Strategic Leaders Academy expert Laura Colbert is a connecter, wife and mother of three, consultant, public speaker, personal advisor, author, outdoor enthusiast, and reader.

Leadership

Nobody wants to work under fear driven leadership. Give your Team more control, lower overall stress, and make big gains.

leadership

Fear-driven leadership is not an effective way to lead an organization. Employees with higher levels of stress and anxiety cannot function to the same levels as those who feel safe and have a greater sense of control in their jobs. Leaders should strive to create an environment where their employees enjoy coming to work and harness the feelings of belonging and buy-in. They will see better results in their bottom line.

We all make mistakes. Here’s one of mine: I was a middle school principal in the fall of 2020 when we returned to hybrid teaching/learning. As with most of the world, there were excessive amounts of divisiveness, fear, and stress among the staff and community. Unfortunately, I treated the staff in more of a punitive tone, than one of compassion. This caused my entire group of team leaders to hold a private meeting behind my back (yes, I am cringing while writing this) and then eventually talk to me as a group about how I was disciplining my staff.

It was a tough meeting, but I was glad they felt comfortable enough to discuss the issue with me so that I could make adjustments and be the best boss for my Team. It was a great and humbling reminder that we need to treat everyone around us with respect and grace because we never know what someone else is going through.

I’ve read a few books, namely the “360-Degree Leader by John Maxwell, “Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, “9 Lies About Work” by Buckingham and Goodall, and “The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham with an overwhelming theme that leaders should address their employees’ concerns with grace, empathy, and even sometimes an apology. Perhaps our expectations weren’t clear or we never explained the “why.” Somehow, I let these lessons slip in the fall of 2020. I’m sure it roots back to my self-preservation or fear of the unknown in an unprecedented time. As a leader, that’s no excuse.

I’m telling you this story to illustrate that even though one of my core values is compassion, I let it slip. My team leaders recognized that they weren’t seeing the real me and they let me know that. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistake. Take a look at your values. Are you holding true to what you believe in and what your Team needs from you?

Action steps to ditch fear-driven leadership:

•             Give your Team a sense of control: The less control we have in our jobs, the more stress we feel. The more stress we feel, the less productive our business is. People seize control through passive-aggressive behavior, gossip, and office politics, to name a few. You can give your team a greater sense of control by setting clear boundaries in terms of values, finance, fairness, and legal and let your Team make decisions based on those boundaries. Your Team’s productivity will increase, they will feel more influential, and your organization’s innovation will increase.

•             Foster a “safe” working environment: Psychological safety is key for productivity. Our brains can’t function when we are stuck in the flight or fight response. Examine the level of your Team’s psychological safety. Hire an outside consultant to do this work for full transparency. Make adjustments based on the examination and watch your business thrive.

•             Look in the mirror before disciplining your Team members: There are times when our Team makes mistakes, and we need to address those errors. There are other times when our lack of leadership is to blame. Before pointing the finger and getting angry. Pause and reflect on how you could have set clearer expectations, avoided the mistake with more frequent check-ins, or better explained the “why.” This reflection time will allow you to calm down, ditch the fear-driven leadership, and approach your Team member with more compassion.

leader

It’s vital to retain these valuable leaders with hard-earned wisdom.

leaders

It was just Mother’s Day and it got me thinking about what it’s like to be a leader mom.

I could take the time to write about how leader moms bring empathy, compassion, understanding, a strong work ethic, and accountability to an organization. After all, working moms are exemplars when it comes to the adage, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

Instead, I want to discuss the added pressures and biases that we place on leader moms and a call to action to remedy our societal ideologies.

“Are you sure this is the best decision for your family?” I was asked this question twice by two different superiors before I accepted the principal position. I had already been working in the assistant principal role and had a keen sense of what the principal role would entail. This question may seem benign, but it elicited a lot of emotions. Mostly because I felt like a man would never be asked this question. In fact, they would probably hear, “This is great news for your family!”

Why are we so biased toward leader moms, to working moms?

Men and women alike (myself included) harbor biases toward working moms. It’s more than a sexist or individual ideology; it is societal. I was just asked how men could better support women and I believe it boils down to treating them as able professionals.

If you wouldn’t ask a man the previous question, why would you feel like it’s ok to ask a woman? My husband was mostly a stay-at-home-dad when I was considering the principal role. We were set up for success for me to roll into the position. It was a no-brainer, yet our biases still veer towards women as the primary caretaker, and we have a hard time envisioning women in the dual role of mother and leader.

As someone who has held many roles in which my gender is the minority—athlete, physical education teacher, Military Police officer, and school administrator—I have often pushed back against biases and misconceptions. I wore my ability to bust through biases as a badge of honor.

Here’s the kicker though, society still needs to reproduce, if for no other reason than to resupply the workforce. And no, I’m not some Autobot as the previous sentence implies. I find that raising my family brings me the most joy with my career being a close second. And that’s just it; women shouldn’t have to decide between family or their career. We need to support our moms so that they can thrive in their careers unencumbered. It’s a win/win for everyone.

I think about the major female athletes who lose their sponsorship or must relinquish their contracts when they get pregnant. This is not supportive, it is reckless. We are essentially telling some of the most talented women in our midst that they shouldn’t have children or if they do, they should wait until their bodies are broken and then it’s ok. Many of these women come back to the sport and continue to win, thrive, and prove that they are “able professionals.

Action steps to support working and leading moms:

  • If you wouldn’t comment to a man such as, “Are you sure this is good for your family?” then, don’t say it to a woman. Instead, think of how you can reinforce your excitement at hiring the best candidate for the position. Chances are if the mom wanted the position bad enough she’s not only going to make it work, she’s going to excel because she had to fight even harder for it.
  • Without moms having to ask, show you support them at your place of employment by having necessities on hand: lactation room (give nursing moms time to use them without added stress or pressure) and feminine products in the bathroom. Evaluate your maternity and paternity leave so that your organization’s actions reflect that of a supporting business.
  • Have candid conversations with moms. Let them know that you’re available should they need anything. Ask how you can better support them. Do not be afraid to have these conversations and be open to constructive conversations if you inadvertently say something that is biased. You may have a leader who decides she wants to focus on being a mother. Do the right thing and support her choice by reducing feelings of guilt, anxiety, or fear. The support you provide now will pay off if she decides to return. Then you will enjoy the boost to your business that her hard-earned wisdom brings.
Reflection

Find time to pause, practice gratitude, and reflection.

Reflection

Why is reflection so important?

I had a bad dream last weekend that jarred me from my sleep and almost stole the rest of my night away. I attribute the dream to the Ukrainian tragedy and a book I’m reading called, “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri which is about a Syrian refugee and his wife in 2015.

My dream was related to my five-year-old. This five-year-old has the kindest heart. He cries when he accidentally hurts someone, he’s distraught when someone dies on TV, and he loves to cuddle and give others his “hug attacks.” When I pick him up from daycare, the kids line up to say goodbye and get a hug from him. In my dream, he was sitting on my lap and I was embracing him tightly, telling him that I loved him with earnest conviction because I knew, based on what was happening around me, that his innocence was going to be destroyed within the next few moments.

I can’t remember if it was terrorists coming to steal him from me or bombs exploding around us, but I knew I was going to lose my sweet and tenderhearted boy. As someone who typically forgets everything about my dreams, I can’t believe how vividly I still remember this gut-wrenching feeling.

I spent the next few hours in a reflective state, grateful that my family lives a “privileged” life and almost laughing at the mundane things that we decide to get upset and worried about. Of course, my thoughts veered towards business leadership.

It’s already May and 2022 is approaching its halfway point. Schools are finishing up for the year, the hustle and bustle of summer is quickly approaching, and we’re busier than ever. This dream came at an opportune time to pause, practice reflection, and be grateful for all that has happened so far this year. We often get so engrossed with our day-to-day habits, that we forget to look at the big picture and make sure we’re still following our dreams—even the bad ones.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • We are fortunate that our worries do not typically have life or death consequences. My worries might include obtaining my next client, preparing for my next meeting, practicing for my next speaking engagement, making sure that the website is up-to-date, or writing my next newsletter. This dream puts things into perspective. Even though most of our worries seem like we’re climbing Mt. Everest, they are rolling hills compared to what others have to endure.


**How can you put your worries and those of your Team into perspective?

  • Make the most out of the life that we are fortunate to live and find ways to help those around us in whatever capacity we can. If you can give to Ukraine, support your family, be philanthropists within your community, or join a cause—please find a way to help those less fortunate.


**How are you and your organization giving back?

  • Don’t forsake your priorities. My priorities are my family. When my 6-year-old asked me to attend his last field trip of the year, I shifted things around to make it happen. They’re only going to be young once and I don’t want them to feel like anything is more important than they are.


**How can you stick to your priorities and allow your Team to do the same?

  • We need to live our best lives and do the things that bring us joy and happiness. Life is fleeting; we never know when or how it’s going to end. Avoid living a life that is hollow, only focused on money, or passionless. Let’s live fully, richly, and with love.

**How can you find more joy in your life both at work and at home?

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs


Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? 

SIGN UP NOW! Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you.


The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.



Diversity

Surround yourself with thought diversity to innovate, build consensus, solve wicked problems, and manage the details.

Diversity

Have you ever looked around and thought, “Wow, I’m surrounding myself with people who are just like me.” Our affinity bias, otherwise known as our implicit egotism, has a way of attracting us to people who think, look, and act like we do. 

As leaders and well-rounded individuals it is important to surround ourselves with thought diversity. Imagine if everyone on your Team were big-thinkers (Mavericks and Pioneers). Who would handle the fine details and keep the organization grounded while the big-thinkers and innovators come up with the next best thing?

Conversely, what happens if you only have detail-oriented individuals (Reconcilers and Operators) and no one around to innovate and think into the future? Chances are, both of these organizations are going to drift and eventually fail.

The servant-leader archetypes—Pioneer, Reconciler, Operator, and Maverick—are observable contributions each member of the Team provides to an organization. A well-balanced organization has individuals who embody each of these archetypes.

In the quad-chart below, you can see that leaders are either introverted or extroverted; they are energized by being alone (introvert) or they get their energy from socializing (extrovert). Both leaders are great leaders, they simply recharge their batteries in different ways. Then you have the big-idea individuals and the detail-oriented individuals; neither designation is better than the other. 

Great leaders can fit anywhere on this quad chart. The secret is that they need to surround themselves with the other archetypes and avoid turning everyone on their Team into their mini-mes.

Just like Mark Zuckerberg, Pioneers innovate, while Reconcilers such as Abraham Lincoln build consensus. Operators implement to a high standard and care about the details as Queen Elizabeth II does and Mavericks, like Oprah Winfrey, think strategically and solve wicked problems.

I’m a Pioneer. As a principal, I was grateful for my Team Leaders who were Operators. They were able to bring me down from the clouds, ask me technical questions that I hadn’t thought of, and allowed me to be a stronger leader for the whole school. I valued them more than they could possibly know.

Action steps to create more thought diversity within your organization:

  • Take the Servant-Leader Archetype 2-minute quiz with your Team and evaluate your thought diversity.  Knowing your archetype helps you be the best version of yourself by building the healthy habits that make the most of your superpowers and pruning away average or unhealthy habits that hold you back.
  • Be aware of your gaps in thought-diversity when hiring. Don’t fall prey to the trap of hiring people that you’re attracted to simply because they remind you of yourself. 
  • Allow each voice at the table to have equal bearing. Open yourself up to diverse-thinking instead of closing it off and seeing it as conflict. 
  • Value and be receptive to those that think differently than you. Chances are, you will be a more well-rounded leader when you surround yourself with the right people who help you grow as opposed to “yes” people who do what you say and allow you to drift.

Looking to Broaden your Thought Diversity?

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW!

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

tiktok

In a world with a shrinking workforce, we need to find ways to attract and keep our Generation Z workers. 

How are you bringing out the best in the TikTok generation?

tiktok

“My Gen Z employees won’t stick around. They want to be the next TikTok sensation.” a business leader said to me. Another leader said, “It’s hard to teach my Gen Z employees, they think they know everything with their technology so readily available.” It’s apparent that business leaders are feeling yet another generational divide.

Do you find it difficult to engage with your Gen Z workers? How are you bringing out the best in the TikTok generation?

This is what we know about the next generation of workers: they want to make a big splash in this world, they move fast and expect the world to move faster, they are used to instant gratification, and their dopamine button gets bored if it doesn’t get a hit quickly enough. They care about DEI and social issues, and they know that even one person can make a huge difference. There are over a billion TikTok users and a whole generation aspiring to become influencers.

Business leaders need to prepare for this next generation entering our workforce. As always, we need to adjust and grow with the ever-changing society. With labor shortages and workplace longevity decreasing, we need to act now.

Action Steps to hold onto the Tik Tok generation:

  • Give them ways to influence: Allowing your employees to have a voice at the table will create a sense of belonging, a greater purpose, boost buy-in, and it will lengthen their tenure. When your employees feel like they can impact their workplace, they’re more likely to stick around and their need for influence will be satiated.
  • Flexibility is key: Find ways to integrate a hybrid work environment. Readdress your dress code–even banks are moving into a more casual attire to attract younger patrons. Offer flexible seating and create exciting physical spaces to invigorate the mind.
  • Make the work exciting and fresh: Allow for inter-office lateral moves, find ways to promote and show your appreciation for jobs that are well done, provide fun and effective training opportunities, host office get-togethers, provide mentors that are well-matched with their mentees, and encourage cross-generational teamwork to create more appreciation and understanding among your employees.

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs 

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW! Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you. NEXT PROGRAM STARTS IN JUNE.

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

Additional Offerings: 

Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy.

Are you looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams. 

Book:

Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up – An alarming memoir of combat and coming back home. This book depicts the time of war and its aftermath. It seamlessly bridges the civilian and military divide and offers clarity to moral injury and post-traumatic stress. 

L

I

wins

If you let your innovation and commitment lag you’ll end up behind the curve

Wins

We all want to win

Imagine that your business is on an upward trajectory. You’re on the right track, getting ahead of your competitors, and life is good. You sit back and watch the fruits of labor. Then all of a sudden a competitor does something better than your company and you realize that you were sitting on your laurels basking in perceived glory while everyone else was out there thinking, adapting, developing, winning, and growing. We can think of many major companies that not only basked in their glory for too long but refused to innovate. Kodak, Blockbuster, and Sears are a few that come to mind.

I recently went through a minor setback after reaching a milestone with my consulting in February. I finished writing my new 8-week program and I was ecstatic! My husband and I went out for delicious Indian food and I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I decided to focus on my family the following week, which happened to be my kids’ very early Spring Break and then I found excuse after excuse to not get back to innovating.

Woah… lesson learned. I should have taken the momentum that I had built up and used that euphoria of crossing the item off my list to propel me into my next large project. Should I have celebrated my win? Absolutely! Should I have taken so long to get back to work? No way! Thank goodness I have an incredible mentor and mastermind group who helped get me back in the game.

Action steps to get back into the game:

Get a trusted advisor who can keep you on the right track: I can help with this. My Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

Take time to process, plan, and execute: Instead of looking at “time” as a barrier, perceive your busy times as the perfect time to leverage your momentum. Let’s face it, when was the last time you weren’t busy? Intentionally block off time in your week to process where your business is, plan for where you want to be with actionable steps, and then execute those steps in bite-size chunks.

Continue to learn and innovate: Don’t let the status quo and complacency slow you down. Read, research, talk with mastermind groups, meet with your mentor, meet with peers, and do what you can to keep your mind sharp and your imagination brewing. If you find yourself in a world of complacency, your organization will plateau and then eventually drift downward. The longer you find yourself drifting, the harder it is to get back in line with your competitors.

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs:

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW!Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you. NEXT PROGRAM STARTS IN JUNE.

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

Additional Offerings:
Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy.

Are you looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams.

Book:
Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up – An alarming memoir of combat and coming back home. This book depicts the time of war and its aftermath. It seamlessly bridges the civilian and military divide and offers clarity to moral injury and post-traumatic stress.

Your leadership style can accelerate your organization’s innovation and your Team’s Autonomy. 

team

I want to ask you three questions. 

  1. Who is your favorite leader, and why?
  2. What kind of leader did you aspire to be before becoming one?
  3. What kind of leader are you now?

I’m assuming that many of you wanted to be the kind of leader who inspired your Team to willingly give their best to your organization. You probably don’t want to be a fire-breathing leader that micromanages every little nuance. 

According to the chart below, many of us aspire to be the “Sage” leader–the one who creates transformation and helps our Team to accomplish their dreams. To do this, we need to share the “why” with our Team. 

It is no easy feat to cross the line between “Hero” and “Sage.” Many leaders are perfectly happy in the “Hero” role and have little ambition to move into “Sage.” Being the hero is seductive. People look to you for answers and solutions, which can actually slow down your business’s progress because it creates a sense of dependency. This “Hero” designation is fine if you are ok with the status quo, steady turnover, and employees who come to work to simply receive a paycheck. The “Hero” leaders run out of “how” when things become too complex. They give people agency to solve problems and innovate at the lowest levels possible.

On the other hand, there are those special organizations that create Teams with high autonomy. Only “why” leaders can handle complexity. “Sage” leaders aren’t afraid to shed their tough exterior shell, admit that the sum of its parts is greater than the whole, and explain the “why” so that their Team thrives in a complex world through autonomy and innovation. Everyone has the “roll up the sleeves” mentality. Not only does the job get done, but it’s more impactful than before.

Action Steps to become a “Sage” leader:

  • Take the Lead Well program: This program illustrates the six habits you need to become a “Why/Sage” leader. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? Apply Here! The next program starts in June.
  • Understand and Execute the “Lobster Principle:” Lobsters are animals that never stop growing. However, they need to shed their skin and be vulnerable for brief periods to move forward with their growth. Like lobsters, leaders need to shed their tough exterior once in a while to grow. Vulnerability means that you don’t always have the answers and that you’re willing to lean on your Team. It shows that you value them and their input, creating more buy-in and belonging.
  • Get to know your Team: You can’t become a transformational leader without getting to know your team. This takes time and energy, and it always pays off. It coincides with the “teach your Team to fish” analogy; the upfront time will pay off in the end. A “Manager” will give their Team a fish and feed them for a day. The “Sage” will teach their team to fish and feed them for a lifetime. Knowing your Team’s dreams and aspirations will help you create those meaningful transformations in their lives.
  • Practice sharing the “why” and then let go: This is a scary thing to do for the first time. There will be hurdles, pitfalls, and errors and that’s ok. Learn from the mishaps and keep handing over the reins. Eventually, your Team will gain a greater sense of agency, become more intuitive, and learn to ask the right questions to better guide their decision-making. Before you know it, your business sustainability will bolster, and the magic will happen in spite of you, not because of you.

Charisma

Charisma is your secret weapon to inspire and retain your employees 

Charisma is about connecting with people in ways that resonate with them. Real charisma is other-centered, not me-centered.

Charisma can take many different forms—make it specific to who you are. You might be the vivacious big talker who swaggers down the halls or through the cubicles. Conversely, you might be the leader whose charisma comes out through emails, videos, or even during 1:1 conversations. Regardless, your employees are watching you and will emulate the genuine energy you exude. 

I once worked with a leader who kept his head down as he walked the halls. It was apparent he was thinking about the latest fire he had to put out or processing the last meeting in which he just left. Regardless, his lack of charisma left everyone around him feeling flat, dejected, and undervalued. This leader was so isolating that employees took his lack of charisma as a personal affront

When this leader was up for promotion, it was a tough sell because even though he was great at the inner workings of the job, his outward façade left a lot to be desired. He got the promotion, but he still didn’t win the hearts and minds of a lot of his employees and many of them left. 

Action Steps to lead with Charisma:

  • Find and amplify your Charisma: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Find ways to boost morale in your own way. Once you find your niche, amplify it. If you send the best and most inspirational emails, then send them. If you hold incredible staff meetings, then hold meetings! If you thrive with small group conversations, then gather intimate groups and inspire. Show your people your value the best way you know how.
  • Pay attention to your outward facade: Just like you check your posture while sitting at your computer, you need to check your charisma when you’re in front of your Team. Make sure your posture is open and inviting, you mirror your employees, or better yet, you lead a positive posture that they mirror. 
  • Be Present: You can’t lead with charisma if you never show yourself. Get out there and walk among your Team. Feels awkward at first? Good—do it some more. Everyone will get used to it, you’ll have a better pulse on your organization, and your employees will feel like you care, they will feel valued, and your presence will boost their engagement and productivity.
  • Put on a smile: Yes, it can be that simple. We’re human; I get it. There are days that we would rather put our head in the sand and “just get through.” It’s ok not to be ok sometimes. However, part of the leader’s role is to put on a brave face in front of your Team. Besides, smiling has a positive neurological effect on the giver and receiver. 

Additional Offerings: 

Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy.

Are you looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams. 

Book:

Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up – An alarming memoir of combat and coming back home. This book depicts the time of war and its aftermath. It seamlessly bridges the civilian and military divide and offers clarity to moral injury and post-traumatic stress. 

Bias

Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.”

bias

Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.” This theme resonates with me on so many levels. I have always positioned myself in more male-dominated roles as a physical education teacher, a military police officer, and a school administrator. My life’s underlying mission is to thrive in every capacity, regardless of my gender. I have had to prove myself time and time again and sometimes work harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same level of respect and understanding. Through it all, I’ve dealt with countless biases, microaggressions, and harassment. This article includes a few of the many times I’ve observed biases.

“Did you serve in a women’s war?” A question I was asked when I told someone that I was a veteran, which was soon followed by, “did you carry a gun?”

“Wow, you’re young for a principal.” A comment often made even though my same-age male counterparts never received this comment.

Business leadership is still vastly lopsided, with many more male than female leaders. We have a lot of work to do to close the gender divide. Until then, we need to do our best to break through our own biases and create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. There are many systemic changes that need to occur such as better maternity leave, a deeper understanding of the constraints of nursing moms, and more family-oriented business models, to name a few.

Until then, here are a few immediate steps to break the bias in business:

  1. Eliminate the use of “you guys” – There are so many other terms of inclusion that one can use: Team, everyone, you all or y’all, folks, friends, etc.
  1. Eliminate calling women “girls” – If we don’t call men “boys,” why do we call women “girls?” This affects everyone on a subconscious level by labeling women as children instead of adults. 
  1. Stop calling women bossy – Assertive women are not bossy. They are leaders. If their leadership style is not desirable, talk to them as an individual, not as a woman who comes across too strong. Additionally, ask yourself if this behavior would be noteworthy if a man exhibited the same assertiveness. Chances are, we wouldn’t think twice about the assertiveness of a man. 

Most importantly, pay attention to your inner voice, your initial judgment, and check what your subconscious may be trying to tell you. I have been guilty of pre-judging women or assuming a man holds the leadership position over the woman. It’s in our nature. If we are aware of our actions and work to change our inner dialogue, it will impact how we think. As the famous saying goes, “our thoughts become our actions.”

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW! Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you. NEXT PROGRAM STARTS IN JUNE.

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

Additional Offerings: 

Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy. Are you looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams.

Encourage

Put the metaphorical “elephant in the room” on the table

Encourage employees to resolve conflicts such as this:

“Hey boss, Hannah interrupted me and was rude to me during our team meeting,” said Paul. 

 As a leader, how do you proceed?

  1. Go directly to Hannah and ask her about the situation with a reprimand in your back pocket.
  2. Ask Paul what he did to make Hannah act like that.
  3. Give Paul the resources needed to address Hannah himself to resolve the issue.

We can all agree that option #3 is the ideal solution. Yes, it takes time, patience, resources, and, oftentimes, a change in behaviors and beliefs. Having the ability to have encourage tough conversations, however, can change the entire dynamic within your Team. When your employees have the wherewithal and confidence to take these conversations into their own hands your time is freed up to do more important things.

I am trying to develop this lesson with my own kids, ages 4,6, and 8. When they run from their conflict to tell on each other my first question is always, “Did you tell your sibling how their actions made you feel?” If they answer, “no,” then I send them back to the room to have a conversation with each other first. If that doesn’t resolve the situation, then we have a group conversation about what happened and how we can fix the situation in the future. Oftentimes, the tattletale is just as guilty.

Here’s the really important part. I explicitly lay out how we treat our family members and what the Colbert family norms/expectations are. I am building a strong foundation of the expected and appropriate rules of engagement. I am giving the kids the tools needed now so that in the future I won’t have to referee. Additionally, I am help and encourage them develop their own skills and confidence when dealing with conflict outside of our home.

Action Steps to Encourage your Team to work it out without you having to referee:

  1. Co-developed strong Team norms. If your people are part of the planning, they will take ownership and will be more likely to use the norms to steer the conversation in the right direction. Don’t stop there! You have to model how to use the norms. Before I start a meeting, I ask each person to pick a norm they want to stick to during the meeting. Oftentimes, people pick a norm counter to their current mood. For example, if someone is crabby, they pick the “stay positive” norm. This creates an immediate behavior shift, which benefits everyone at the meeting, and I don’t have to lift a finger. 
  2. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations—lead! You’re the leader, show your team how it’s done! Ask clarifying questions, don’t make rash assumptions, and always address inappropriate behaviorsdon’t tolerate bullies. Here are some great phrases/questions to steer the conversations: 
  • “Tell me more about what you mean by that.” 
  • “Can you please repeat what you just said?” Oftentimes people are too embarrassed to repeat a negative comment. You can then say, “If you’re too embarrassed to say it now, why did you say it in the first place?” Then point to the “staying positive” norm.
  • “Is this in line with our common purpose” or “Is this in line with our norms?”

  3. Give your Team the tools needed to address inappropriate behaviors. Share the above phrases/questions with your team. Role-play, if necessary. 

  4. Provide clear expectations. Make sure your Team understands that you do not tolerate negative behaviors and that you expect them to have the fortitude to address each other when something seems amiss.

It seems simple, but for some reason, we don’t often take the time to have these conversations. Why wait? Less drama and conflict improves productivity and overall joy. Encourage your team to be open to understanding others and having mutual respect in the workplace.

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs 

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW! Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you. NEXT PROGRAM STARTS IN JUNE.

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

 Additional Offerings: 

Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy.

Are you looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams. 

 Book:

Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up – An alarming memoir of combat and coming back home. This book depicts the time of war and its aftermath. It seamlessly bridges the civilian and military divide and offers clarity to moral injury and post-traumatic stress.