The Leadership Podcast, co-hosted by Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos, is my go-to resource for leadership discussions.

They’ve got extraordinary episodes with some of the world’s most respected leaders.

I was gratified when they asked me to discuss ways that leaders can deal with workplace bullying and help their subordinates be the best versions of themselves.

One of my mentors, Michele Flournoy, connected us (thank you, Michele!).

As you know, bullies, predators, and jerks can ruin your team and peace of mind.

By the time they become managers, most of them have mastered the art of kiss-up and kick-down.

These creeps exist in the workplace. They are very intentional about what they are doing and are quite unlikely to change.

More common is behavior that is not intended to be bullying but is perceived that way.

This situation damages the trust, mutual respect, and morale that’s essential for your team’s success.

Turnover is the #1 indicator of this problem.

With the economy in such horrible shape, people are understandably reluctant to leave their jobs.

As the economy recovers, though, expect to see a mass exodus from toxic work environments.

Gallup reports that seventy-five percent of Americans who leave their jobs voluntarily do so to get away from their managers.

There are common-sense ways to deal with unconscious bullying.

First, make your values explicit. There’s a direct correlation between expectations and results.

Clear leader and employee behaviors for each value set important boundaries and will help you hold people accountable.

Second, discuss your values routinely at meetings and during your one-on-one counseling sessions.  

Third, give people ways to disarm bullying behavior. Merely repeating back what a person said and asking for confirmation can be enough to correct the behavior.

Finally, coach your direct reports to be the best versions of themselves. Subconscious cloning – trying to turn people into mini-versions of you – damages your relationship and undermines performance.

The best gauge of success is when your most vulnerable employees feel that they can always contribute as their best and most authentic selves.

I was proud to discuss this issue with Jan and Jim on The Leadership Podcast.

Check it out here.

P.S. Nailing your next 100 days gives you the escape velocity to launch, reboot, or scale your solo or small business. Check out the replay of this free masterclass on the 8 steps you need to take to achieve the escape velocity you need.

Schedule your strategy call today. We’ll discuss your goals and obstacles, and I’ll give you 2-3 specific action steps to take now to power through roadblocks and get you closer to your goals. No sales, no B.S.

I was burning out being whom I thought everyone expected me to be.

I tried to copy other leaders whom I respected because I did not believe that being me was good enough.

The inauthenticity affected my relationships and my peace of mind.

At work, I was good at being what I thought others wanted me to be.

It dawned on me that I could do even better by being the best version of my authentic self.

I came to that conclusion after being bullied by a general officer. It was the most toxic environment of my professional career.

He was all smiling in public; scathing and belittling in private. 

He could not tolerate anyone being different from him.

He wanted abusive people around him, so he could maintain the good-guy image.

I was used to being the extroverted leader that I thought everyone expected me to be. 

But becoming a clone of an abuser like him crossed a red line.

The rebellion led me to insist on being myself.

First, I had to confront the reason why I felt the need to copy others.

I was skinny and awkward in high-school. That made me a target. 

The harder I tried to fit in, the more awkward I became, and the bullying got worse.

This situation did not escape the notice of some high school faculty. 

One was an absolute angel. Whenever I get asked who was my favorite teacher of all time, I always mention Jeannie. 

Two others were resident priests with different versions of the bait and switch.

Comfort and assault. One pawed and groped. The other was a voyeur.

They counted on silence.

The experiences were so disturbing, so beyond the pale, and so wrong that I did not have a way to process them or a language to discuss them.

I knew I never wanted to be in that situation again and that I wanted to prevent that from happening to others, too.

Accepting an appointment to West Point, I took on the toughest programs and assignments I could find in the military. 

I could defend myself and others. 

That was all to the good.

The downside was this sense that being myself was not good enough and that I needed to be like others I respected.

I made my share of mistakes along the way, too.

It took over three decades to begin talking about what happened in high school and to understand how I responded to it.

A loved one asked me why I began to speak openly. Wasn’t I embarrassed?

Silence is the great enabler

The bullies and the predators count on people being silent, looking the other way, and burying their stories inside of them.

Some bullies are overt, like the groper. 

Most, though, are subtle, like the general and voyeur. They smile in public and abuse in private. They want you to compromise yourself; guilt and shame are self-silencers.

I discussed authenticity and my challenges along the way with internationally renowned author Dr. Mark Goulston.

Maybe shining a light on bullying and sexual assault will deter the creeps. 

Maybe it will help good people heal so that they can look forward and not worry about the rear-view mirror. 

If you or someone you know has experienced abuse, I hope this story will help stop the kind of copycat behavior that nearly wiped me out.

Share this article and podcast with your employees and co-workers and have a conversation. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Most people, I’ve learned, have experienced some form of trauma and abuse. 

You don’t have to be defined by bad or good experiences. 

Define yourself by the value and impact you want to bring to the world.  

Resources for you:

Here’s a very simple way to start being the best version of yourself. Begin with your authentic servant-leader archetype

Authenticity gives you more energy at work and home, amplifies on your superpowers (your natural inclinations), and tells you who your need around you for cognitive diversity. 

We’ll discuss these issues and more in my free on demand masterclass. Register here.

The Importance of Determination

PODCAST:

The Importance of Determination


Perseverance and Determination

My parents, David and Joanne, and three siblings—Dan, Laura and Mark—all taught me the importance of perseverance and determination, the will to succeed at whatever you put your mind to. We would always challenge one another to be the best that we could be.

Determination helped me endure some terrible experiences.

I learned that I needed to use them to empower me … or else be destroyed by them.

In this podcast you will discover:

1. Ways to surround yourself with the right people, so that you will be challenged to be your best;

2. Ideas on how to emerge stronger from terrible experiences, so that you can empower others;

3. How to use empathy, so that your team can learn and grow in a dynamic situation;

4. Insights on Determination, so that you have a guide for when to stick to your guns and when to make a bold change.

How Did You Start Using Your Talents?

I was a skinny and awkward kid. By the time I got to high school, I was bullied relentlessly by classmates and assaulted by two priests. West Point was a place whereI was exposed to many different opportunities. I decided I was going to do the toughest and most difficult things I could possibly do — like boxing and close quarters combat — because I was never going to go through again what I experienced in high school. And that led to Airborne School and Assault Ranger School—some of the toughest schooling and assignments that the Army had.

The Most Impactful Turning Point?

Some of the best role models and mentors I had were from the history department at West Point and were either infantry or armor officers. Because of their personal example—the way they taught and led and cared for the students in their classes—they truly inspired me to want to be like them when I became an officer in the Army. I decided that I wanted to come back to West Point and teach one day because I aspired to do the same thing for other cadets that these fine men did for me.

The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?

I learned several essential lessons from my parents and siblings: the importance of perseverance and determination along with the will to succeed at whatever you put your mind to. We would always challenge each other to be the best we could be. Another key lesson from a great teacher I had in high school was the value of honoring each person, including myself, and the vital importance of empathy.

Steps to Success from Christopher D. Kolenda, Ph.D.

  1. Use perseverance and determination, along with the will to succeed, to achieve whatever you put your mind to.
  2. Find a group of people where you can challenge each other to be the best you can be.
  3. Honor each person, including yourself.
  4. Learn to be empathetic, to see things from the eyes of others; seek to understand, first, then to be understood.

Listen to Chris’s Entire Podcast