Greek

As the pandemic recedes, we’re not moving into a new normal but an a-Normal: the opposite of normal. Volatility and uncertainty will dominate, and the most principled and agile will emerge stronger. The ancient Greeks and Romans have essential insights on the kinds of leaders who succeed in these situations.

Greek

Why listen to the ancient Greeks and Romans?

Presentism is the belief that only contemporary ideas matter and that you can ignore or sit in judgment over history. It’s a form of hubris and a fast track to dangerous fads and bad decisions.

The reason is simple. People hyper-focused on the present have no basis for judgment. They are guessing and consistently wrong. Why take advice from someone who lacks perspective?

You’ll be better off speaking with someone you respect who has a perspective on what you’re facing in any endeavor. The person may have had personal experience in the matter, helped others, or can draw usefully from the experiences of others.

What are the keys to success in a-Normal times?

The ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and historians lived through a-Normal periods and left written records about what worked and what didn’t. On the subject of leadership, they were very clear. Leaders with arete (excellence) guided their polities, armies, and countries through a-Normality. Demagogues led people to ruin.

An Athenian citizen living in the 5th or 4th century BCE or Roman citizen in the 1st century BCE likely experienced existential wars, clear and present prospects of starvation and economic ruin, pandemics, plagues, new ideas and technologies, and deadly political intrigue. Contemporary thought leaders celebrated officials with arete who guided their communities successfully through such times and wrote comedies and tragedies about those whose love of vulgar fame led to catastrophe.

The concept of arete was simple: demonstrated competence and character in active service to the community. Such leaders possessed the skills needed to do their jobs well and the judgment to make sound decisions in challenging circumstances

Greek

They adhered to the four cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline, using those principles for guidance through ambiguity and accountability to do the right thing, even when it was not popular.

Being competent and following the virtues was not enough. You had to be an exemplar and demonstrate these qualities in service to your community to advance the common good.

If you did not have competence, no one trusted your abilities. Without character, you lacked the moral compass to make tough choices for the common good. Unless you demonstrated arete in the public square, people would think you couldn’t walk the talk.

Too often, public figures proved the importance of these three elements by showing the consequences of their absence. After Pericles died in the plague, corrupt Athenian politicians led the most powerful city of the Mediterranean world into defeat. Alexander the Great conquered a vast empire but lost trust when his soldiers and citizens grew to doubt his character. Julius Caesar was the most celebrated leader in Rome until he set himself up as a dictator. Much of ancient tragedy, comedy, and history are cautionary tales of hubris and vulgar fame.

What does arete mean to us today?

As American society rips itself apart, we see self-dealing politicians and celebrities who pander to various interest groups that egg them on to more narrow-minded actions. People seek social media fame through demeaning antics or moral grandstanding in their own echo chambers. Social and political trust are at historic lows; selfishness and cynicism are high.

Where are today’s Washington’s, Lincolns, and Grants? George Washington showed courage and self-discipline in rejecting demands from his soldiers that he set himself up as a dictator and in leaving the Presidency after two terms. Abraham Lincoln showed wisdom and courage in carefully turning the American Civil War from a war to preserve the Union to a battle to abolish slavery. Ulysses S. Grant had the courage and justice to face down bigots who wanted to turn back the clock on emancipation, thus presiding over one of this country’s most remarkable advances in African-American rights and prosperity.

Like their ancient predecessors, these three Americans were imperfect, but their arete guided this country through volatile and uncertain times. They won the battle with themselves first and then served as exemplars who rallied people to their better natures.

Learning from ancient Greeks and Romans can help you emerge stronger in a-Normal times. Leading with arete will help you make the pivotal decisions that guide your business to new heights and serve as the exemplar who inspires your employee to contribute their best to your organization’s success.


P.S. I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you, and you can sign up here.

P.P.S. I also want to alert you to a new program I’m rolling out soon — a global CEO Mastermind Group that meets monthly via zoom. You get unlimited access to me and interaction with other exceptional people to exchange ideas, help you be your best self, and keep you soaring to new heights. I’m limiting the group to 8 people. Reply to this email for more information.










fumes

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma.

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma. Until you allow in the fresh air, you will think the increasingly toxic fumes are normal.

Decision-making was a hot conversation topic during last week’s leadership event at Antietam and Gettysburg. Union General McClellan habitually inflated confederate strength, which caused him to move with an abundance of caution and attack in the most risk-averse manner he could conceive. He lost an opportunity to win the war in September 1862, instead of presiding over the bloodiest day in American history.

Less than a year later, confederate general Lee invaded the Union again hoping to win a big victory and force the Union to sue for peace. The strategy relied on assumptions so flawed that even a big victory would have been inconsequential. Lee believe his army was invincible and attacked a larger Union force that occupied better terrain. After two days of bloody and inconclusive fighting, Lee ignored sensible advice from one of his subordinates and ordered the disastrous Pickett’s charge. The picture below is from the High Water Mark.

The high-water mark of the Confederacy or high tide of the Confederacy refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863.

We see the consequences of people becoming accustomed to their own fumes. People shout at one another from ideological silos. We elect idiots to Congress. Putin surrounds himself with sycophants who have a vested interest in pleasing the boss. He gets a green light from China, which is interested in seeing how the West reacts to the invasion of Ukraine as China set its crosshairs on Taiwan.

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani continued to believe that America would leave troops in the country until the final moments. When the scales finally fell from his eyes, he fled and left people to fend for themselves (Ukraine’s Zelensky is a welcome distinction). President Lincoln, by contrast, surrounded himself with people who thought differently than he did and would provide alternative views. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in July 1862 as part of his effort to reframe the war from preserving the Union to freedom versus slavery.

Secretary of State Seward counseled waiting. Union forces had suffered recent setbacks, and European powers considered recognizing the confederacy. Issuing the Proclamation in the wake of defeats would be seen as desperation at home and abroad. Lincoln accepted the logic and waited until after Lee’s invasion of Maryland had failed. The Emancipation Proclamation gained sufficient support at home and ended European considerations of confederacy recognition.

Action steps:

1. Get outside points of view from people who are willing to tell you hard truths. You might not always take their advice, but they will keep you breathing the fresh air.

2. Test your assumptions by asking yourself: “what must be true for this plan to work.” You’ll reveal implicit assumptions that you can evaluate for validity.

3. Participate in mastermind groups of like-minded people who help you stay true to your purpose, push you to be your best self, and remind you when your fumes start smelling too good.

Also – I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you and you can sign up here.




beliefs

Picture this: You’re in a meeting, and an idea crops up. You agree that the idea is probably the best solution for the latest problem, but it doesn’t feel quite right in your gut. Perhaps your current behaviors don’t align with the belief of the solution. For example, if you’re a leader who values your employees and the solution is to layoff an employee due to budget cuts, you will feel poorly about that decision and question whether there is a better alternative. However, if you’re a leader who cares more about the bottom line than laying off an employee, you won’t feel nearly as bad. 

Think about how this applies to your Team. As you make changes or introduce new ideas, how are you making sure that your Team’s beliefs align with the changes?

As a leader, understanding the link between beliefs and behaviors has huge implications. It’s also important to understand that beliefs can and do change. The pandemic is a perfect example of how beliefs changed in regard to remote work. 

Here, Forbes discusses how leaders need to focus on changing behaviors before beliefs. If we go right for someone’s belief system, we risk losing our Team members entirely.

“Challenging someone’s beliefs, and as an extension, their identity, can have an adverse effect. In fact, we are more likely at times to harden our beliefs or close ourselves off to another perspective when our beliefs are attacked.” ~Khalil Smith

Think about what drill sergeants do to their troops at basic training. They change the trainees’ behaviors from our civilized and moral life to one that emphasizes eliminating other lives. They do this by chanting cadences during marches and runs, envisioning the enemy when they’re shooting at the range, and talking about and they highlight the enemy throughout classroom work. It slowly but surely changes the trainees’ beliefs into “killing machines.” 

Action Steps to get both beliefs and behaviors on the same track to achieve desired results:

  • Make sure, as a leader, your behaviors and beliefs align. If you say that your employees are your top priority, but you never return emails, you talk about them behind their backs, and you snuff them at meetings, you are obviously not aligning your beliefs with your behavior and you will lose credibility among your Team.
  • If you want to make change in your organization, start with changing behaviors before expecting beliefs to shift automatically. Do you want to eliminate wasted time at meetings and increase productivity? Stop holding unnecessary meetings. Model what efficient productivity looks like. Compliment those that are productive. Before you know it, your team will start to do the same, and their beliefs will edge towards increased productivity instead of idle work.
  • Changing beliefs is a cyclical process: Start with changing behaviors, which change beliefs, which change the culture, which, in turn, affects your business results. No new change or initiative will be successful without considering how minor behavioral changes can alter our own beliefs. 
Beliefs and Behaviors

  • Utilize the belief cycle to back plan. If you want a certain result that doesn’t exist, reverse the arrows on the cycle. First, think about what your culture needs to look like to create the appropriate result. Then address the belief behind the result. Now that you know what the beliefs need to be, start altering the behaviors to make the result possible. 

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. 

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.

Putin

Undoubtedly, there are whispers in the halls of power about Putin’s future.

Putin miscalculated badly. His Army is getting hammered, financial sanctions are crippling, the Russian economy is cratering, and his own people are protesting in the streets. I hope the Biden administration is putting some thinking into managing success.

There’s an urge in these situations to go for the jugular. That approach works in the movies but not in international relations. Humiliating your enemy might feel good at the moment but tends to create resentment and long-term problems. The treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War sowed the seeds for a more destructive Second World War.

Putin’s decision-making seems compromised. He launched a war on a thin pretext. His military has performed poorly in the face of stubborn Ukrainian resistance. Undoubtedly, there are whispers in the halls of power about the future. If Putin gets deposed, he’s unlikely to survive.

Leaders in his position tend to gamble for resurrection — to make a big move that changes the game in their favor. The gambles rarely pay off, and many people get killed in the process, but dictators often go for an improbable win rather than settle for an inevitable loss. The Battle of the Bulge in World War Two is a classic example.

How America handles Putin’s failure will determine whether Russia seeks new revenge or becomes a constructive player. Creating a face-saving way for Putin to end the conflict that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and avoids concessions that encourage future Russian adventurism will take imagination and artful diplomacy.

Failure to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty would damage western credibility. Failure to discourage adventurism creates a frozen conflict. Humiliating Russia encourages revenge. Mutual respect and accountability promote sustainable peace.

You can imagine ways to translate this situation into your business and life. How do you create buy-in when you win a battle for resources or policy?

The three elements of buy-in are the Common Good, Self-interest, and Accountability. Without respect for the Common Good, people act selfishly. If people do not see how they will be better off, they will only go through the motions and may even play guerilla warfare. No accountability means backsliding and chaos.

Manage success so that you soar to new heights and avoid getting bogged down by guilt or envy.

Building your Chest

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.



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.

Russia

No one wants to work with you if you don’t put others first.

Russia

Stop using archaic methods to influence others

Russia’s insane bombardment is foolish and unsound. Putin thinks it will work for him. That’s the bully MO—keep up the threats until someone fights back. It’s the same at work and school. You’ve dealt with that before. To the bully, the coercion is rational as long as they get their way. Putin and his allies are bullies pushing their narcissistic, egotistical agendas at the cost of innocent lives. They are destroying history and civilization for control, power, money, and greed. It needs to stop. They are smelling their own fumes and executing the cliché of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Civility— the act of perspective-taking, acceptance, problem-solving, and empathy—needs to rise in the ranks and beat the foolishness of using death and destruction to influence others. It is devastating how quickly we forget the lessons learned from past wars. While we’re still honoring our comrades who gave the ultimate sacrifice from the various wars on terrorism, Putin seems to have forgotten their debacle in Afghanistan, and he’s willing to sacrifice his citizens for his own gain.

To many of us, this tragedy is out of our locus of control. Perhaps, though, on some minor level, we can influence decisions or assist in cutting Russia off. Thankfully, we all have the power to support our troops who will once again go into harm’s way to fight for the greater good.  

No matter what, we can positively influence those around us. We can be leaders that today’s generations need. Our job is to rise up against bullies and be the empathetic leaders that prioritize our people who willingly contribute their best.

What can we take away from this tragedy:

  • Don’t be like Russia. Stop using archaic methods to influence others. Instead, practice civility and compassion.
  • Prioritize people, not your ego and purse strings. No one wants to work with you if you don’t put others first.
  • We need to hold ourselves and others accountable to do the right thing the right way. Integrity and character can eliminate tragedy and trauma within 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.


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consulting

Physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

diversity

I am proud of President Biden for announcing that he will nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court (he torpedoed President George W. Bush’s 2003 effort to appoint a Black woman). Organizations tend to be more legitimate when they reflect the demographics of the communities they serve, and there are plenty of Black women who will be superb justices in America’s highest court.

I hope he picks a truly diverse candidate — one from outside the Ivy League bubble. Diversity is more than skin deep. Physical diversity is only one element of a powerful triad. Like an iceberg, physical diversity is what you can see; cognitive and experiential are below the waterline.

People’s hardwiring affects how they lead organizations, solve problems, and deal with risk

The PROM archetypes(TM) illustrate the differences.

Like Malcolm X and General George Patton, Pioneers are tactical innovators who rally people behind new ideas and changes. 

Reconcilers (like Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower) manage consensus and keep people on board. 

Operators (George Washington and Indra Nooyi, for example) make the trains run on time and get things done – like Steve Jobs and Alexander Hamilton.

Mavericks are your strategic innovators who solve complex, wicked problems. (Get your PROM Archetype here).

Many large organizations show the dangers of homogeneity. The military and government, for instance, love detail-oriented people and tend to resist idea-centric people. By the time a year-group reaches senior ranks, most of the Pioneers and Mavericks have gotten drummed out or left in frustration, leaving a disproportionate number of Reconcilers and Operators. The latter self-perpetuate by selecting and promoting people who think and act like them, a problem called affinity bias. Poor strategic innovation in recent wars shows the consequences of poor cognitive diversity.

Personal experiences matter

John McWhorter shows that socio-economic circumstances are far more potent in shaping perspectives than race or gender. People tend to share worldviews with people raised and educated in similar situations. Veterans who’ve experienced intense combat have points of view different from citizens who have not. If you’ve fought your way from poverty to the middle class, you are likely to have different outlooks than colleagues who’ve been middle-class suburbanites their whole lives.

When making policies or strategies that affect people of varying circumstances, these perspectives matter. Ideas that seem sound within an elite bubble can come across as condescending or ham-fisted to those outside of it. Some progressives cannot fathom why people view “woke” as revenge racism that’s ripping society apart. Even San Franciscans seem to have had enough, recalling three uber-woke school board members. At the same time, some conservatives don’t get the outrage after calling the January 6th riot legitimate political discourse. They cannot seem to resist stepping on the 2020 election rake. Experiential diversity helps you avoid inhaling your own gas.

It’s time to get beyond the view that diversity only involves chromosomes. Leaders like you perform best when people among all parts of the diversity triad work together toward the common good.

What’s the next step in building your diversity triad?

Building your Chest – 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.

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.