communication

We all know communication is key but have you ever explicitly talked about preferred methods with your Team?

communication

Communication is a complicated beast. As a leader, communicating clearly and often is a must. Following up after communication is a great practice. Being receptive to feedback and constructive criticism is hard but helps us grow. Having an open-door policy gives our Team a greater sense of belonging. I could go on and on about the benefits of and the great ideas about communication.

Here’s a novel idea: How often have you asked your team their preferred method of communication? For example, many people prefer emails for task-related requests, texts for brief information or check-ins, and phone calls and/or in-person conversations for things that are personal or could be misinterpreted through email. Think about it.

Perhaps you always communicate over email, but the younger generations in your office prefer Slack or texts. Your communication method could be hindering their ability to work efficiently.

communication

I have recently asked this explicit question as a director and as a consultant and it has opened my eyes as to what others prefer and also has given the individual team members a voice and more control of their preferred communication method.

First, take some time to ask your Team how they prefer to be communicated with given certain scenarios.

Four steps to better communication in the workplace:

  1. Email
  2. Text/Slack/inter-office messaging
  3. Phone call
  4. In-person
  5. Other
  • Overcome email nuances by calling or talking in person: If you ever find yourself wondering if someone might misinterpret the email, chances are you should call or stop by in person. We all know it’s hard to interpret emotions and sarcasm in emails so grab the phone and call if it’s too complicated to put in an email.  
  • You don’t need to change all of your habitsHowever, when you can meet your Team halfway, they will feel heard, understood, and they will appreciate your generosity in communicating in a style that will support their productivity.
  • Sharing preferred communication method is a two-way street: It will give you, the leader, an opportunity to share your desired communication and you can also share your “why,” which may influence your Team to streamline their processes.

Additional ways I can help you communicate.

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

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

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


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.

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.

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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.





Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg shows that diversity is more than skin deep.

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?



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.
Fallen Hero Honor Ride

If you are willing to go into the arena, you never know who you might meet and their impact on your life and business.

Jerry showed me that being personal was so much more than personalizing.

Synthetic connections give you a seductive promise: you can engage with prospects en masse in a seemingly intimate way, generating more business with less effort.

It seems like paradise for a consultant.

Except it’s damaging your credibility and decreasing the impact you can make on the world.

When you get the “Dear # Firstname …” email, how do you feel?

How about the Linkedin connection request, “It’s great to connect with you, and I hope you’re doing well during these interesting times. I’ve had the privilege of working with many business owners and always like to be surrounded by smart people with a winning mindset. I’m curious, # First Name, how has your business been affected with everything going on?”

Blah, blah, blah.

I listened to a podcast interview while cycling on Saturday. College students tend to prefer text over voice calls because they feel in control. They can respond when and how they want and not have to worry about the rough and tumble of personal conversations in which they might say something wrong or miss an important signal.


You do not have to be vulnerable or uncomfortable when everyone is like you. Digging trenches instead of building bridges diminishes our lives and businesses.

If you are willing to go into the arena, you never know who you might meet and their impact on your life and business.

One year ago, I decided to undertake a bicycle ride to visit the graves of the six paratroopers from my unit killed in action in Afghanistan. I hadn’t ridden in twenty years. I was tempted to buy a bike online and save the frustration of salespeople.

Personal



Recognizing that I was sure to make a poor choice on my own, I braved the crowds and ventured to Wheel & Sprocket, a local bike store. Jerry met me and asked what I was looking for.

Jerry was genuinely curious. He wanted to know what I wanted to accomplish by riding — exercise, distance, cross-country, acrobatics?

I was reluctant to let him know about the Honor Ride I was planning, but I relented because I figured it would have a bearing on which bicycle would be best. Jerry suggested the TREK Domane SL7. I did some more research and returned a few days later to purchase the bike. I wanted to make sure Jerry was at the store so he would get credit for the sale.

Jerry custom-painted bicycles and offered to paint a legacy bike for the ride. He refused to be paid for it.

His generosity got me thinking a bit bigger. He was helping me achieve a dream — completing the 1700-mile endeavor. What if I could create some lasting value from the Honor Ride to help people achieve their goals?

Personal



Jerry’s personal approach, getting to know me and the dreams I wanted to achieve by riding a bicycle, inspired me to launch the Saber Six Foundation, which helps my unit’s veterans and their families to achieve their dreams.

Jerry’s a true artist. He painted the bicycle while reading Jake Tapper’s bestseller, The Outpost, which, in part, is about our unit.


Because Jerry cared so much, he created something beyond our imaginations.

Jerry shows that personal connections — authenticity, emotion, and vulnerability — enrich our lives and create meaningful opportunities and outcomes. You personalize with hashtags, ads, and social media. You need to be in the arena to be personal.

There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do when you care enough to learn about someone’s dreams and ways to help them succeed. That, after all, is what personal connection is all about.

I’m so grateful for your kindness, generosity, and inspiration, Jerry.

P.S. Does anyone know how to get rid of those personalized ads showing me bicycles that I don’t need?





tiktok

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

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

tiktok

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

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

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

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

Action Steps to hold onto the Tik Tok generation:

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

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs 

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

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

Additional Offerings: 

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

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

Book:

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

L

I

cognitive diversity

How can I better integrate cognitive diversity in business and in life

Affinity bias is the subconscious tendency to favor people who look, think, and act as we do. Attitudinal bias, on the other hand, is conscious bigotry.

I find that most people, outside of traditional bigots and woke bigots, recognize the benefits of diversity and take steps to reduce the impact of affinity bias.

The CEOs and leaders in this community (I admit there’s a selection bias of good people here) want a physically diverse workforce, so that race, gender, and other demographics reflect the community they are serving. The differences tend to be whether you hire to a particular outcome or look at representation and broaden your inputs as necessary.

Correcting for biological diversity is relatively straightforward, and decent people don’t need punitive and demeaning programming to figure it out.

Cognitive diversity (bringing together people who think differently) is a more daunting challenge because it’s difficult to see and recognize. A subconscious disdain toward people who think differently is commonplace because there’s comfort in the status quo, and leaders tend not to like boat-rockers.

Complacency is often the consequence of doing the same things repeatedly and expecting the same results. This problem affects businesses, governments, militaries, and nonprofits.

Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln valued cognitive diversity. His so-called team of rivals was a cognitively diverse crew. George Washington built his cabinet the same way, and Dwight Eisenhower picked people of varied observable contributions to be on his staff. Cognitive diversity plus buy-in for the common good made the whole more significant than the sum of its parts.

OK. I get why cognitive diversity is essential. How do I make it happen?

We created the PROM Archetypes TM to give you a helpful framework. Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks have distinct and observable contributions when using their natural talents. Representation from all four provides you with powerful advantages over organizations where everyone thinks alike. Google, Facebook, Apple, and others have cultivated cognitive diversity alongside other forms.

The PROM Archetypes TM gives you ways to recognize these distinct and observable contributions and help people be their best selves. Leaders not attuned to cognitive diversity will tend to select and promote people who think and act as they do — the mini-me syndrome (as my mentor Michele Flournoy calls it). This affinity bias turns off people who aren’t like you, and before long, they vote with their feet, and only the clones remain.

You can start building cognitive diversity by taking our PROM Archetypes TM quiz and having your team do the same. SLA’s content will help you make the best use of this information, and I or any SLA team member will be delighted to help you gain the cognitive diversity that’s right for you.

What action steps are you taking to promote cognitive diversity?

Building your Chest

Growth Programs

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.

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. Reply to me for more details.

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 possibly 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. I’m limiting the group to 8. Reply to me for more details.



leadership

Only one type of leader creates sustainable growth and inspires people to contribute their best to the team’s success.

The WHAT Leader


WHATs do what the boss tells them to do. They get a task or mission from the boss, organize their team, and get the job done according to the company’s standard operating procedures. WHATs tend to be good first-line leaders — they execute specific tasks and come back for more.

The boss is the hero. The boss makes it rain and tells the WHATs how to do the job.

WHATs do not innovate and tend not to think for themselves outside the confines of carefully delineated boundaries. The best ones take care of their people, ensuring they have the tools and skills to do the job safely and to standard.

WHATs succeed as long as the boss is present to explain what and how to do it. Promote them into a position where they have to develop the plans, and WHATs will struggle.

The HOW Leader

HOWs have the answers and the secret sauce. Their employees look to them for the master plan. HOWs are comfortable with autonomy and don’t like being told how to do their jobs. HOWs can be effective department heads and CEOs as long as the task is within their realm of expertise.

The HOWs set themselves up to be heroes because they have the solutions and plans. They tell people what to do and how to do it. As long as you comply with the HOWs, you are good to go. HOWs tend to strike down innovation because it threatens their hero status.

HOWs succeed as long as they are in their comfort zone but struggle in environments that exceed their expertise.

Some of them will try to be the hero anyway and fail miserably, like J.C. Penny’s Ron Johnson, who brought his HOW from Apple and nearly destroyed the aging retailer. The volcanic rise and meteoric crash of Adam Neumann’s WeWork became the subject of We Crashed, a docu-drama. Some HOWs get consumed by imposter syndrome when they recognize the impossibility of being the hero in a new context.

HOWs fail in a competitive marketplace because they cannot keep pace with innovation. The playbook works well in a static environment but not in a dynamic one. Because the HOW must be the hero, there can be only one authoritative source of ideas. Everyone else gets thrown under the bus. Blockbuster could not adapt when Netflix changed the game. Sony believed its hype about the digital walkman and got trounced by the iPod.

WHY Leaders

WHY leaders are the ones with the questions, they provide guidance and purpose and let their subordinates figure out the how. WHYs have elasticity; they grow into new jobs and environments because growth and innovation are not dependent upon them having the answers.

Their subordinates are the heroes. By inspiring people to contribute their best to the team’s success, WHYs can serve in various contexts. WHYs do not tie their ego to their own particular plans, systems, or ideas.

WHYs are comfortable in their own skin, so they can pass the credit for success to their subordinates and take the heat when something goes wrong. Having everyone’s back encourages risk-taking and innovation. Clarity about the purpose and direction of the organization reduces the likelihood that people will go 100-miles-per-hour in the wrong direction. They practice empathy and use trusted advisors to avoid getting high from their own fumes. WHYs habitually grow their imaginations and develop their subordinates.

In his initial run at Apple, Steve Jobs was a HOW, and the board ousted him as the CEO. He learned from those and subsequent experiences and became a WHY leader, making Apple one of the world’s most successful companies. Jobs prepared his successor, Tim Cook, to take the company to new heights.

Eisenhower was criticized by HOW leader contemporaries for not being more like them. British Field Marshall Montgomery dismissed him as a “Nice chap, no soldier.” Patton and Bradley criticized him for being too lenient on the British. Eisenhower’s WHY leadership promoted the innovation, teamwork, and strategic thinking needed to win the war in Europe.

Becoming a WHY Leader

You become a WHY leader by practicing six habits:

  • 1. Be true to yourself. Authenticity is the opposite of selfishness. Impulse is not a permission slip (ask the former Uber CEO). Since there’s no single leadership ideal, be your best you.
  • 2. Trust Principles Over Rules. Trustworthiness, Respect, and Stewardship point out true north involatility and uncertainty.
  • 3. Practice Empathy, Not Sympathy. Pity is demeaning. Seeing and feeling an issue from someone else’s point of view is your bridge to cooperation.
  • 4. Pass the Credit, Take the Hit. Throw people under the spotlight, not under the bus, so that you empower people to innovate and take risks.
  • 5. Describe The Why; Delegate The How. Describe what to do and the outcomes you want to achieve. Let your subordinates figure out how to do it, so they have ownership.
  • 6. Multiply Your Experiences. You don’t create new wins with status quo thinking. To think outside the box, you must expand your box.

What action steps are you taking to build WHY leaders in your company? Please share in the comments below.




Charisma

Charisma is your secret weapon to inspire and retain your employees 

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

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

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

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

Action Steps to lead with Charisma:

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

Additional Offerings: 

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

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

Book:

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