I awoke in my tent a little after 5 am on Saturday. I could see two flying insects circling each other in the space between the tent netting and the waterproof cover in the morning light. They closed in and began mating. 

After finishing, one of the insects pulled away. Its movements were jerky, as if it remained in an agitated state. The other was still. I’m not sure if it was dead or exhausted. Nature is extraordinary.

A spider lurked an inch away the entire time. The insects were so fixated on mating that they did not see the danger nearby. The spider struck, immobilizing the one insect and wrapping it with the other. Breakfast.

In battle, the savvy commanders launch counterattacks after the enemy has taken an objective. The psychology is brutally effective: the adrenaline release after success leaves people physically, mentally, and emotionally spent. This point is your adversary’s greatest vulnerability. The spider waited for the successful mating and got a double meal.

Who’s helping you avoid complacency, spur innovation, and stay vigilant?

Blackberry’s CEO doubled down on keyboards when plenty of data showed customers favored touchscreens. Blockbuster fixated on in-store VHS rentals and missed the move to mail-in and streaming that powered Netflix. It’s tough for your employees to challenge your thinking when things are going well, and yet that’s when you most need it. 

When a victorious general entered ancient Rome for a victory parade, an adviser rode alongside and repeated, “All glory is fleeting.” 

BREAKTHROUGH OPPORTUNITIES
1. I’m putting together an exclusive event, July 14-17, to help seven leaders spur innovation to make the second half of 2021 their best ever and turbocharge 2022. 

Breakthroughs come when you look at your situation from a novel point of view. That’s exactly why we are going to the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields for the event. At each point, you’ll focus on insights relevant to new successes. Being together with other extraordinary people inspires you to new heights.

Two of seven places are open. Contact me for more information.

2. If you cannot join the exclusive event, you can register for an interactive, hour-long Zoom session on June 30th at 10:30 am U.S. Central, plus I’ll stick around for 30 minutes afterward to answer your questions. Among the outcomes:

  • Action steps to put the right leaders on the scene and empower them to make decisions.
  • How to help your subordinates achieve “leader-on-horseback” inspiration so that people have clear examples to follow.
  • How to avoid common pitfalls when facing leader turnover.
  • Ways to set up your new subordinates for success and keep them winning.
  • Action steps that create clarity, buy-in, and accountability.
  • Ways to let in fresh ideas and avoid smelling your own gunpowder.
  • How to plan for success instead of simply hoping for success and planning for failure.

The fee for the zoom session is $297. The first twenty to register by June 15th get 50% off. Use coupon code Members50 at checkout

Register here or use this address: https://strategic-leaders-academy.teachable.com/p/taking-your-business-to-new-heights-gettysburg

Taking your business to new heights: Seven unique insights from Gettysburg to make the 2nd half of 2021 your best ever.

I use history, entrepreneurship, and perspective to help people grow their businesses. The combination is vital. When there’s too much nerding-out on the history, you get lost in trivia. All business with no context, on the other hand, creates spurious ideas. Without perspective, you are likely to overreact. Blending the three is an art.

If you don’t apply the experiences of others to your situation, you will miss analogous opportunities and repeat similar mistakes.

Join me on June 30th at 10:30 am U.S. Central for an interactive, hour-long Zoom session (which will be recorded and forwarded to everyone who registers), plus I’ll stick around for 30 minutes afterward to answer your questions. Among my topics:

  • Action steps to put the right leaders on the scene and empower them to make decisions.
  • How to help your subordinates achieve “leader-on-horseback” inspiration so that people have clear examples to follow.
  • How to avoid common pitfalls when facing leader turnover.
  • Ways to set up your new subordinates for success and keep them winning.
  • Action steps that create clarity, buy-in, and accountability.
  • Ways to let in fresh ideas and avoid smelling your own gunpowder.
  • How to plan for success instead of simply hoping for success and planning for failure.

The fee for these is outcomes is $297. The first twenty to register by June 15th get 50% off. Use coupon code Members50 at checkout

Register here or use this address: https://strategic-leaders-academy.teachable.com/p/taking-your-business-to-new-heights-gettysburg

The business boom is well underway, and the rising tide is lifting a lot of boats. Breakthrough success will come to those who advance from a secure base, defend their value, and innovate boldly.

PLUS: Did you know that Abraham Lincoln enjoyed champagne and probably had a sip or two of the bubbly after the Union victory at Gettysburg? Wine expert Nicole Kauss is going to give you exactly what you need to know to choose the right champagne to put a smile on your face and wow your guests.

The first twenty to register by June 15th get 50% off. Use coupon code Members50 at checkout. Register here or use this address: https://strategic-leaders-academy.teachable.com/p/taking-your-business-to-new-heights-gettysburg

Accelerating Success

FOCUSED is for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to create and sustain great teams that drive the business to new heights. Apply here.

TAP. The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. Get the details here.

Build your StrategyThis program is perfect for small business and nonprofit leaders who want to create a winning game plan without breaking the bank.

Scholarships.
If you want to apply for or sponsor someone for a scholarship, please email me at [email protected].

Seeing a situation through a single lens distorts your view and leads to bad decisions.

June 6, 2021, was the 77th anniversary of D-Day. A vital part of the Allies’ success was Operation Fortitude, which was the biggest deception operation of the war. It played on the German high command’s belief that General George S. Patton, Jr. would lead the main attack into France at Calais. 

Eisenhower wanted to blind the Germans to the real attack at Normandy, delay their reinforcements, and buy time to build up a huge allied force in France. 

The Germans saw what they expected to see — Patton’s massive army ready to pounce. Their fixation had the effect that Eisenhower wanted. They did not give up on their fear of a Patton-led attack at Calais until six weeks after the Normandy landings. By then, Patton was leading his tanks toward Paris.   

BlackBerry’s CEO Mike Lazaridis believed that keyboards were essential for hand-held devices. Despite data suggesting that touch screens were gaining popularity, Lazaridis clung stubbornly to his original design. When’s the last time you saw a BlackBerry?

Your blinders thicken when you see what you expect to see.

The single-colored lens is comforting in a world with so much noise. The problem is that you only see what you expect to see, so you are blind to information that gets filtered, and you dig in your heels when information challenges your point of view.

A trusted adviser acts as your kaleidoscope so that you can see the complexity and zero in on the most important data points. Who’s helping you see the tapestry and frame the most important scenes? 

CEOs are struggling with their return to the office policies. Employees “who are least engaged,” WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani told The Wall Street Journal, “are very comfortable working from home.” 

Cathy Merrill, the chief executive of Washingtonian Media, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post warning employees about the risks of not returning to the office. “The hardest people to let go are the ones you know.” Her employees staged a work-stoppage.

A friend who works in the high-tech industry stated that their company will use a 75-25 rule: employees need to spend 75 percent of their time in the office and work from anywhere for the remainder.

Leaders can do better than use proximity to make judgments about value, issue veiled threats, and come up with arbitrary rules that will waste time and energy in the monitoring.

Here’s a better way.

There are plenty of jobs that are done mostly in isolation, such as research-oriented work. Other jobs, like manufacturing, need to be performed in person.

Companies also have roles in which employees perform recurring tasks: assembly-line work, IT monitoring, coordinating activities, and the like. You also have to handle non-routine requirements, including innovation, crisis management, and product development.

When you put these variables together in a quad-chart, you get a better way to organize your return-to-office requirements. 

Recurring work that employees can do in isolation are prime candidates for very permissive work-from-home arrangements. 

Roles that require innovative work that employees can perform in isolation should have permissive arrangements, too, but less so than the former because the free exchange of ideas improves quality and reduces the risk of science projects taking on lives of their own.

By contrast, innovative roles requiring substantial collaboration should probably be performed more at the office than elsewhere.

Recurring, on-site roles often require the highest in-office frequency. 

Apply a commonsense method like this one, and you’ll boost productivity, retain your top talent, and make smart choices about office space.

P.S. How action-oriented are your company’s values? Slogans mostly create cynicism. Actionable values boost accountability for employees doing what’s right, the right way, without you having to watch.

I’m teaming up with leadership expert Jan Rutherford on June 2 at 1 pm US Central time to offer you a Values Do-in-Ar. Inc magazine recognized Jan as one of America’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers. 

You will come away from this Do-in-ar with action-oriented, accountability-inspiring values that enhance your company’s performance, reputation, and well-being.

To get your invitation, please donate to your favorite charity and let me know that you’ve done so (I work on the honor system).

I’ve just donated to the Milwaukee War Memorial, which is holding a special event in honor of Memorial Day.

A cyberattack on an east coast pipeline put a major crunch on gasoline availability. Thousands of Americans lined up at pump stations wanting to get every drop of fuel possible. Some even put gas in plastic bags. 

The hoarding reminded me of the toilet paper pirates at the start of the pandemic.

The gas shortage is only for three days, and yet panic-buying sent prices soaring and people waiting on a pump for hours. Some probably burned more gas in sitting the queue than they originally needed to fill the tank. 

What perspective can you gain from this head-shaking episode?

1. Busy people get more done but also make more mistakes

You opt for the easy button to move forward. Instinctive decision-making works a lot of the time, but it’s also the impulse that leads to toilet paper hoarding and burning time waiting on the pump when you could be doing something more productive.

Normally, a quick discussion with a trusted advisor gives you the perspective you need to make a better decision and move forward with confidence.

2. Overwhelm means that you’ve got more to do than you can process

The feeling can be paralytic or lead people to tick off inconsequential tasks while neglecting the vital ones. In this situation, take 1 minute to write down your top 3 priorities and an action step to move each one forward. Then, get going.

A 5-minute call with someone you trust helps you get these priorities and actions right, which will save you hours of rework and anxiety.

3. Opportunities abound when you keep your head while everyone else is losing theirs

When you’re too close to the action, you cannot see the whole stage. Gaining perspective is the art of identifying the important details and seeing the bigger picture so that you can seize opportunities others miss.

Who helps you gain perspective?

P.S. VALUE-ADDING Leadership(TM) is a master program for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to inspire people to contribute their best and drive the business to new heights. The next program begins the week of May 24. More here.

“The clarity, buy-in, and accountability we’ve gained from this program,” said Ray Omar, Capital Brands CEO, “has put us on track to reduce costs by over $1m and increase revenues by over $2m.”

I gave a presentation to the Milwaukee Rotary Club this week on Afghanistan. As many of you know, I spent four combat tours there: three in uniform and one as a civilian. 

Members of the club told me that they’d like to hear about some personal experiences, ways to understand the withdrawal decision, and what’s likely to happen next. I synthesized all that into three main points that apply beyond Afghanistan.

1. You don’t create new wins with old thinking. It seems safer to do what you’ve been doing, even if it’s not working, but there are opportunity costs, too. According to Nobel Prize recipient Daniel Kahneman, people tend to be risk-averse. hey fear losses more than they prize gains. They prefer to smell their own fumes rather than be hit with a blast of fresh air. Whose pumping in the fresh air for you?

2. To grow, you need vulnerability and security. Security without vulnerability leaves you buttoned up and unable to grow. You cannot grow unless you are willing to take off your mental and emotional body armor, and gain exposure to new ideas. Vulnerability without security means you are likely to become someone else’s dinner. Who are your trusted advisers?

3. You gain ground by building bridges, not by digging trenches.  Americans are tossing bombs at each other over politics, identity, and other matters. You can’t move forward while you are digging in. I found in Afghanistan that the only way to make progress was to get out of the trenches and build bridges with people who didn’t agree with me (some of whom were trying to kill me).  Who’s helping you build relationships that broaden your reach and impact?

You can view the presentation at the Rotary Club’s YouTube channel here.

P.S. VALUE-ADDING Leadership(TM) is a master program for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to inspire people to contribute their best and drive the business to new heights. The next program begins the week of May 24. More here.

Accelerating Success

FOCUSED is for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to create and sustain great teams that drive the business to new heights. Apply here.

SENIOR LEADER MENTORING. I have only 1 space available. Get the details here.

Build your StrategyThis program is perfect for small business and nonprofit leaders who want to create a winning game-plan without breaking the bank.

VALUE-ADDING Leadership (self-directed version) is perfect for young leaders people who want to lead as their best selves and inspire people to contribute their best. Check it out herehttps://strategic-leaders-academy.teachable.com/p/leading-well/

Scholarships

If you want to apply for or sponsor someone for a scholarship, contact me at [email protected]

I just watched an extraordinary video about the blue crab. To grow, it has to break out of its exoskeleton and grow new armor. Each breakout results in 25% growth. The molting takes about thirty minutes, followed by two days of shell hardening. 

To grow, you have to be sensibly vulnerable. You need to break loose from your mental and emotional armor while maintaining commonsense security for yourself and your business.

Growth, as my mentor Alan Weiss says, is different than problem-solving. The latter gets you back to the status quo. It’s like regrowing into your armor after shrinking. Growth means breaking out of your shell to get bigger.

What would 25% growth mean for you and your business?

Here are some excellent breakout opportunities.

Value-adding Leadership

This 8-week program begins in mid-May. You will develop the six habits that inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success. There are 5 of 8 spaces remaining.

Be Authentic: Authenticity is the opposite of selfishness. Impulse is not a permission slip (ask the former Uber CEO).

Trust Principles over Rules: Trustworthiness, Respect, and Stewardship point out true north in volatility and uncertainty.

Practice Empathy, not Sympathy: Pity is demeaning. Seeing and feeling an issue from someone else’s point of view is your bridge to cooperation.

Pass the Credit; Take the hit: Throw people under the spotlight, not under the bus, so that you empower them to innovate and take risks.

Describe the Why; Delegate the How: Describe what to do and what outcomes you want to achieve. Let your subordinates figure out how to do it, so they have ownership.

Multiply your Experiences: You don’t create new wins with old thinking. To think outside the box, you must expand your box. 

You will participate with other high-quality leaders in this by-application-only program. Go here for more information.

“The clarity, buy-in, and accountability we’ve gained,” said Ray Omar, Capital Brands CEO, “has put us on track to reduce costs by over $1m and increase revenues by over $2m.”

Antietam and Gettysburg Exclusive Event, July 14-17.

This exclusive event is for seven solo or small business leaders who want to take their businesses to new heights. Four of seven places are available.

We go to five points on each battlefield to discuss breakout ideas. You get enough history to know what happened so that you can draw business conclusions and insights that make the second half of 2021 your best ever and prepare your 2022 offensive.

Here are some examples:
Dunker Church. Simplify your business model so that your team works in concert and avoids miscommunication. You make a bigger impact striking with your fist than with open fingers. 

Little Round Top. Create buy-in so that people gain commitment to your success right away. Frontline decisions make the difference, so empower people to make decisions and execute boldly. Aggressive and unexpected plays can carry the day against superior odds.

Pickett’s Charge. When you smell your own fumes, foolish ideas look feasible, and good people get harmed trying to execute them. People flee poor leaders at the first opportunity.

That’s right — there’s no nerding-out on military trivia. The discussions focus on specific ways you can create breakouts that grow your business. 

I’ve rented out an entire B&B for this in-person event so that you get connection, reflection, and inspiration.

Contact me ([email protected]) for more information.

FOCUSED Business Growth

This 7-step program is for small and solo business leaders who want to strengthen their foundations for growth and build the business to new heights. The next start date is in early June. 7 of 8 places are open.

FOCUSED is an acronym for action steps you’ll take:
F — put First things First so that you focus on your priorities
O — Overcome obstacles that are impeding growth
C — Commitment and Culture so that you boost buy-in and accountability 
U — You leading as your best and most authentic self
S — Simplicity in your business model and game-plan
E — Execute
D — Decision-making that seizes opportunities and avoids expensive mistakes

This program’s clarity and focus resulted in more high-payoff work that we love and less wasted time and energy. We expect 33% growth to reach $100k in monthly revenues and expand from there.
Matthew Hargrove and Barry Lingelbach, Black-Grey-Gold Consulting 

Click here for more information and to apply.

Scholarships.
Please email me ([email protected]) if you want to apply for or sponsor someone for a scholarship for one of these programs.

I chuckle every time I meet a science-defying person on the sidewalk who hurriedly pulls up their mask when approaching and pushes it down after we pass. 

The probability of catching COVID while passing someone on the sidewalk is equivalent to being killed by a lightning strike. Over a year into the pandemic, this behavior reflects virtue-signaling rather than values. 

Virtue-signalling, like the facades on a Saddam Hussein palace, obscures the realities within. CEO hang-wringing apologia about diversity last year often resulted in no follow-through or change. Harvard business review articles show that most diversity training makes things worse. Still, CEOs throw money at the failed approaches. Plato described the behavior as “seeming over being.” 

You want values that work, and you want what you value to be working. 

Business values are behavioral norms that guide your profitable customer-centric solutions. Some are internal-facing, oriented on how people work together, while others are external-facing to expand your base of loyal customers. The true tests of your values are whether they are profitable for your business, your employees, and your customers. 

If your values set specific behavioral norms that lead to profitable customer-centric solutions, you are going to gain delightful customers and attract employees who will do what’s right, the right way, without you having to micro-manage. Vague values, on the other hand, are slogans that create cynicism. 

The vital step is to set business values that work. To help you do so, I’m hosting the “Never Suffer from Vague Values Again” do-in-ar with leadership expert Jan Rutherford on June 2 at 1:00 pm US Central. 

You’ll come away from the event knowing precisely how to set values that are the right fit for your business.

Here’s the game-plan: 20 minutes of format with Jan; 20 minutes working on your values assignment; 20 minutes of advice and support from Jan and me.

To get the meeting link, please donate to your favorite charity and email me ([email protected]) to me know you’ve done so (I use the honor system, so your word is good enough).

P.S. VALUE-ADDING Leadership(TM) is a master program for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to inspire people to contribute their best and drive the business to new heights. The next program begins in mid-May. More here.

Machine learning figures out what you like and gives it to you. Your subordinates tend to do the same. What’s not to like about that? 

Curated information can save you time, provide mental comfort, and lower your anxiety. The problem with likely-to-like information is that it narrows your point of view. Pretty soon, all you smell is the aroma of your own fumes. 

I’ve spent the past week testing some of the limits of Amazon Music’s machine learning. I love ’80s rock and am a huge fan of Taylor Swift’s tunes. Amazon has a cool feature called autoplay. When you reach the end of your playlist, the feature plays songs it believes that you will enjoy.

I got into the mood for 80s rock, so I “liked” tracks by Guns-n-Roses, AC/DC, and Tina Turner. I kept the autoplay engaged for a couple of days to see what would happen. 

After two days, the tracks were all headbangers and no T-Swizzle, even though my Faves playlist is full of her music. By day 3, the auto-playing songs grew repetitive. 

Amazon Music wants to please me by playing songs it thinks I’ll like based on my history and how I’ve responded to its advice. Our top lieutenants will do the same. They want to give useful advice that pleases you. After all, they have to spend many of their waking hours with you.

The trouble is that the mental algorithms they use to gauge what you’ll find useful are not dissimilar to Amazon Music’s method. If you are not very careful, you will wind up getting the same themes over and over again. You’ll struggle to find new ways to win when you use the same old thinking.

To avoid endless repeats of Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, and Aerosmith, I needed to take action to hear other voices. What trusted advisors do you use to make sure that you are not savoring the smell of your own fumes?

F + P = GD. Facts + Perspective = Good Decisions.

Facts, alternative facts, and fake news is the 2000s version of the trope that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. These problems complicate decision-making and lead to expensive mistakes. 

Six Americans, to date, have experienced blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. One person has died. The CDC suspended the J&J vaccine until they can complete further testing to see if there’s a causal linkage to the blood clots. The EU did the same with the AstraZeneca vaccine and then re-authorized its use.

It’s heartbreaking to lose a loved one. The shock is worse when their death is unexpected and linked to something that was supposed to be good for them. The alarming reports have increased vaccine skepticism as people fear that the jabs are unsafe. They prefer the passive risk of catching the increasingly-less-fatal COVID to the active risk of injecting the vaccine.

66 million people have gotten the J&J jab. If a causal relationship is found, the probability of getting a blot clot from the shot is one in a million. That’s right, 1:1,000,000, which is far lower than the risk of harm from COIVD. Other one-in-a-million chances include being struck by lightning, casting the deciding vote in an election, and flipping a coin that lands on heads 20 times in a row.

President Biden announced on April 13th his decision to remove all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. The date marks twenty years after the terrorist attacks on America planned by al Qaeda, which had a safe-haven in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon reportedly urged the President to stay the course. Some experts even argued for putting more forces into Afghanistan. Voices from the national security establishment, including former 4-star general and CIA director David Petraeus (whom I advised for three months in Afghanistan), decried the decision as short-sighted and likely to lead to al Qaeda returning to the landlocked country to plan terror attacks against the United States.

President Biden, however, was skeptical. During his speech, the President spoke of his trip in 2008 to the Kunar River valley. That trip was to my outpost, FOB Bostick. What then-Senator Biden saw was violence in our area had plummeted as more and more Afghans stopped fighting and decided to work together with us. He also saw the limits of what US forces could achieve: we could not provide legitimacy to the Afghan government. They needed to earn the support of the people. Unless they did so, we would be stuck.

Using his twenty-year perspective to weigh the arguments, Biden concluded that the risks of keeping US forces in Afghanistan far outweighed the benefits. The Afghan government has yet to earn enough legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans, and no length of continued US troop presence was going to change that. 

The difference between the poor decision to avoid getting vaccinated and the good decision to remove American troops from Afghanistan is perspective

Perspective provides context that is vital to sound decision-making. F + P = GD. Facts + Perspective = Good Decisions

Who is providing you with perspective so that you avoid drinking your own bathwater or following the bandwagon over a cliff?

P.S. Leading Well is for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to inspire people to contribute their best and drive the business to new heights. The next program begins in mid-May. More here.

“The clarity, buy-in, and accountability we’ve gained,” said Ray Omar, Capital Brands CEO, “has put us on track to reduce costs by over $1m and increase revenues by over $2m.”