Our guest today is Charles Thornburgh, Founder and CEO of Austin-based startup Civitas Learning. The company – which has 200 employees and $89 million in funding –  uses data science and design thinking to help educators achieve better results.

We spoke with Charles about how to manage an ever-growing workload; what he does when the 'white space' in his calendar disappears; and how he uses his strengths to become a force multiplier. 

Key Takeaway: 

"Too many people try to mitigate their weaknesses rather than doubling-down on their strengths."

Charles Thornburgh   | Founder & CEO, Civitas Learning

Charles Thornburgh | Founder & CEO, Civitas Learning

Show Notes

If you are an executive or manager that says, “I can’t do it all," then what has you stuck is likely due to

  • problems trusting others, or
  • being attached to a certain way things must be done.

The result: an overwhelmed micromanager. That's not you, is it?

Consider approaching your work load and job function from these 3 questions:

  1. What tasks, conversations, meetings are of strategic value to my department/division/ company?
  2. How can I provide training and development, then trust others to take on these tasks/projects?       
  3. What kind of structure can I create to automate building my team?

Some nuggets of wisdom from Charles:


When building an organization, it is impossible to do everything on your own. You have to let go early on in the development and continuously prioritize. 

As a manager, unless your calendar is 25-40% white space then you are likely too focused on responding or attending regularly scheduled meetings.

Without space, you won't get in front of the next challenge as a business leader. This also means you’ve lost the opportunity to really lead strategically and be a mentor.

When you see most of the 'white space' in your calendar disappear, take that as a sign to do a clean reset:

  • Wipe everything off your calendar
  • Re-introduce your highest priority first
  • Continue, adding only what is essential to your business. Be ruthless. You can always add something back later.



  1. To achieve work/life balance, focus first on Life.
    1. Personal development comes before career development
    2. Charles asks himself, "How do I take care of myself so I can show up and be productive with my family and business?"
    3. Whatever you need personally to be at your best, sharpest and most optimistic is often left out (.e. sleep, nutrition, exercise)
  2. Recognize your strengths. Resource your weaknesses. Too many people try to mitigate their weaknesses rather than doubling down on strengths. Instead you should
    1. Identify your superpower
    2. Structure your team so you can focus your time on that superpower.

        3. Find people who are dramatically better than you. You'll increase your capacity and through-put drastically.

        4. Build trust. To feel confident that your team can handle the job you assign, focus on building an "environment of trust, where people feel free to raise their hands when they feel themselves breaking."


Often times, we mistake management for leadership. Going from a contributor in a company, to a manager, then to a leader requires becoming a force multiplier rather than checking boxes on a to-do list.


What did you think of this episode? Inspired to wipe your calendar clean? Daunted by the thought? Give us a piece of your mind here.