Optimize your workplace

Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it. Optimization creates unintended consequences that can undermine your business.

Baseball may be the most data-mined sport. Ever since the championship Oakland A’s Moneyball, big data has dominated the game. 

Big data told you where and how to pitch the ball to a given batter, and how to shift players to take advantage of a batter’s tendencies. The strike zone narrowed to give the batters a better chance against 95+ mph fastballs.

Pitchers and batters tried to tilt the odds with mind games – the between-pitch rituals, preening, adjusting, pointing, and glaring.

The result: total boredom. A nine-inning game dragged on for longer than three hours on average. Exciting balls-in-play became fewer; many at-bats ended up in strikeouts, home runs, or outs.  

Baseball analytics optimized the chances of getting the batter out and winning individual games, while losing fans and the soul of the sport.

Changes this year include a pitch clock, a batter clock, and no major shifts. The games are back to 2.5 hour average, with more balls in play, and more fans in the seats. [I saw the Brewers beat the Pirates 5-0 in two hours and fifteen minutes!]

Businesses that seek to optimize the ease and speed of communication offer tools ranging from chat and IM to email, workflow programs, and task organizers, to video and voice calls.

Communication speed and volume are higher than ever, while communication quality could be worse than ever. According to a 2022 Harris poll, managers believe their teams lose an average of 7.47 hours per employee per week due to poor communication. 

Nearly a full workday each week evaporates.

In a 2000-hour work year, you lose 400 hours; the equivalent of 10 weeks per employee. Ouch!

Imagine what you could achieve if your employees got half that time back.

Here are some ways to reduce communication fratricide.

  1. Establish protocols for channel usage. HINT: don’t use chat or IM for anything complex.
  2. If the matter is not resolved in three back-and-forths, get in person, on video, or on the phone to talk it over. In these cases, written cues are not communicating sufficiently, so you need to add verbal and non-verbal cues.
  3. Let people set their messaging engagement times and deep work times. Don’t let perpetual distraction rule the workday.
  4. Set boundaries. Topics like religion, sex, and politics should be off-limits in most workplaces. Ditto goes for disrespect.
  5. Reduce the volume of information emails. Set up a common info-sharing portal where people can make routine updates. This step will reduce the length of meetings, too.

More broadly, consider the tradeoffs before you bandwagon onto a new tool. 

Are you looking to improve the optimization of your business? Consider joining one of our programs or schedule a call with Chris Kolenda. 

Determination is a Powerful Tool

Podcast: Perseverance and Determination

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

Determination helped me endure some terrible experiences.

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

In this podcast you will discover:

  1. Ways to surround yourself with the right people, so that you will be challenged to be your best
  2. Ideas on how to emerge stronger from terrible experiences, so that you can empower others
  3. How to use empathy, so that your team can learn and grow in a dynamic situation
  4. Insights on Determination, so that you have a guide for when to stick to your guns and when to make a bold change

How Did You Start Using Your Talents?

I was a skinny and awkward kid. By the time I got to high school, I was bullied by classmates and molested by two priests. West Point was a place where I was exposed to many different opportunities. I decided I was going to do the toughest and most difficult things I could possibly do — like boxing and close quarters combat — because I was never going to go through again what I experienced in high school. And that led to Airborne School and Assault Ranger School—some of the toughest schooling and assignments that the Army had. I was also determined that no one in the units I led would have to feel the way I had. As a consultant, I help leaders make sure that the most vulnerable people in their organizations have the confidence and back-up to contribute their best. 

The Most Impactful Turning Point?

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

The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?

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

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

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

Click Here to Listen to the Entire Podcast

Did you enjoy the podcast? What was your top takeaway? Write a comment, DM me on LinkedIn, or email me at chris@strategicleadersacademy.com.

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courageous coaching
recognize awesome

The media is filled with stories of people being awful to each other, and you’d swear we live in an anti-social dystopia.

These stories are true, but they are not representative.

How I was able to recognize awesome

This weekend in Windsor, California I was able to recognize awesome. I was doing a recon for our Veteran’s Day Saber Six Foundation event and participating in a charity cycling ride.

I packed my bicycle in a special suitcase, loaded it onto the plane, and hoped for the best. It arrived intact, but I had difficulty getting the rear wheel back on. It was time for expert help.

I met Ben at the Windsor bike shop. It was a busy day, and he could have told me to come back another time. Instead, he took the bike behind the counter and showed me an easier way to install the rear wheel. He noticed that a part was slightly bent, took out a special tool, and fixed that problem.

Ben asked me about the Fallen Hero Honor Ride, and another customer, Dean, listened. When Ben finished fixing the bicycle, I asked him for the bill. Dean said he’d take care of it.

Why it matters

What you look for tends to be what you see. It’s not hard to find anti-social behavior, rudeness, and entitlement.

Our minds are tuned to detect problems, aberrations, and deviant behavior, so these issues stand out while kindness, generosity, consideration, and other goodness blend in the background.

Your leadership antennae are more tuned to identifying problems than seeing awesome. This helps explain why we tend to give detailed negative feedback but only generalized, positive assessments.

The problem is that people see the generalized positives as empty praise, which damages your relationship.

Action steps

Make a deliberate effort to notice the positive too, and give your employees as much or more positive, actionable feedback as constructive criticism.

“Thank you, Ben, for taking the time from your busy day to help that customer. You’ve made him better by showing him an easier way to install the back wheel. Your attention to detail identified a bent component, and your expert use of the tool got it back in shape without breaking. I appreciate how you treat customers in need.”

You’ll find that positive reinforcement is a powerful ally because people will know what you value highly, and they’ll appreciate that you notice awesome.

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psychological safety

CEOs, wanting to appear decisive, damage psychological safety by speaking too quickly.

Shut your mouth if you want people to speak their minds. CEOs, wanting to appear decisive, damage psychological safety by speaking too quickly.

Why It Matters

People must believe they’ll be heard and treated respectfully before they disagree with you or a colleague, offer fresh ideas, or try new things.

Stating your preferences upfront chills conversation and invites band wagoning. People will keep ideas to themselves — why waste energy when the boss has already voted?

Making statements on contentious social or political issues tells people who believe differently that their views are not welcome.

React quickly to stop bullies from badgering or intimidating others into silence.

By the Numbers

Companies with high psychological safety experience:

  • 27% lower turnover
  • 76% higher engagement
  • 50% more productivity

Your employees experience:

  • 74% less stress
  • 67% willingness to try new things
  • 29% more life satisfaction

Take these steps:

  • Let others offer their views and ideas before you weigh in.
  • Use RAVEN when someone disagrees with you or offers fresh ideas.
  • Enforce mutual respect. Don’t let the self-righteous create a hostile work environment.
  • Don’t comment on political and social issues or make people display symbols. Do reinforce your values.

Suppose mutual respect is a core value, for example. In that case, emphasize that the freedom to disagree agreeably is central to your company’s ability to report bad news quickly, explore fresh ideas and innovate.

Going Deeper into psychological safety

We’re in a workplace crisis. 40% of Americans report that their job harms their mental health. Psychological safety gets dangerously low when people worry that anything they say or write puts them at risk of being scolded. Workplace fear heightens anxiety.

Universities have significant problems. At MIT, for example, over 40 percent of the faculty report self-censoring more today than in 2020. Large publishers increasingly reject books that might stir controversy, fearing another American Dirt fallout. 

CEOs often feel pressure from employees and customers to take a stand on divisive issues. Major League Baseball moved the All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver over concerns that Georgia’s new voting law would suppress Black voters. Disney waded into Florida politics over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. CEOs from several companies spoke out against the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade.

Principled arguments exist on most issues, and CEOs have found themselves looking foolish or retracting statements as more facts emerge. Taking one side alienates employees and customers who see the issue from another perspective. You can reaffirm your values and commitment to mutual respect without getting burned on the hot buttons.

P.S. My psychological safety article was so popular that Dr. Mark Goulston and I created the Net Psychological Safety Score so you can assess your organization.

invest time

The best leaders invest time

The best leaders that I have studied create implicit understanding with their new subordinates.

Relying on implicit understanding can damage your organization. Leaders need to take the time to invest in their new subordinates.

It’s as if they can read each other’s minds, anticipate their responses, and be on the same page in the most fluid situations. Implicit understanding powers your organization through volatility and uncertainty.

What happens when people who share implicit understanding split up and new people arrive? 

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the best to have ever played the position. I started being a Packers fan when he got the starting job, and I have loved watching him perform and elevate the team’s performance as a leader. For the past few years, Rodgers and Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams had a unique chemistry that comes from an intuitive understanding of how each other thinks and reacts to situations.

There’s an excellent chance that you have a similar relationship with some of your subordinates, which creates a sense of flow whenever you are together. You know that you can rely on these subordinates to be at the critical points, respond appropriately to challenges, seize opportunities, and bounce forward from setbacks.

Rodgers lost Davante Adams and a few other receivers before the 2022-23 season and gained a crop of talented replacements. As usual, Rodgers did not attend much training camp before the season began. He knows the offense cold.

The result of not investing time

Missing training camp deprived Rodgers and his new receiving corps of the opportunity to build trust and chemistry before the season began. The offense was out of sync as the Packers lost eight of their first twelve games before winning four straight and heading into the final game with a playoff berth on the line.

Rodgers and the offense were off all game, and the Packers lost. Setbacks happen in professional sports, business, and life. While it’s easy to spend time dissecting the reasons for the poor performance in the final game, I go back to the pre-season’s lost opportunity. Had Rodgers invested time as a leader in his new receivers, the Packers would have won a few more of their first twelve games and been a lock for the playoffs.

Why it matters

Intuitively believing that your new subordinates “get it” and get you as well as their predecessors is a standard error for even the most experienced leaders. Confederate general Robert E. Lee made the same mistake with a new corps commander, which cost him at Gettysburg. I remember being frustrated with a new subordinate until I looked in the mirror and recognized that I had not invested as much time building the new relationship as I had with his predecessor.


Performance usually drops when a dynamic leader-subordinate duo splits up because the leader presumes the implicit understanding transfers seamlessly. Disappointment always follows.

You cannot transfer, teach, or scale intuitive relationships and processes. As a leader, you must make expectations as explicit as possible by using commonly understood visuals, terms, and behaviors. By doing so requires you to invest time in developing your relationships and being prepared to shift your behavior to bring out the best in your new subordinates.

Explicit communication is the foundation for implicit understanding.





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.