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.

 

Here’s what I’m reading about race in America.

Peniel E. Joseph, The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

The Economist, Tackling racism: The new ideology of race and what is wrong with it.

John McWhorter, The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility, The Atlantic.

Ruchika Tulshyan, How to Reduce Personal Bias When Hiring, Harvard Business Review.

Sabrina Siddiqui, Majority of Voters Say U.S. Society Is Racist as Support Grows for Black Lives Matter, The Wall Street Journal

The Washington Post, How John Lewis caught the conscience of the nation

I highlight these books and articles because they contain a range of viewpoints on this challenging and delicate subject.

One takeaway for business leaders is that there’s a difference between attitudinal and affinity bias.

Attitudinal bias is prejudice. It is a conscious choice to de-value someone based on race, sex, creed, color, or any other distinction.

It is disgusting, abhorrent, and pathetic.

Affinity bias, on the other hand, is a common, unconscious tendency to gravitate towards those who look, think, and act the way you do.

Both biases tilt the playing field for some groups over others. One does so intentionally; one does not.

Fifty-six percent of Americans, according to a recent WSJ/NBC poll, believe that Black and Hispanic Americans face discrimination.

Intentions matter.

Once you know about affinity bias and accept that you probably have it, you can do something about it.

And now you know about it.

What is your top takeaway from this article?

P.S. Do you want counter affinity bias as you nail your next 100 days? Here’s the free training that will help you do exactly that. It’s perfect for solo-entrepreneurs, consultants, and micro-business owners.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from nailing your next 100 days.

If you want to nail your next 100 days, you need to focus.

Get command of your time, talent, and energy, so that you have predictable times every week to work ON your business.

You can get so carried away meeting everyone else’s demands that you allow your priorities to gather dust.

You spend your time on email, social media, and in constant firefighting.

You find yourself at the end of the day wondering where all the time has gone.

You don’t have enough time for the fire-prevention tasks that allow you to grow sustainably.

I’ll get to it tomorrow. Rinse. Repeat.

Stop the madness.

Here are four action steps to get out of the spin cycle.

1. Set your priorities. Maintain a top 3 so you don’t diffuse your efforts.

2. Put good ideas on a Not-Now list, so you maintain visibility, but don’t get distracted.

3. Make your Not-To-Do list and outsource, delegate, or drop everything on it.  

4. Weekly planning. Set aside chunks of time each week for you to work on your business. Make these the same days and times so that you build a natural rhythm and bring your best to these sessions.

Focus is part of the 8-step process so that you can nail the next 100 days, build momentum, and rack up wins, even in turbulence and uncertainty.

You will get this process during my free masterclass.  

Yes, it’s free and takes only ten seconds to sign-up. There are no sales, no gimmicks, just value for you.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from your next level of success.

Get the peace of mind that you have made time to work ON your business.

What is your top takeaway from this article? Let me know: [email protected]

Decide’s Latin origin means to kill off or to sever.

To make a decision thus means to kill off the alternatives.

Common decision-making errors result in you killing off the better alternatives – they are short cuts to expensive failure

Here are two doozies.

Confirmation bias happens when leaders place excessive weight on data that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and discounts contrary information.

We are living this problem right now. 

People on one side of the political spectrum highlight worst-case data on COVID-19. Their opponents emphasize opposite data. 

So many “expert” assessments and statements by political leaders are tainted by confirmation bias that ordinary people like you and me lose faith in their credibility.

It’s not just a political problem.

I fell into the confirmation bias trap myself. 

I wanted to take people on leadership trips to Normandy battlefields. I know the impact these experiences have on leaders and teams, and I’m very good at delivering them.

I wanted to do a lot of good for a lot of people, so I was eager to get going.

I believed that a good social media campaign could lead to mass interest.

A digital marketing agency I hired felt the same and suggested that Facebook ads would be a winner. They had had success with Facebook ads before, with a life-coach. They believed that they could replicate the outcomes. 

We made a series of (really cool) videos, created a complicated sales funnel, and crafted the ads carefully. 

We launched the ads. The videos were really popular and we saw superb engagement rates.

No prospects. 

We needed to create enough volume, we told ourselves, and the ads would pay off. Even if only .1 percent were interested, one million views should lead to 1000 prospects. 

We spent more.

We got nearly 2 million views and 300k “likes.” 

No prospects. No buyers.

I finally shut off the ads.

It turns out that we had tapped into an audience that loved military history, but they were not leaders or buyers.

Most entrepreneurs and leaders go to Facebook to keep up with friends and family, not for business advice.

That was an expensive lesson. 

******

We will discuss decision-making and seven more steps to nailing your next 100-days during my free masterclass.  

*******

Status quo bias, on the other hand, increases resistance to change, even if your situation sucks and your plan is failing.

Leaders perceive that the status quo is safe. After all, the executive team signed up for the approach at one time.  

Board members or executives poke holes in alternatives, shoot-down proposals, and emphasize the risks of change.

Some resist change for fear of being “wrong” in adopting the current plan. 

Others do not have an apples-to-apples comparison of risk, so they place more confidence in managing the challenges of the failing plan they know than in a proposed alternative that they don’t. 

Solo-entrepreneurs and small business leaders with status quo bias make a decision one day and then talk themselves out of moving forward the next morning. 

You get trapped in the hamster wheel.

Here are two action steps to deal with these problems.

First, assess your assumptions. 

Ask “what must be true” for the plan to work. Those are your assumptions. 

Do a sanity check on the validity of the assumptions.

Do the same with alternate plans. 

This approach gives you an apples-to-apples comparison of the risks and opportunities.

It also helps you check your confirmation bias.

Second, use premortems.

A premortem is a story or two about how the plan failed so that you can identify the indicators and warnings. 

Make those indicators and warnings part of your risk assessment.

When the indicators and warnings light up in the wrong direction, you know it’s time to make a change.

Red-teams or designated critics can be helpful, too, but I prefer the pre-mortems. 

Leaders may rationalize away the former because they are supposed to point out problems. 

They go with the plan anyway and lose the benefit of the premortem’s indicators and warnings.

The premortem is something the decision-makers own, so they are more likely to take them seriously.

We will discuss decision-making and seven more steps to nailing your next 100-days during my free masterclass.  

Yes, it’s free and takes only ten seconds to sign-up. There are no sales, no gimmicks, just value for you.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from making even better decisions :0)

Get the peace of mind that you have decided to work ON your business

What is your top takeaway from this article? 

P.S. Do you want to nail your next 100 days? Of course, you do. Here’s the free training that will help you do exactly that. It’s perfect for solo-entrepreneurs, consultants, and micro-business owners.

You are one decision away from nailing your next 100 days.

RAMP – The Major Crisis Lifecycle™:

The Four Phases you need to Know

RAMP Crisis

When biking, do you focus on the pothole or where you want to go? 

I learned that lesson the hard way. The more I focused on the pothole, the more likely that I smacked right into it. 

That all changed when I focused on where I wanted to go instead. I maintained awareness of the pothole but concentrated on the path forward. 

Whew. No more face-plants or blown tires! 

Major crises tend to have a specific life-cycle. We call it RAMP: React, Adjust, Manage, Prosper. 

Organizations that fixate on the crisis tend to stay mired in it. They adapt too late to the new normal and often fail. The ones most likely to power through the crisis and prosper, put an eye on the future and begin working toward it. 

By now, you have gotten tons of advice on crisis management from some very talented people and organizations, like Jan Rutherford, Stan McChrystal, Bill Watkins, Harvard Business Review, and McKinsey, to name a few. 

You have put the best ideas into practice. You are starting to get on top of things again.

Here’s the problem with staying focused on crisis management: you fixate on the crisis rather than anticipate and shape the future.

You are at risk of staring at the pothole. 

You need to keep one eye on the crisis; you need to set your other eye forward.

Crises tend to follow a life-cycle. It goes something like this.

1. React. Government, business, and nonprofit leaders, and others take measures to address the crisis. T
he novelty of the situation and inadequate information undermine decision-making. Some actions turn out to be insufficient; many wind up being excessive; others are spot-on. The back and forth is a normal response to uncertainty, but it is not the new normal.   

2. Adjust. As the novelty wears off and better information becomes available, leaders adjust their policies for a more significant effect. They strengthen the inadequate measures and modify the excessive ones. Leaders and policy-makers are now making fine rather than coarse corrections. The downward spiral stops, and the situation begins to stabilize. 

3. Manage. The crisis wears off, and the situation stabilizes. Sound policies are in place and need only minor adjustments. This situation is the New Normal, a post-crisis status quo. New rules, written and unwritten, govern the marketplace. Many organizations that survived the worst parts of the crisis get caught flat-footed here because they presume things will return to the pre-crisis status quo. 

4. Prosper. The New Normal creates new opportunities and risks. Some of these are traditional ones in a post-crisis context. Others emerge as needs and interests adapt to the New Normal. Overall economic growth resumes.

Organizations that anticipate the New Normal are best positioned to power through the crisis and thrive afterward. High tech companies like Apple and Google did this well as the 2008 financial crisis subsided. Ford avoided a bailout. 

Most companies and nonprofits adjust too slowly because they do not keep an eye on the future. They follow the pack, which always swings way behind the pitch. Companies like General Motors and big banks survived thanks to government bailouts. Others managed to make the big leap on their own. 

1.8 million small businesses reportedly failed due to the financial crisis. The gap between capabilities and new opportunities was too big.

To help you follow the green line, we are putting together a series of free webinars.

During these sessions, you will:

  • Gain a clear eye on the future by discussing the RAMP stages and how they affect you and your business;
  • Boost your clarity and confidence as you exchange tips and insights with a high-performing peer group;
  • Slash engagement-distancing by examining ways to keep everyone focused, connected, and using their strengths;
  • Anticipate the New Normal by considering the key variables that will shape it;
  • Get ahead of the curve by framing likely New Normal scenarios and key indicators;
  • Improve your team’s post-crisis outcomes by using a simple set of intelligence and planning techniques that keep you agile and oriented on the future
  • Avoid the expensive mistakes of trying to crystal-ball the future and being locked into a losing plan.

The live webinar is on Friday, March 27, 3-4 pm Central Time. Register 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.