Avoid being Scapegoated
Avoid being Scapegoated

Want to avoid being scapegoated for the next breach?
You need Total Trust alongside Zero Trust

You are a new CISO in the financial services industry. You are excited about the job but anxious due to the scale of the cyber threat from a range of actors: lone-wolf hackers, organized crime syndicates, governments and their proxies, and insiders. As you think through your game plan for addressing these threats, what’s your most important first step?

A. Get the latest technology and management tools.
B. Develop new, mandatory, IT security training for the company or client.
C. Bring in consultants to advise you on the latest threats.
D. Tighten protocols and increase penetration stress tests.
E. None of the above

Unless you picked E you will end up as just another victim. Your company will be
inadequately prepared to prevent a breach. Your team’s flat-footed response after the breach
will result in major losses to the business. You will be the scapegoat.

When your back is against the wall and you have to prepare your team to deal with new and
unprecedented threats, this is what you should do. It’s the opposite of what every guru is

Your first step: Build Trust. Up and Out; Down and In

Zero Trust is an important technology and cyber security precaution. No one should be
granted total access to information.

A zero-trust approach to workplace relationships, however, is disastrous. When dealing with
your people and teams and those you support, you need to earn Total Trust.

You were hired because you seemed to be the best qualified person for the job, but that does
not mean you are trusted by your CEO, peers or team.

Compared with people at low-trust companies, notes a Harvard Business Review study, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.

Lack of total trust sets you up for failure:
 You will not make much headway on getting cyber security imbedded in the culture;
 You will not be invited to board meetings to discuss cyber security;
 You will have little interaction with the CEO;
 Your C-suite colleagues will try to poach your budget and client;
 You will be seen as an impediment to growth; a distraction from business;
 You will have high rates of employee burnout and turnover;
 Your team’s vigilance and responsiveness to threats will be unequal to the task.

Fortunately, you do not have to share in this fate.

When building trust, think 1) Up and Out and 2) Down and In.

Up and Out: It is tempting, particularly for leaders of highly technical teams whose missions
are poorly understood across the company, to start building relationships from your silo –
your comfort zone and point of view. This common approach is the fast track to poor
communication and mistrust.

To build a trusting relationship with your boss and your peers, you have to meet them at their
bus stop. That is, you must see things from their point of view, talk their language, and
understand their interests and concerns. They won’t trust you fully unless they know you “get

How do you know that you are on the right track?
 You can “see yourself” and the business from their point of view.
 You discern how they view you and your team.
 You recognize their perceptions about how you affect their performance and the company overall.
 You understand the company’s vision, mission, goals and values and how you contribute to success.

Question: Can you explain all the above so clearly that it makes sense to a 5-year-old? If not,
you do not know it well enough.

Down and In. Build trust with your team. Trust is earned. It is not given because of your

Being trustworthy means being worthy of trust. This is most powerfully expressed in your
competence and your character. Your team needs to believe that you can do the job, that your
word is good, that you will treat each employee with respect, and that you will be a good
steward of your people, teams and organization.

How do you know that you are on the right track?
 You set clear performance and behavior expectations;
 You meet those expectations yourself;
 You hold everyone equally accountable – no favorites;
 People bring you bad news immediately without sugar coating;
 Employees provide you with candid feedback without fear of backlash;
 Your employees understand their mission clearly and how it relates to the mission and goals of the company.

Question: What have you done today to show your team that you are worthy of their trust and

When you have total trust, your CEO and board want to hear what you have to say, your
colleagues will see you are a partner, and your team will have higher rates of engagement and
lower risk of burnout and turnover. Your company’s cyber security will be far stronger, too.

Christopher Kolenda, PhD, founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, helps CISOs and
Cyber Security leaders elevate the performance of their teams, slash disengagement and
burnout, and boost the quality of their strategies and plans.

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

Make a new mistake
Make a new mistake

Are you Ready to Make New Mistakes?

There are many reasons not to trust people who say they have never been wrong. Every leader who dares to grow, innovate, defy conventional wisdom, or make a positive impact makes mistakes and experiences failure. To err, after all, is human. We all make mistakes.

Good leaders, though, make new mistakes.

They learn and avoid repeating the errors they have made — especially the expensive ones. Your new mistakes, though, can be expensive. Some are catastrophic.

Leaders in a competitive market who rely solely on personal experience are particularly vulnerable to business-ending new mistakes.

They only learn in the school of hard-knocks where the tuition is really expensive. Sometimes those hard-knocks are knockouts.

How do the most successful leaders avoid these problems?

They learn from their own experiences and those of others. The very best leaders make truly new mistakes. They avoid the mistakes that they have made themselves AND they avoid the mistakes that others have made.

Reading is the fast track to learning from others.

How do you know which books and articles to read?

That’s exactly why we’ve created this reading list. It contains some of the best books and articles on Leadership, Culture, and Strategy, so you can avoid wasting time on nonsense.

We have also organized the list by theme, so you can focus on the issues most important to you.  For instance,

Our Leadership Themes include:

  • Lead Well: Trustworthiness, Respect, and Stewardship
  • Practice Empathy: Your Short-Cut to Gaining Cooperation
  • Take Responsibility: How to promote innovation
  • Connect the Why: Gain commitment through Common Purpose

Check out our Culture Themes:

  • Forge Balanced Teams: How to Strengthen Diversity and Inclusion
  • Align Values and Practice: What Happens in the Halls Trumps What’s Written on the Walls
  • Build Resilience: How to Bounce Back Higher
  • Stop Toxic Subordinates: The Altar of Short-term Results is the Fast Track to Failure
  • Position High Impact Leaders: Put your Top Talent in a State of Flow

How are these for Strategy Themes:

  • Strategy governs Plans: How to Make Sure the Dog Wags the Tail
  • Manage Silos: How to Avoid Letting Success Fall through the Cracks
  • Embrace Complexity and Uncertainty: How to Create and Seize Opportunity in Chaos
  • Courage: Developing the Strength and Wisdom to Decide
  • Learn and Adapt: How to Make New Mistakes

So, are you happy to repeat your errors and those of others…

Or, are you ready to make truly new mistakes?

Get the Reading List HERE

If you already have our Reading List, check out these webinars:

Wait? These webinars say they are for Cyber Security Leaders.

That’s true, but the same concepts work for anyone who leads human beings.

Ready to make truly new mistakes? Get the Reading List HERE

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

cyber security

Get Ahead Of The Cyber-Threat

with this one powerful habit

cyber security

You face a dizzying array of threats: lone-wolf hackers, organized crime, government-sponsored proxies, and insider threats. These groups are highly aggressive and adaptive and often operate with impunity. They threaten our businesses, infrastructure, livelihoods, and way of life. Cyber is the new frontier of freedom and you are on the front lines.

The enemy always finds a new tool or tactic.

If you are a cyber-security leader, it’s natural to look for an advantage in technology because those are the tools of the battle. Any technical superiority you gain, however, seems fleeting. It’s like a hamster wheel. The enemy always finds a new tool or tactic. The adversary also has advantages in timing, being able to stage attacks when they want. They can attract talent for higher pay than you can afford. They take advantage of people in your company who are cyber-complacent or simply not paying attention. You have to be vigilant constantly.

Your advantage comes from your leadership.

Your competitive advantage, though, is not in the technology or tools. Your real competitive advantage comes from your leadership: your ability to build relationships with the C-Suite and board to get cyber-security ingrained in the culture and governance, create a culture on your team that attracts, engages, and retains the right talent, and act strategically by making sound decisions, managing risk and uncertainty, bridging silos, and learning and adapting. As you know, personal experience is the best teacher of leadership. It’s the school of hard knocks. Learning from your own mistakes and triumphs helps you improve on what you have done before.

Personal experience, however, has a very poor track record in preparing leaders to face new and different challenges and opportunities. Many find themselves to be prisoners of their own past, searching in vain for answers as their competitors race forward. The Blockbusters in a Netflix world.

Leaders who rely on personal experience are guaranteed to be incompetent.

As a Cyber Security Leader, you cannot afford to simply learn from experience. The adversary is too adaptive and the consequences of being outmaneuvered by them are too high. You are fighting a chameleon-like cyber-insurgency with ever-evolving tactics, techniques and procedures. You need every strategic edge you can get.

Learning from others in a variety of disciplines is the best way to multiply your experiences in a very short amount of time. There are three great ways to do this. Reading great books and articles, using advisers and mentors to challenge our thinking and provide different perspectives, and experiential learning – training, workshops, and off-sites that help us gain different ways of thinking about the challenges and opportunities we face.

This is exactly why we have put together this reading list for cyber security leaders. It is organized thematically by what we call the 3 BIG things: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy. This combination of great books and articles allows you to be highly targeted in your approach to multiplying your experiences by learning from others.

Check out the reading list here: Cyber Security Leaders Reading List


Avoiding the Talent Trap

Avoid the Talent Trap
by Emphasizing Trust

Avoiding the Talent Trap

Why do business and athletic teams with the most talented people so often fall behind or get beaten by teams of lesser talent? The 2004 USA Men’s Basketball team, the example par excellence, was beaten by the far less talented teams of Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina. 

The poor performance of the American team was a classic example of the Talent Trap. The uber-talented individuals on Team USA could not play together as a whole. The other teams with less talented individuals could. Trust overcame the talent deficit.

NFL Talent Trap

I used the chart above with an NFL team that is looking to revise their player acquisition strategy. The teams that win consistently tend to seek players of high trust and good talent. The teams that are loaded with talent but have little trust often have lots of internal friction, drama, and sub-optimal performance. Sadly, there are a lot of highly talented people who are simply toxic.

It’s much easier to develop someone’s skills than to turn a selfish person into a trustworthy team player. Why don’t companies and teams measure trust with the same energy and precision as they measure talent? 

To build and evaluate trust intentionally, start with these three steps:

  1. Identify your most important standards and expectations … and WHY they are important.
  2. Define what right looks like for each one of them for leaders and employees; use these as part of your screening during the hiring process. 
  3. Hold everyone accountable to meet these standards and expectations, especially your top talent. 
Diversity and Inclusion Programs

Improve the Success of Your Company’s Diversity and Inclusion Programs

by Using Leader Archetypes in These 5 Steps

Diversity and Inclusion Programs


The business case for a diverse workforce, explains the Wall Street Journal, is clear. 

Less obvious is how to retain a diverse workforce. According to one study, women are twice as likely as white or Asian men to leave their employer. Black and Latino males reportedly leave at 3.5 times the rate of their white or Asian male counterparts. A lack of inclusivity is often blamed for the turnover. A 2007 report estimates that failed diversity initiatives cost American companies $64 billion annually.

In short, current efforts to hire a diverse workforce may be costing some companies more in employee turnover than the gain in productivity. 


This challenge could be one of the reasons smaller companies seem less likely than larger ones to diversify. Even among larger companies senior leadership and boards still tend to be white and male. This homogeneity is even more troubling considering the emphasis on diversity since before the turn of the century — more than enough time for the rise to senior leadership. 

A recent study by McKinsey, a consulting firm, shows that women tend to have their careers derailed early. Most fall behind their male counterparts in the move from entry position into first-line management — the so-called first rung. 

Bigotry and misogyny among some managers are no doubt parts of the problem. 

Another part of the problem could be the tendency for leaders to clone themselves. This unconscious affinity bias leads people to select and promote others like themselves. Sometimes this bias is based on gender, ethnicity, or religion. 

In many cases, though, it is based on an idealized and personalized version of what it takes to be a successful leader. Since the person in the leadership position sees themselves as successful, selecting and promoting similar people is perceived as sound practice. Cloning seems to be a common mistake among relatively inexperienced managers, which may account for the first-rung problems in large companies and poor diversity in smaller companies. 

Developing leaders to appreciate a broader range of leadership archetypes could reduce affinity bias and improve diversity and inclusion at more senior levels.


Our research has led to four major leader archetypes: Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks, which we call the PROM leader persona method™. Each archetype has natural inclinations and points of energy. Pioneers are innovators. Reconcilers build teams and manage consensus. Operators create the systems and processes that get things done routinely. Mavericks solve complex, wicked problems. Organizations need them all.

They also have their natural dis-inclinations, or requirements that tend to drain their energy. Pioneers and Mavericks, for instance, can find details to be soul-sucking. Operators and Reconcilers can get bored without clear requirements. Hiring people into roles irrespective of their archetype has a good chance of producing low job satisfaction, rapid burnout, and low perceived fitness for promotion. 

A wider appreciation for diverse leader archetypes and the roles that bring out their best can improve the hiring and promotion processes and better set-up women and non-white males for success. Helping people be the best version of themselves will enhance the quality of mentoring and feedback.  When added to the very important inclusion training, sensitivity to leader archetypes is likely to improve senior leader diversity.  


Here are five steps to take:

  1. Determine your leader-archetype by going through our short self-assessment and explanatory videos. Have your managers do the same so they can have a broader point of view. To gain greater depth, check out our e-book.
  2. Decide which leader-archetypes are best suited for the different management roles in your company.
  3. Add leader-archetype to your employee’s skill sets so that you can set people up for success.
  4. Promote diverse candidates into roles for which they are best suited. 
  5. When you have women or non-white males candidates in roles not aligned with their leader-archetype (companies often do this to give leaders broadening experiences), be sure to put talented, diverse leader archetypes around them.


Considering leader-archetype in selection and promotion processes is no panacea. Diversity and inclusion challenges are likely to remain as long as people allow affinity bias based on physical or cultural differences to influence them. Deliberately setting up your employees and managers for success by considering their leader-archetype is likely to improve job performance and satisfaction, reduce employee turnover, and enable your company to more fully realize the competitive advantages of a diverse and inclusive team. 


How to find your who


How to find your who

I have two things of value for you.

First, we have been doing a lot of research on leader authenticity. Good leadership starts with knowing and owning your WHO. Each person is hardwired differently. Knowing and owning WHO you are as a leader makes you sincere and genuine.

There are lots of different personality tests — Highlands Ability Battery, Myers-Briggs, TTISI, Predictive Index, DISC, etc. These assessments provide highly detailed information, which can be very enlightening.

I’ve also found, though, that I had difficulty using these assessments to understand myself as a leader and what that means in the context of a leader team. I had trouble seeing the forest for the trees.

This challenge led me to look at the very basic ways people are hard-wired that affect how they lead. We wanted to find which factors were durable (unlikely to change as we grew or with context) and salient (directly affects how we operate as leaders). Stripping away those that seemed malleable, we came up with two factors that seem durable and salient: introversion – extroversion and detail – vision orientation.  

Putting these in a quad chart reveals four distinct leader-personas: Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks. We call this the KSLA’s PROM Leader Persona method. 

PROM Method

To find out which one you are and what that means to you as a leader, take this short assessment:  (CLICK HERE TO TAKE ASSESSMENT)

No matter what field you are in — nonprofits, business, sports, government, or military — knowing and OWNING your leader persona will help you see yourself, lead with authenticity, and build diversity of the mind around you.

We will be coming out with more of our research on leader authenticity in the coming weeks.

Second, did you ever notice that the WE comes before me in aWEsoME? Organizations that want a healthy, winning culture need people willing to work together as a team. This is more likely to happen when:

  1. Leaders take the time to explain the big picture and the strategy to reach the organization’s goals — the WHY;
  2. The values and expectations are clear and are consistent with what actually happens in the workplace — the HOW;
  3. People have faith and confidence that their leaders will care for them as individuals, even as people work together in teams. 

These key points have been consistent over time. The Battle of Shiloh, among others, is an example: The Confederate leaders got none of these three things right. Here’s what happened next.


Best wishes,

Chris Kolenda

P.S. if you like these videos, please sign up for our YouTube channel — hit the bell so you get notified when we roll out a new video.

Victories that Matter

The actual wins worthy of celebration in life are, in fact, the moral ones.

The Only Victories that Truly Matter are the Moral Ones

By: John O’Grady, Founder and Owner of O’Grady Leadership Consulting Services

Victories that Matter

An often-used phrase in sports is, “there are no moral victories.” This phrase is extolled by coaches, fans, and players alike whenever their team loses a contest. It places primacy on the score as the only outcome worthy of acknowledgment.  I am guilty of having uttered these words to youth teams I have coached, my daughter, who is an athlete, as well as teams I have been a member of. I suppose I did because it’s easy to adopt a catchy phrase without much thought, especially one so frequently used. As is the case with most unexamined things in life I have come to realize I have been wrong and exceedingly small in my thinking. Now that I am a little wiser, completing a career as a decorated combat veteran, and launching my leadership consulting business I realize that the only lasting victories are the moral ones – regardless of the score at the end of the game. The actual wins worthy of celebration in life are, in fact, the moral ones – I am now playing the long game. This concept became crystal clear for me while I observed the indomitable human spirit, brotherhood, and competitiveness of the Wagner College Football team as they lost their season opener, 24-21. This loss came to a twenty-one point favorite, University of Connecticut (UCONN) team.

This story starts back well before I even became associated with the Wagner program. It starts on 30 December 2018, when one of the young men on the team, Tyamonee Johnson, was senselessly and tragically killed while home for vacation from Wagner. The 22-year-old man, a father of a then two-year-old, recently graduated and decided to return to Wagner in pursuit of his Master’s Degree. All that changed on 30 December as did the contour of the Wagner Football teams upcoming season without their brother and teammate “T.”  The staff and the team faced their first tough choice of a new season… be consumed by the pain and senseless nature of this horrific event or take control and ownership for what they could control. They chose the latter in the coming days and weeks that passed as they navigated through this hard life lesson, resolving never to forget their teammate and friend. They decided to draw closer as a team, relish the precious moments together regardless of how difficult, and re-dedicate themselves to the rigors of the off-season, preparing for the season without “T.”

Fast forward to the last week in July of 2019 some seven months later.  I was invited to deeply embed with the football team in my capacity as a leadership and culture consultant. I spent a full eight days with the team during the start of summer camp. I was given complete access thanks to Head Coach, Jason “Hoss” Houghtaling, and Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Del Smith.  I lived in the dorms with the players and ate meals with them. The dog days of summer start at 600AM and last until approximately 1030PM each day and I was present for all of it. The first thing that struck me about the coaching staff is that they intuitively understand that they are in the business of coaching people and teaching football.  This wasn’t something explicitly spoken, but as I observed them, it was exceedingly clear.  These were men of character built for selfless service for other men. They were deeply invested in the type of leaders they wanted the young men they coached to become. In fact, we spent an entire morning session discussing what it meant to be a “Wagner Man,” and another whole day discussing the topic of cultivating trust with intention.  Now, anyone who knows anything about summer camp or a football coaches’ life, in general, knows time is the most precious resource second only to players. The time investment and subsequent discussions during the week demonstrated how committed the staff was to building men of character, focusing only on what they could control and what was right in front of them each day with the statement, ‘What’s Important Now – W.I.N!”.  Many other staffs would prioritize X’s and O’s over everything else – not Wagner. 

Throughout the remainder of the week, I was offered the opportunity to have breakfast with Coach Hoss, where we spoke at length about leadership and cultivating a values-based culture. Additionally, I met with his leadership council of players where we talked about the season they wanted to have and what they were willing to do to achieve those goals.  I offered up they conversely consider what they would not tolerate while attaining their goals. Throughout this entire process, I sensed this was a unique group of people, invested in each other’s growth, first as humans and second as players, genuinely committed to a pursuit of excellence in all things – no excuses. 

In my parting speech to the team, I challenged them to do three of things as they moved forward. First, don’t sacrifice the future on the altar of today. Second, love your future self as much or more than you do your current self. Lastly, recognize the genuine miracle it was that they were present in this moment, despite the day to day grind, never forget this and understand they had a responsibility to treat it as a miracle – no excuses, put in the hard work and make the hard choices necessary to ensure that all three challenges were met. My promise to the team, “I’ll be watching, and I’ll call you out if you aren’t achieving your full potential.” 

Graciously I was invited back to travel with the team to their season opener.  Fast forward to kickoff, 24 August in the season opener at UCONN. What I witnessed for 60 minutes of football was a group of young men of character, led by men of integrity, fiercely compete.  It’s a small nuance, but it was clear these men didn’t only play with one another; they were playing for one another. They had 100 reasons to relent even before the start of the contest. But like back in December of 2018 they chose not to. During the game, they had another 1,000 reasons to lay down, fold, or quit. Instead, they decided to compete with an unrelenting spirit. Each time they made a conscious choice as individuals and as a collective to begin to define further the men they wanted to be, not just on a football team, but in life. They became winners in life.

For this experience, I became filled with an incredible depth of gratitude that is hard to accurately articulate. I am so thankful for having been able to witness up close this astonishing demonstration of what the human spirit is capable of and be a small part of their journey. It allows me to re-affirm my passion for working with athletes, coaches, and teams, helping guide them toward the best version of themselves. In doing so, I become a better version of myself. I am forever better and inspired because of the choices these men made, play in and play out, and how they departed the field with class.  

I am reminded of an Edwin Markham poem, “Creed.”  The following is an excerpt, “There is a destiny that makes us brothers; None goes his way alone; All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”  In sports, the human spirit is offered the opportunity to express this symbiotic dance in ways rarely found anywhere else. We must never forget this. We should always celebrate this. This is the moral victory, far more impactful and everlasting, and ever-present regardless of the score, win or lose. Yes, there are moral victories. I witnessed one, and I celebrate it, you should too.

Email: [email protected]

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/john-o-grady-leadership

Twitter: www.twitter.com/OG_Leadership

The Secret To Owning a Successful Business: Culture

The Second Secret to Owning a Successful Business: 


The Secret To Owning a Successful Business: Culture


As I highlighted in “The Secret to Success in Owning a Business,” the special sauce to having a successful restaurant, small business, or non-profit resides in three simple, but profound ideas: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy.

Last time we focused on leadership, the ring leader.  Now, let’s focus on the elephant under the big tent.


Everyone is talking about it, but few have a complete understanding. There is an expression “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Similarly, as Dr. Chris Kolenda so appropriately said in a recent post, “culture always collects.”  Don’t underestimate the power culture has over your business.


In a 2017 blog post entitled the 2020 Workplace: The Future Workplace Trends to Know Right Now“, Nikos Andriotis did a great job doing what we should all do if we are hoping to be proactive, instead of reactive.  The business environment is constantly changing, and with it, the culture within.  Niko’s blog itself is case and point, promoting “the most-affordable and user-friendly learning management system on the market.”  Since when did how we learn our jobs efficiently and effectively make so much of a difference?  It’s a fact.  The world is rapidly getting smaller.  It’s getting progressively hotter.  And if you’re not ahead, you will find yourself behind faster than ever before!

And like a plant that has all the sunshine, water, and soil nutrients it needs, your business’s Sustainable Growth relies upon a healthy culture.  An unhealthy culture steals away the very sunshine, water, and nutrients necessary, and adds a powerful herbicide to quickly choke out your business’s Sustainable Growth.  So, what does a healthy culture look and feel like?


If it is the restaurant culture we are thinking about, we can probably visualize a healthy culture, right?  It should:

  • Be inviting and keep customers coming back for more
  • Reward values like friendliness, cleanliness, expediency, and precision.
  • Maintain accountability by disciplining behaviors such as dishonesty, disrespectfulness, and laziness
  • Retain talented and engaged employees by incentivizing and motivating programs and processes.
Sustainable Growth will never come if you are not continually striving to be better in aspects of your culture.

Quick-action Steps to Sustainable Growth.

Here are three small things that may serve you well in your endeavor to be the best in your business:

  1. Do a quick mental assessment of your business culture: How happy and motivated are your  1) employees?  2) customers?  3) you?
  2. Ask your team what they think about the culture (even better, have someone else ask and capture feedback).  Any trends?  Any negative surprises?  Anything positively noteworthy?
  3. Lastly, reflecting on what we have envisioned a healthy culture, list 3-5 tangible things that are keeping you from increasing the health of your culture.

So, how is your business’s culture?

  • Do the location and your people say everything you want them to say? Are they saying something you don’t want it to say?  How do you know?
  • Are your employees well-versed in reflecting the culture you would like? If not, where you do start? We have many tools and resources that can help you get where you want to go! Check us out!
  • If you are unsure of the message your culture is sending, it is worth the time and effort to get help from someone outside your organization.

Tackle this critical task today before the unhealthy aspects of your culture eat the positive aspects of your strategy and leadership for lunch.


The Secret to Owning a Successful Business: LEADERSHIP

The Secret to Owning a Successful Business:


The Secret to Owning a Successful Business: LEADERSHIP


Sustainable Growth, the cornerstone of any successful restaurant or business, rests on the shoulders of three profound elements: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy.

In this article, we’ll focus on Leadership.


What is Leadership?

Countless volumes of books, articles, podcasts, blogs, and conferences do their best to help leaders every day to get better at this thing we call Leadership. I always like to go simple and start with a definition from one of my best friends, Merriam. Webster, of course.

The dictionary defines Leadership (noun): as a person who guides or directs a group; Leadership (verb): to guide on a way especially by going in advance or to direct on a course or in a direction.


Contrary to some contemporary thought, not everyone is a leader. Leadership is about more than influence. While there certainly is a special essence of influencing those who are being led, there is also a clear depiction by the definition of guiding and directing while also going in advance of those who are led.

Admittedly, in every organization, there are far more people that should assume Leadership that don’t and to paraphrase something Pat Lencioni shared in a recent conference I attended, there are probably a lot of people leading that should not.


Now that we understand the essence of Leadership and leading, what does that mean to your organization?

Can we look at any organization with the same lenses?  Yes…and no.

Sustainable Growth rests squarely on the shoulders of Leadership, and the balance of that Leadership is dependent upon the context of your business, and your organizational dynamics.


When analyzing influence in your restaurant or business, you should begin with two concepts:   leader development and leader diversity.


Sustainable Growth best occurs when there is more than one leader. There must be depth as well as a breadth of Leadership.

If you are reading this as a restaurateur or even a small business leader, ask may yourself, “Am I the only leader on my team?” The only excuse for answering that with a “yes” is if you are the ONLY person in your organization (even then, a Sustainable Growth MindsetTM ensures you don’t stay that way for long)!

Over time, hiring and investing in middle-level leaders and helping them take the initiative to improve their leadership skills will pay considerable dividends: for them, for you, and most tangibly, your organization.


Think about what type of leaders you have in your organization. Certain leader types may be more effective than others in your space.

Some leaders love details! Details energize and make them tick. Surely you know somebody like this?

There are still some that are exceptional at helping everyone see the BIG picture, visionary and inspiring as they articulate the 30,000-foot view as few others can.

Additionally, there are those of us energized when surrounded by people–the team we work with, a robust audience, or countless customers and clients.

Lastly, there are those empowered by the closing of a door, finding themselves alone in peaceful solitude with their ideas.

Which of these is good?  Is one worse than another? Can there be a “good” or “bad”?


Are you a Maverick or Pioneer? An Operator or Reconciler?

What about those on your team?

In the fast-paced restaurant industry, where the customer’s desire is instant gratification, Leadership is critical, details matter, and self-awareness is the beginning of a leader’s growth journey. Your team’s future growth depends on it!

Take our short, quick persona quizzes (click here) or have your whole organization figure out where they are on the spectrum. It will help you and your team see yourselves in a different way, and improve, regardless of where you are.


Here are three actionable tasks that may serve you well in your endeavor to bring out the best in your business through Leadership:

  1. Assess yourself and your team’s personas. Send SLA’s Leader-persona quiz (FREE!). This exercise alone will increase self-awareness and learning.
  1. Bring the team together—in whole or in parts—and share personas. What do you see? Any surprises? Any trends or fresh observations?
  1. Lastly, ask yourself, “Are we balanced?” Do you have gaps? Blind spots? If so, generate some options that will improve your team’s balance.


Why Help the Restaurateur?

Why Help the Restaurateur?

Why Help the Restaurateur?

Serving those who serve

Why am I passionate about helping the restauranteur?  After serving in the military for 23 years, why would I now choose to work with restaurateurs and quick-service franchisees?  The answer is quite simple: I want to continue to serve by serving those who serve!  Can you think back to some quick-service restaurant that broke the monotony of your day-to-day?  What fast-casual dining restaurant answers the age-old question of “what’s for dinner?”  Food remains integral to building relationships, our country’s economy, our culture, and our way of life. The restaurant industry is one of the most dynamic, cut-throat, and often unappreciated sectors in today’s marketplace. 

GUTS – Radical Courage

It is no easy road to be an entrepreneur entering such a demanding industry.  It takes real GUTSradical courage—to join such a space.  Food expenses are rising.  Operating costs, to include the rising cost of wages, are a challenge. The increasing price of leased real estate is a looming foe.  In addition to these costs, the complex nature of marketing, sales, and communication make running a restaurant no easy task. Never mind trying to infuse a level of sustainable growth.  

Key Trends

In the NRA’s 2019 State of the Industry Report, they highlighted five key trends that continue to be at the forefront of the challenge:

  1. A competitive business environment.
  2. Staffing as a top challenge.
  3. Pent-up [customer] demand remains elevated. 
  4. Technology incorporation continues.
  5. Food preferences continue their rapid evolution.

Past performance does not dictate future success

Unfortunately, these trends do not soften the statistics of the past two decades either.  As you often hear it said, past performance does not dictate future success, but hindsight makes it clear that it is a significant challenge to be a successful restaurateur in today’s environment.   The numbers are staggering, with no relief in sight. Research has estimated some 60% of restaurants don’t survive their first year; Anywhere from 70-85% of restaurants either change the owner’s hands or go out of business in the first five years according to a 2005 study.  And personnel turn-over within the restaurant space is commonly observed to be as high as 70% annually. There is much to be gained as a restaurateur. However, it takes something special to not only survive but grow. 

How can I serve you best?

I have spent the past six months transitioning from my career in the Army and thinking about this VERY blog.  My aspiration: how can I serve YOU best?  I have visited a countless number of quick-serve and fast-casual dining restaurants.   I have watched and spoken to the men and women who are doing it, day-in and day-out, and my hats off to you! 

Three action steps

Here are three small things that may serve you well in your endeavor to be the best in your business:  

  1. Take deliberate time to reflect on this year’s five trends, and rate your restaurant? How are you doing in those challenge areas?
  2. Rank order them. Which presents you with the most formidable challenge? Is it staffing? Are you meeting customer demands? Are you integrating the newest tech? Is it staying food-relevant? Rank-order them, one to five.
  3. Do ONE thing about the top three. You can’t fix everything, but you certainly can do one to three tangible tasks to make your business better today.

You can do IT!

Don’t know where to start? Please feel free to reach out. You can do IT. Whatever IT is.