We rescued Daisy, our German Shepherd, three and a half years ago.

She found us on the internet at the same time we found her :0)

Daisy positions herself to monitor what’s most important: Nicole’s safety.

During our hikes in the woods, Daisy scans dangerous areas for signs of trouble.

When she’s on one of her five (yes, five) daily walks, Daisy inspects threats and opportunities and ignores less relevant data. Squirrels are her security kryptonite.

She applies her signature at the most important places.

When chasing her orange ball, Daisy maintains a single-minded devotion, crashing through obstacles to reach her goal. 

1. Set your priorities so that you focus time and energy on what’s most important and avoid squirrel distractions.

2. Scan your surroundings by talking with people, professional study, and reading a national and a local newspaper so that you avoid breathing your own exhaust.

3. Watch for indicators on your top three threats and opportunities so that you can manage risk and seize profitable opportunities.

4. Put your signature on decisions so that everyone knows that the most important moves have your buy-in.

5. Keep your eyes on the prize, avoid self-editing and listening to unsolicited advice, and get the support you need to succeed so that you can look back on it all and say, “I gave it my best shot.”

Winterization is the technical term for preparing your home, car, business, or person for extreme cold weather.

My Norwegian friends tell me that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Winterization is a set of preventative actions you take so that your pipes don’t burst, your engine doesn’t seize, and you don’t get frostbite.

Corrective and adaptive actions are measures you take when these problems occur. 

You replace the pipes (corrective), repair the damage to your home (adaptive), replace the engine (corrective), or get surgery for a damaged limb (adaptive).

Preventative action is always less expensive than corrective or adaptive action.

Don’t be distracted by the blame-game as Texas politicians and energy officials point fingers. 

The failure to winterize facilities and ensure a reliable power baseload has resulted in a deadly and expensive nightmare for Texans.

You can’t control the weather, pandemics, or many other factors that affect your business.

You can control whether or not you invest in sensible preventative action.

Think of preventative actions in three categories:

Leadership: Investing in your people (and board of directors) so that they make good decisions and inspire people to contribute their best.

Culture: Strengthening your team’s operating system of values and expectations – improving how you work together and serve your customers. 

Strategy: Governing your organization’s purpose and direction and executing a solid game-plan to reach your goals.

Ten years ago, Texas had an energy freeze like it’s experiencing today. 

They failed to take preventative actions afterward.

What preventative actions will you take to protect your business?

Wisconsin winters are bitter cold, which motivates me to wear sweatshirts.

Each one brings unforgettable memories.

I get lots of comments whenever I wear my Marines sweatshirt, as I did on Tuesday. 

I served with some exceptional Marines in Afghanistan, especially those who were advisers to our partnered Afghan Army battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel Ty Edwards was the senior adviser during our last months in Afghanistan in 2008.

The Afghan Army tends to be very top-down. 

This Afghan battalion had a senior NCO who was a mullah from the Nuristani ethnic group. We’ll call him Mohammad.

We had been working hard with the Nuristanis in our area. 

Ty believed that Mohammad could boost our relationships.

The challenge was convincing the lieutenant colonel in charge of the battalion to let Mohammad play an influential role.

Ty asked questions that encouraged the commander to find ways that Mohammad could contribute his best.

The decision was a game-changer. 

The elders embraced Mohammad, asking him to lead prayers before and after each meeting. Their trust grew.

Together, they convinced the leader of a large insurgent group to stop fighting and support the government.

Those elders and former insurgents continue fighting the Taliban today.

Mohammad’s role was instrumental in creating one of the biggest wins in the history of the 20-year war.

Ty invited me to his hooch for cigars on my last evening in Afghanistan and presented me with the Marines sweatshirt.  

A few weeks later, Ty was badly wounded in a firefight as he rallied his Afghan partners. He always led by example.

I visited him several times at Walter Reed as he fought for his life. 

Ty lives in Florida.

The Marines sweatshirt fills me with gratitude for Ty. 

His leadership, courage, toughness, and friendship inspire me to make a difference, to pay it forward.

Thank you, Ty. 

Who are you grateful for?

How does Tom Brady keep on winning?

He surrounds himself with people who help him be his best self.

I’m a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan, so I was disappointed in the Super Bowl outcome.

Still, it’s a privilege to watch Tom Brady play.

At age 43, he’s the oldest quarterback ever to win a championship.

He gets the mental, physical, emotional, nutritional, and skill-development support that he needs to stay atop his profession.

Yes, Tom Brady has coaches and advisers.

The best in any profession have people help them do the right things in the right way to shorten the path to success.

Plenty of talented people never reach their potential because they try to lone-wolf-it.

It’s not arrogance, for the most part.

Sometimes it’s a poverty mentality. 

I don’t want to pay for support. I’ll figure it out on my own.

Mostly, though, you lone-wolf-it because you fear that others will see you as weak or damaged. 

Lone-wolfing-it is the fast-track to mediocrity.

It’s the school of hard knocks, and the tuition is costly.

The secret to the success of people like Tom Brady is that they don’t lone-wolf-it.

Surround yourself with people who help you be the best version of yourself.

You might not gain Brady-like stature, but you’ll go farther, rack up more wins, and make a much greater impact on the people and causes that mean the most to you.

Is it ok to lie to your employees if you think it’s for the greater good?

I’m probably an outlier on this issue, but I was distraught when I read in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that he lied about the pandemic. Twice. At least.

His intentions were noble. 

He wanted to prevent a run on N-95 masks so that medical professionals and caregivers had enough of them first. 

So, he said that wearing masks did not slow the pandemic.

He told us that epidemiological studies on herd immunity were wrong. 

Instead of sixty percent, Fauci said that up to eighty-five percent of Americans needed to be immune to stop the virus.

He admitted to raising the percentage to encourage more Americans to get the vaccine.

Dr. Fauci has performed admirable service for America during the pandemic and there are probably people who are alive today because of his advice.

But he decided to tell some Noble Lies, too.

Plato talked about the Noble Lie in The Republic. He used stories (myths) to explain the unexplainable.

What Fauci did was different. He misrepresented scientific information to manipulate Americans. 

He’s not alone.

The self-appointed permission to tell Noble Lies is why people do not trust leaders and experts.

The belief that you can lie to people for their own good is elitist and condescending. A team falls apart when people lose trust.

Here’s what leaders should do:

1. Tell the truth – no matter how good or bad it might be.

2. Let people know what action you want them to take.

3. Discuss why you are asking them to take action. “We need to do X so that Y and Z.”

Take these three steps, and you will gain respect and get the action you need from your team.

Professional credibility takes a long time to build and only an instant to destroy.

If you want people to respect you as a leader, give them your undivided attention.

Yes, you are busy and have a lot on the plate.

Get over it.

Take these five actions when you are communicating.

Listen to what they say. 

Not just the words, but the emotions and interests behind them.

Paraphrase.

Ask if you understood them correctly.

Look them in the eyes (not creepily or uncomfortably, though!).

See what their body language is telling you.

On a video call, make sure they have eye-level contact with you, too. 

Do not multi-task.

When you do, you are telling someone they are unimportant.

Take action.

Let people know with your deeds that you have heard them.

These five actions build the habit of giving people your full attention.

You earn respect by giving it, first.

Which of these five actions will you work on next?

Buy-in, Accountability, Results. 

The Success Trinity.

I mean trinity in the Clausewitzian sense, not the religious one.

Get them right, and the three elements take your performance to greater outcomes.

Get one piece wrong, and you’ll get a downward spiral.

Buy-in occurs when people contribute their best toward important goals.

Accountability means being answerable for doing the right things the right way so that they shorten your path to success.

Results are the outputs of your work.

Positive results reinforce buy-in and boost accountability, thus generating greater outcomes and impact.

What happens when part of the trinity is missing?

When you have buy-in and accountability but get poor results, you are on the wrong path. Your process is not working. 

If you have buy-in and results but lack accountability, then you are getting lucky. The downturn is only a matter of time.

When you have accountability and results but no buy-in, then you have lip-service. People will do just enough to avoid the stick and get the carrot, but they will not contribute their best.

I was saddened that my Green Bay Packers lost in the NFC Championship last night. 

They’ve made it there two years in a row because they’ve got the three elements in place. 

You can see the difference in the players’ faces, especially quarterback Aaron Rodgers who had his best season ever at age 37. 

Everyone’s bought-in. They hold each other accountable. They get great results.

They’re not perfect. They are human and make mistakes.

They perform superbly because they’re high performing people who’ve got great coaching.

I bet they will be in the hunt next year, too. 

It was a horrifying and despicable scene, the violent mob egged on by a sitting President, ransacking our Capitol to disrupt the final act of confirming the 2020 election results.

I used to live 6 blocks from the Capitol and briefed members of both Houses. To see those halls damaged was shocking. The loss of life deeply saddens me. I’m troubled by the state of affairs that led to this incident. 

A democracy is only as strong as the willingness of its people to protect it. Americans will need to rise to the occasion. 

The same divisive and intolerant practices that have characterized both sides of the partisan divide will not yield different results. 

Things can get much worse if we let them.

______________________________________________________________________

What are some practical leadership takeaways? 

1. A leader serves everyone on the team.

There’s a difference between a demagogue and a leader. 

A demagogue is one who gains popularity by whipping-up animosities. 

A leader inspires each person to contribute their best to the team’s success.

You’ve met this standard when your most vulnerable employees feel the safety and confidence to contribute their best and most authentic selves.

2. Character counts. 

You don’t have to be perfect. The only people who’ve never erred are the ones who’ve attempted nothing. 

You build character in the arena of life, making mistakes and learning from them.

The person who repeats and doubles-down on awful behavior is one to get off of your team. 

I’ve seen leaders rationalize toxic behavior. “The jerk gets results.”

The chickens always come home to roost – sometimes with the toxic leader present, other times you realize it after the fact. 

Toxic leaders damage people, teams, and institutions.

3. Values matter. 

Don’t handwave your values with feel-good statements. 

Be clear on your standards and expectations. 

Set the right example. Every employee should know what right looks like, and your actions should be the model.

Let people know that violence, bullying, and name-calling are unacceptable, too. 

No matter how self-righteous a person thinks they are, the physical, mental, or emotional abuse of another human being is wrong and damaging. 

Politically-correct bigotry is still bigotry, and it’s not OK.

4. Build bridges, rather than walls.

Right now, your employees—like many Americans—may be bitterly divided along political lines. 

A diverse team with buy-in to a common purpose, shared objectives, and respectful dialogue has resilience.

Belittling or lecturing people who disagree with you is the fast-track to resentment and paralysis.

If you want to get things done, you need to go to the other person’s bus-stop and see the issue from their point of view.

When you can describe their view back to them and get, “that’s exactly right,” you are ready to find solutions to challenging problems.

Empathy is fundamental to gaining buy-in and getting things done.

5. Keep calm and don’t recycle outrage.

In social and broadcast media, outrageous is contagious. 

Peddling outrage undermines civil discourse. 

Competing animosities escalate and eventually explode. 

What is your #1 leadership lesson?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal quoted a tech expert who predicted that technology would soon replace mid-level leaders. 

After all, he suggested, if technology can monitor employee productivity, what’s the point of middle management?

There are two matters to consider before you jump on the bandwagon.

First, your apps will have a hard time addressing one of the biggest productivity drains that companies face: presenteeism.

Presenteeism is the practice of being at work and doing things to look busy but are not boosting your mission and impact.

More importantly, productivity apps do not inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success.

CEOs make a big mistake in believing that the role of mid-level leaders is to make sure people are doing their jobs. 

If that’s the case, then you’ve either hired the wrong people or failed to gain their buy-in.

The first line team leaders and mid-level managers make or break your culture, productivity, and performance.

This level is where people gain buy-in or not. 

This level is where people decide whether they will do only the minimum or contribute their best and most authentic selves to your mission.

Gallup reports that 67% of Americans report being unengaged at work — that’s 67% presenteeism.

Your top-quality first line and mid-level leaders turn that number around so that people are spending two-thirds of their time or more contributing their best selves.

You will inspire people to contribute their best, willingly, to your team’s success by practicing these six habits.

First, be authentic so that you lead as your best self, prune away average habits that hold you back, and build the right team around you. 

Second, follow the three core principles of trustworthinessrespect, and stewardship so that people believe in you, bring out the best in each other, and your team gets better each day.

Next, practice empathy so that you can see yourself and your team through the eyes of others and stay ahead of the competition, avoid blindsides, and bring out the best in each teammate.

Fourth, take responsibility so that you can promote innovation and sensible risk-taking and hold people accountable for results and values … without feeling like a jerk.

Fifth, connect the why so that everyone knows exactly how their work contributes to success. Once this happens, your team will do what’s right, the right way, without you having to watch.

Finally, multiply your experiences. Personal experience is the best teacher of leadership. It is also the school of hard knocks, and the tuition can be costly. Learning from others lets you gain many lifetimes of experience very quickly to make sound decisions and avoid expensive mistakes. 

Dear Chris,

“What steps can I take to get the best from each day?” Karen G. wrote. 

I love getting these requests from you :0)

1. Organize your day by blocking off 1 hour + chunks of time you dedicate to your priorities. Let every other requirement flow around those chunks.

2. Set three objectives that you will accomplish each day (work on these during your priority times). Keep them achievable. Don’t boil the ocean. Write four paragraphs instead of four chapters.

3. Reward yourself when you meet your three objectives. Make some Oolong tea; grab a cappuccino, take an extra walk with your dog. This practice helps you build the habit of keeping commitments to yourself.

4. Schedule time for your personal, social, familial, and other priorities each week. Sundays are a great day to set your weekly agenda so that you maintain balance and dedicate time to what’s most important in life.

5. Set boundaries and stick to them. If you don’t have the time or something is outside your expertise, say so. The people who matter will respect your boundaries and will appreciate that you are not destroying yourself trying to please everyone.

1- 5 help you put first things first, so you are focused on what matters most.

6. Give thanks. A handwritten note is powerful. A quick video, email, or text is super, too. Recognize someone for awesomeness at the store, restaurant, hospital, or other places you visit during the day. 

Catch people doing something well and let them know you appreciate what they do.

7. Laugh

8. Offer to help. There’s so much opportunity to do the little things that make a big difference. Perform random acts of kindness.  

9. Exercise. Take a walk; ride your bike; go for a run; go to the (home) gym.

6 – 9 release endorphins that reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your self-esteem

10. Read a national paper and a local paper. Know what’s happening in the country and world as well as in your community.

11. Give people your undivided attention when you are speaking with them. Be fully present—no multitasking or smartphones. 

12. Take time for personal growth. Read a book or article, watch a video, listen to a podcast. 

These last three enrich your life and boost your impact.

What is your top action step to get the most from each day?