Russian

Like many Russian ice-skaters, your top performers have something extra (hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs). What are you doing to cultivate them so that you build bench strength and prepare them for greater responsibilities, without burning them out?

Russian

Like many Russian ice-skaters, your top performers have something extra (hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs). What are you doing to cultivate them so that you build bench strength and prepare them for greater responsibilities, without burning them out?

The Russian women’s ice-staking coach’s practices horrify me. A 15-year old was given performance-enhancing drugs and there’s no way she could have given informed consent. The gold medal winner skated listlessly around the ice clutching a doll. The Russian silver medalist was overheard saying how much she hated the sport. There’s something desperately wrong in that program and it seems like child abuse.

There’s also something desperately wrong with the way many managers treat their top talent, creating cynicism, burnout, and sometimes lifelong damage. Like many Russian ice-skaters, your top performers have something extra (hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs). What are you doing to cultivate them so that you build bench strength and prepare them for greater responsibilities, without burning them out?

My colleague Laura Colbert shows how simply promoting your top experts into management roles runs the risk of ruining two positions, damaging confidence in your judgment, and creating a snowball effect of accumulating problems. She’ll help you give them the support, resources, and guidance that they need to succeed.

Jeff Marquez illustrates that forgetting your middle management undermines performance, dilutes your vision, and drives away your top talent. If you want to build your bench strength, implement your vision, and lead your business to new heights, Jeff will help you develop middle managers that power your success.

The military has an adage that ten percent of your people occupy ninety percent of your time. I also found that to be a horrible practice. Why devote your time to your worst performers and neglect your top talent? When you do so, you are engaged in failure work.

Instead, invest your time and energy in your top performers throughout your organization. When you fire your low-performers you are doing yourself, them, and your other employees a huge favor. Are you worried about employee attrition? Stop bribing people with snacks and putting greens. Fire the people causing the attrition — you’ll gain addition by subtraction.

Let’s face it, few employees are going flat out for 40 or more hours per week. Most are probably productive for around 25 of those hours. Imagine the results if they could spend just one of those fifteen remaining hours sharpening their skills. If you improve by 1% each day, you are twice as good seventy days later.

Recognize what’s special in each person and cultivate those superpowers so that they contribute their best to your team’s success. When you invest in their success, they will invest themselves in yours.

What’s your process for cultivating the talents of your employees?

Building your Chest

Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. There’s no new normal. We’re in a persistent a-Normal. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

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.



Books

LEADERSHIP: THE WARRIOR’S ART, second edition. We expect leaders to 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. The 2nd edition is updated for a post 9/11, post-pandemic world.

Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War is my latest book about strategic decision-making. 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.



Bias

Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.”

bias

Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.” This theme resonates with me on so many levels. I have always positioned myself in more male-dominated roles as a physical education teacher, a military police officer, and a school administrator. My life’s underlying mission is to thrive in every capacity, regardless of my gender. I have had to prove myself time and time again and sometimes work harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same level of respect and understanding. Through it all, I’ve dealt with countless biases, microaggressions, and harassment. This article includes a few of the many times I’ve observed biases.

“Did you serve in a women’s war?” A question I was asked when I told someone that I was a veteran, which was soon followed by, “did you carry a gun?”

“Wow, you’re young for a principal.” A comment often made even though my same-age male counterparts never received this comment.

Business leadership is still vastly lopsided, with many more male than female leaders. We have a lot of work to do to close the gender divide. Until then, we need to do our best to break through our own biases and create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. There are many systemic changes that need to occur such as better maternity leave, a deeper understanding of the constraints of nursing moms, and more family-oriented business models, to name a few.

Until then, here are a few immediate steps to break the bias in business:

  1. Eliminate the use of “you guys” – There are so many other terms of inclusion that one can use: Team, everyone, you all or y’all, folks, friends, etc.
  1. Eliminate calling women “girls” – If we don’t call men “boys,” why do we call women “girls?” This affects everyone on a subconscious level by labeling women as children instead of adults. 
  1. Stop calling women bossy – Assertive women are not bossy. They are leaders. If their leadership style is not desirable, talk to them as an individual, not as a woman who comes across too strong. Additionally, ask yourself if this behavior would be noteworthy if a man exhibited the same assertiveness. Chances are, we wouldn’t think twice about the assertiveness of a man. 

Most importantly, pay attention to your inner voice, your initial judgment, and check what your subconscious may be trying to tell you. I have been guilty of pre-judging women or assuming a man holds the leadership position over the woman. It’s in our nature. If we are aware of our actions and work to change our inner dialogue, it will impact how we think. As the famous saying goes, “our thoughts become our actions.”

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.

Encourage

Put the metaphorical “elephant in the room” on the table

Encourage employees to resolve conflicts such as this:

“Hey boss, Hannah interrupted me and was rude to me during our team meeting,” said Paul. 

 As a leader, how do you proceed?

  1. Go directly to Hannah and ask her about the situation with a reprimand in your back pocket.
  2. Ask Paul what he did to make Hannah act like that.
  3. Give Paul the resources needed to address Hannah himself to resolve the issue.

We can all agree that option #3 is the ideal solution. Yes, it takes time, patience, resources, and, oftentimes, a change in behaviors and beliefs. Having the ability to have encourage tough conversations, however, can change the entire dynamic within your Team. When your employees have the wherewithal and confidence to take these conversations into their own hands your time is freed up to do more important things.

I am trying to develop this lesson with my own kids, ages 4,6, and 8. When they run from their conflict to tell on each other my first question is always, “Did you tell your sibling how their actions made you feel?” If they answer, “no,” then I send them back to the room to have a conversation with each other first. If that doesn’t resolve the situation, then we have a group conversation about what happened and how we can fix the situation in the future. Oftentimes, the tattletale is just as guilty.

Here’s the really important part. I explicitly lay out how we treat our family members and what the Colbert family norms/expectations are. I am building a strong foundation of the expected and appropriate rules of engagement. I am giving the kids the tools needed now so that in the future I won’t have to referee. Additionally, I am help and encourage them develop their own skills and confidence when dealing with conflict outside of our home.

Action Steps to Encourage your Team to work it out without you having to referee:

  1. Co-developed strong Team norms. If your people are part of the planning, they will take ownership and will be more likely to use the norms to steer the conversation in the right direction. Don’t stop there! You have to model how to use the norms. Before I start a meeting, I ask each person to pick a norm they want to stick to during the meeting. Oftentimes, people pick a norm counter to their current mood. For example, if someone is crabby, they pick the “stay positive” norm. This creates an immediate behavior shift, which benefits everyone at the meeting, and I don’t have to lift a finger. 
  2. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations—lead! You’re the leader, show your team how it’s done! Ask clarifying questions, don’t make rash assumptions, and always address inappropriate behaviorsdon’t tolerate bullies. Here are some great phrases/questions to steer the conversations: 
  • “Tell me more about what you mean by that.” 
  • “Can you please repeat what you just said?” Oftentimes people are too embarrassed to repeat a negative comment. You can then say, “If you’re too embarrassed to say it now, why did you say it in the first place?” Then point to the “staying positive” norm.
  • “Is this in line with our common purpose” or “Is this in line with our norms?”

  3. Give your Team the tools needed to address inappropriate behaviors. Share the above phrases/questions with your team. Role-play, if necessary. 

  4. Provide clear expectations. Make sure your Team understands that you do not tolerate negative behaviors and that you expect them to have the fortitude to address each other when something seems amiss.

It seems simple, but for some reason, we don’t often take the time to have these conversations. Why wait? Less drama and conflict improves productivity and overall joy. Encourage your team to be open to understanding others and having mutual respect in the workplace.

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. 

consulting

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows that bullies don’t stop until they get punched in the mouth.

Various world leaders had coddled, supported, excused, and rationalized Putin’s aggressive actions, such as invading Georgia in 2008, seizing Crimea in 2014, condoning cyberattacks, and meddling in other countries elections. Sure, there was plenty of finger-wagging and grandstanding, but bullies don’t care about what you say or write. They only believe what you do.

Twenty years of quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq and other military misadventures seem to have convinced Putin that a punch-drunk America and divided NATO would not impose high costs, so he turned his eyes on Ukraine. Quagmires have consequences beyond their economic costs, as I discuss in my latest book Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War.

Like most competent bullies, Putin has created defenses against retaliation (amassing a substantial financial reserve) and made clear that he can respond in kind with even more significant pain on those who oppose him. Thus, current sanctions have not targeted Russian gas exports, full participation in the SWIFT banking system, or the properties and assets of Russian oligarchs in places like London and Miami. Western countries have sent only limited military supplies to Ukraine.

Bullies follow the grapefruit principle: they don’t stop until they believe that the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.


That reckoning could come sooner rather than later. Several sources in Poland say that the Ukrainians are punishing the Russian offensive heavily.


Who are the Putin’s in your company? Chances are they are the ones who get short-term results and have the highest employee turnover rates. Looking the other way or rationalizing (“he’s a jerk, but he gets results”) enables the behavior and damages to your company. Don’t try to fix employee turnover by dangling more carrots. Fire the people who are creating the problem.

Who are the Putin’s in your life? They are the ones telling you that you can’t achieve your dreams, that you won’t succeed as a solo practitioner, that you have to go with the flow (even dead fish go with the flow, BTW). These bullies are the success-shamers, trauma-dumpers, naysayers, mediocrats, and finger-wagging conformity scolds who tell you that every success is dumb luck and any setback is evidence that “you can’t do it.”   

What are you doing to replace your Putin’s with people who help you soar to new heights?

Exclusive Events

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

Growth Programs

The Innovation Mindset. Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in early April. I’ll train you on the use of my powerful visual models, which we will use to examine the most important 2022 trends so that you can provide clear and compelling thought leadership to frame issues and improve decision-making. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500.

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.

science

As COVID-19 migrates from pandemic to endemic, our experience with the virus shows that following “the Science” leads to bad decisions.

“I’m not getting the vaccine,” a rando revealed to me on Thursday outside a Las Vegas hotel, “The Science says that too many people die from it.”

As COVID migrates from pandemic to endemic, our experience with the virus shows that following “the Science” leads to bad decisions. “The Science” differs from science, which is a discipline focused on accurate understanding. “The Science” interprets data that meets a particular worldview. It’s a religion.

At one time, “The Science” insisted that the earth was the center of the universe. Celestial prediction, however, remained elusive, so “scientists” (usually clerics) invented epicycles to explain variance. Still, the geocentric view never quite worked. Galileo showed that placing the sun at the center with the earth in orbit solved problems. In today’s vernacular, Galileo was canceled by the elect.

The COVID experience was more problematic because leaders without chests in government and business outsourced decision-making to narrow-minded experts who prioritized stopping the virus — a fantasy — to the exclusion of other considerations. Leaders celebrated the experts who provided assessments that conformed to their worldview and dismissed disconfirming studies. Education for the poorest children, health care, mental health, personal and social well-being, trust in leaders and fellow citizens, and many other common goods, suffered.

The New York Times shows that vaccine skepticism is widespread in America and correlates strongly with political polarization.

If you are vaccinated and boosted, your chances of dying from COVID are about one in a million, which is ten times less than being vaporized by lightning. Like my serial interrupter in Las Vegas, vaccine skeptics on the right are more afraid of being killed by the vaccine (about 1 in 30 million) than the virus. They are the ones filling hospital beds and unnecessarily overloading the healthcare system.

Nearly fifty percent of vaccinated Democrats under age fifty, meanwhile, fear that they will get very or somewhat ill from COVID, as compared to twenty-six percent of vaccinated Republicans in the same age group. Overall, 41 percent of vaccinated Democrats believe that they will get seriously ill from COVID even though the probability is infinitesimal. Many of them stay locked in their homes, obsessing over worry-porn, living in fear that everyone around them is a virus-wielding killer, and looking at you with finger-wagging scorn when you are outside without a mask. 100 times more vaccinated and boosted people will die from electrocution (1 in 13,394) and sharp objects (1 in 29,334) — probably in the safety of their homes.

President Harry Truman famously said that the buck stops here. He was the one responsible for weighing risks and opportunities and doing what he thought was best for the country. Leaders like Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Eisenhower were famous for insisting on hearing alternative views before making decisions. This practice helped them avoid getting trapped in echo chambers that self-serving lieutenants tend to create.

What has become “The Science” in your business? What’s your process to make objective assessments and avoid inhaling your own gas?

Building your Chest

The next Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event takes place March 15-18. This program is for seven leaders and consultants who want to turbocharge 2022 with innovations that move you from competitive to better and distinct. We use critical points on the battlefield to discuss decision-making, gaining buy-in, improving agency and initiative, and how to avoid getting high off the smell of your own gunpowder. We finish with an innovation workshop to develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There is one space left. Your investment (including food and lodging) is $4500 until February 21 and $5500 after that. Spouses or significant others welcome.

The Hudson Valley in the Revolution (July 27-30) focuses on people-centric innovation. We’ll travel to Fort Ticonderoga on beautiful Lake Champlain, the famous Saratoga battlefield, the majestic garrison at West Point, and the Stony Point battlefield. Most threats to an organization’s success come from within, and this challenge was true for the Continental Army. We’ll use the history to discuss practical ways to address toxic workplace behaviors, engage and retain your top talent, inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success, and many others. You’ll build new thought leadership that will be game-changers for your clients and employees.



benevolence

A robust culture and foundational trust cannot exist without benevolence.

When preparing for a 1:1 meeting with a Team member, I felt my stress levels heighten as I searched for ways to preserve my sense of self and uphold my integrity. I put a smile on my face even though I knew this person would dig for gossip and potentially twist anything I said into a “sky-is-falling” dramatic sentiment. Often, this person had a way of exposing my vulnerabilities. I replayed our conversations over and over to make sure that I didn’t say or do anything that this person could use against me in the future. I spent way too much mental capacity planning and debriefing after meeting with this individual.

This relationship was the opposite of benevolence. I was not confident that this individual had my best interest at heart.

Benevolence means we are not using mental and emotional energy worrying about the other individuals in our Team. It means that we will practice mutual kindness and have well-meaning intentions with our words and actions. A benevolent workplace equates to a trusting culture. Simply put, a workplace will turn toxic without benevolence.

If you lay a strong foundation of benevolence and your Team buys in, imagine how much less time people have to worry about looking behind their backs. Now your team can look forward and move your company to greater heights.

As a leader, how are you cultivating benevolence?

Actions steps to boost benevolence in your workplace:

  • Ensure a mutual attitude of well-meaning intentions: If you have to explicitly tell someone on your Team that your sentiments come from a place of respect and kindness, then do it. If something doesn’t come across as well-meaning, you can ask, “please help me to understand what you mean by that.” Don’t build up negative assumptions about the interaction. Stewing in anger and resentment does not build strong teams
  • Eliminate exposure of others’ weaknesses: If someone on your Team is struggling, have a 1:1 with them—don’t call them out in front of their peers. If you see this happen, stop it immediately. What you permit, you promote. Don’t be a boss who lets toxic behavior occur under your nose. Only bullies exploit the weak. Build your Team up instead of tearing them down.
  • Talk to your Team about benevolence: Explain to your Team that you would rather they spend their time on productivity, efficiency, and finding joy in their job than worrying about if they said or did the wrong thing during yesterday’s meeting. Ask them to be forward-focused and put their mental capacities toward constructive and innovative ideas.

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.

[email protected]

Get this newsletter delivered to your inbox. Click Here.

Sign up for a free quick coaching session here to see if we’re a good fit.

Imagine the candid conversations you can have where you focus on the employee, and the team.

Okay, leaders, you are wrapping another year. It was a challenging year filled with hybrid work adaptation, vaccinate or not, economic uncertainty, the great resignation, and the continued fight for social justice. With that backdrop, how do you feel? How does your Team feel? Was it a successful year for you, for your Team?

This is a common time for periodic or annual counseling. What do you have to say to your individual Team members? Is it the same old stuff about how they performed against company attributes? A few lines about their potential? When you look in the mirror, what do you say to you? Are your affinities and skills aligned? Christopher Kolenda, Ph.D., and Strategic Leaders Academy created a simple yet powerful way to look at your employees and yourself and so that you can raise the level of those important conversations.

As the quad chart shows, you have affinity on the north-south axis and skills on the east-west axis.

The resultant quads tell you and the employee where they are on affinity/skills alignment. During their counseling session, use this quad chart to show your employee how you view their performance. Then ask them how they feel and watch the realization set in. 

– Mismatch (Low skills, low affinity) – those in this quad may be in the wrong job. The chances are that they are struggling with the work, and if you ask them, they do not enjoy the work. Ask them difficult questions about how they feel.

– Burnout (High skills, low affinity) – high performers who do great work but are not happy. They can make things work for a short period but know that they are likely looking for something else. If you don’t address misalignment, disruptive behavior can manifest itself. Job and company satisfaction is waning.

– Growth (High affinity, low skills) – great attitude, enjoys the work but needs more experience. You can see and feel their excitement about their work. They will do what it takes to get the job done. Focus on their growth and development. 

– Empowered (High affinity, high skills) – great attitude, enjoys the work, and good at what they do. Has the experience and enjoys the confidence of others. The alignment of affinity and skills taps into their superpowers.

On two recent occasions, leaders I know used this approach to help them begin the difficult conversation of reorienting employees to other career choices. While difficult at first, the employees felt a burden was lifted, and they eventually appreciated their new direction and the leader’s honesty. The opposite is also true where you can boost an employee’s confidence and commitment as you discuss their good work and great potential.


Imagine the candid conversations you can have where you focus on the employee. Your self-assessment may be quite revealing too. Are you ready? 

Building off strength builds up the entire team

Unfortunately, one of our greatest human flaws is to look for the faults, negative attributes, and areas of weakness in others.

We’re hardwired to compare and judge each otherthis goes for teams, businesses, cities, townships, countries, you name it, we tend to compare ourselves to others and try to make ourselves feel superior.

As leaders, we need to change this default setting. According to the book “Nine Lies About Work,” when it comes to creating high-performing teams, highlighting the positive in our employees is a MUST. Here’s the data: Ignoring your employees causes a 1 engaged to 20 disengaged ratio. Negative attention is 40x more effective than ignoring people; the ratio of engaged to disengaged is 2:1. Positive attention creates a 60:1 engaged to disengaged ratio and is 30x more powerful than giving them negative attention and 1,200 times more powerful than ignoring them.

We’re leaving enormous potential on the table when we focus on the negative attributes of our employees. Not only are employees more engaged, but they are more productive, more creative, and are better and faster learners when we focus on their strengths. Positive attention accelerates development. I see this in my own children. When I commend one of them for doing something well, they ALL want to do well. When I scold them for their negative behavior, they tend to repeat that behavior.

Action steps to highlight strengths:

  1. Work on your own inner dialogue when it comes to your employees’ behavior. Look for and applaud the positives instead of letting your innate default setting take over.
  2. When assisting an employee with one of their weaknesses, start the conversation with three things they’ve done well or three things that have worked in the past. This allows the conversation to live in a positive frame of mind.
  3. Know, understand, and foster your employees’ strengths. Put them in positions at work where their strengths can shine more than their weaknesses. For example, If they’re more detail-oriented and analytical, put them in charge of the operations. If they’re more big-picture problem solvers the let them be on the creative side of the business.
  4. Make sure the feedback, advice, and guidance you receive highlight your strengths so that this becomes the way you do business in all aspects of your life.
  5. Make your business a positive, strengths-based business and you’ll be watching the “Great Resignation” happen to others instead of letting it happen to yourself.

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!
[email protected]
Get this newsletter delivered to your inbox. Click Here.

team

Courageous vulnerability boosts your Team’s connections, understanding, and innovation.

When describing vulnerability, I’m not referring to Merriam Webster’s definition, “open to attack or damage.” I’m also not saying that leaders and Team members need to bear their souls and talk about all of their weaknesses. The vulnerability I’m referring to is the ability to ask for help, rely on one another, admit when wrong, celebrate Teammates’ wins,  see the value in being something other than that tough-skinned Autobot that has no feelings and only thinks about creating more widgets and making more money. I’m talking about the vulnerability that produces magical moments of insight, creativity, innovation, and unites Team members through commonalities and compassion.

During the civil war, the leader on horseback was the most vulnerable person in the formation—the exemplar of courage and steadfastness in the face of danger. When there’s trust, people don’t take shots at you—they help. Soldiers rally around the leader and Teammates offer help and support. You can admit mistakes and shortcomings and you can experiment and fail. What are the limits of vulnerability? How are you modeling vulnerability and leading the charge for your Team? 

I used to teach a semester-long adventure education course at a suburban high school. One of the capstone experiences was our overnight camping trip. Inevitably, we had students that had never slept outside, sat around a campfire, observed the stars outside the city limits, or cooked a meal over the fire. For some, it was very spiritual. As the night settled down, we sat in a circle around the fire and shared our hopes and dreams for our future. These nights took on a magical essence. Students bore their souls and showed their vulnerability. Oftentimes we ended the night with glow sticks and group hugs. The classes’ emotional awareness, psychological safety, and connectivity grew exponentially during those nights. This single night of vulnerability cracked open the thick layer of teenage self-consciousness, and our class moved from classmates to family.

These overnights became so legendary that students came to the campfire knowing they would shed tears and open their hearts. They anticipated a transformation with their classmates and embraced the change with open hearts. The best part? Our classes’ efficiency, creativity, productivity, understanding, and joy also increased exponentially for the remainder of the semester. The kids, who were sometimes a pain in the butt, quit their disruptive behavior. The disengaged became fully engaged. The unhappy came to school with a greater sense of belonging. The transformation was tangible.

“Vulnerability is not a weakness. That myth is profoundly dangerous… Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to a feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable the sharing is probably not constructive.” ~Brene Brown

Why it’s important:

  • Authenticity – Vulnerability allows each person to work as their best selves. They own their strengths, acknowledge their weaknesses, and find the best fit for their skills. They are accepted and have a strong sense of belonging.
  • Greater sense of belonging – Your Team will have stronger connections, a deeper understanding of each other, greater empathy and compassion, and they will be able to practice benevolence and interdependency. 

Greater passion for their work – When your Team is vulnerable, they can work interdependently towards a common goal and hold each other accountable. Notice how this doesn’t say that the boss will hold everyone accountable. No, the Team will hold each other accountable. Everyone has a clear purpose, and they know what their job entails and their expectations of one another. Talk about buy-in!

What is your equivalent to sitting around the campfire or riding on horseback? What event or activity can you create to drill through the core of ego and self-consciousness? As we navigate our polarized world, how are you using this opportunity to create a deeper understanding of one another instead of a deeper divide?

Know who you are and what you stand for. Just as importantly, get to know your employees at the same level. Allow people to express themselves respectfully. When you’re vulnerable feel safe, they will stick around and willingly contribute their best.

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. 

People without Chests are easy Prey for the Demagogues who Pit People against each Other

Building Chests

“The head rules the belly through the chest,” C.S. Lewis tells us, but the belly will override the head if there’s no chest.


The metaphor is from Plato. The head => logic, the belly => emotion, and the chest => virtue. People “without chests” are viscerals, governed by emotion.

A century after Lewis and a couple of millennia after Plato, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman described two human thinking systems in his book Thinking … Fast and Slow. System 1 is the emotional, governed by the amygdala, that controls our fight or flight instincts. System 2, the analytic brain, is slower and requires more effort. You have to pay close attention when using System 2, and a threat or distraction allows System 1 to retake control.

People without chests are easy prey for the demagogues who pit people against each other. System 1 runs amok when people point to those who look, act, or think differently as an existential threat or source of evil. Restraint goes out the window when you are fighting Beelzebub.

Virtue has gone out of fashion, argues Roosevelt Montás in Rescuing Socrates, and I wonder if the absence of leaders with chests has contributed to the breakdown of our politics, corporate governance, civil society, and organizations. Only people without chests could think racism, revenge racism, misogyny, bigotry, fraud, deceit, and the like are ok as long as they advance your agenda. And yet, here we are.

Ancient Greco-Roman philosophers believed that following the four cardinal virtues — wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline — was essential for living the good life and having a healthy republic, army, business, or organization. Confucius and other ancient eastern thinkers wrote similarly. Practicing timeliness principles builds your chest so that your head can rule your belly.


Building leaders with chests requires learning from theory, history, and experience. You need the big ideas about fostering the common good, the history of effective and failed leaders so that you can learn from their successes and failures, and personal experience in the arena to put the chest into practice.

It’s easy to let the chest diminish. Apathy does the trick, and history shows the consequences.

Theory and history without experience put you in the ivory tower of impracticality, while theory and experience without history make you vulnerable to silly fads. Without theory, experience and history trap you in the hamster wheel of tactics without strategy.

Leaders with chests do what’s right, the right way, without you having to watch over them. Imagine the impact on your business when you have people committed to the common good who are doing the right things, taking the initiative, and innovating. Imagine the consequences of the opposite.

My mission is to help successful people like you gain new heights by being the best version of yourself and inspiring people to contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success.

Accelerating your Success

Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? 

The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in February. We’ll examine the most important 2022 forecasts for implications to small business leaders, consultants, and experts. Each week, the group meets for 90-minutes to develop unique intellectual property that sets you apart from the pack (who’s always swinging behind the pitch) and gives you significant competitive advantages in serving your clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8; the fee is $5500. Reply to this email to see if the program is a good fit for you.

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.