Chris Kolenda, founder of SLA, helps principled business owners who want to drive their growth at the right time, with the right team, in the right way.

Chris Kolenda: 13 Behaviours Draining Your Energy: The Michelangelo Principle Can Help Your Leadership Improve

Are you a leader tired of people telling you to pile more stuff – goals, reading, workshops, conferences, journaling, activities, etc. – onto your overloaded life? 

The individual ideas sound great, but who has the time for it all? It feels like the good intentions on the road to hell.

If you are like most leaders experiencing good idea overload, I’ve got something that will help you take away your time and energy vampires: the Michelangelo Principle.

When someone asked Michelangelo how he created David, the sculptor replied that he simply took away everything that was not David. 

The Michelangelo Mindset is a term I first heard from Dr. Mark Goulston about the importance of removing the obstacles in your way. 

For this article, the Michelangelo Principle states that you need to take away what’s holding you back to become an ever-better version of yourself. 

Imagine someone piling more “good stuff” onto the marble containing David, making Michelangelo’s job harder. We might never have this work of genius.

The principle is the same for you. In this case, you want to prune away behaviors that create needless friction. 

Behaviors, how you apply your standards to the people around you, separate elite leaders from everyone else. At a certain point, your skills and experiences equal out. Your behaviors set you apart.

Below are thirteen dysfunctional behaviors that create needless friction and thus drain your time and energy. Most leaders have two or three of these behaviors. Prune these away, and you’ll save hours each week in no longer correcting miscommunication and misaligned work or having to pick up the slack that didn’t need to happen.

  1. Adding unnecessary value. When you improve someone’s idea by 5%, you reduce their commitment by 50%. Your employees perform far better with an 80% solution that they own than with a 100% solution you provide. You waste time and energy because you have to make up for the loss of employee commitment.
  1. Offering unsolicited advice. Your good intentions create resentment by saying, “I’m better than you.” You waste time and energy by creating needless friction. Your employee is worse off, and you have to pick up the slack. Ask, instead, what support you can provide to help them succeed faster. 
  1. Winning every argument. When you insist on winning every argument, you drag out meetings, create unnecessary conflict, and undermine goodwill. Gaining people’s buy-in is more important. Once you’ve got that, shut up and move out. 
  1. Butting in. Nothing matters before the But. The same goes for However and No. You create resentment with these words that say, “You make a good point, but my point is better than yours.” You waste time with needless input and micromanaging compliance with your mouse-turd caveat.
  1. Providing Constructive Criticism. Criticism builds defensiveness, which impedes progress. You waste time and energy relitigating the past, and your employee is less likely to innovate and try new things. Stop dwelling on the past and start framing a better future by feeding forward: “How will you do it better next time?” 
  1. Justifying your actions after requesting feedback. You asked for feedback on what you can do better. Your employee tells you something you do that bothers them. When you justify your actions, you imply someone other than you is at fault. They feel they stuck their neck out, wasted their time, and gained your resentment. When you ask for advice and get it, say, “Thank you.” 
  1. Not Listening. Instead of focusing your attention on your employee, you try to multitask. Your employee thinks they are unimportant to you, and you get only a fraction of what they said. Other times, you listen to respond (see winning every argument), so you miss their more essential points. You waste time and energy on misunderstandings and rework. Focus 100 percent of your attention on listening without passing judgment. Seek first to understand. 
  1. Speaking (or typing) when Angry. You are guaranteed to worsen the situation by creating resentment, putting your foot in your mouth, and piling on problems. Step away from the keyboard, go for a walk, and ask, “What can I do to improve the situation?” 
  1. Negativity fixation. You want to show how smart you are by explaining why every new idea will fail, so you stifle initiative, undermine ownership, and stay mired in a failing status quo. Ask instead, “How will you address this challenge?”
  1. Feeding someone’s negativity fixation. You’ll waste hours arguing back and forth with a know-it-all who’s stuck in their ways. Ask instead, “If it were possible, how would you do it?
  1. Letting Perfectionism impede progress. Moving from an 80 to 90 percent solution can be prohibitive in time, money, and opportunity cost, so stop waiting for perfection. Go with the 80 percent solution and adapt as needed. You’ll save time, energy, and resources while seizing opportunities that grow your business.
  1. Obsessive fault-finding. Some leaders treat finding an error like discovering a buried treasure. You spend so much time looking for what’s wrong that you miss seeing and recognizing what’s right. You spend time correcting faults, large and small, but fail to reinforce productive behavior, so unnecessary problems keep piling up.
  1. Finger-pointing. Leaders who obsess over faults tend to fixate on blame. This tendency creates predictable backlash as people try to defend themselves, cover their backsides, and re-litigate the past. While you waste all of this time and energy, the problem’s cause remains. Focus on the cause, not blame, address it, and move on.

Are you ready to slay your time and energy vampires to become an ever-better you? I can help you zero in on the behaviors to chip away and give you the action steps you need to reveal your own David. Schedule a call here and let’s get started.

Chris Kolenda: In an AI-informed company, the one who knows Why will replace the ones who know How. Here are 5 Things you need to know.

Have you experimented with AI chatbots like ChatGPT? If you are like me, you probably were awed by their ability to crank out information, produce analyses, and generate content. After further use, you likely perceived some implicit biases, basic errors, and odd phrases. 

AI isn’t perfect, but it’s here to stay. The question for leaders is how to make the most of AI’s extraordinary capacity and limit the downside while inspiring people to contribute their best.

Here are five ways the best leaders will adapt to AI:

  1. Why Leaders trump How Leaders. To date, subject-matter-expert leaders, what I call How Leaders, dominate most companies. How Leaders have the plans and the expert knowledge to solve problems and direct people what to do. The downside is the dependency they create as employees wait to be told what to do and how to do it.

AI makes How Leaders less relevant, because anyone can tap into generative models for expert answers on any technical skill. Need code for a new program? No problem for AI. Need a manufacturing design? Presto! You get in seconds what might take weeks for an expert to produce. 

Why Leaders, on the other hand, provide the questions and guidance that bring out the best in their employees – including their artificial intelligence teammates. Why Leaders become more critical to your organization because of their ability to tap into expertise and direct it toward your company’s common good. 

  1. Strengthening personal interactions. Remote work, powered by AI, makes face-to-face contact more rare and important. AI’s ability to produce deep fakes (AI can replicate your voice in three seconds) can undermine trust between you and your employees. Was I talking to a real person or AI? AI can handle data, my Chatbot writes, but it cannot establish trust

The most effective leaders make every face-to-face interaction count to build trust and strengthen relationships. Gone are the days when you had so many interactions that a few bad ones got less attention. Now, the stakes for each interaction are higher. 

Bring people together for quality personal interactions in extraordinary venues and you will reap the benefits of high trust and increase the capacity of their subordinate leaders to inspire the best contributions of their human and AI employees.

  1. Fighting Bigotry and Unfairness. AI can expose as well as perpetuate biases and unfairness. My Chatbot writes: According to a 2021 report by the Economic Policy Institute, some companies with significant pay disparities between the CEO and average workers included

Employees will increasingly see when people are promoted or punished based on their chromosomes, and when CEOs lavish pay on themselves and do little or nothing to support their employees’ livelihoods and professional futures. 

The best leaders will exemplify their company’s standards and hire only those likely to buy-in; the hypocrites are at higher risk of exposure and damaging your company. 

  1. Reducing surveillance anxiety. Weak leaders and autocrats will use AI as a surveillance tool to monitor employee compliance. As my Chatbot notes, When employees feel watched, they watch their backs—not their work. The AI-as-Big-Brother kills morale and innovation.

The most effective leaders will use AI to improve future performance. For example, AI can identify skill gaps and address them, offer advice, create systems for setting up your employees for success, and suggest the most productive career pathways. 

  1. Enhancing decision-making. AI can process data, my chatbot tells me, but can’t understand its impact on people. As I’ve found in my time with ChatGPT, the bot is only as good as the guidance I give it. Even the most thoughtful prompts get, at best, a 70 percent solution.

I appreciate the time I save moving from a 50 or 70 percent solution to 80 percent, and not having to start from scratch. At the same time, it’s the critical thinking skills that allow me to provide the quality guidance the chatbot needs to crank out meaningful answers. 

The best leaders will develop their subordinates’ critical thinking skills so they can bring out the best in their human and AI teammates. You’ll get better outputs from them and you’ll make better decisions as a result.

What ways do you expect AI to affect your leadership? I would love to hear about it! Email me and let me know. 

Chris Kolenda: Save $2000

Friday, September 15th is the day! It’s your last chance to register for Expert Consulting Mastery and save $2000. Are you ready?

This program is for you if you:

  • Earn $100,000 in revenue and want to grow beyond $250k without increasing your workload;
  • Are coachable and have an open mind;
  • Have an abundance mentality and like to share ideas with others;
  • Are willing to try new things.

If some part of the process is not working for you, here’s my promise and guarantee: I’ll work with you until it does – at no additional charge.

This program is exclusively for veterans and immediate family members who want to grow their already successful coaching or consulting business.

Schedule a call if that sounds like you, so we can decide if Expert Consulting Mastery is right for you.

You will only be accepted into the program if I am 100% certain you will succeed.  Let’s talk, there’s no downside to this conversation.

P.S. 100 percent of the people who have previously participated in this program and who have implemented each step of the process have been successful. Most find the program pays for itself in the first few weeks.

Interested in learning more about Expert Consulting Mastery? Register for my “Profitable Practice” webinar on September 20, 2023.

Chris Kolenda: Why you have to apply for Expert Consulting Mastery.

You likely have never been asked to apply for a coaching program before. Allow me to explain why I do this FOR you. 

The right fit matters when it comes to doing deep work. In Expert Consulting Mastery, I want your experience to be as joyful and meaningful as possible and for you to be surrounded by like-minded people. When you’re part of our community, you’ll be surrounded by other veterans who are serious about growing just like you are.

The application process ensures that each participant is able to extract and contribute the maximum value from this program.

Wondering if you should apply? Here’s some of what I’m looking for from you:

  • You earn $100,000 in revenue and want to grow beyond $250k without increasing your workload;
  • You are coachable and have an open mind;
  • You have an abundance mentality and like to share ideas with others;
  • You are willing to try new things.

As you experienced in the military, standards are vital for success. You need to have standards for your clients so that you attract people who you believe will succeed, that you cheer for, and who are a joy to work with. 

You’ll find we have standards you can get behind in this program too.

Here’s why you should apply:

  • You gain a proven process that accelerates and simplifies your business so you get better revenues at less work and zero frustration.
  • You get an accountability partner who wants what’s best for you and is willing to tell you the truth.
  • You have lifetime access to the materials.
  • You create relationships with like-minded peers who share insights and support.
  • You get my promise and guarantee: if something is not working for you, I’ll work with you until it does – at no additional charge.

Participants in my programs build strong connections quickly and support each other long after the program finishes. 

Having the right people around you shortens your path to success.

If this program sounds like a good fit for you, schedule a call with me. There’s no downside and a massive potential upside.

Are you interested in learning more about Expert Consulting Mastery? Register for my September 20, 2023 webinar.

P.S. 100 percent of the people who have previously participated in this program and who have implemented each step of the process have been successful. Most find the program pays for itself in the first few weeks.

Chris Kolenda: AI is Getting Dumber. How You Can Avoid Cognitive Drift.

According to the Wall Street Journal, AI platform ChatGPT 4 has significantly higher errors in basic math and other subjects than its predecessor, 3.5. What’s going on?

Algorithmic drift is one of the primary culprits. AI learns from inputs, so it is subject to the garbage-in, garbage-out phenomenon. The more garbage enters the system, the more the chatbot’s accuracy drifts. 

Algorithmic drift can also result from manipulation, where people seek to sabotage the Chatbot by feeding it lousy information or coaxing it to say something outrageous or offensive. 

Artificial life is not all that far from real life when it comes to cognitive drift. We, too, drift when we privilege information that confirms our beliefs (confirmation bias) and super-empower those who speak it. Cognitive drift is part of the reason leaders can get worse even as they have more experience on the job. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a high-profile example.

You avoid cognitive drift when you gain diverse inputs, resist sycophancy, and breathe fresh air. Here are some action steps to do so.

  1. Promote cognitive diversity in your inner circle. Just because someone looks different from you does not mean they think differently. You need people around you who are committed to your success and see issues from different angles. My PROM Archetypes® assessment helps you do so.
  1. Seek out differing perspectives. I read the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post because I know that each has a unique point of view, and I can normally triangulate them to come up with a reasonable degree of ground truth. You put cognitive drift into overdrive when you only read, watch, or listen to news and ideas from a single perspective.. 
  1. Increase your company’s psychological confidence. Psychological confidence occurs when leaders encourage disagreement, and employees are comfortable disagreeing agreeably. People with psychological confidence will identify problems, offer fresh ideas, and take risks to advance the common good. If everything is always awesome in your Legoland, you should brace for impact.

I can help you assess your company’s psychological confidence using a questionnaire. Here’s the general version that I customize for organizations. 

  1. Get an outside perspective. Bring on a trusted advisor who 1) wants what’s best for you, 2) builds your capacity, and 3) tells you the truth. Your typical certificate-waving coaches fall short on 2 and 3; they usually just help you inhale your own gas. 

It’s hard to see the label from inside the jar, and even your most objective subordinates will have difficulty telling you what you need to hear. A trusted advisor will save you time, improve your decisions, and increase your peace of mind.

If you would like to explore ways a trusted advisor can support you, schedule a call

Why Expert Consulting Mastery could be a good fit for you

If you read my last email about Expert Consulting Mastery, you might wonder if this program is right for you.  Let me share a few things that might help you decide.

Expert Consulting Mastery is for you if you are a veteran who:

  • Wants to use your experiences to help people 
  • Values autonomy over being in a structure
  • Takes prudent risks
  • Desires to control your time, talent, and energy
  • Is willing to bet on your own success

This program is not for you if you:

  • Don’t care about helping others
  • Want to be a salaried employee in a company
  • Are highly risk-averse
  • Don’t mind being told how to use your time, talent, and energy
  • Lack the confidence to invest in your own success

Many former senior military leaders make terrific solo consultants and coaches. You’ve been coaching, teaching, and mentoring leaders, providing counsel, and offering trusted advice for many years. 

Those same skills are invaluable in the private sector.

Turning those skills into a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business is a matter of combining passion, market need, and competence.

You need all three to succeed.

If you have Passion and Competence without Market Need, you have a hobby, not a business.

If you have Passion and there is Market Need, but you lack Competence, you’ll have no impact.

Finally, if you have the Competence to meet a Market Need but lack Passion, your work will feel like drudgery, and you’ll lose interest.

You have a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business when you have all three.

The good news is that the market needs your wisdom, and you have the experience to be a competent consultant or coach. 

You wouldn’t have had a career in service if you didn’t have the passion to help people.

You have all of the ingredients to be a good consultant. What you need is a simple process that helps you be good at being a good consultant. 

Being a competent solo entrepreneur has three components: business development, internal management, and execution. 

You see the three elements in the prominent circles. Around the circles are some of the critical competencies you need to be good at being a good consultant. 

The good news is that all of these are skill-based, which means you can learn to master them. 

Most former military leaders find that they pick up quickly the behaviors around Management and Execution because they are pivoting their skills from the military into business.

Business Development scares many retired military veterans because you most likely haven’t developed these skills. You fear you cannot do marketing or sales without violating your values.

Rest assured, you can excel at these skills, too, and without being a pushy self-promoter. ECM shows you exactly how to convey the value you provide to others (marketing) and how to help people make informed buying decisions (sales). 

Being a good solo consultant or coach is skill-based, which means with the right materials and support, you can learn it, practice it, and get better at it.

That’s what Expert Consulting Mastery does for you.

This 9-week program gives you the process, guidance, and support you need to accelerate your business and create durable success.

100 percent of the people who have previously participated in this program and who have implemented each step of the process have been successful. Most find the program pays for itself in the first few weeks.

Each week you will watch videos (totalling about 30 minutes) and complete an assignment. You will meet with your group and me via Zoom to discuss your progress, answer any questions, and give you action steps that get results.

By the end of the program, you will have everything you need to move your consulting business from striving to thriving. 

If some part of the process is not working for you, here’s my promise and guarantee: I’ll work with you until it does – at no additional charge.

I’m very selective about who joins the program, so admission is by application only. 

If this program resonates with you and you’d like to know more, fill out this simple application, and let’s talk.

We’ll discuss your business and see if Expert Consulting Mastery is right for you. I’ll give you action steps to move your business forward, whether or not you decide to take the next step.

The disasters in Afghanistan and Hawaii have something in common that you need to know

General Douglas MacArthur explained that nearly every military disaster can be summed up in two words: Too late. 

As I write this, the Hawaiian wildfire’s confirmed death toll is 111 and may rise to over 1,000. Faulty, spark-emitting powerlines likely caused the blaze, in which strong winds fanned into an inferno that swept across the Maui town of Lahaina.

According to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, Hawaiian Electric officials have known for at least four years that the power lines needed repair but invested a paltry $245,000 in preventative measures. The company waited until last year to request the State’s approval to increase fees to pay for badly needed maintenance – Hawaiian officials have yet to act on the request.

The State government, meanwhile, reportedly knew about the heightened wildfire risk for years but provided no resources or plan for preventing or responding to one.

The tragedy unfolded slowly, then all at once, to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities

The same was true for the Afghanistan disaster. U.S. and Afghan officials had well over a year to plan for the withdrawal of American forces, but both parties seemed to bury their hands in the sand that the United States would reconsider. 

The intelligence community reportedly warned that tens of thousands of Afghans would seek evacuation, but there was little planning or preparation for such a massive endeavour. The military planned to withdraw, aiming for the lowest possible risk to its forces. The State Department seemed to dither and then abruptly evacuate the U.S. Embassy one night. Panic and tragedy ensued.

Both heartbreaking episodes show that preventive action is always cheaper than corrective and remedial actions, and leaders ignore them at peril.

Most business and other failures occur slowly and then all at once.

Inadequate leadership, decision-making biases, deficient cultures, and unrealistic strategies accumulate rocks in your company’s rucksack. The weight hinders progress and innovation, drains your resources, and increases fatigue and stress. The burden seems manageable until you plunge into a crisis, and it’s too late.

The best companies invest in preventive actions, particularly in their leadership and culture. Joyful employees create cheerful workplaces and happy customers who bring in more business. The virtuous cycle keeps unnecessary weight from your rucksack and buoys you in difficult times. 

Are you ready to invest in your leaders and culture? Let’s discuss two of my programs: Becoming a WHY? Leader® and Building an Inspiring Culture®.

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.   

Are you a veteran looking to build a career as a consultant or advisor? The next 9-week program of Expert Consulting Mastery begins on October 11, 2023. Register for my August 29, 2023 webinar to learn more.

3 questions the best leaders use to make tough decisions

Leaders reach out to experts and specialists when they face challenging situations. You need generalists, too, so you ask the right questions and avoid the ten words that lead to bad choices: 

Follow the Data! Obey the SCIENCE! Listen to the Experts! 

Data is not wisdom, and data-driven decision-making can leave companies worse off. Here’s how.

The best leaders listen to people who know what they are talking about and make decisions that best serve the company.

That seems simple enough, but implementation can be challenging. 

Experts provide valuable insight on specific topics, but narrow perspectives create myopic advice.   

Take COVID, for example. Medical experts provided data that projected death tolls and made recommendations like lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

Partisans egged on leaders with the ten words. Over time their associated advice led to higher death tolls, substantial economic dislocation, greater social polarization, damaged mental health, and massive learning loss.

The problem was not the data or advice, necessarily, but the question. Asking experts “How to stop the spread” created answers different than the more holistic “How to best support my constituents during this pandemic?” The latter question required leaders to determine the best balance between reducing the virus’s threat and promoting the general welfare.

The experts, of course, could not answer the latter question because they lacked the perspective. Leaders who unquestioningly obeyed the experts had demonstrably worse outcomes that those who took the broader perspective. 

I was asked recently to provide a testimony to Congress on the Afghanistan debacle. One House Member was trying to make a point that President Biden ignored the advice of the generals and asked me what I thought of that.

Thank goodness Abraham Lincoln didn’t listen to General McClellan, I replied, and noted that FDR disregarded General Marshall’s advice on how to take the fight to the Nazis in 1942, and Truman disagreed with General MacArthur’s advice to use atomic bombs on Chinese cities. 

My view on Afghanistan was that leaving was the right thing to do, but the timing and execution were badly botched.

Leaders should avoid the other extreme of trying to do the experts’ jobs for them. Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to select bombing targets in Vietnam is a classic example of getting trapped in the weeds and ignoring the bigger picture.

Leaders should listen to trusted experts, but make decisions based on advancing the common good.

Instead of asking narrow questions about how to optimize a particular silo or function, the best leaders keep their focus wider.

“What must be true for this option to work?” is a great way to uncover assumptions. You can then determine the indicators of validity and orient your data analysis accordingly.

“What’s the best way to advance our organization’s common good in this situation?” keeps your the focus on the blogger picture.

“What information do I need to make this decision?” helps you avoid wag-the-dog problems with siloed data.

You’ll benefit from trusted advisors who are generalists because their perspectives are broader and they’ll help you orient on the big picture. 

P.S. Do your employees have the psychological confidence to bring you bad news, identify problems, take risks, and offer new ideas? Email me if you’d like to discuss psychological confidence and ways to improve it. 

360 external awareness occurs when you know what people think and feel about you and their workplace. The key stakeholders include your bosses, peers, and the employees you lead. The latter is the trickiest, and Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired for neglecting this responsibility.

I remember watching Pat Fitzgerald play football at Northwestern in the mid-1990s and cheered him on as he became the head coach who turned around a lacklustre program.

The allegations of serial hazing on the team are disheartening. The stories of cruelty and mistreatment keep materializing.

Fitzgerald should be fired as the head coach, whether he knew about the hazing and condoned it or did not know such activities were happening on his watch. 

Leaders must discover what’s happening in their organizations, particularly regarding their most vulnerable employees. 

Knowing what your bosses and peers think about you and your organization is normally straightforward. 

Figuring out what your employees think and feel about your workplace is trickier. 

A camouflage net obscures your view from above. You only see what you want to see, the bits that emerge into plain sight, and what people are willing to reveal to you. The net conceals everything else.

The best leaders develop ways to get underneath the net to see things as they are, identify problems, spot talent, and gain fresh ideas.

Here are some ways I help leaders do that.

  1. Feedback loops. Use a combination of short questionnaires, focus groups, and individual interviews to get ground truth. Identify the issues you want to address, tell your employees, follow through, and follow up.
  2. Trusted Advisers challenge your assumptions and help you see what’s hidden in plain sight. Your biases do not inhibit them, so they’ll notice and report issues and opportunities as they find them. 
  3. Off-sites get people out of their comfort zones and open minds to new ideas. These adventures increase trust, strengthen relationships, and improve communication. People report problems and offer fresh ideas when they trust the people around them. Taking people to powerful places like national parks and historic venues creates experiences that last a lifetime and pay massive dividends for your organization.

It’s too bad Pat Fitzgerald did not find ways to peer underneath the camouflage net to see things as they are. 

He’s not alone, of course. Many good people have fallen from grace because they fooled themselves into thinking they could see everything from up high.  

Would an adventure off-site improve trust in your organization? View our programs and schedule a call with Chris to see if it could be a good fit. 

Buy-in occurs when your employees provide voluntary support. 

A significant leadership challenge is gaining buy-in for a new initiative or one people previously opposed. 

Buy-in explains the vital difference between high and low-performing organizations.

Without buy-in, leaders must focus on compliance, dispute resolution, and corrective action, which robs them of time and energy for strategy and growth. This disengagement tax is a hidden cost that drains revenue and undermines your business. 

With buy-in, people do the right things in the right ways voluntarily, which frees leaders to focus on the future. 

Joshua Chamberlain’s ability to gain buy-in saved the Union’s Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, marking the beginning of the Confederacy’s end.

Two days before the battle, Chamberlain was ordered to guard 120 prisoners accused of desertion. They hailed from the 2nd Maine regiment. The accused believed they had signed two-year enlistments like others in the regiment, instead of three years, and wanted to return home with their comrades.

Chamberlain was given the authority to shoot them if necessary. He’d never be able to return home if he did. Guarding them would reduce his fighting force.

Chamberlain thought differently about the situation: what if they agreed to fight in our ranks for this massive battle?

Chamberlain’s regiment was down to about 250 soldiers. Adding 120 veteran fighters would strengthen his unit significantly.

Chamberlain focused on the three elements of buy-in: clarity on the mission and expectations for the upcoming battle, appeal to their self-interests of dignity, care, honor, and possibility of parole, and providing confidence in the way forward. 

117 of the 120 deserters agreed to pick up their rifles and make the intrepid stand at Little Round Top. Without them, the 20th Maine would have been overrun, opening the entire flank of the Union army.

People buy in when they are clear about the expectations, believe they will be better off by adopting them, and are confident that the initiative or game plan will work.

People might be clear about an expectation and believe it may help them be better off, but won’t buy in without confidence that it will work. Mask fatigue during COVID is a recent example. Companies might believe that a new communications platform will help them be better off, but they won’t adopt it if they lack confidence in the technology or customer service.

By contrast, people can have clarity about a new idea and confidence it will work but won’t buy in if they believe they’ll be worse off. COVID vaccine resistance is a typical example. In your company, people who believe they are on the losing end will resist change. I find this to be the most common buy-in problem. The leaders are convinced everyone’s better off, but employees often find the talking points unconvincing. CNN’s recent employee revolt shows the perils of making changes that people believe leave them worse off.

Finally, employees can believe a particular change makes them better off and have confidence it will work, but will only buy-in for the common good if they are clear about the rationale and the details. Poor clarity results in silos or fiefdoms, where people adopt something good for them but detrimental to the company overall. 

COVID protocols again offer a clear example of confusion, as medical expertise grew politicized and people believed only those who fit their pre-conceived beliefs. A client had challenges getting reports on time because employees did not understand the rationale. Once they gained clarity on that and how lateness was screwing other people, the reports arrived on time, regularly.  

What are your biggest buy-in successes and challenges? 

With so many businesses using flexible work locations, bringing people together for a substantive event that boosts cohesion and strengthens your foundation for growth is more important than ever. 

A company off-site at a historical venue or national park allows you to create an experience that pays dividends for decades. 

Let’s discuss some ideas if you want to do something special for your company.

schedule a call with chris