F + P = GD. Facts + Perspective = Good Decisions.

Facts, alternative facts, and fake news is the 2000s version of the trope that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. These problems complicate decision-making and lead to expensive mistakes. 

Six Americans, to date, have experienced blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. One person has died. The CDC suspended the J&J vaccine until they can complete further testing to see if there’s a causal linkage to the blood clots. The EU did the same with the AstraZeneca vaccine and then re-authorized its use.

It’s heartbreaking to lose a loved one. The shock is worse when their death is unexpected and linked to something that was supposed to be good for them. The alarming reports have increased vaccine skepticism as people fear that the jabs are unsafe. They prefer the passive risk of catching the increasingly-less-fatal COVID to the active risk of injecting the vaccine.

66 million people have gotten the J&J jab. If a causal relationship is found, the probability of getting a blot clot from the shot is one in a million. That’s right, 1:1,000,000, which is far lower than the risk of harm from COIVD. Other one-in-a-million chances include being struck by lightning, casting the deciding vote in an election, and flipping a coin that lands on heads 20 times in a row.

President Biden announced on April 13th his decision to remove all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. The date marks twenty years after the terrorist attacks on America planned by al Qaeda, which had a safe-haven in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon reportedly urged the President to stay the course. Some experts even argued for putting more forces into Afghanistan. Voices from the national security establishment, including former 4-star general and CIA director David Petraeus (whom I advised for three months in Afghanistan), decried the decision as short-sighted and likely to lead to al Qaeda returning to the landlocked country to plan terror attacks against the United States.

President Biden, however, was skeptical. During his speech, the President spoke of his trip in 2008 to the Kunar River valley. That trip was to my outpost, FOB Bostick. What then-Senator Biden saw was violence in our area had plummeted as more and more Afghans stopped fighting and decided to work together with us. He also saw the limits of what US forces could achieve: we could not provide legitimacy to the Afghan government. They needed to earn the support of the people. Unless they did so, we would be stuck.

Using his twenty-year perspective to weigh the arguments, Biden concluded that the risks of keeping US forces in Afghanistan far outweighed the benefits. The Afghan government has yet to earn enough legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans, and no length of continued US troop presence was going to change that. 

The difference between the poor decision to avoid getting vaccinated and the good decision to remove American troops from Afghanistan is perspective

Perspective provides context that is vital to sound decision-making. F + P = GD. Facts + Perspective = Good Decisions

Who is providing you with perspective so that you avoid drinking your own bathwater or following the bandwagon over a cliff?

P.S. Leading Well is for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to inspire people to contribute their best and drive the business to new heights. The next program begins in mid-May. More here.

“The clarity, buy-in, and accountability we’ve gained,” said Ray Omar, Capital Brands CEO, “has put us on track to reduce costs by over $1m and increase revenues by over $2m.”

Jeff Marquez recently authored this article on Trust on LinkedIn.

When you are asked a question and are uncertain of the answer, frustrated, or are short on time, how do you respond? We all have short-circuited answers that allow us to respond and move on. Or so we think. These so-called default answers—“Let’s talk,” “We’ll have an answer soon,” “Don’t ask, just get it done”—can damage the trust between mid-leaders and Team members. While these default answers might allow a leader to provide a response quickly, they can unintentionally send signals of uncertainty and mistrust to the receiver. Put yourself on the receiving end of these defaults and consider the feelings and anxiety they may create:

1.     Let’s talk—uncertainty. Is this positive or negative? How should the employee prepare?

2.     We’ll have an answer soon—ambiguous. Is soon next week? A month?

3.     Don’t ask, just get it done—lack of confidence, trust, and value in the Team member.

Provide context and drive meaning to motivate people. Experts say it takes five hundred milliseconds, or half a second, for sensory information from the outside world to incorporate into conscious experience. So, we can still get an answer out quickly, but if we take a few extra seconds to be more transparent, we can change the meaning of these defaults and bring clarity, understanding, and commitment to our work. Consider how the three defaults from above, but now with context, change the feeling:

1.     Let’s talk about this at 4 p.m. I like your idea of involving the staff because it gives them ownership of the process—You specify why you like the idea, you set the expectation for time, and the employee feels valued.

2.     We have not decided yet but will by the end of the day on Wednesday—You are honest about not having decided and have set expectations so that the Team member has a clear idea of how to proceed.

3.     Here is what we thought when we made the decision—The Team member is going to have a better understanding of the conditions and will likely give their best work because they feel like they are part of the team, trusted, and valued.

Trust comes from words and actions, but it must be felt by others to resonate. Take the few extra seconds to be transparent, honest, and only promise what you can deliver. Think about the work environments this crisis has created with back-to-back virtual meetings and online overload and consider how these conditions impacted your organization. Think about what is before us as we enter the renewal and new opportunities. Do what you can to remove uncertainty. Invest those few seconds to help your people feel trust. 

How will people remember you?

Ray Lambert died on April 9th at age 100. A Staff Sergeant during World War Two, he led a medical section in the 1st Infantry Division and is one of a few who found themselves in the first wave of the three major amphibious landings in the European Theatre: North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy.

“The only heroic thing I ever did,” Ray told me, “was to rescue a soldier from a burning tank.” His boss told him not to go because the tank was about to blow up. Ray went anyway, pulled the soldier off the tank, and scrambled into a ditch as the tank exploded. “I disobeyed an order, so I did not get an award.” Others who’ve done the same were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The intense fighting on Sicily affected him deeply. He was in the thick of it for the month-long campaign, grinding through the island’s mountainous spine against the best German units. He was awarded the silver star (America’s third-highest award for valor) after going into a minefield to rescue a wounded soldier.

Ray landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Coming ashore against intense enemy fire, Ray spotted a pile of concrete. “It was the only cover on the beach.” Ray used the slight shelter for a casualty collection point. He put one of his medics there and proceeded to bring the wounded to the rock. He was wounded twice but patched himself up and kept rescuing his comrades. He eventually passed out from loss of blood and a broken back.

Ray suffered from post-traumatic stress. After the war, he found a job as an electrician and later began his own business. He couldn’t sleep. He hoped work would keep his mind off the war. He lost a lot of weight. 

After passing out during a job and nearly getting himself killed, Ray went to the VA to speak with a psychologist. “Talking about the experiences helped me deal with them. My memories were no longer abstract. I could deal with them.” Ray’s memory of his war experiences was near-photographic, except for Sicily.

Ray was highly successful in business, in his community, and taking care of his soldiers after the war. Seventy years later, he could recall their first names, where they were from, and their wives’ names. “Getting to know people on a personal level kept us going when times were tough. They knew that I cared about them and would never put them in danger carelessly.”

I first met Ray in 2004 at the 60th anniversary of D-Day. We’ve been dear friends ever since. In 2018, our friend Christophe Coquel (a resident of Normandy) and I devised a plan to put a plaque on the concrete chunk where Ray saved so many lives. “I want the names of every man in the medical section on that plaque,” Ray told me. 

Ray and his family attended the October 2018 ceremony to dedicate Ray’s Rock. It’s the only plaque on the beach and the only marker dedicated to a platoon of medics. “I can still hear their voices in the waves,” Ray reflected, staring at the surf.

Ray’s legacy lives on in the people he touched because they pay his gifts forward to others. Who will remember you, and how will they remember you? 

1. Gratitude: you can fail alone, but you cannot succeed alone. Ray grew up in depression-era northern Alabama. He left home at age 13 to find a job and never finished high school. He said he became who he was because of the support of others. We’re all privileged, and we have agency. What are you doing with your opportunities?

2. Putting people in a position to succeed is the best form of caring. Ray knew his soldiers and employees and what mattered most to them. They gave their best because they knew Ray cared about them and put them in positions to succeed. Are you bringing out the best in others?

3. Set the right example and mind the say-do gap. Ray lived his standards of competence and character. He wasn’t perfect. He expected you to know your job and be trustworthy. He never asked people to endure hardship that he was unwilling to endure himself. What say-do gaps should you close?

4. Be your best self by finding the right support. Strong people like Ray are the ones who seek out support to take them to new heights. People who lack confidence wrap themselves in a crust and pretend they’re invulnerable. They never develop. Like a lobster, Alan Weiss says, you have to shed your protective shell if you want to grow. Who are your catalysts

What will be your legacy: how will people remember you?

Sophistry is a fast-track to losing business because you damage your reputation, brand, and trustworthiness.

Sophistry is the use of fallacious arguments with the intent to deceive. The word comes from the ancient Greek word sophistes, which means an expert or wise person. The Sophists were teachers and speakers whom Plato described as sham philosophers. The characterization stuck.

Today’s sophists are infomercial hustlers, charlatans, and Pyramid schemers who want you to believe something that’s not true. Use this one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategyfollow this checklist to become a creative thinkerinvest in this [silver bullet] scheme, etc.

Good people and organizations can fall into this trap, too. There’s a seductive lure to sugar-coat bad news so that you can ease the pain and anxiety of change or difficulties. It’s a short walk from good intentions toward manipulative “noble lies” and cringe-worthy sophistry. 

People see through the smokescreen right away. No one knows the people like the prince, said Machiavelli, and no one knows the prince like the people.

How do you feel when someone uses words designed to give you a false impression or manipulate your behavior? 

I’ve been a professional member of the National Speakers Association for a couple of years. I’ve gotten good value from the organization and its members, and I’ve given value in return. 

I received an email recently from them notifying me that they are “upgrading” my membership. Oh, that’s good newslet me check it out. The professional speaking business has been hit hard by the pandemic, so I was surprised that NSA would upgrade benefits. That’s pretty awesome.

It turns out that the only upgrade is in the membership dues. They are simply charging more and offering upsells. SlimyI feel like I need to shower

I’ve got no qualms whatsoever about NSA charging higher membership fees and upsells. I have huge qualms about the sophistry. I’m certainly not going to upgrade, and I might cancel altogether based on how they respond to my inquiry.

Lose trust: lose business. Build trust: build business. These are the simplest ratios you need to know, and you don’t need an MBA to understand them. 

I wonder if someone with an MBA approved that deceptive email?

Action steps:
1. Get an outside view so that you avoid drinking your own bathwater. Surround yourself with trusted people who tell you what you need to hear.

2. Speak plainly. Simplicity and clarity boost your credibility and improve the likelihood that what you say is what people hear. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

3. Empower people to take remedial action. Ritz-Carlton is famous for giving its front-line employees the ability to fix problems and make restitution on the spot. Oftentimes, you cannot control the problems you face, but you can control how you face them.

Like many Americans, I’m fascinated by Great Britain’s royal family. I lived in London for three years and loved visiting Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. I binge-watch The Crown. Queen Elizabeth II exemplifies The Operator, one of our four PROM Servant Leader Archetypes (TM). 

I’m dismayed by the ongoing tension with Harry and Meghan, which was on display in the Oprah interview. Bigotry and bullying are unacceptable, and I’m troubled by the stories the interview revealed. 

There’s only one celebrity in the royal family, so I’m also surprised that the young couple did not seem to get the memo. Some of their anxiety appears to come from a feeling of being underappreciated.

This last problem was entirely preventable.

The royal family seemed not to learn a vital lesson from the Princess Diana tragedy: when you treat people poorly, they are likely to return the favor. People who feel unvalued will vote with their feet out of your company or, in this case, out of the country. They won’t be ambassadors for your brand.

There were probably many good ways to give Harry and Meghan causes they could run with that boosted the royal family’s prestige and impact. Harry has been active with wounded veterans, and Meghan’s star power could have advanced that mission and other good ones without overshadowing the Queen.

This story provides some lessons on what to do with the talent on your team:

1. Put them in positions to use their PROM superpowers so that they succeed, and so does your business.

2. Use our weekly check-in questions to keep them focused on priorities, using their strengths, and getting the guidance and support they need. [Reply to me, and I’ll send you the checklist.]

3. Hold them accountable for doing the right things the right way. Every expectation should include what you want them to do, the outcomes you want to achieve, and the date you want the job done.  

4. Follow-up and be consistent about enforcing your standards. 

5. If you find that your team has toxic talent — highly capable people who undermine your company and their co-workers, then fire them. Toxic talent always costs more than the results they provide.

What action steps are you taking to let your subordinates know that you value their work and want to give them opportunities to contribute their best to your team’s success?

+++++

Last week I wrote that the UN-heroes of the pandemic award goes to big city public school teacher union officials. 

Amy Mizialko, head of the union in Milwaukee, said in a March 14th television interview, “We will not legitimize this notion of learning loss. Our students in Milwaukee Public Schools and students across the nation have learned skills this year that probably families and educators never anticipated that they would learn in terms of self-direction, organization, working with peers in a new way, so we’re not going to agree that a standardized test is somehow a measure of learning or somehow a measure of learning loss.”

I rest my case.

My UN-heroes of the pandemic award goes to big city public school teacher union officials.

Teachers can make a lifelong impact. Mrs. Brayman, Mr. Brayman, Mrs. Evanoff, Mrs. Schneider, Ms. Peterson brought out my best and helped me be who I am today.

Millions of kids, mostly from low-income neighborhoods, have missed the opportunity this past year. The teachers have done their best. Many public school teachers’ unions have kept them out of the schools and away from kids who need them most. The Milwaukee public schools are still not doing ANY in-person classes.

I’m fascinated by how “the science” works differently in private and public schools. My niece and nephew in San Diego have been in person for almost the entire year, and everyone’s been fine. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, there’s no evidence of schools being superspreaders.

Data-denying teachers union officials, however, have fought tooth and nail to keep schools shuttered. The effects on kids who’ve missed a year of school will be long-lasting.

There are some good lessons here for small businesses. As the massive economic renewal gets underway, you’ll want to avoid un-heroes because they are subtraction-by-addition productivity and morale bandits.

1. Say no to selfish talent. A team or unit leader who cares only for their fiefdom will damage your team. I’m sure teachers union officials think they are protecting their dues-paying members, but they’ve forgotten about the common good. My mentor, Alan Weiss, pointed out that attorneys are officers of the court and advocates for their clients. The justice system breaks down when lawyers neglect one of these responsibilities. The same goes for your subordinate leaders.

2. Mind the customer. Had teachers union officials cared about kids and parents — the real customers of schools — they would have fought to get schools open safely instead of throwing up roadblocks. Grocery stores stayed open by putting common-sense measures in place to keep employees and customers safe. Single-issue advocates provide self-interested advice that’s good for their narrow interests but most likely damaging to your community.  

3. Beware of perverse incentives. What you measure creates workplace behaviors, so be careful to avoid metrics and awards that discourage teamwork. Too many teachers union officials felt accountable to dues-paying members and not to the community. Use one-on-one check-ins and meetings to have your senior leaders frame their work in terms of advancing company goals and objectives.

Say no to selfish talent, keep the customer in mind, and avoid perverse incentives so that you can make sure un-heroes don’t make their way onto your team.

Amy Mizialko, head of the union in Milwaukee, said in a March 14th television interview, “We will not legitimize this notion of learning loss. Our students in Milwaukee Public Schools and students across the nation have learned skills this year that probably families and educators never anticipated that they would learn in terms of self-direction, organization, working with peers in a new way, so we’re not going to agree that a standardized test is somehow a measure of learning or somehow a measure of learning loss.”

I rest my case.

We rescued Daisy, our German Shepherd, three and a half years ago.

She found us on the internet at the same time we found her :0)

Daisy positions herself to monitor what’s most important: Nicole’s safety.

During our hikes in the woods, Daisy scans dangerous areas for signs of trouble.

When she’s on one of her five (yes, five) daily walks, Daisy inspects threats and opportunities and ignores less relevant data. Squirrels are her security kryptonite.

She applies her signature at the most important places.

When chasing her orange ball, Daisy maintains a single-minded devotion, crashing through obstacles to reach her goal. 

1. Set your priorities so that you focus time and energy on what’s most important and avoid squirrel distractions.

2. Scan your surroundings by talking with people, professional study, and reading a national and a local newspaper so that you avoid breathing your own exhaust.

3. Watch for indicators on your top three threats and opportunities so that you can manage risk and seize profitable opportunities.

4. Put your signature on decisions so that everyone knows that the most important moves have your buy-in.

5. Keep your eyes on the prize, avoid self-editing and listening to unsolicited advice, and get the support you need to succeed so that you can look back on it all and say, “I gave it my best shot.”

Winterization is the technical term for preparing your home, car, business, or person for extreme cold weather.

My Norwegian friends tell me that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Winterization is a set of preventative actions you take so that your pipes don’t burst, your engine doesn’t seize, and you don’t get frostbite.

Corrective and adaptive actions are measures you take when these problems occur. 

You replace the pipes (corrective), repair the damage to your home (adaptive), replace the engine (corrective), or get surgery for a damaged limb (adaptive).

Preventative action is always less expensive than corrective or adaptive action.

Don’t be distracted by the blame-game as Texas politicians and energy officials point fingers. 

The failure to winterize facilities and ensure a reliable power baseload has resulted in a deadly and expensive nightmare for Texans.

You can’t control the weather, pandemics, or many other factors that affect your business.

You can control whether or not you invest in sensible preventative action.

Think of preventative actions in three categories:

Leadership: Investing in your people (and board of directors) so that they make good decisions and inspire people to contribute their best.

Culture: Strengthening your team’s operating system of values and expectations – improving how you work together and serve your customers. 

Strategy: Governing your organization’s purpose and direction and executing a solid game-plan to reach your goals.

Ten years ago, Texas had an energy freeze like it’s experiencing today. 

They failed to take preventative actions afterward.

What preventative actions will you take to protect your business?

Wisconsin winters are bitter cold, which motivates me to wear sweatshirts.

Each one brings unforgettable memories.

I get lots of comments whenever I wear my Marines sweatshirt, as I did on Tuesday. 

I served with some exceptional Marines in Afghanistan, especially those who were advisers to our partnered Afghan Army battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel Ty Edwards was the senior adviser during our last months in Afghanistan in 2008.

The Afghan Army tends to be very top-down. 

This Afghan battalion had a senior NCO who was a mullah from the Nuristani ethnic group. We’ll call him Mohammad.

We had been working hard with the Nuristanis in our area. 

Ty believed that Mohammad could boost our relationships.

The challenge was convincing the lieutenant colonel in charge of the battalion to let Mohammad play an influential role.

Ty asked questions that encouraged the commander to find ways that Mohammad could contribute his best.

The decision was a game-changer. 

The elders embraced Mohammad, asking him to lead prayers before and after each meeting. Their trust grew.

Together, they convinced the leader of a large insurgent group to stop fighting and support the government.

Those elders and former insurgents continue fighting the Taliban today.

Mohammad’s role was instrumental in creating one of the biggest wins in the history of the 20-year war.

Ty invited me to his hooch for cigars on my last evening in Afghanistan and presented me with the Marines sweatshirt.  

A few weeks later, Ty was badly wounded in a firefight as he rallied his Afghan partners. He always led by example.

I visited him several times at Walter Reed as he fought for his life. 

Ty lives in Florida.

The Marines sweatshirt fills me with gratitude for Ty. 

His leadership, courage, toughness, and friendship inspire me to make a difference, to pay it forward.

Thank you, Ty. 

Who are you grateful for?

How does Tom Brady keep on winning?

He surrounds himself with people who help him be his best self.

I’m a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan, so I was disappointed in the Super Bowl outcome.

Still, it’s a privilege to watch Tom Brady play.

At age 43, he’s the oldest quarterback ever to win a championship.

He gets the mental, physical, emotional, nutritional, and skill-development support that he needs to stay atop his profession.

Yes, Tom Brady has coaches and advisers.

The best in any profession have people help them do the right things in the right way to shorten the path to success.

Plenty of talented people never reach their potential because they try to lone-wolf-it.

It’s not arrogance, for the most part.

Sometimes it’s a poverty mentality. 

I don’t want to pay for support. I’ll figure it out on my own.

Mostly, though, you lone-wolf-it because you fear that others will see you as weak or damaged. 

Lone-wolfing-it is the fast-track to mediocrity.

It’s the school of hard knocks, and the tuition is costly.

The secret to the success of people like Tom Brady is that they don’t lone-wolf-it.

Surround yourself with people who help you be the best version of yourself.

You might not gain Brady-like stature, but you’ll go farther, rack up more wins, and make a much greater impact on the people and causes that mean the most to you.