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.

practices

You need better practices, and these come with innovation which is only possible in an Inspiring Culture.

Practices

Alan Weiss is right — it’s time to ditch best practices. You need better practices, and these come with innovation which is only possible in an Inspiring Culture.

Best practices are seductive. After all, who doesn’t want the best for your business? Once you adopt a best practice, no improvement is necessary — it’s the best.

This mentality leads to complacency: doing the same things over and over and expecting the same results. When someone comes up with better practices, you get left behind.

I’m sure that companies like Sears, Toys R US, Blockbuster, and the like employed best practices as they maintained a comfortable status quo. They’re out of business, eclipsed by innovations that led to better practices, ideas, and products. The military schoolhouses issue best practices at a cyclic rate of fire. None of them helped to defeat a rag-tag militant group like the Afghan Taliban. The California DMV’s so-called Strategic Plan implores the organization to “Apply best practices in the hiring and selection process.”

Being a “Hands-on” leader was once a best practice, prompting its advocates to micromanage their employees, stifle initiative, and reduce innovation. Annual performance reviews tend to heighten workplace tensions and reduce vital one-on-one leader-to-subordinate conversations that should be happening weekly, thus lowering performance. People still believe the nonsense that focusing on your weaknesses, rather than playing to strengths, leads to better outcomes. HR departments continue hiring based on skills while ignoring natural affinities. The Great Escape from bad bosses, rotten workplaces, and ill-fitting jobs continues at an alarming rate.

I’m all for learning from what others do well. If it’s a better practice than what you are using and fits well, then go for it. Don’t rest on your laurels, though. Keep promoting better practices.

Building an Inspiring Culture (TM) that promotes innovation requires clarity and alignment on your organization’s common good, authority at first-line levels and above to solve problems and experiment with new ideas, and top cover from you that includes guidance, resources, and willingness to underwrite honest mistakes and shortfalls.

Without clarity and buy-in on the common good, people will move in unproductive directions. If people do not believe they have agency, they won’t make decisions. Unless you provide top cover, people will be afraid that you’ll throw them under the bus.

What action steps are you taking to promote better practices?

Building your Chest


Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. We’re in a period of persistent a-Normal volatility and uncertainty. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. 

Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

The Global CEO Mastermind is for CEOs and senior leaders who want to surround themselves with people united in the common purpose of being the best they can possibly be, learning from each other, avoiding drift and complacency, and soaring to new heights. We meet monthly via zoom, plus you get unlimited access to me. I’m limiting the group to 8. Reply to me for more details.

Greek

As the pandemic recedes, we’re not moving into a new normal but an a-Normal: the opposite of normal. Volatility and uncertainty will dominate, and the most principled and agile will emerge stronger. The ancient Greeks and Romans have essential insights on the kinds of leaders who succeed in these situations.

Greek

Why listen to the ancient Greeks and Romans?

Presentism is the belief that only contemporary ideas matter and that you can ignore or sit in judgment over history. It’s a form of hubris and a fast track to dangerous fads and bad decisions.

The reason is simple. People hyper-focused on the present have no basis for judgment. They are guessing and consistently wrong. Why take advice from someone who lacks perspective?

You’ll be better off speaking with someone you respect who has a perspective on what you’re facing in any endeavor. The person may have had personal experience in the matter, helped others, or can draw usefully from the experiences of others.

What are the keys to success in a-Normal times?

The ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and historians lived through a-Normal periods and left written records about what worked and what didn’t. On the subject of leadership, they were very clear. Leaders with arete (excellence) guided their polities, armies, and countries through a-Normality. Demagogues led people to ruin.

An Athenian citizen living in the 5th or 4th century BCE or Roman citizen in the 1st century BCE likely experienced existential wars, clear and present prospects of starvation and economic ruin, pandemics, plagues, new ideas and technologies, and deadly political intrigue. Contemporary thought leaders celebrated officials with arete who guided their communities successfully through such times and wrote comedies and tragedies about those whose love of vulgar fame led to catastrophe.

The concept of arete was simple: demonstrated competence and character in active service to the community. Such leaders possessed the skills needed to do their jobs well and the judgment to make sound decisions in challenging circumstances

Greek

They adhered to the four cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline, using those principles for guidance through ambiguity and accountability to do the right thing, even when it was not popular.

Being competent and following the virtues was not enough. You had to be an exemplar and demonstrate these qualities in service to your community to advance the common good.

If you did not have competence, no one trusted your abilities. Without character, you lacked the moral compass to make tough choices for the common good. Unless you demonstrated arete in the public square, people would think you couldn’t walk the talk.

Too often, public figures proved the importance of these three elements by showing the consequences of their absence. After Pericles died in the plague, corrupt Athenian politicians led the most powerful city of the Mediterranean world into defeat. Alexander the Great conquered a vast empire but lost trust when his soldiers and citizens grew to doubt his character. Julius Caesar was the most celebrated leader in Rome until he set himself up as a dictator. Much of ancient tragedy, comedy, and history are cautionary tales of hubris and vulgar fame.

What does arete mean to us today?

As American society rips itself apart, we see self-dealing politicians and celebrities who pander to various interest groups that egg them on to more narrow-minded actions. People seek social media fame through demeaning antics or moral grandstanding in their own echo chambers. Social and political trust are at historic lows; selfishness and cynicism are high.

Where are today’s Washington’s, Lincolns, and Grants? George Washington showed courage and self-discipline in rejecting demands from his soldiers that he set himself up as a dictator and in leaving the Presidency after two terms. Abraham Lincoln showed wisdom and courage in carefully turning the American Civil War from a war to preserve the Union to a battle to abolish slavery. Ulysses S. Grant had the courage and justice to face down bigots who wanted to turn back the clock on emancipation, thus presiding over one of this country’s most remarkable advances in African-American rights and prosperity.

Like their ancient predecessors, these three Americans were imperfect, but their arete guided this country through volatile and uncertain times. They won the battle with themselves first and then served as exemplars who rallied people to their better natures.

Learning from ancient Greeks and Romans can help you emerge stronger in a-Normal times. Leading with arete will help you make the pivotal decisions that guide your business to new heights and serve as the exemplar who inspires your employee to contribute their best to your organization’s success.


P.S. I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you, and you can sign up here.

P.P.S. I also want to alert you to a new program I’m rolling out soon — a global CEO Mastermind Group that meets monthly via zoom. You get unlimited access to me and interaction with other exceptional people to exchange ideas, help you be your best self, and keep you soaring to new heights. I’m limiting the group to 8 people. Reply to this email for more information.










fumes

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma.

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma. Until you allow in the fresh air, you will think the increasingly toxic fumes are normal.

Decision-making was a hot conversation topic during last week’s leadership event at Antietam and Gettysburg. Union General McClellan habitually inflated confederate strength, which caused him to move with an abundance of caution and attack in the most risk-averse manner he could conceive. He lost an opportunity to win the war in September 1862, instead of presiding over the bloodiest day in American history.

Less than a year later, confederate general Lee invaded the Union again hoping to win a big victory and force the Union to sue for peace. The strategy relied on assumptions so flawed that even a big victory would have been inconsequential. Lee believe his army was invincible and attacked a larger Union force that occupied better terrain. After two days of bloody and inconclusive fighting, Lee ignored sensible advice from one of his subordinates and ordered the disastrous Pickett’s charge. The picture below is from the High Water Mark.

The high-water mark of the Confederacy or high tide of the Confederacy refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863.

We see the consequences of people becoming accustomed to their own fumes. People shout at one another from ideological silos. We elect idiots to Congress. Putin surrounds himself with sycophants who have a vested interest in pleasing the boss. He gets a green light from China, which is interested in seeing how the West reacts to the invasion of Ukraine as China set its crosshairs on Taiwan.

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani continued to believe that America would leave troops in the country until the final moments. When the scales finally fell from his eyes, he fled and left people to fend for themselves (Ukraine’s Zelensky is a welcome distinction). President Lincoln, by contrast, surrounded himself with people who thought differently than he did and would provide alternative views. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in July 1862 as part of his effort to reframe the war from preserving the Union to freedom versus slavery.

Secretary of State Seward counseled waiting. Union forces had suffered recent setbacks, and European powers considered recognizing the confederacy. Issuing the Proclamation in the wake of defeats would be seen as desperation at home and abroad. Lincoln accepted the logic and waited until after Lee’s invasion of Maryland had failed. The Emancipation Proclamation gained sufficient support at home and ended European considerations of confederacy recognition.

Action steps:

1. Get outside points of view from people who are willing to tell you hard truths. You might not always take their advice, but they will keep you breathing the fresh air.

2. Test your assumptions by asking yourself: “what must be true for this plan to work.” You’ll reveal implicit assumptions that you can evaluate for validity.

3. Participate in mastermind groups of like-minded people who help you stay true to your purpose, push you to be your best self, and remind you when your fumes start smelling too good.

Also – I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you and you can sign up here.




Russian

Like many Russian ice-skaters, your top performers have something extra (hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs). What are you doing to cultivate them so that you build bench strength and prepare them for greater responsibilities, without burning them out?

Russian

Like many Russian ice-skaters, your top performers have something extra (hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs). What are you doing to cultivate them so that you build bench strength and prepare them for greater responsibilities, without burning them out?

The Russian women’s ice-staking coach’s practices horrify me. A 15-year old was given performance-enhancing drugs and there’s no way she could have given informed consent. The gold medal winner skated listlessly around the ice clutching a doll. The Russian silver medalist was overheard saying how much she hated the sport. There’s something desperately wrong in that program and it seems like child abuse.

There’s also something desperately wrong with the way many managers treat their top talent, creating cynicism, burnout, and sometimes lifelong damage. Like many Russian ice-skaters, your top performers have something extra (hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs). What are you doing to cultivate them so that you build bench strength and prepare them for greater responsibilities, without burning them out?

My colleague Laura Colbert shows how simply promoting your top experts into management roles runs the risk of ruining two positions, damaging confidence in your judgment, and creating a snowball effect of accumulating problems. She’ll help you give them the support, resources, and guidance that they need to succeed.

Jeff Marquez illustrates that forgetting your middle management undermines performance, dilutes your vision, and drives away your top talent. If you want to build your bench strength, implement your vision, and lead your business to new heights, Jeff will help you develop middle managers that power your success.

The military has an adage that ten percent of your people occupy ninety percent of your time. I also found that to be a horrible practice. Why devote your time to your worst performers and neglect your top talent? When you do so, you are engaged in failure work.

Instead, invest your time and energy in your top performers throughout your organization. When you fire your low-performers you are doing yourself, them, and your other employees a huge favor. Are you worried about employee attrition? Stop bribing people with snacks and putting greens. Fire the people causing the attrition — you’ll gain addition by subtraction.

Let’s face it, few employees are going flat out for 40 or more hours per week. Most are probably productive for around 25 of those hours. Imagine the results if they could spend just one of those fifteen remaining hours sharpening their skills. If you improve by 1% each day, you are twice as good seventy days later.

Recognize what’s special in each person and cultivate those superpowers so that they contribute their best to your team’s success. When you invest in their success, they will invest themselves in yours.

What’s your process for cultivating the talents of your employees?

Building your Chest

Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. There’s no new normal. We’re in a persistent a-Normal. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.



Books

LEADERSHIP: THE WARRIOR’S ART, second edition. We expect leaders to anticipate and shape the future so that your team can succeed. To do so, you need imagination grounded in a  practical perspective. That’s what you get with this book, which is why it’s been in print for over 20 years. The 2nd edition is updated for a post 9/11, post-pandemic world.

Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War is my latest book about strategic decision-making. I use the disasters in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq to give you the tools and mental models to avoid the traps and own goals that have created quagmires for the United States. You’ll gain ways to improve agency, bridge silos, pivot smartly, avoid breathing your own exhaust, and many other outcomes.



Putin

Undoubtedly, there are whispers in the halls of power about Putin’s future.

Putin miscalculated badly. His Army is getting hammered, financial sanctions are crippling, the Russian economy is cratering, and his own people are protesting in the streets. I hope the Biden administration is putting some thinking into managing success.

There’s an urge in these situations to go for the jugular. That approach works in the movies but not in international relations. Humiliating your enemy might feel good at the moment but tends to create resentment and long-term problems. The treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War sowed the seeds for a more destructive Second World War.

Putin’s decision-making seems compromised. He launched a war on a thin pretext. His military has performed poorly in the face of stubborn Ukrainian resistance. Undoubtedly, there are whispers in the halls of power about the future. If Putin gets deposed, he’s unlikely to survive.

Leaders in his position tend to gamble for resurrection — to make a big move that changes the game in their favor. The gambles rarely pay off, and many people get killed in the process, but dictators often go for an improbable win rather than settle for an inevitable loss. The Battle of the Bulge in World War Two is a classic example.

How America handles Putin’s failure will determine whether Russia seeks new revenge or becomes a constructive player. Creating a face-saving way for Putin to end the conflict that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and avoids concessions that encourage future Russian adventurism will take imagination and artful diplomacy.

Failure to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty would damage western credibility. Failure to discourage adventurism creates a frozen conflict. Humiliating Russia encourages revenge. Mutual respect and accountability promote sustainable peace.

You can imagine ways to translate this situation into your business and life. How do you create buy-in when you win a battle for resources or policy?

The three elements of buy-in are the Common Good, Self-interest, and Accountability. Without respect for the Common Good, people act selfishly. If people do not see how they will be better off, they will only go through the motions and may even play guerilla warfare. No accountability means backsliding and chaos.

Manage success so that you soar to new heights and avoid getting bogged down by guilt or envy.

Building your Chest

Exclusive Events

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.


Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale.



consulting

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows that bullies don’t stop until they get punched in the mouth.

Various world leaders had coddled, supported, excused, and rationalized Putin’s aggressive actions, such as invading Georgia in 2008, seizing Crimea in 2014, condoning cyberattacks, and meddling in other countries elections. Sure, there was plenty of finger-wagging and grandstanding, but bullies don’t care about what you say or write. They only believe what you do.

Twenty years of quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq and other military misadventures seem to have convinced Putin that a punch-drunk America and divided NATO would not impose high costs, so he turned his eyes on Ukraine. Quagmires have consequences beyond their economic costs, as I discuss in my latest book Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War.

Like most competent bullies, Putin has created defenses against retaliation (amassing a substantial financial reserve) and made clear that he can respond in kind with even more significant pain on those who oppose him. Thus, current sanctions have not targeted Russian gas exports, full participation in the SWIFT banking system, or the properties and assets of Russian oligarchs in places like London and Miami. Western countries have sent only limited military supplies to Ukraine.

Bullies follow the grapefruit principle: they don’t stop until they believe that the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.


That reckoning could come sooner rather than later. Several sources in Poland say that the Ukrainians are punishing the Russian offensive heavily.


Who are the Putin’s in your company? Chances are they are the ones who get short-term results and have the highest employee turnover rates. Looking the other way or rationalizing (“he’s a jerk, but he gets results”) enables the behavior and damages to your company. Don’t try to fix employee turnover by dangling more carrots. Fire the people who are creating the problem.

Who are the Putin’s in your life? They are the ones telling you that you can’t achieve your dreams, that you won’t succeed as a solo practitioner, that you have to go with the flow (even dead fish go with the flow, BTW). These bullies are the success-shamers, trauma-dumpers, naysayers, mediocrats, and finger-wagging conformity scolds who tell you that every success is dumb luck and any setback is evidence that “you can’t do it.”   

What are you doing to replace your Putin’s with people who help you soar to new heights?

Exclusive Events

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

consulting

Physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

diversity

I am proud of President Biden for announcing that he will nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court (he torpedoed President George W. Bush’s 2003 effort to appoint a Black woman). Organizations tend to be more legitimate when they reflect the demographics of the communities they serve, and there are plenty of Black women who will be superb justices in America’s highest court.

I hope he picks a truly diverse candidate — one from outside the Ivy League bubble. Diversity is more than skin deep. Physical diversity is only one element of a powerful triad. Like an iceberg, physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

People’s hardwiring affects how they lead organizations, solve problems, and deal with risk

The PROM archetypes(TM) illustrate the differences.

Like Malcolm X and General George Patton, Pioneers are tactical innovators who rally people behind new ideas and changes. 

Reconcilers (like Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower) manage consensus and keep people on board. 

Operators (George Washington and Indra Nooyi, for example) make the trains run on time and get things done – like Steve Jobs and Alexander Hamilton.

Mavericks are your strategic innovators who solve complex, wicked problems. (Get your PROM Archetype here).

Many large organizations show the dangers of homogeneity. The military and government, for instance, love detail-oriented people and tend to resist idea-centric people. By the time a year-group reaches senior ranks, most of the Pioneers and Mavericks have gotten drummed out or left in frustration, leaving a disproportionate number of Reconcilers and Operators. The latter self-perpetuate by selecting and promoting people who think and act like them, a problem called affinity bias. Poor strategic innovation in recent wars shows the consequences of poor cognitive diversity.

Personal experiences matter

John McWhorter shows that socio-economic circumstances are far more potent in shaping perspectives than race or gender. People tend to share worldviews with people raised and educated in similar situations. Veterans who’ve experienced intense combat have points of view different from citizens who have not. If you’ve fought your way from poverty to the middle class, you are likely to have different outlooks than colleagues who’ve been middle-class suburbanites their whole lives.

When making policies or strategies that affect people of varying circumstances, these perspectives matter. Ideas that seem sound within an elite bubble can come across as condescending or ham-fisted to those outside of it. Some progressives cannot fathom why people view “woke” as revenge racism that’s ripping society apart. Even San Franciscans seem to have had enough, recalling three uber-woke school board members. At the same time, some conservatives don’t get the outrage after calling the January 6th riot legitimate political discourse. They cannot seem to resist stepping on the 2020 election rake. Experiential diversity helps you avoid inhaling your own gas.

It’s time to get beyond the view that diversity only involves chromosomes. Leaders like you perform best when people among all parts of the diversity triad work together toward the common good.

What’s the next step in building your diversity triad?

Building your Chest – Exclusive Events

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

The Hudson Valley in the Revolution (July 27-30) focuses on people-centric innovation. We’ll travel to Fort Ticonderoga on beautiful Lake Champlain, the famous Saratoga battlefield, the majestic garrison at West Point, and the Stony Point battlefield. Most threats to an organization’s success come from within, and this challenge was true for the Continental Army. We’ll use the history to discuss practical ways to address toxic workplace behaviors, engage and retain your top talent, inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success, and many others. You’ll build new thought leadership that will be game-changers for your clients and employees.









science

As COVID-19 migrates from pandemic to endemic, our experience with the virus shows that following “the Science” leads to bad decisions.

“I’m not getting the vaccine,” a rando revealed to me on Thursday outside a Las Vegas hotel, “The Science says that too many people die from it.”

As COVID migrates from pandemic to endemic, our experience with the virus shows that following “the Science” leads to bad decisions. “The Science” differs from science, which is a discipline focused on accurate understanding. “The Science” interprets data that meets a particular worldview. It’s a religion.

At one time, “The Science” insisted that the earth was the center of the universe. Celestial prediction, however, remained elusive, so “scientists” (usually clerics) invented epicycles to explain variance. Still, the geocentric view never quite worked. Galileo showed that placing the sun at the center with the earth in orbit solved problems. In today’s vernacular, Galileo was canceled by the elect.

The COVID experience was more problematic because leaders without chests in government and business outsourced decision-making to narrow-minded experts who prioritized stopping the virus — a fantasy — to the exclusion of other considerations. Leaders celebrated the experts who provided assessments that conformed to their worldview and dismissed disconfirming studies. Education for the poorest children, health care, mental health, personal and social well-being, trust in leaders and fellow citizens, and many other common goods, suffered.

The New York Times shows that vaccine skepticism is widespread in America and correlates strongly with political polarization.

If you are vaccinated and boosted, your chances of dying from COVID are about one in a million, which is ten times less than being vaporized by lightning. Like my serial interrupter in Las Vegas, vaccine skeptics on the right are more afraid of being killed by the vaccine (about 1 in 30 million) than the virus. They are the ones filling hospital beds and unnecessarily overloading the healthcare system.

Nearly fifty percent of vaccinated Democrats under age fifty, meanwhile, fear that they will get very or somewhat ill from COVID, as compared to twenty-six percent of vaccinated Republicans in the same age group. Overall, 41 percent of vaccinated Democrats believe that they will get seriously ill from COVID even though the probability is infinitesimal. Many of them stay locked in their homes, obsessing over worry-porn, living in fear that everyone around them is a virus-wielding killer, and looking at you with finger-wagging scorn when you are outside without a mask. 100 times more vaccinated and boosted people will die from electrocution (1 in 13,394) and sharp objects (1 in 29,334) — probably in the safety of their homes.

President Harry Truman famously said that the buck stops here. He was the one responsible for weighing risks and opportunities and doing what he thought was best for the country. Leaders like Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Eisenhower were famous for insisting on hearing alternative views before making decisions. This practice helped them avoid getting trapped in echo chambers that self-serving lieutenants tend to create.

What has become “The Science” in your business? What’s your process to make objective assessments and avoid inhaling your own gas?

Building your Chest

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

The Hudson Valley in the Revolution (July 27-30) focuses on people-centric innovation. We’ll travel to Fort Ticonderoga on beautiful Lake Champlain, the famous Saratoga battlefield, the majestic garrison at West Point, and the Stony Point battlefield. Most threats to an organization’s success come from within, and this challenge was true for the Continental Army. We’ll use the history to discuss practical ways to address toxic workplace behaviors, engage and retain your top talent, inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success, and many others. You’ll build new thought leadership that will be game-changers for your clients and employees.



Sustainable excellence requires you to have moderate talent plus discipline and a willingness to work, a support network that helps you stay at your best, and elite advisers who push you to reach new heights.

Milwaukee hosted the junior national speed skating championships this weekend. I attended because my friend’s child competed, and I love watching elite performers in their element.

Short-track speed skating is intense. Athletes race on narrow blades, skate close together and have razor-thin margins of error. You have to maintain the proper body position, pass precisely, and maintain awareness of the other skaters. We saw several wipe-outs, and thankfully, no one was hurt.

My friend’s teenager, who’s a joy to be around, swept the events and became this year’s top American junior national skater.

I asked what it takes to become a top athlete and sustain excellence over time. After all, plenty of people reach the top for a moment and then flame out. Many of the most talented people seem unable to break out of the pack. What does it take to get and stay on top?

My friend said it takes a moderately talented, disciplined athlete, parents eager to support them, and a terrific coach who can bring out the athlete’s best.

Two out of three, she said, were not good enough. A talented athlete who has supportive parents but a poor or abusive coach will never become the best they can be. Unsupportive or badgering parents will ruin the sport and drive even the most disciplined and best-coached athlete to quit. Lack of discipline or dedication will keep even the best coached and supported athlete mediocre. As a trusted adviser to elite performers and organizations, I find her principles equally applicable to business.

Sustainable excellence requires you to have moderate talent plus discipline and a willingness to work, a support network that helps you stay at your best, and elite advisers who push you to reach new heights.

If you don’t put in the work, even the best peers and coaches aren’t going to create miracles for you. Disciple and great coaching can come undone if you have associates dragging you down, nay-saying, and trauma-dumping. Failure to invest in elite advisory support means you won’t grow and innovate enough to stay on top.

Where are you in the discipline — peer-group — trusted adviser Venn diagram? You’ve got the talent and work ethic. What steps will you take, what excuses will you put aside to get the other two working for you?

Reaching Elite Performance

Time Management for Real People helps you thrive at the intersection of energy, time, and priorities. You will come away from the masterclass with a sustainable personal rhythm that organizes your time, maximizes your high-energy periods, and puts your priorities first so that you are voting with your time and energy on what’s most important to you. The masterclass is on February 16 at 3:30 pm U.S. Central. The fee is $249 until February 10, and then $379 after that. Register here.

Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in February. We’ll examine the most important 2022 forecasts for implications to small business leaders, consultants, and experts. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.

CEO Mastermind group
 is for Milwaukee-area small business leaders and consultants who want to accelerate their growth in 2022. We meet monthly for lunch, and you get unlimited access to me for coaching and advising. I’m limiting the group to 8. Four places are remaining. Reply to me for more details.

Strategic Leaders Academy – Our mission is to help successful people gain new heights by being the best versions of themselves and helping others contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success.

People without Chests are easy Prey for the Demagogues who Pit People against each Other

Building Chests

“The head rules the belly through the chest,” C.S. Lewis tells us, but the belly will override the head if there’s no chest.


The metaphor is from Plato. The head => logic, the belly => emotion, and the chest => virtue. People “without chests” are viscerals, governed by emotion.

A century after Lewis and a couple of millennia after Plato, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman described two human thinking systems in his book Thinking … Fast and Slow. System 1 is the emotional, governed by the amygdala, that controls our fight or flight instincts. System 2, the analytic brain, is slower and requires more effort. You have to pay close attention when using System 2, and a threat or distraction allows System 1 to retake control.

People without chests are easy prey for the demagogues who pit people against each other. System 1 runs amok when people point to those who look, act, or think differently as an existential threat or source of evil. Restraint goes out the window when you are fighting Beelzebub.

Virtue has gone out of fashion, argues Roosevelt Montás in Rescuing Socrates, and I wonder if the absence of leaders with chests has contributed to the breakdown of our politics, corporate governance, civil society, and organizations. Only people without chests could think racism, revenge racism, misogyny, bigotry, fraud, deceit, and the like are ok as long as they advance your agenda. And yet, here we are.

Ancient Greco-Roman philosophers believed that following the four cardinal virtues — wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline — was essential for living the good life and having a healthy republic, army, business, or organization. Confucius and other ancient eastern thinkers wrote similarly. Practicing timeliness principles builds your chest so that your head can rule your belly.


Building leaders with chests requires learning from theory, history, and experience. You need the big ideas about fostering the common good, the history of effective and failed leaders so that you can learn from their successes and failures, and personal experience in the arena to put the chest into practice.

It’s easy to let the chest diminish. Apathy does the trick, and history shows the consequences.

Theory and history without experience put you in the ivory tower of impracticality, while theory and experience without history make you vulnerable to silly fads. Without theory, experience and history trap you in the hamster wheel of tactics without strategy.

Leaders with chests do what’s right, the right way, without you having to watch over them. Imagine the impact on your business when you have people committed to the common good who are doing the right things, taking the initiative, and innovating. Imagine the consequences of the opposite.

My mission is to help successful people like you gain new heights by being the best version of yourself and inspiring people to contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success.

Accelerating your Success

Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? 

The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in February. We’ll examine the most important 2022 forecasts for implications to small business leaders, consultants, and experts. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

The Trusted Adviser Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain sustainable habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results so that you reach your goals more quickly and consistently. Soar to new heights here.