people to just feel free. What he means by that is for people to realize that they have a choice. And the choices they are making are in alignment with who they want to be, and what they want to create. For Patrick, it is freedom around all of his social identifiers. He doesn’t have to fit into certain categories of what it means to be a man, white, or middle class, or what it means to be able-bodied. He wants to break down those stereotypes where everyone can bring their own unique self. He wants it to be okay that guys can cry. Patrick has four kids and what he wants for them is to be who they want to be. Not to have all the junk and trash for them to think about what it means to be a certain thing in our society. But that they can navigate it any way they want; whatever it feels right to them at the time.


22:53 What is Patrick currently working on that has him curious and excited? 

He is all in on the inclusion world, being an inclusive leader. He can’t get enough of reading books about it, and leading training around it. It fits right in with the legacy he wants to leave, his core values, and being his authentic self. That is what gets him jazzed. He believes when people feel seen and feel included, they are more empowered, they’re more engaged, and they are going to give you more. Why not be a leader that espouses those values around him?  


23:55 What is the hardest thing you see when it comes to being inclusive? What do people struggle with the most?

One is guilt? People get all knotted up when they start talking about inclusion.

The one thing that was hard for Patrick, was for about ten years he would dip his toe in inclusion. What he realized is that he didn’t want to give up his privilege. As a white male, he has privilege, that is just a fact…it is part of our society. He was scared that if he went on into the world of inclusion, he was going to lose that privilege card. That was going to be a big problem for him and he was going to lose a lot of opportunities. But the more he dove into it, the more he realized that the grass is truly greener on the other side. He has deeper relationships and deeper connections. His work is better as a result of diving all in on an inclusion. Because as he is doing that, he is living from an abundance mindset. Where previously it was a scarcity mindset.



25:52 Define success for you Patrick

Patrick wants to be a:

  1. kick butt dad
  2. kick butt partner (for his wife)
  3. kick butt consultant
  4. kick butt me

Success In all those areas it is when he is being successful.


27:33 What book is Patrick reading right now?

Patrick is reading five books right now.

  1. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  2. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  3. Covert Processes at Work by Robert J Marshak
  4. Castes: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  5. The Inclusion Breakthrough by Fredrick A. Miller and Judith H. Katz


28:25 What is one foundational leadership book that every leader should read?

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

He doesn’t believe the majority of leaders bring vulnerability to the workplace. It is such an important piece to building relationships with those that you lead, and it is important for organizations to grow.

A Model: Situational Leadership by Hersey & Blanchard

It looks at one individual at a time and one task at a time. It talks to leaders about needing to adapt their style and flex their style in order to motivate individuals. And that is huge. Because you can’t be the same motivator for one that you can be for someone else. Everyone is a different individual.


29.50 What is your favorite phone app right now and why?

Carb Manager – It helps him be a kick-butt me.


30:36 If you were given the opportunity to manage a charitable trust of fifty million dollars, to help address any issue or cause, what would you focus on and why?

Overhauling the education system from a systemic standpoint. The reason is he does a lot of work with schools and helps schools transition into innovative school models, but in doing so,  they always run into brick walls. It is because of the performance matrix that is in place around education, that is in place for teachers and schools. Until you shift the performance matrix in the ways we evaluate schools and teachers, we are not going to create change for schools. We are going to continue to say we want something different. We will continue to say we want critical thinkers and innovators. But the truth is,  we are going to continue to have teachers in school teaching to the test and continuing to have set curriculum-based thinking because they need to hit their matrix to be considered an “A” school, or to get that bonus as a teacher. So, he would really focus on the performance matrix and the educational system.


32:18 Final thoughts Patrick would like to share

Just go out and be amazing human beings. Focus on realizing that everyone has different perspectives and comes from different upbringings. Be patient and have grace with people. Patrick is an impatient person, and someone recently shared with him that being impatient is actually looking at someone as being less than. It is looking at that person as they are not a whole individual. He realized that is not who he wants to be, and is working on being more patient. 


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