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.


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 

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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. 

Leading the Middle -2021 – A year in Reflection

Thank you for connecting, sharing your perspectives, thoughts, and experiences. I learned more about leadership, people, and myself than I ever expected. I am filled with gratitude because of you and the experience. I am especially grateful to my friend Aaron who passed earlier this year. I will treasure the lessons from the Bloody Knuckles Garage, his humanness, and grace. As I wrap up the year, I am sharing a few of my favorite words, phrases, and ideas that you gifted to me.

Be more elephant and less hippo

The Mid-Leader Six
As goes the middle, so goes the organization.
Would you follow you?
The Unknowing Mentor
What did your habits do for you today? LEADER
Seek first to understand before being understood.
Tap into the superpowers of your Team.
Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
People are not on the Team; they are the Team.
They follow you not because they have to but because they want to.
So That…
Create that Friday feeling.
Wisdom is doing now what you will be happy with later.
Like weeds, you have to manage or prune away toxic behaviors.
Talking at the speed of trust.
Find your gratitude.
The power of the pause.
People are your purpose.

Page through my posts if you would like a refresher on any or reach out to me. What was your favorite? Feel free to print and post the word art. Take care of people and take care of yourself.

Values misalignment can be one of the costliest mistakes, both financially and emotionally.

On a recent Monday, I had one of the most energizing discussions with my mastermind group. The topic was values. When was the last time you had an honest discussion about your Team or business values, about your values? Are you able to put your values into practice? How do you apply values when talking to potential clients, or do you even consider them? How do you engage and discuss values with your employees? How do values weave into your world of work?

Values misalignment can be one of the costliest mistakes, both financially and emotionally. They are rarely discussed except in one-way conversations when the boss shares their values, and we see them plastered on the walls. You can do better.

Christopher Kolenda, Ph.D. and Strategic Leaders Academy developed a short questionnaire to help you determine your “What/Values” archetype to help you define the moral and ethical values most important to you so that you can hire, partner with, and support the right people. It is a pairwise comparison based on the Stoics’ four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, justice, and self-discipline. The six archetypes are:

– The Executive (Self-discipline and Wisdom) – best known for keen discernment and quiet competence. They tend to emphasize sound decision-making, persistence, and keen stewardship of resources.

– The Decision-Maker (Wisdom and Courage) – best known for keen discernment and willingness to take sensible risks. They tend to look for and seize upon key opportunities that others miss.

– The Protector (Courage and Justice) – best known for their willingness to take a risk for the safety and well-being of others. They tend to seek roles that emphasize service and protection of vulnerable people or causes.

– The Entrepreneur (Courage and Self-Discipline) – best known for their willingness to take risks to create something of new and important social or economic impact. They tend to seek roles that enable them to create and innovate ideas, products, or causes that benefit others.

– The Advocate (Self-Discipline and Justice) – best known for their persistence in fairness and respect for others and important causes. They tend to fight over the long haul for rights in the face of complex challenges.

– The Campaigner (Justice and Wisdom) – best known for their sound judgment and fairness. They tend to seek equitable and moral solutions to complex challenges.

While there are many approaches out there, this one is accessible, ancient, and secular. Take the quiz at https://lnkd.in/gPv-TJHT , have your Team members take it, think, engage, and let the growth begin! Thank you, Chris, and the FOCUS Mastermind Group.


Jeff Marquez authored his latest piece for helping your Mid-Level Leaders be the best versions of themselves. You can read the article here.

Jeff Marquez posted this article on Trust on LinkedIn.

While looking at the spaghetti of wires under the dash of my friend Aaron’s car, I remember asking myself, what the heck was I thinking? What was Aaron thinking allowing me to touch his classic car? Well, I am installing the fourth and most difficult wiring harness now. I know why he allowed me to touch his classic car–trust.

I think back to our previous work situations where we both would shake our heads at what we faced—often like spaghetti wires. We would discuss the mission or task, what right looked like, discuss with the Team to get their input, decide, and execute. Our expectations of each other matched our behaviors and that feeling cut across our Team.

Trust cuts across all levels of people from CEOs, senior executives, Mid-Leaders to early-career professionals, and everyone in between including personal relationships. Whether you are a CEO wanting to cultivate trust with your Mid-Leaders or a Mid-Leader wanting to strengthen your Team, here are a few ways to make trust bonding for your Team.

1. Inspire trust by being open, transparent, and clear about challenges. Most people want the Team and others to do well. But they can’t help if they don’t know so share challenges, and wins too! And remember, the best ideas do not always come from the top. 

2. Lead by example with candor, honesty, and vulnerability. Be the person you want your Team to be. As you share, they will share. As you innovate, let them surprise with their views and talents. 

3. Make your expectations clear and make trust part of your Team’s everyday conversations. My friend and trust expert, John O’Grady, describes having high trust relationships that start with “you have my trust, and it can only be eroded or lost” rather than a “trust must be earned” mentality. Talk with employees about how their demonstrated behavior aligns with your expectations. And when you think there may be a trust issue arising, approach it from a position of authentic curiosity instead of being accusatory. Find the underlying reasons for the issue and collaboratively address them. Maintain trust behaviors and a trusted environment before it becomes broken. Be proactive.

Trust creates a sense of psychological safety and can be an incredible inoculant when bad things happen to good people and good organizations. Think about your past year but more importantly, think about the year before you. Trust can make you feel in the most positive and profound ways. It fosters confidence, commitment, and teamwork. Who does not want that? Start trust bonding now.