The images from Afghanistan are heartbreaking. Masses of people, fearful of the Taliban, press the gates of Kabul airport, struggling to get out. Some of these people are interpreters and workers who supported my paratroopers and me during our deployments. I’ve been writing scores of letters to help them, coordinating with US officials, and trying to link people together on the ground.

Thus far, five groups of my interpreters and their families have gone through the Taliban checkpoints, navigated the panicked crowds, and gotten into the airport. Others are still waiting to get inside. I worry that something bad is going to happen to the crowd — there are plenty of malign actors.

I’ve also been providing interviews on TV, Radio, and print to provide perspective about the situation and action steps to improve the situation. You can see some of the interviews on my bio page.

For this newsletter, here are some practical takeaways for your expert business.

1. When people have buy-in, they give you their discretionary effort. They stand by your side when the going gets tough. Without buy-in, people vote with their feet. What steps are you taking to gain buy-in from those supporting you?

2. Leaders serve, tyrants take. The Afghan security forces and government collapsed so quickly because the senior officials had drifted into predatory and corrupt behavior for 15 years or more. Officials stole land and misdirected American tax dollars into their pockets. Officers sold food, fuel, ammunition, and weapons on the black market, denying their soldiers the means to succeed. What kinds of service are you doing to benefit your community?

3. Focus on cause, not blame. Finger-pointing creates tired fingers; fist-shaking produces shaky fists. None of them are helping a single person get out of Afghanistan and could be placing people at greater risk. Finding blame does nothing to address the causes of problems.  The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and refugee backlogs are creating massive congestion outside the Kabul airport, heightening tensions and increasing the chances of problems. Airlifting people out first, then processing the applications can lower the probabilities of more calamities.

4. Bring in the fresh air. Officials in DC and other national capitals have been inhaling their own fumes about the legitimacy of the Afghan government in the eyes of Afghans and the prowess of the security forces. They collapsed like a barn on toothpicks. Mentors like Alan Weiss and David Newman keep the fresh air flowing so I don’t choke on my own exhaust. Who’s bringing in the fresh air for you?

5. Create freedom, not dependency. The U.S. and Afghan governments built a military that was overly dependent upon U.S. forces and contractors. Dependency contributed to their rapid collapse. It’s strategic malpractice. For consultants, creating dependency is unethical. Help your clients be their best selves to be better off and soar to new heights when you part ways.

My brother tuned in to one of my TV interviews this week. My niece, sitting next to him, heard the presenter say my name. She looked up at him and asked, “Who’s Colonel Kolenda?”

Your replies go directly to my inbox – no filters, no assistants. Directly to Me.

Lead well,
Chris

Chris Kolenda, Ph.D.
Founder,
Kolenda Strategic Leaders Academy
[email protected]

As I write this memo, Afghanistan is in a complete meltdown. Leaders abandoned the people long ago through corruption. Now the soldiers and people abandoned their leaders and voted with their feet for a Taliban takeover.

afghanistan is in complete meltdown

I’m worried sick about my Afghan friends who supported us as interpreters, workers on the bases, and volunteers. I’ve been writing letters to support their Special Immigrant Visa applications, but the speed of the meltdown will strand many of them. Would you please keep these kind people in your prayers?

As a professional consultant, my responsibility is to help you be better off so that when we part ways, you soar to greater heights rather than crash and burn.

The United States appears to have done the opposite with the Afghan security forces, which collapsed in the face of a determined Taliban offensive. Creating such dependency is strategic malpractice.

BREAKTHROUGH OPPORTUNITIES

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I’m hosting a free do-in-ar on August 18th for solopreneurs and small business leaders called FOCUSED. I’ll give you the 7 steps you need to take your expert business to new heights. Register here.

More than ever, people are starting their expert or solo businesses. Are you one of the growing number who has an expert business and wants to make it more successful? We’ll cover the seven steps you need to make the last quarter of 2021 your best and to turbocharge 2022.

F – Focus on First things First

O – Overcome Obstacles

C – Create Commitment

U – You: being the best version of yourself

S – Simplify your business model

E – Execute

D – Decide

This program has already paid for itself within the first few weeks because the clarity and focus I’ve gained has saved me tons of time which I’ve already used to create over $60000 in new opportunities. — Vikram Singh, Founder, Red Cedar Strategies

Check out these video testimonials from Kris Yagel, founder of Diligent Plans, and Laura McKenna, Strength and Shield Coaching founder.

Lead well,

Chris

Chris Kolenda, Ph.D.

Founder,

Kolenda Strategic Leaders Academy

[email protected]

It begins with little things. Small aggressions, careful pushing of boundaries, creepy intent masked as kindness. You ignore it — it’s no big deal; I don’t want to make a scene; he probably didn’t mean it that way; he’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.

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Boundaries become more porous. Each compromise builds confidence. The words get louder; the actions are more flagrant, the touches more intimate. You look the other way when you can’t avoid what you are seeing — everyone else seems to like him, there’s an innocent explanation, no one will believe me, maybe this is just the way it is. It’s for the greater good.

Per news reports of his behavior, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s fall from grace seems to follow this trajectory. I’ve read the attorney general’s report. The statements about sexual harassment and toxic behavior are chilling. The people he hurt have to live with his actions forever.

The governor’s disgusting behavior was enabled by the Robert E. Lees around him who looked the other way.

There are consequences. The reports about cover-ups for bad decisions that increased the number of COVID deaths, political favoritism for vaccines, and retaliation against people reporting the governor’s actions follow a similar pattern of abuse of office and enabling. How many people would be better off had someone confronted the behavior before things got out of control?

Character always collects. You might tolerate the Andrew Cuomos in your workplace because they seem to get results, but, like compounding interest, the penalties get worse over time. The reports of character collecting are legion: Travis Kalanick (Uber), Chip Wilson and Laurent Potdevin (Lululemon), Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos), Trevor Milton (Nikola), among others.

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By looking the other way, you empower the collaborators and undermine people who want to do the right thing.

Nipping shabby behavior in the bud, in action:

·        Andrew, if someone who didn’t know you heard those words, what might they feel?

·        Andrew, you seem to be so passionate about the subject that you interrupted Jane five times. What could she be feeling about the meeting?

·        Andrew, I feel less inclined to root for you after seeing you berate Kelly. What’s the most likely impact of your actions on her productivity?

·        Andrew, what message is that picture sending?

·        Andrew, a fist bump is fine. People feel uncomfortable with hugs and intimate touching at work. You know better. Did you see Julie’s face after you kissed her? You should apologize.

·        Andrew, I’m not sure that I heard you correctly. Could you please repeat that (toxic) statement?

·        No, Andrew, I’m not going to dig up dirt on this person who made the harassment complaint. It’s her right.

  • Andrew, I resign.  
August 3, 2021

The world’s best gymnast withdrew from the team and the individual all-around competitions at the Tokyo Olympics for mental health reasons. Social media trolls pounced, suggesting she was weak and letting down her team.
If she had a torn hamstring, would they have demanded she competes anyway?

Too many people misunderstand mental health and the damage of ignoring it.  A torn muscle needs rest and rehabilitation. Done correctly, you are back in action as strong as ever. Injured or fatigued mental health needs the same approach.

So-called toughing-it-out increases the probability of further injury and permanent damage.

Confederate Civil War general John Bell Hood tried to tough-it-out. He’d been in several bloody battles, lost his arm at Gettysburg, and his leg near Atlanta. Hood’s mental health deteriorated while commanding rebel forces in Tennessee in 1864. His army was undisciplined and outmaneuvered. Hood flew into a rage, ordering repeated frontal assaults on dug-in Union positions at the battles of Franklin and Nashville. His army ceased to exist.

General George Patton ignored his mental health in Sicily and regarded soldiers as cowards if they showed signs of post-traumatic stress. He physically assaulted at least two privates. Eisenhower relieved him. Patton got a rest — and he got the message. A year later he commanded the 3rd U.S. Army and won his greatest victories. He never slapped another soldier or showed signs of poor mental health.

As a business leader or solopreneur, your risks of missed opportunities, expensive mistakes, toxic behavior, and burnout rise dramatically when your mental health is fatigued or injured. Get the rest and rehab you need to bounce back stronger, and set the example so that your employees feel the confidence to do the same.

Biles showed courage and good judgment. Had she competed, she could have broken her neck and probably would have damaged her team’s performance. Another gymnast, Jade Carey, got to compete on a world stage in her stead.

I wonder where Biles’ coach was in all of this? Did the coach notice and counsel Biles to withdraw or urge her to tough-it-out?

Caring for mental health, in action:

  • I’m feeling worn out right now and need a reset, please reschedule the rest of today’s meetings.
  • I take a 4-day weekend each quarter and two weeks of vacation every six months so that I can recharge. It also gives my subordinates time to take on new responsibilities.
  • Jim, your response to Joan seems out of character. How were you feeling when you said all of that?

Khris Middleton gets my leadership MVP award for his crucial role in the Milwaukee Bucks’ game 6 win. 

Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points in one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen. Still, Middleton’s moment in the 3rd quarter reversed a deteriorating situation for the soon-to-be champs.

Bucks’ forward Bobby Portis, Jr. plays on the razor’s edge of controlled passion. When he plays with too much passion, he makes errors that hurt the team; too much control and he fails to provide the spark that lifts the team to greater heights.

After posting a double-digit lead at the end of the first quarter, the Bucks went into half-time down a few points to the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were surging in the 3rd quarter, too, as the Bucks tried to regain momentum. Portis was back in the game.

Portis made what looked to be a fantastic steal. The referee whistled a foul, and Portis ran down the court screaming in protest. The ref added a technical foul, which sent Phoenix to the free-throw line. Another technical foul against him would result in ejection from the game. 

Middleton jogged over to Portis, looked him in the eye, and said some quiet words. His intervention provided the reset Portis needed. Bobby played well the rest of the game. The Bucks regained momentum, took the lead, and won the championship.

Most CEOs and entrepreneurs don’t have peers on the team who can provide timely interventions, challenge your thinking, and keep you centered. When I think of my biggest mistakes in business, each of them occurred when I was lone-wolfing it. Belonging to a mastermind group and having a trusted adviser have paid for themselves several times over with stronger growth, fewer expensive errors, and greater peace of mind. 

Who are the Khris Middletons in your life?
BREAKTHROUGH OPPORTUNITIES

The next FOCUSED program begins in September. This 8-week group program is for principled leaders who want to grow their businesses using the right focus, the right strategy, and the right team. 

The magic is in the implementation. We meet for 90 minutes each week. You do assignments that help you gain the right focus, strategy, and team. You eat the elephant one bite at a time using a 7-step process that helps you make the second half of 2021 your best six months ever, and turbocharges 2022. 

Click here to see if the program is a good fit for you.

This program’s clarity and focus resulted in more high-payoff work that we love and less wasted time and energy. We expect 33% growth to reach $100k in monthly revenues and expand from there.
Matthew Hargrove and Barry Lingelbach, Black-Grey-Gold Consulting 

Last week, I held an exclusive event at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields for an extraordinary group of small business CEOs and solo entrepreneurs. Our purpose there was to discuss innovation and ways to take our businesses to new heights. 

One of our most powerful discussions occurred at Little Round Top. On July 2, 1863, the 20th Maine Regiment, led by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, defended the extreme flank of the Union position. The regiment held off repeated confederate assaults until they were nearly out of ammunition. As the next assault came, Chamberlain ordered his troops to fix bayonets and charge the attacking enemy.

His unexpected counterattack caught the confederates off guard. They broke and ran, thus ending the largest threat to the Union Army. The 20th Maine saved the day, and, perhaps, the Union.

Vital to the 20th Maine’s success was the addition of 117 soldiers on the eve of battle. These troops from the 2nd Maine Regiment were detainees, accused of desertion. They thought they had signed two-year enlistments instead of three and demanded to go home. Talk about disengaged employees!

The Union generals gave Chamberlain custody of the accused, with permission to shoot them if he wished. Chamberlain had about 300 soldiers in his command. Guarding a large company of deserters would deprive him of team members for the upcoming battle.

Chamberlain could have ordered them to stand in the ranks during the battle or face a firing squad. That’s the digital, on-off-on-off, approach: do what I say (on) or you’ll suffer the consequences (off). Based on what we know about employee engagement and the behavior of soldiers under fire, those forced to face confederate rifles, cannons, and bayonets would likely have broken and run away. The cascading effect would have doomed the Union Army.

Chamberlain used a different approach. He gained their trust, heard what they had to say, treated them respectfully, and talked about why he needed their support. He let them decide whether or not to fight. Persuasion is an analog approach, using a continuous signal to gain buy-in. Of the 120 deserters, 117 agreed to take up their rifles and fight, increasing Chamberlain’s capacity by over one-third. 

Too much communication today is digital. Leaders issue policies and demand compliance. You provide mandates with carrots and sticks. People yell at one another over social media. Your top lieutenants urge you to use stronger language and more drastic sticks. Skeptical employees dig in their heels or leave. Is it any wonder that there’s so much polarization in society and disengagement at work?

The analog approach to communication focuses on the ABCs: provide clarity, gain buy-in, and promote 360-degree accountability. Let people know what you need them to do and the desired results and outcomes (the Why). Let them figure out the how. Who’s helping you with the ABCs?

BREAKTHROUGH OPPORTUNITIES

The next FOCUSED program begins in September. This 8-week group program is for principled leaders who want to grow their businesses using the right focus, the right strategy, and the right team. 

The magic is in the implementation. We meet for 90 minutes each week. You do assignments that help you gain the right focus, strategy, and team. You eat the elephant one bite at a time using a 7-step process that helps you make the second half of 2021 your best six months, ever, and turbocharges 2022. 

Click here to see if the program is a good fit for you.

This program’s clarity and focus resulted in more high-payoff work that we love and less wasted time and energy. We expect 33% growth to reach $100k in monthly revenues and expand from there.
Matthew Hargrove and Barry Lingelbach, Black-Grey-Gold Consulting 

How do you keep your employees engaged and playing team ball?

Unemployment remains elevated, according to The Wall Street Journal, even as millions of jobs go unfilled. Part of the reason for this seeming incongruity is that people have a lower tolerance for bad work environments. People are voting with their feet to get away from bad bosses and unfulfilling work. 

I’ll be interested to see the 2021 Gallup study on workplace engagement. The 2019 data is revealing: two-thirds of American employees report being UNengaged at work. Imagine the productivity your team could achieve if you had 67% or more of your people giving a hundred percent.

What interests me the most is what inspires people to cross the line from disengaged to engaged and prevents people from crossing in the other direction. How do you fill the ranks of the engaged and keep them there?

An NFL coach showed me part of the answer this weekend. Each year, Gregg Williams hosts a golf tournament near Kansas City to raise funds for youth activities in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. I sponsored a team for the event. 

I rode in a van from the hotel to the golf course with four of Williams’ former players. Williams coached their high school football team. That was thirty years ago. One was a fourth-string quarterback who had to step into the starting role when others were injured. “He believed in me, and that gave me the confidence to win.” Another one told me that Williams “taught me life lessons that I’ll never forget.”

A third former player broke into tears. He grew up an orphan and was getting into trouble in high school. Coach Williams became the father figure he never had. “We come every year,” he told me, “Coach Williams changed our lives.” He’s now the mayor of his hometown.

Coach Williams brings out the best in his players by customizing roles to people’s natural strengths. “Put people in a position to succeed, and they will amaze you,” Williams said, “put them together in the right combination, and they’ll win.” That philosophy is how he gets people to cross from unengaged to engaged.

Agency keeps them engaged, Blake (Gregg’s son and also an NFL coach) tells me. When people know the bigger picture, how everyone contributes, and the essential role each individual plays, they can make smart decisions during the game. Agency is the ability to make decisions about the nature and outcomes of your work. 

People get engaged when you customize roles to their natural affinities. They stay engaged when they have agency. Assemble them in the right combinations, and you’ll have a winning team. 

BREAKTHROUGH OPPORTUNITIES

People have seen that remote work can work and are creating solo- and expert-businesses in record numbers.

The next FOCUSED program begins the first week of August. This 8-week group program is for principled leaders who want to grow their businesses using the right focus, the right strategy, and the right team. 

Click here to see if the program is a good fit for you. Email me to apply: [email protected]

This program’s clarity and focus resulted in more high-payoff work that we love and less wasted time and energy. We expect 33% growth to reach $100k in monthly revenues and expand from there.
Matthew Hargrove and Barry Lingelbach, Black-Grey-Gold Consulting