Skip to content

Embracing Daring Leadership and Designing for the "Whole Person"

Touchpoints that address fears and feelings can have a lasting impact on customer satisfaction

Highlanders stand with clients at a whiteboard covered with stickies, listing Feelings, Thoughts, Actions, and Touchpoints.

Highlanders and clients review stickies on a whiteboard | Photo by Highland

The Highland team has been working our way through “Dare to Lead by doctor, mother, and all-around superhero Brené Brown. We’ve been reading the book—described as “the ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures”—a section at a time as a team.

“Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.”
Brené Brown
“Dare to Lead”

I’ve always read the above quote in the context of personal leadership. That’s the gist of the book (and I believe that’s how the quote was intended), but it struck me that if we shift the phrasing and take into consideration the experiences our businesses deliver, is the same not also true?

A hardcover copy of Brené Brown's book 'Dare to Lead' lying on a hardwood table.

“Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown | Image via Dare to Lead

A shift in perspective

Let’s consider what happens when we substitute individual leadership with the customer and user experiences we’re looking to deliver: 

Products and services must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.

Traditionally it feels like the easy answer has been: build something great, slap on the customer service bandaid, sell “the thing,” and the call center can deal with the rest—right?

Focus on fears & feelings

In the name of efficiency, we’re quickly trapezing over the “whole person,” namely their fears and feelings, in order to help them check whatever box our business is meant to solve.

“Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown | Image via Dare to Lead

Now, I’m not looking for a therapist in every product or service I buy, but I am suggesting that when you consider the emotional journey and design with fears and feelings top of mind, new touchpoints and key differentiators have the space to emerge. These key touchpoints may have the power to short-stop unproductive behavior, and gain loyal customers while saving your service team from calls, chats, and emails. 

Imagine with me for a moment: you’re a parent accessing medical care for your child. Amidst a digital tool otherwise dedicated to linking you to the right doctors, specialists, and support, you encounter a page dedicated to you, the parent… A moment for “we get it, being a parent is hard.” An indispensable moment of calm, a moment that humanizes the parent’s struggle and the service provider’s position to help through whatever resources they have to provide.


When Children’s Wisconsin wanted to improve the hospital experience for children and their loved ones, and they looked to Highland for help.

Children's Wisconsin | Custom Healthcare Software Case Study | Patient Journey Mapping


Or imagine you’re a product manager. Through customer research, you’ve clearly identified trends when overwhelming fatigue usually sets in during the course of an 8-week long engagement. What if instead of hoping for the best, you kept those insights top of mind, routinizing outreach ahead of those curves with something as simple as a text or an email. “Hey Susan, this is about the time that, for most people, vision gets a little cloudy. Let me know how you’re doing, and how I can help.” That perceptiveness takes time, it takes courage, and in return, the customer feels safe and at ease. 

Gif quote from Brené Brown's book:

From Brené Brown’s book “Dare to Lead”

In Summary

Incorporate daring leadership into your digital products & services

These simple touchpoints can actually work as a key differentiator between you and a competitor. Memorable interactions evolve into a reason to hire you again, setting you apart from competitors, even those who may have better tech, a cleaner interface, or just more tools. As a customer myself, I’m more likely to forge a longer, stronger relationship with the product that “gets me,” over a novel way to check the same box.

You might also like