I’m thankful for Iqbal.

He and his family arrived in America with only the clothes on their backs. A group of us visited him in Seattle this weekend.

Iqbal worked his way from being a day-laborer on our outpost in Afghanistan to a cultural advisor and then an interpreter because he taught himself English (Iqbal speaks 5 languages). He helped Nate Springer (below, right) and I build bridges to local communities by letting us know about decades-long blood feuds, ways people tried to manipulate us, and behind-the-scenes issues that helped us understand why people were doing what they were doing. His support saved American lives. Iqbal never used his position for illicit gain.

He applied for a Special Immigrant Visa in 2014. A bureaucratic error from a human resources officer at a government contractor resulted in the State Department denying the application. I threw up in my mouth when I read the letter. Several of us, spearheaded by Dan Wilson (2nd from right), helped him re-apply.

He tried to start a business, but the corruption costs were too high. He enlisted to serve in a special operations force. Despite having no formal schooling, Iqbal rose in the ranks quickly to become an officer. By 2021, he was a lieutenant colonel in charge of 1000 soldiers.

His bosses expected him to use his position to move money into their pockets. Iqbal refused. His integrity earned him spite from those officials and dangerous assignments. The last of those was defending the Kandahar airfield in August as the Afghan state was disintegrating. Nearly out of food, water, and ammunition, Iqbal’s unit fended off Taliban attacks as hundreds of Afghans evacuated to Kabul. Iqbal made certain that two American reporters made their way out safely.

When he discovered that not all his soldiers had gotten out, Iqbal flew back to Kandahar to get them. The plane returned to Kabul, stranding Iqbal and about 100 others. He delayed the Taliban through skillful negotiations. Miraculously, a final aircraft returned to Kandahar to pick up Iqbal and his men.

Iqbal and his family made their way to America during the chaotic evacuation and just arrived in Seattle. Josh Rodriguez (seated between me and Iqbal), who Iqbal advised in 2008, started a fundraiser. Thanks to boosts from people like CNN’s Jake Tapper, the fundraiser amassed over $104,000. Iqbal had no idea.

As we gathered around the carpet in his new apartment, Iqbal (in the corner to my left) told us how thankful he was. “I’ve never had formal schooling,” he said, “but you taught me how to lead, to live a life of integrity, to do what’s right, and to take care of the people on my team.”

“When you came to my country, I was very grateful. You left behind your families to help us. When I arrived in America, I became even more thankful.”

What do you mean by that, one of us asked?

“Being here has allowed me to see what you left behind to come to Afghanistan.”

Tears welled in his eyes when Josh told him about the fundraiser. He could not believe that Americans could be so generous.

He plans to build a business and employ as many of his former soldiers as possible. They stood their ground in Kandahar because Iqbal was their exemplar of courage, integrity, and caring.

I’m dedicating this Thanksgiving to the exemplars in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Core Values

As the “Facebook Papers” continue to unfold showing us the fundamental gaps in Facebook’s values one can wonder if they uphold their values or, rather, if their values revolve around making more money and connections regardless of political turmoil or damage to the users. Are the teams functioning at top capacity with the whistleblowing? Is the company reassessing what they stand for?
When leading teams, empathy, integrity, and trust are vital. A shared set of values will create a strong and productive team. When someone compromises the values, the team struggles to trust and produce ethical results.
One of the leadership teams that I belonged to as a junior leader had two senior leaders with large personalities who leaned toward the negative side. I dubbed the meetings the “Tammy and Tim Show” because the meetings were no longer about the agenda, about the organization’s vision or mission, or even about developing solutions to the problems. We wasted hours throughout the years listening to Tammy and Tim grieve about their problems. Do you have a Tammy and/or Tim? Do you struggle to get the meetings back on track? If we had upheld our team’s core values and meeting norms of “start on time/end on time, collaboration, and sticking to the agenda” this wouldn’t have happened and the meetings would have been more productive and less dysfunctional.

Action steps to getting to the core of your values:

Stick to your values. The people in your life will have a better understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and why you do the things you do.

“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precious and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice—they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.” ~ Brene Brown.

  • Don’t have “crystallized” values? Get some. Use this simple formula: What + Definition + So That. Identify the value, define it, and the results/outcomes from it. For example: Respect + Treat everyone with dignity + so that each person feels that they can contribute their best and most authentic selves. Then share your values with your employees, friends, and family. This will help hold you accountable.
  • Uphold your organization’s values. If the values are archaic, change them. If you don’t agree with them and can’t change them then you need to ask yourself if the company is a right fit for you.

“Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.” ~ Brene Brown.

  • Lean into your values every day to obtain a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t accomplish anything else throughout the day, at least you can say that you upheld your values.
  • Get to know and foster your employee’s values. If family is important to them, honor that. If open communication is one of their values, then communicate with them. This is yet another way to empathize with your employees and create a sense of belonging within your organization.

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!
[email protected]
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Jeff Marquez

Jeff’s latest article in Hispanic Executive, “Don’t Hide the Tortillas,” introduces a vision for the Hispanic community. “We are diverse. We are strong. And we belong.”

https://hispanicexecutive.com/dont-hide-the-tortillas/

woke-faux-ness

Woke-Faux-Ness is the tendency of leaders to spill ink about social justice, fairness, and respect but avoid putting these values into practice.

Freelance writer Arwa Mahdawi inspired me with her recent article on “woke-washing.”

The say-do gap can create cynicism and internal conflict, which heightens employee disengagement, presenteeism, and turnover. These silent revenue killers are among the highest costs businesses and nonprofits face.

You know about these problems and their consequences.

You are doing your best to avoid them (otherwise, you would have unsubscribed from my list long ago).

At the same time, you are probably tired of the divisive name-calling, blanket condemnations, and facile, self-punitive hype that Columbia’s John McWhorter calls a new racism.

On the positive side of the ledger, most high-functioning people grow uneasy about cognitive dissonance and take steps to reduce the say-do gap.

Behavior change tends to follow some form of what the military calls the OODA loop: Observe-Orient-Decide-Act.

Observation inspires thought. Thought sparks words, and words spur action.

Here are some positive steps you can take.

1. Address affinity bias. Affinity bias is the unconscious tendency to gravitate toward people who look, think, and act like you.

This tendency is a part of what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking, which is governed by the amygdala section of the brain that houses our fight or flight instincts.

Yes, everybody has an affinity bias.

No, it does not mean you are a closet bigot.

Those who convert affinity bias into a conscious attitudinal bias that claims superiority over another are bigots.

Once you know about the human tendency toward affinity bias, you can engage your System 2 brain – the analytical mind – to address it. Now, you know about it.

2. Walk the Talk. Model the behavior you want to promote and hold people accountable.

You know the importance of setting the example, and that “Do as I say not as I do” is not acceptable.

“Treat people exactly how I treat people” is what you want to promote. It starts with respect – the commitment to treating everyone with equal dignity.

The temptation can be keen to overlook or rationalize disrespectful behavior by high-performers, but holding them accountable (especially if they look, act, or think like you) is vital because of their outsized impact on the organization.

One way to check the levels of mutual respect in your organization is to see how people treat your newest- and lowest-paid employees, custodial staff, and other contracted support staff.

Also, check how people leave your common areas, especially the bathrooms.

People who respect one another tend not to leave messes for others to clean-up.

3. Set-up people for success. A problem with too many diversity programs is the lack of focus on putting people into positions where they are most likely to thrive.

This problem is part of the reason the first-rung tends to be the hardest to climb for non-majority employees.  

Here are some ways to set-up people for success:

  • Align work with people’s natural inclinations and strengths. They’ll be 2X to 3X more productive, will enjoy the work more, and those factors are likely to increase their longevity and advancement.
  • Coach people to be the best version of themselves and avoid subconsciously encouraging them to be clones of you (the mini-me syndrome is another example of affinity bias).
  • Measure how confident your most vulnerable employees feel to bring their best and most authentic selves to work each day.  

Our eBook, “Build your Winning Team,” takes you step-by-step to set-up people for success. Just send an email to [email protected] and I’ll send it to you right away.

What’s your top takeaway?

Let me know with providing a comment below or by email.

P.S. Are you ready for your NSASO session?

NSASO means No-Sales, Action-Steps-Only. I set aside time each week for these calls. We’ll discuss:

  • Your goals
  • The obstacles you want to overcome
  • 2-3 action steps to solve problems and get results

Schedule your NSASO here.

Reads on Race in America

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is disgusting, abhorrent, and pathetic.

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

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

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

Intentions matter.

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

And now you know about it.

What is your top takeaway from this article?

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

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

Diversity and Inclusion

You would have to be an idiot not to take diversity and inclusion seriously.

Study after study shows the economic power of diversity.

A diverse, high-performing team is more productive, your leaders make better decisions, and you avoid the drama that makes for a toxic workplace.

The return on investment is such a no-brainer that companies spend millions each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs.

The likelihood that these programs deliver diverse AND high-performing teams, though, is too limited.

A recent Wall Street Journal study shows that companies are doing well in hiring diverse talent, but not in promoting them.

The first management rung seems to be the hardest to climb.

What’s happening?

Systemic bigotry is part of the problem.

Another part of the problem is that companies set their employees up for failure when they fail to align work with people’s natural inclinations.

When your hiring focuses mostly on diversity-that-you-can-see, you heighten the risk of putting the round peg in the square hole.

You know the results: heightened frustration, less productivity, and faster burnout.

People who report using their natural inclinations – their superpowers – each day are two-to-three times more productive than those who do not.

Using your superpowers each day means higher engagement, better performance, and less frustration and burnout.

Aligning work with natural inclinations is the best way to set up your employees for success so that you are more likely to retain and promote them.

We’ve developed a straightforward and free tool that you can use to promote diversity of natural strengths and make your leaders successful.

Servant leaders come in four broad archetypes: Pioneers (innovators), Reconcilers (team-builders), Operators (implementers), and Mavericks (game-changers).

Your subordinates are more likely to thrive when you put them in positions aligned with their superpowers.

You will be a better mentor when you help each person be the best version of themselves rather than sub-consciously encouraging them to copycat you.

You will also avoid what my mentor Michele Flournoy calls the mini-me syndrome – the tendency to surround yourself with people who think and act as you do.

The combination of physical and cognitive diversity will power your growth, limit expensive mistakes, and make your company a better place to work.

Do your most vulnerable employees feel that they can contribute their best and most authentic selves each day?

Get the tool here.

What’s your top leadership takeaway from this article?

Add a comment or email me at [email protected]