trusted
trusted

When Samantha finishes trimming my locks, she spins my chair to face the mirror and holds up another mirror so I can see the back of my head.

Eureka!

A trusted adviser helps you see what you cannot see on your own. When you become more self-aware, you can develop action steps to improve daily.

Self-awareness has internal and external dimensions: knowing yourself and understanding how others see you.

The mirror gives you an impression of yourself, but a trusted adviser helps you understand what’s creating the image that you see. When you want to change something, your adviser encourages you to add skills or chip away at anything holding you back.

trusted

Understanding how others see you can be difficult, too. You need someone to hold up the second mirror so you can see what others see: your backside.

People get into trouble when they look into distorted mirrors. Sometimes we create those mirrors, and sometimes others make them for us.

I used to think leaders had to be extroverts, so I created a distorted mirror to see an extroverted me.

It was a disaster that burned me out and damaged my relationships. When someone finally held up an accurate mirror, everything started to make sense, and I learned how to be a better version of myself.

How often are trusted leaders surprised when people who say how much they love working for them quit their jobs or turn against them (Et tu Brute?)? In these cases, subordinates may be holding distorted mirrors that lead someone to believe they have more support than they do.

So-called “validated” 360-degree instruments tend to be distorted mirrors, too. Most busy people do what you do when given an exhaustive survey with responses ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” — you vote straight ticket right down the line so you can get the questions over with and get back to work. (I have a simple 8-question tool that gives you quality feedback — reply to this email for more information).

More troubling are the mirrors held by frenemies.

People who pose (trusted) as supporters but are trying to bring you down. These trusted are bureaucratic rivals or people offering unsolicited “feedback” designed to make you feel bad about yourself or make them feel good about themselves. Unsolicited advice is never about helping you be your best self, which is why you should ignore it.

What mirrors are you using to know yourself and understand how others see you?

Are you ready for accurate mirrors?

Solopreneurs:

There’s still time to register for Joyful Sales Conversations, where I’ll show you how to put the gardener’s principle into action. When you create trust, you will transform your business.

June 17th & 28th 11:00 – 11:30 am US Central (plus 30-minutes for Q&A afterward)
REGISTER HERE






Character

Character, Aristotle said some 2300 years ago, is a habit. It’s the sum total of our daily choices of right versus wrong, responsibility versus convenience, virtue versus selfishness.

Character

He’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.

She’s a bully, but she gets results.

Character, Aristotle said some 2300 years ago, is a habit. It’s the sum total of our daily choices of right versus wrong, responsibility versus convenience, virtue versus selfishness.

Your character, forged in those daily choices, is revealed in a crisis

It’s no wonder jerks, bullies, creeps, and goofballs never surprise us when the shit hits the fan. You always do you, and they always do them. The habits you form every hour of every day determine your responses long before the moment of truth.

It’s hard to believe that people still fall for the fantasy that you can co-opt a predator, contain a jerk, and reform a bully. That people still wish away a person’s history of disgusting, belligerent, or bigoted behavior simply because they agree with you on something is what keeps petty tyrants in business.

A group of executives from a company approached me about doing leadership training. Their CEO engaged in toxic behavior, and they were looking for a solution. “Have you confronted the CEO about his behavior?” “No,” they replied, “We hope the leadership training will show him the error of his ways.”

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way and never has. Most people want to do well and will change their practices when confronted constructively about off-putting behavior. Addressing the problem right away is always easier than letting it fester. The longer it goes on, the more ingrained it becomes.

Early on, you would only need a minute to address the problem. You do it, and it’s over, or you move on. Letting it fester is more challenging because the longer you avoid the situation, the more you have to face it at work, and every time you look in the mirror. You wake up, and there it is. You go to work, and there it is. You check your phone, and there it is. You get ready for bed, and there it is.

I tried ignoring, accommodating, befriending, and outmaneuvering. I lost every time and even more in anxiety, frustration, and lunch money.

Enabling a bully with power is like boosting the raging river running through a canyon. The grooves don’t become more shallow; they grow deeper.

What are you doing to keep the bullies and jerks from ruining your life and business?

ALSO – I’m thrilled to announce that my book Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War has been named the INDIES 2021 book of the year in the War & Military category.

Want to stay up to date with SLA?

Strategic Leaders Academy (SLA) helps former senior military leaders, combat veterans, and public servants build joyful, meaningful, and profitable consulting businesses that delight their clients.

Sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll never miss a beat.

We work with your organization and leader teams to help you develop your leaders, build a healthy culture, and create a winning strategy. The results include higher employee engagement and ownership in success, reduced employee stress, burnout and turnover, fewer expensive mistakes, and better and more effective execution of your strategy and resilience plans. You get the highest payoff when you have consistent, dedicated support over one year or longer.

Here’s a thought I want to leave you leader’s with:

Describe The Why to your team; Delegate The How-
Describe what to do and what
outcomes you want to achieve.

Let your subordinates figure out how to
do it so they have ownership.





Trust

Trust intersects three factors: reciprocity, competence, and reliability. Reciprocity means the relationship is a two-way street: both parties are better off.

trust

The single most important thing you need to know about trust is reciprocity, which will make or break your small business or solo practice.

Suppose you are like many small business CEOs and have frustrations with employee disengagement and turnover, lack of buy-in, and poor accountability. In that case, you probably have a low-trust workplace that’s damaging your profitability, sustainability, and peace of mind.

“Compared with people at low-trust companies,” a study in Harvard Business Review reports, “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.”

trust

How would you feel having fifty percent higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and tremendous energy?

For solo practitioners, common objections from your prospects, such as lack of time, money, or need, are reflections of a trust deficit. Your prospective clients ask themselves, “do I feel safe, will the support be helpful, is the juice worth the squeeze?”  Competence is the ability to do your job to the required standards, and reliability is that you will do what you say you will do.

Competence is the ability to do your job to the required standards, and reliability is that you will do what you say you will do.

You need all three in place to have a trusting relationship. Without reciprocity, you have one party taking advantage of the other. Lack of competence means underperformance, and poor reliability creates inconsistency.

The element most often missing in low-trust situations is reciprocity.

I spoke with a company executive who complained that she did not have the budget for leadership training and that the CEO wouldn’t reallocate any money.

She’s facing workplace burnout, employee turnover, and presentism — where people are (or appear to be) physically present but are unengaged and unproductive. Helping her direct reports become better leaders would alleviate these problems and allow her to focus on growth and innovation rather than getting stuck in failure work and dispute resolution.

These problems are costing the company millions.

She’s facing workplace burnout, employee turnover, and presentism — where people are (or appear to be) physically present but are unengaged and unproductive. Helping her direct reports become better leaders would alleviate these problems and allow her to focus on growth and innovation rather than getting stuck in failure work and dispute resolution.

These problems are costing the company millions.

The CEO makes $20 million annually; the next highest-paid person makes a fraction. He could reallocate .01 percent of his annual salary to develop key subordinates and see a 10:1 return on investment or higher payoff for the company.

The problem, of course, is that the CEO has little incentive to improve things. He’ll get a massive payout even if he’s fired for underperforming. Burnout, turnover, and presentism are symptoms of an overall lack of trust within the company.

The senior leaders are violating the gardener’s principle: the responsibility to provide the cultivation so that the best version of each person blooms.

Gardner’s till the soil and feed the plants to stimulate growth. They prune away anything preventing the plant from being its best self. They do not try to turn one vegetable into another.

When you cultivate your employees to become their best selves, they’ll respond by contributing their best to your company’s success.

The employees at this company, I’m told, see the vast discrepancies in salary and unwillingness to invest in them. The relationship seems one way.

The employees thus treat the company as a commodity — a bargaining chip to a better-paying job at a different company.

The gardener’s principle works for solo practitioners, too. When you show how you help your clients achieve their dreams and be the heroes of their own stories, they’ll drop the money, time, and need objections.

Solopreneurs:

There’s still time to register for Joyful Sales Conversations, where I’ll show you how to put the gardener’s principle into action. When you create trust, you will transform your business.

June 17th & 28th 11:00 – 11:30 am US Central (plus 30-minutes for Q&A afterward)
REGISTER HERE







Change

Leadership can make all the difference when it comes to workplace change

Chances are, if you feel like your organization is saturated with change, your Team may be experiencing change fatigue.

Change fatigue is a Team’s resistance, passive resignation, apathy, or feelings of being overwhelming when it comes to organizational change.

We’ve all been there; change fatigue sets in and our Team gets resentful. I’ve seen it in every line of work. Leadership, however, can make all the difference when it comes to workplace change.

Identifying change fatigue is the first step a leader needs to take.

What does change fatigue look like? Complaints increase in frequency, exhaustion, loss of passion, stress, more sick days, cynicism, and lack of trust in leadership. This impacts the organization on so many levels–less productivity, greater turnover, and more missed days. The culture tanks and trust erodes.

According to a recent HBR article, “too often, organizations simply encourage their employees to be resilient, placing the burden of finding ways to feel better solely on individuals. Leaders need to recognize that change exhaustion is not an individual issue, but a collective one that needs to be addressed at the team and organizational level.”

Action Steps to mitigate change fatigue:

  • Control what you can control: Fear and discontent crop up when we feel like we have lost control of our current situation. When changes in our workplace occur, we need to encourage our Team to highlight what is within their control and influence. Instead of thinking of change as something happening to you, think of it as you having control over your new learning and this new growth opportunity. Perspective can make a huge difference when change occurs. The Center for Creative Leadership’s David Altman describes change as continual evolution with no endpoint. He goes on to say that we need to think of “change fatigue” as “change energy.”
  • Communicate early and often: Bring key stakeholders to the table to discuss upcoming changes and ask for their perspectives and advice. Roll out the change in small, digestible bites. Acknowledge that what you thought was “best” isn’t anymore.  Offer validation to the prior initiative and explain the “why” with the new one. There isn’t a “best” in business anyways; we should always be learning and growing. The moment a company settles, they have already slid behind the competition.
  • Trust: Change cannot occur until your Team trusts their leadership and understands the “why” behind the change. That’s the first move. Once the change is in action, give brief surveys and check in often. Be sure toprioritize the changes. Ask your Team to collectively decide which one is the most important and focus on that one. They will have more buy-in if they can help make decisions. Allow for errors. Mistakes will happen. Your team needs to know that you have their back and they are allowed to experiment and make mistakes. Before implementing any change, make sure that your Team has all the resources needed; this includes training, time, and material resources.
  • Team-focused: Collective routines have a way of calming your Team as they forge into the unknown. This could be morning coffee, happy hours, consistent meeting times, etc. Routines cultivate a sense of community and foster a sense of organizational buy-in.

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.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg shows that diversity is more than skin deep.

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook’s visionary founder, Mark Zuckerberg, struggled to make the social media platform profitable. He had the big ideas right but was having trouble making the company successful. He needed someone whose superpowers included creating systems so the company could do routine things routinely and to a high standard.

He hired Sandberg, and the rest is history.

Zuckerberg, a Pioneer in SLA’s PROM ArchetypesTM, had the vision but could not make the trains run on time. He needed an Operator — someone who had a natural affinity for building processes and holding people accountable for doing the right things the right ways. Sandberg was the perfect fit.

sheryl sandberg

Had Zuckerberg based his COO decision on identity groups, Facebook would probably have gone the way of MySpace. Hiring a Pioneer of a different race or gender would have boosted the leadership team’s biological diversity but not its ability to be successful.

Lincoln’s cabinet and Google’s leadership team, once founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin hired Eric Schmidt and Jon Rosenberg, are also case studies in cognitive diversity.

Physical diversity improves your legitimacy; cognitive diversity improves your performance. You need both to succeed.

Sandberg’s advice to Harvard graduates, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on,” misses the central point of her own contribution to META’s success. She was the right person for the right role, which made all the difference. Sometimes we need help seeing the real reasons for our successes.

Here are three great ways to boost your team’s performance.

1. Set up people for success by putting them in roles where they use their superpowers daily. The PROM ArchetypesTM self-assessment is a great starting point.

2. Make doing the right things simple. Standards and processes that are clear and intuitive will be light years more successful than cumbersome and confusing requirements.

3. Meet people where they are and move forward from there. You make more progress when you go to someone else’s bus stop and see things from their perspective than you do by demanding that they adopt your point of view.

If inspiring people to contribute their best to your team’s success is important to you, then you will love my 8-week program, Becoming a WHY? Leader TM. It’s ideal for leadership teams because the program helps you communicate better, create shared understanding, and develop common operating principles. These results build trust and lasting success. To see if the program is a good fit, reply to this email or go to https://callSLA.as.me/Chris to set up a call.

Here are some ways I help you thrive.

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

The Founders Forum is a mastermind group for consultants, solo practitioners, and owners of boutique firms who want to shorten their path to a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business. You’ll accelerate the quality and speed of your thought leadership, develop a business development process that you are proud to execute (and avoids the awkward pushiness), and brand building that you are pleased to display (and avoids the slimy feeling of self-promoting).  

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

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

Mastery programs include Expert Consulting Mastery, Innovative Thought Leadership, and leadership experiences at Antietam & Gettysburg, Normandy, West Point, and many others.

Bringing on the right consultant or trusted adviser can be expensive. Would you trust your future to the lowest bidder?



Unite

Let us use days like today to not only remember the fallen but to look ahead and make the best out of the lives that we’ve been fortunate enough to keep.

Unite

I had the distinct honor of speaking at two different Memorial Day Ceremonies on Monday.

This is the message that I shared:

Tamra Bolton states: “This is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home. This is not Veterans Day, it’s not a celebration, it is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom.”

I am standing in front of you today because I am a combat veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom. I served in Baghdad, Iraq as a Military Police Officer from  June 2003 to July 2004 for the Army National Guard. I have a brother who also served in Iraq. He was a medic in an infantry unit serving out of Ramadi in 2003 and 2004. Yes. We were deployed at the same time. My father is a Vietnam Veteran and my twin brother served in the Peace Corps in South Africa. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mom, who biked across the entire country in 2005 in honor of the soldiers overseas. She carried a yellow sign on her back in support of bringing the troops home as soon as possible. Additionally, I have a father-in-law who served in Vietnam as well as other veterans in my family including uncles and a grandfather.

It wasn’t until Memorial Day in 2004 that I truly understood the gravity of this day’s significance. On April 9th, 2004, my company lost its first soldier. Her name was Michelle Witmer. She was the first female KIA in the history of the National Guard.

We were on the same mission that dire night—guarding the Baghdad police stations against the insurgents. We drove home around 2 am after our replacements arrived. Her squad took one route home, we took another. I listened on the HMMV radio as she left this earth after being shot. She was the gunner in her vehicle.

As I reflected on her passing and those of the millions of other soldiers before her, I finally understood the importance of Memorial Day. It is not about the living. It is about those true heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom

Winston Churchill said it best when he said “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

As I wrote in my memoir, “Memorial Day is no longer a holiday, a time to cookout and party. It’s a day to commemorate fallen soldiers.”

I honor and remember not only Michelle Witmer’s sacrifice but a young man named Daniel Thompson as well.  Upon my return home from Iraq, I received my sergeant stripes and Daniel Thompson was one of the first soldiers on my team. After my time of service was complete, he continued his service and volunteered to go to Afghanistan where he gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country in on February 24th, 2009.

I also remember my brothers and sisters in arms who are still with us today. The individuals I lived and worked with for over a year. I think about the person we turned into while we were deployed. The blood, sweat, and tears we gave to serve our country. The despair, pride, love, hate, fear, and joy we felt for 16 long months. Memorial Day is one more thing in our lives that is forever changed because of our time in service.

I have a wonderful neighbor named Doug who served in Vietnam. We often share war stories and last year he told me that he feels a connection with me. Fellow Veterans – isn’t that the truth? We have a special bond—something that only we can truly grasp and understand. If you are standing here today and feel alone or forgotten, please look around and find someone to talk to—to find solidarity with. We are here for you. It’s okay to not be okay. According to an NPR article from June of 2021, we’ve lost just over 7,000 military members since 9-11, yet suicides have reached over 4 times as many, at just above 30,000. That’s not ok. Don’t hesitate to check on your fellow veterans and make sure they’re all right.

Let us use days like today to not only remember the fallen but to look ahead and make the best out of the lives that we’ve been fortunate enough to keep. Life is filled with a myriad of opportunities. Let’s seize them and not let any one of our comrades die in vain.

The fallen fought for the United States of America—for a united nation.

Let’s unite with our commonalities and choose to respect and understand those who think differently. When I think of Michelle Witmer’s love and compassion she showed to all those around her—even to the feral puppies she adopted in Iraq, I know she stood for a United Nation. Not one divided over masks or guns or abortion rights. Because in the end, we all want what’s best for our nation and for our descendants. Let’s unite and find common ground instead of tearing each other apart.

John F. Kennedy nailed it when he said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

How are you living your best life? How are you continuing to serve and unite the lives of those around you?

Jennifer M. Granholm captured my sentiments exactly when she said, “Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.”

Let’s come together in this divided and tumultuous world and treat one another with the utmost empathy and compassion regardless of others’ beliefs. We all fought for a better country, a better world, and we can only get there by accepting others and treating them with dignity.

consulting

Your consulting business is in one of three states: drifting, developing, or thriving.

Application, repetition, and accountabilities directly lead to new habits and better results. You need to apply the strategies, using several repetitions, and have an expert at your side who helps you make the critical adjustments so that they work for you in the real world.

Accountability helps you do the right things in the right ways with the right fit until the new habits become second nature. That’s where you get results. This process gets results and is why the best performers always have terrific coaches.

Sure, bringing on the right consultant or trusted adviser can be expensive, but would you trust your future to the lowest bidder?

consulting

Ways to Invest in your Success

If I’m a good fit for you, here are some ways to work together.

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

The Founders Forum is a mastermind group for consultants, solo practitioners, and owners of boutique firms who want to shorten their path to a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business. You’ll accelerate the quality and speed of your thought leadership, develop a business development process that you are proud to execute (and avoids the awkward pushiness), and brand building that you are pleased to display (and avoids the slimy feeling of self-promoting).  

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

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

Mastery programs include Expert Consulting Mastery, Innovative Thought Leadership, and leadership experiences at Antietam & Gettysburg, Normandy, West Point, and many others.

Books

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

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

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.
crowd

Are you hanging with the right crowd?

crowd

Believe it or not, I used to hang with bullies. I thought that trying to be friends would rub off on them. This crowd spent a lot of time tearing people down, and they rubbed off on me far more than I did them. It was a numbers game that I finally recognized I was losing.

Are you hanging with the right crowd? You tend to find three classes of people in your life: sappers, trappers, and zappers.

Sappers are the vampires who drain your energy. Success-shamers try to make you feel bad about achieving something, “that must have been your second choice.” Trauma-dumpers catastrophize, leaving no oxygen for anyone else. Slackers, downers, and negatives drag everyone to their level of laziness, gloom, and doom.

Trappers are loved ones and friends who want you to stay just as you are. They are comfortable with the current you because they know what to expect and are terrified that you will grow without them because they might not like that version of you, or you might no longer like them. You’ll hear trappers say things like, “What does that leave me,” and “I guess you’ll be too good for us,” and the like. They are the parents who want you to stay home, the spouses and friends who dishearten you from taking risks, investing in yourself, or trying something new.

You’ll want to have candid conversations with your trappers about your love for them and your desire to grow. Most of them don’t want to hold you back; they are just scared. Reassuring them is often all you need to do.

Zappers are the allies who encourage you to be the best version of yourself, hold you accountable, and inspire you to reach new heights. They zap you with new energy. Trusted advisers, mentors, and coaches help you build new skills and capacities. Exemplars inspire you and partners are your peer group who have a vested interest in your success.

The five people you hang with the most have a profound effect. How do you feel around each of those five: sapped, trapped, or zapped with new energy?

Another great way to take inventory is to ask yourself, what shows up when you show up? Do people feel like an empty husk, preserved in amber, or emboldened to take on new challenges?

A good way to find the right crowd is to ask your allies. They’ll point you to some exemplars, advisers, and partners who help them be their best selves. Check them out online, read their newsletters, and participate in some of their free and low-cost programs.

When you find the right ones, invest. You’ll get the mutual accountability that comes with a formal trusted advising relationship and the reciprocity of a mastermind group. Being with the right people connected in common purpose gives you the application, repetition, and accountability you need to soar to new heights.

Have you ever invested in yourself with the right allies and not come away victorious?

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

The Founders Forum is a mastermind group for consultants, solo practitioners, and owners of boutique firms who want to shorten their path to a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business. You’ll accelerate the quality and speed of your thought leadership, develop a business development process that you are proud to execute (and avoids the awkward pushiness), and brand building that you are pleased to display (and avoids the slimy feeling of self-promoting).