preventive action

SVB’s executives remind me of confederate general Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg. Both were so high on their own fumes that they didn’t bother to ask “what if” their rosy projections did not work out.

Why It Matters

Having what-if conversations with trusted advisors can help you make wiser decisions and avoid the hubris that brought down SVB and Signature bank.

SVB’s disaster didn’t have to happen

You make better decisions when you bring in fresh air. Freebasing your own gunpowder leaves you vulnerable to common decision-making errors.

Recency bias is believing the future will be like the recent past. Sometimes it takes the form of people being afraid to fly after a plane crash. The more subtle form is a belief that current trends will continue.

The confederates racked up several victories over the Union forces, including big wins at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Confident that his army would keep winning, Lee made foolish decisions to invade Pennsylvania, attack dug-in Union positions at Gettysburg, and order the ill-fated Pickett’s charge.

He never asked what if the Union army didn’t break and run as they had before.

SVB’s execs believed historically-low interest rates would continue, showing an ostrich-like indifference to clear signals that the Fed needed to raise rates to tackle inflation. Their investments in low-yield 10-year treasuries created massive losses as the bank had to liquidate the assets before maturity when investors withdrew their deposits to seek more attractive investments.

Like Lee, they could have benefitted from a trusted advisor who asked, “what if ___ scenario occurs,” i.e., what if the Fed raises interest rates to curb inflation? Your subordinates are too busy or nervous to ask you these questions, so you need an outside point of view.

With these discussions, SVB could have identified preventive action, like keeping more cash on hand and balancing investments between short-term and 10-year treasuries.

Preventive action is better than corrective action

What-if questions from your peers are what’s going to drive your preventive action. Preventive action has its costs, but is always less expensive than corrective action. Just ask SVB and Robert E. Lee.

So who’s challenging you with what-if questions?

imposter syndrome

Discomfort means you are playing at a new level. Here’s how to get good at it.

Why It Matters

The same habits that got you to a $10m company will not get you to $100m. You can run a $10m, company through brute force and expertise. Try that approach at $100m, and you’ll be the reason your company fails.

You must grow into a WHY leader to succeed at $100m, which means shedding your body armor and relying on your subordinates’ expertise.

You’ll experience fear and anxiety along the way; below are good ways to handle that.

Worry if you don’t feel distressed. It means you are in a comfort zone, firmly cased in your body armor, and unable to grow.

By the Numbers

Imposter syndrome is typical and can be healthy:

Take These Steps to Get Good at Imposter Syndrome

  • Label the emotion. “I am feeling anxiety” because getting it into the open lessens the feeling’s power.
  • Determine what’s causing the emotion. “I am feeling anxiety because I’m not confident that Kevin can handle the job I used to do myself.”
  • Identify an advance and a retreat. Advancing action brings you closer to your goals and values; retreat takes you further away. “Developing Kevin and developing my ability to develop Kevin is an advance. Doing the job myself is a retreat.”
  • Take action. Invest in advance.
  • Avoid positive rescripting and happy talk because struggling with the emotion strengthens the feelings.
  • You are better off accepting the emotion and taking advancing action.
  • When you feel like you are thriving, look for new ways to grow. The right coach will keep you from being trapped in a comfort zone.
get good at imposter syndrome

Abraham Lincoln made 1mm adjustments to deal with imposter syndrome. His legendary melancholy never faded, but he developed non-stylistic techniques to manage it. In this 30-minute live discussion, I’ll share the practices that worked for him and how you can work them into your 1mm adjustments so that you advance toward your values and goals.

Going Deeper.

Imposter Syndrome is a tape playing in your head that you aren’t good enough to do the job. Russ Harris explains in The Happiness Trap that the most common advice — positive scripting — is counterproductive.

Imagine your favorite dessert — think about the flavor and texture and how much you enjoy eating it. Now, try to stop yourself from thinking about the dessert, and you’ll find the images keep coming back.

It’s the same with anxiety. Try to push the thought away or put a positive spin on it, and the fear tends to return more frequently. Struggling with the emotion hooks you. Obeying it can move you further away from the kind of leader you want to be if it leads to retreating action.

Growing requires you to get good at handling discomfort, which means you need productive ways to deal with the tape playing in your head.

You reduce its grip when you label the emotion (“I notice that I am feeling fear”). You can identify the sources of the fear and take action that moves you toward your goals and values (advancing action) while avoiding activities that move you away (retreating steps).

Not feeling imposter syndrome could indicate that you are not pushing the envelope far enough, avoiding risk, and settling into your comfort zone. Complacency kills.


Trust intersects three factors: reciprocity, competence, and reliability. Reciprocity means the relationship is a two-way street: both parties are better off.

The single most important thing you need to know about trust is reciprocity, which will make or break your small business or solo practice.

Suppose you are like many small business CEOs and have frustrations with employee disengagement and turnover, lack of buy-in, and poor accountability. In that case, you probably have a low-trust workplace that’s damaging your profitability, sustainability, and peace of mind.

“Compared with people at low-trust companies,” a study in Harvard Business Review reports, “people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”


How would you feel having fifty percent higher productivity, lower absenteeism, and tremendous energy?

For solo practitioners, common objections from your prospects, such as lack of time, money, or need, are reflections of a trust deficit. Your prospective clients ask themselves, “do I feel safe, will the support be helpful, is the juice worth the squeeze?”  Competence is the ability to do your job to the required standards, and reliability is that you will do what you say you will do.

Competence is the ability to do your job to the required standards, and reliability is that you will do what you say you will do.

You need all three in place to have a trusting relationship. Without reciprocity, you have one party taking advantage of the other. Lack of competence means underperformance, and poor reliability creates inconsistency.

The element most often missing in low-trust situations is reciprocity.

I spoke with a company executive who complained that she did not have the budget for leadership training and that the CEO wouldn’t reallocate any money.

She’s facing workplace burnout, employee turnover, and presentism — where people are (or appear to be) physically present but are unengaged and unproductive. Helping her direct reports become better leaders would alleviate these problems and allow her to focus on growth and innovation rather than getting stuck in failure work and dispute resolution.

These problems are costing the company millions.

She’s facing workplace burnout, employee turnover, and presentism — where people are (or appear to be) physically present but are unengaged and unproductive. Helping her direct reports become better leaders would alleviate these problems and allow her to focus on growth and innovation rather than getting stuck in failure work and dispute resolution.

These problems are costing the company millions.

The CEO makes $20 million annually; the next highest-paid person makes a fraction. He could reallocate .01 percent of his annual salary to develop key subordinates and see a 10:1 return on investment or higher payoff for the company.

The problem, of course, is that the CEO has little incentive to improve things. He’ll get a massive payout even if he’s fired for underperforming. Burnout, turnover, and presentism are symptoms of an overall lack of trust within the company.

The senior leaders are violating the gardener’s principle: the responsibility to provide the cultivation so that the best version of each person blooms.

Gardner’s till the soil and feed the plants to stimulate growth. They prune away anything preventing the plant from being its best self. They do not try to turn one vegetable into another.

When you cultivate your employees to become their best selves, they’ll respond by contributing their best to your company’s success.

The employees at this company, I’m told, see the vast discrepancies in salary and unwillingness to invest in them. The relationship seems one way.

The employees thus treat the company as a commodity — a bargaining chip to a better-paying job at a different company.

The gardener’s principle works for solo practitioners, too. When you show how you help your clients achieve their dreams and be the heroes of their own stories, they’ll drop the money, time, and need objections.


There’s still time to register for Joyful Sales Conversations, where I’ll show you how to put the gardener’s principle into action. When you create trust, you will transform your business.

June 17th & 28th 11:00 – 11:30 am US Central (plus 30-minutes for Q&A afterward)


What insanity, wishful thinking, and complacency have in common is the belief that doing the same things over and over will create success.

Einstein famously remarked that a definition of insanity was doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. Presumably, he meant better rather than worse results. We won’t get healthier, for instance, by practicing the same habits that created our current condition.

Einstein’s definition is closely related to wishful thinking — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting BETTER results. Americans saw that problem play out in places like Afghanistan. With minor variations, the U.S. government did the same things repeatedly and expected things to improve rather than continue their downward spiral.

On the other hand, complacency is doing the same things repeatedly and expecting the SAME results. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is fine for mechanical devices and rote tasks but shortens your path to ruin on almost everything else.
Sears expected their catalog-based shopping and mall-centered stores would continue delivering profits. They made only minor adjustments when the digital age arrived. Today, Sears is out of business while Amazon thrives. Blockbuster expected people to keep on coming to stores for movie rentals. Netflix crushed them. Toys R US face-planted. IBM saved a few bucks by renting instead of buying MS-DOS and went from the undisputed leader in the PC business to a humiliating exit from it.

Innovation is your complacency-vaccine. New practices and habits are the best ways to leap plateaus, shatter artificial barriers, and remove arbitrary finish lines. The best athletes vary their workouts. Military units alter the conditions under which they perform battle drills. The most agile thinkers read a variety of disciplines and views. Innovation keeps you out of comforting ruts.

The comfort zone for owners, consultants, and experts is a powerful intoxicant.

You’ve been successful, and there’s no reason, you believe, for future success to look much different than present success. This common condition is called presentism. Business failure begins with a lack of imagination.

What are you doing to boost innovation? Who are the mentors and advisers who will bring in the fresh air? What events will you attend that expand your perspective and help you see your future from new points of view?  

Accelerating your Success

Consulting Mastery is my 8-week mastery program for consultants and experts who want to build a meaningful, joyful, and profitable business and take it to new heights. This program, a variant of FOCUSED, orients exclusively on consultants and experts. I’ll run this program twice in 2022. We meet once per week for 90 minutes via zoom. The program begins in late January; only eight spaces are available. Your investment is $4500 by January 15; then, the fee rises to $5500. Most participants say that the program pays for itself in the first two weeks. Click here for more information and to apply.

Predictable unpredictability is a new reality. How will you help your clients thrive? The Innovation Mindset is an 8-week mastermind that begins in February. We’ll examine the most important 2022 forecasts for implications to small business leaders, consultants, and experts. 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.


I Focused my Forecasts for 2022 and Beyond on Trends most Relevant for Small Businesses, Consultants, and Experts.

I’ll host an 8-week mastermind group in January to discuss the implications of these forecasts and others so that you can provide vital thought leadership to your clients and anticipate the future for your business.

1. The Inflation bubble bursts. Due to employee turnover and inflation, small businesses will fail at a historic rate. COVID has decreased tolerance of bad bosses and poor work environments. Inflation rises to 4% if BBB fails and 6% if BBB passes, forcing many poorly-led, low-margin small businesses to close. High-margin solo and expert businesses will thrive.


2. Landgrabs. Russia and China seek to time moves against Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively, on signals that President Biden’s health fails. Iran and North Korea will do the same with their nuclear weapons and missile programs. A gulf state reveals its atomic weapons program in response to Iran’s.

3. Change for a BitCoin? Countries will begin to adopt crypto as alternate reserve currencies in response to America’s increasing weaponization of the dollar; investors will add crypto to their portfolios to hedge against inflation.

4. Trades strike back. Companies will lose confidence in supply chains that include overseas vendors. Local manufacturing and storage will rebound. Elite snobbery that the only road to a dignified professional life is an expensive 4-year degree will reduce. More people will enter trades and find substantial prosperity, independence, and joy.

5. Waking up to Woke. Businesses stop hiring consultants who pedal revenge racism and begin hiring people who improve teamwork. The best companies will hold CEOs and line managers responsible for diversity and inclusion; women and non-whites will gain a more significant share of P&L roles.

6. 280 characters fewer. Trust in conventional news outlets, experts, and punditry will continue declining, forcing at least one primary news channel, newspaper, and social media platform to close. People will turn increasingly to trusted advisers for perspective.

7. Revenge of the Nerds. Zillow Offers is the tip of an iceberg. Businesses that rely on AI platforms for customer relations and marketing will face significant setbacks because they act as a blunt instrument when customers expect concierge service. Hackers will learn to spoof AI decision-making tools by acting more like humans and luring machine decisions into unproductive corners.
8. AC Anyone? Climate change debates will shift towards alleviating the effects of rising sea levels and warmer temperatures. Wisconsin’s climate by 2040 will be like Tennessee’s in 2010.

9. Rolling Green-outs. Fossil fuels and nuclear power will make a comeback as a reliable base for energy supply. During extreme weather events, cities that rely on renewables will face significant power outages. Global predators will intensify cyberattacks against vulnerable power grids.

10. The open office is dead. Hybrid workplaces are here to stay. The most innovative companies will create in-office requirements based on need rather than arbitrary percentages. The most talented will seek jobs with those companies.

11. COVID theater closes. Companies will reduce wasteful activities that do little or nothing to stop the spread of COVID. The major media will reduce COVID-hype. The vaccinated will begin to revolt against COVID-control mandates because the virus is spread overwhelmingly by the unvaccinated and the vaccinated are tired of feeling punished. More businesses will require proof of vaccination or infection within the past six months for entry and employment. Vaccine boosters will be annual as COVID becomes endemic.

12. Big Red Resurgence. The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team will go to the BIG 10 championship game in 2022.

The Innovation Mindset Group is an 8-week mastermind that examines these trends and others for implications to small business leaders, consultants, and experts. We’ll meet for 90-minutes each week and develop unique thought leadership that will help you anticipate the needs of your businesses and clients. Your investment will pay for itself in a single sale. I’m limiting the group to 8. $4500 if you enroll by December 31, then the fee goes to $5500. Click here and scroll to the bottom to register to learn more about this limited time offer.

Small Business Failure

The Pressures of Low or Negative Margins and Employee Turnover will Create a Downward Spiral for Many Small Businesses

Small Business Failure

The combination of inflation, poor first-line leadership, and expensive mistakes spell trouble for low-margin small businesses. I think we will see small businesses fail at historically high rates in 2022.

Inflation of 4 percent or higher will persist due to supply chain challenges and demands for higher wages. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better initiative, if it passes, will heighten inflation even as it invests in (hopefully) high-payoff programs. Inflationary pressures are going to reduce margins. In some cases, small businesses could find themselves completing projects and selling products at a loss.

The so-called great resignation will continue because COVID has reduced people’s tolerance for poor leadership, toxic work environments, and poor work conditions. Some people are leaving their jobs to upgrade their skills and enter new lines of work. Most seem to be switching jobs within their current industries.

The best talent will find their way to companies that have good leadership, healthy cultures, and quality work environments. Provided that these companies can innovate successfully to outpace inflation and higher costs, they will thrive in an upward spiral of better talent, higher quality products and services, and greater continuity.

Business Failure
Small Business Failure

The pressures of low or negative margins and employee turnover will create a downward spiral for many small businesses. CEOs will work longer hours and get consumed in problem-solving, which heightens the risks of expensive mistakes. They’ll lack the bandwidth to innovate, so the margins will continue shrinking until the business is no longer sustainable.

You cannot do much about inflation (except raise their prices), but you can take these steps:
1. Fire managers who are driving employees away,
2. Invest in leader development so that you attract and retain great talent,
3. Reduce the likelihood of expensive mistakes by having trusted advisers who will help you avoid falling in love with your own plans and getting high from your own fumes, and
4. Innovate to create higher-margin products and services.

Programs that Accelerate Success

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. I’m limiting the group to 8. Six places are remaining.

FOCUSED is my 8-week mastery program for small business leaders and consultants to put the action plans in place to make 2022 their best year ever. The next program begins in late January; there are only eight spaces available. Click here for more information and to apply.

Innovation Mindset is a new 8-week program for consultants and small business leaders that I intend to launch in January, based on interest. This program gives you the tools to address (and help your clients address) the challenges facing small businesses in 2022 so that you can create an upward spiral that propels your business to new heights. Please reply to this email if you are interested.

The Trusted Adviser 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, strict accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results. Get the details here.

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. 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 where you will develop action steps to gain decisive competitive advantages. There are four spaces left.


LEADERSHIP: THE WARRIOR’S ART, second edition, is on the streets. 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.

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.

I’m delighted to offer you the opportunity to join me and six other leaders at my Antietam & Gettysburg exclusive event, December 7-10.

The battlefields will build your imagination for the action steps to make 2022 your best year ever.

Among the topics we typically discuss:

*Action steps to put the right leaders on the scene and empower them to make decisions.
*How to help your subordinates achieve “leader-on-horseback” inspiration so that people have clear examples to follow.
*How to create innovation and gain a competitive advantage. Ways to set up your new subordinates for success and keep them winning.
*Action steps that create clarity, buy-in, and accountability. Ways to let in fresh ideas and avoid smelling your own gunpowder.

You’ll come away from the event with action steps that will power your success in 2022 and lifelong relationships with other great leaders that will boost the quality of your life.

Find out more about the exclusive event here or paste this link into your browser:

Here’s what participants say about the event:
Gain buy-in like Chamberlain; encourage people to take the initiative like Buford. This inspiring and interesting experience is giving me new tools and stories to develop leaders.
Dick Gephardt, former Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives; CEO, Gephardt Group

They suffer a disorder similar to siloed ones: poor accountability.

Matrixed Organizations Don’t Work

Matrixed organizations don’t work. They suffer a disorder similar to siloed ones: poor accountability. The Afghanistan failure is exhibit A; it’s the same principle in business.

Members of Congress and America’s punditry recently awoke to the calamity in Afghanistan. The war ranks at the top of the biggest foreign policy disasters in U.S. history. In his Senate testimony on September 28th, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley admitted that we lost to a rag-tag militant group known as the Taliban. Cue the hue-and-cry. And yet, no one has been held accountable for the fiasco.

The reason is simple: there’s been no one on the ground in charge of the war.

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Wait. What?

That’s right. There’s no one in charge on the ground, so there’s no one to hold accountable for success or failure. There’s no single American the President can look to and say, “you are responsible for achieving success in Afghanistan.”

The military has a portion of the responsibility: fighting the enemy and training the (defunct) Afghan Army. The diplomats are in charge of building the (defunct) Afghan government capacity and coordinating with allies and neighboring countries. The U.S. Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) is responsible for helping the (destroyed) Afghan economy and infrastructure. In intelligence agencies coordinate clandestine operations and provide intelligence assessments, while training the (dismantled) Afghan intelligence agency.

There’s no one below the President of the United States who has the authority and responsibility for making it all work together half a world away. Everyone else works comfortably in their silos.

While the generals, diplomats, aid workers, and spooks each talked about their progress, the situation kept deteriorating. The main causes for failure include the vast corruption within the Afghan government and military, and the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. These problems occurred in the fault lines between the silos. Because no one was in charge of U.S. efforts on the ground, no one had the authority to address them or to tell the President that we needed a new strategy.

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?

Buy-in, Accountability, Results. 

The Success Trinity.

I mean trinity in the Clausewitzian sense, not the religious one.

Get them right, and the three elements take your performance to greater outcomes.

Get one piece wrong, and you’ll get a downward spiral.

Buy-in occurs when people contribute their best toward important goals.

Accountability means being answerable for doing the right things the right way so that they shorten your path to success.

Results are the outputs of your work.

Positive results reinforce buy-in and boost accountability, thus generating greater outcomes and impact.

What happens when part of the trinity is missing?

When you have buy-in and accountability but get poor results, you are on the wrong path. Your process is not working. 

If you have buy-in and results but lack accountability, then you are getting lucky. The downturn is only a matter of time.

When you have accountability and results but no buy-in, then you have lip-service. People will do just enough to avoid the stick and get the carrot, but they will not contribute their best.

I was saddened that my Green Bay Packers lost in the NFC Championship last night. 

They’ve made it there two years in a row because they’ve got the three elements in place. 

You can see the difference in the players’ faces, especially quarterback Aaron Rodgers who had his best season ever at age 37. 

Everyone’s bought-in. They hold each other accountable. They get great results.

They’re not perfect. They are human and make mistakes.

They perform superbly because they’re high performing people who’ve got great coaching.

I bet they will be in the hunt next year, too.