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Accountability is challenging, as you know.

You want to hold people accountable for meeting performance and behavioral standards but don’t want to come across as a jerk.

Here are five action steps to help you do that.

1. Clarify your expectations.

I found that the fault was usually mine whenever one of my subordinates did not meet my expectations.

I did not set clear expectations. My subordinates did what they thought I wanted, but their mind-reading abilities were limited.

I learned to look in the mirror first when my expectations weren’t met.

Clarify your performance expectations using What + So That + When.

What: the task or requirement.

So That: the outcomes or results you expect.

When: the due date.

Let your subordinates figure out how they are going to get the intended results on time.

Adding “so that” forces you to communicate the intended result precisely.

Use this approach with every task, and you will find that people get the outcomes you want on time.

Clarify your behavioral expectations using What + So That + Examples.

Nearly every organization has it’s core values listed, defined, and posted on the walls.

They fail to specify what right looks like, though, so you have a tough time holding people accountable for values.

This problem creates cynicism as people perceive a say-do disconnect. 

When you have made your behavioral expectations obvious, contrary behavior stands out more sharply and is much easier to address.

There is a direct correlation between expectations and results.

2. Get a back-brief.

After you provide the “What + So That + When,” have your subordinates relay that back to you in their own words so that both parties know that you have a mutual understanding. [see the so that at work :0)]

Next, have them provide a brief sketch of how they will go about doing the task to get the desired results on time so that you know their game-plan is heading in the right direction.

This step gives you both the opportunity to check for Task – Result mismatches and provide any additional guidance and coaching.

Having your subordinates develop the how-tos gives them greater ownership and buy-in so that you are more likely to get high levels of engagement and great outcomes.

3. Set the right example.

Accountability works when you apply the expectations equally to everyone.

Accountability starts with you.

When you hold yourself accountable to meet performance and behavioral expectations, everyone will accept being held to the same standards.

4. Don’t play favorites.

Rules are arbitrary if they apply to some people and not others.

Going back to point #1, when the expectations are clear, you reduce the fogginess.

You can have objective conversations about accountability rather than emotional ones.

5. Follow-thru consistently.

With such clear expectations, you can more easily get to the root of problems.

Did someone fail to perform the task? Determine what circumstances led to that shortfall.

Did the task not achieve the intended results? You can determine if the shortcoming was poor performance or if you have a task – outcome mismatch.

Was the task not done on time? You can find out if your priorities are confusing, resources inadequate, or if your subordinate is overloaded.

That’s it!

1. Clarify your expectations.

2. Get a back-brief.

3. Set the right example.

4. Don’t play favorites.

5. Follow-through consistently.

What is your top takeaway from this article? Write a comment, DM, or email me at [email protected]

Managing your time was the #1 response to our top challenges survey.

It was #1 for solopreneurs and microbusiness leaders and #3 for small businesses of 11-50 people.

These results are not surprising.

You probably don’t have a full-time employee to manage your calendar.

You have to run AND grow your business at the same time. You probably don’t have middle management that runs your operations while you focus on growth.

The four horses of the 2020-pocalypse: COVID, economic shutdown, social unrest, and a divisive election have created a series of urgent, existential crises.

You give and give and give to help your clients, customers, employees, family members, and causes that are important to you.

Your time is the first casualty amidst these urgent demands.

To regain control, you need to follow the first principle of time management.

Pay yourself first.

That’s right, it’s just like any sound investment strategy. Pay yourself first.

Follow these steps to get back in control of your time.

1. Block off one- to three-hour chunks of time two or three days per week. Solid chunks of time are what you need to get growth-related things done.

2. Schedule these times on your calendar so that no one but you can override them.

3. Let your team know about your “growth time” [this time also gives them predictability – they know you are not going to parachute in on them].

4. Protect these chunks of time ruthlessly. You will find that you can address the vast majority of urgent demands outside of your growth-time.

5. Avoid the checkerboard calendar, where all you have are 10-15 minutes of white space at a time. It’s not enough to get anything substantial done. Putting four or five of these short blocks together, though, gives you a chunk of time to get sh!t done.

When you use this method, you will be amazed that the number of hours you work per week does not increase. It might even decrease.

By getting rid of your checkerboard calendar, you free up time during the day to do the heavy-lifting that you normally saved until after-hours.

You and your family and your team will be a lot happier and more productive when you pay yourself first.

 What is your top time management action step? Leave a comment here to let me know.

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If you want more action steps to regain control of your time, let’s set-up a call. You will:

1. Clarify your priorities so that you know ways to make the best use of your time and energy.

2. Uncover the hidden time and energy bandits that are robbing your bandwidth and emotional well-being so that you can put yourself back in the driver’s seat.

3. Get clear action steps using the pay yourself first principle so that you regain control of your time, talent, and energy — and your balance.

Schedule your call here or by using this link: https://callSLA.as.me/Chris.

A Forbes Coaches Council Post.

The soundtrack from the Broadway hit “Hamilton” is inspirational and is a reminder of music’s incredible power. But there’s more: Listen to it from a leadership development perspective and you’ll find pearls of wisdom for leaders looking to better develop themselves and their team. The following are a few timeless lessons embedded in several of the show’s songs.

Create and take advantage of opportunities.

In act one, Lin-Manuel Miranda repeatedly belts out the words, “I’m not throwin’ away my shot,” as part of the song “My Shot.” His character, Alexander Hamilton, raps about his frustrations with the British, his vision for a better future and his desire to leave a lasting legacy.

Life is filled with windows of opportunity or “shots.” The questions we need to ask as leaders are:

• Do we create these spaces of advantage in our own life or team?

• How do we notice them when they show up?

• How do we act when they appear?

The best leaders create, watch for, recognize, leap into and guide themselves and those they lead into these spaces of advantage. More importantly, they develop this capability within those they lead.  

Think big.

In that same catchy song are the lyrics “Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up. Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up.” A compelling cause is greater than the self. The best leaders figure out ways to get buy-in. A challenge that, no doubt, the founding fathers navigated.

Over the long haul, it’s not necessarily the most talented teams that win, as we often believe, but rather the best teams. So, the question is how do we develop the best team? Creating an environment and culture where individuals feel compelled to sacrifice and give their best effort for a cause larger than self is a great way to develop a team.

Culture is the foundation. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quotation attributed to the business management guru Peter Drucker. With all due respect to Peter, I advise leaders that culture eats a hell of a lot more than strategy: It eats everything, all the time, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and it’s still hungry. Culture has the appetite of a growing teenager. So, great leaders set and get their culture right. They align their vision, mission, values and personal leadership philosophy. Leaders deliberately — and with great purpose — figure out how they will routinely turn those words into action. They identify their culture carriers, recruit and retain for culture and develop talent. Leaders challenge and support individuals to become a team. They focus their energy on the team.

Control the controllable, discard the rest.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote, “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.” Similarly, in the song “Wait For It,” the lyrics “I am the one thing in life I can control” remind us the best leaders come to realize they have minimal control over externals. Conversely, mediocre leaders apply an excessive amount of time thinking and worrying about these externals. A few things to remember:

• Our attitude and how we choose to respond to our environment are in our control.

• The space between stimuli and our response is the space we own. Extend that space as long as possible for the best decision making.

• With clarity comes freedom of action and the ability to focus on those things we can control; this is a competitive advantage worthy of pursuit.  

Fuel grit and resilience in your people.

In the song “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” the powerful lyric “When you knock me down, I get the f#@k back up again!” represents the ability to embrace failure through grit and resilience. What motivates people and teams to persevere, to continually put in the effort? Leaders who guide their team to be able to answer for themselves the following three questions are well on their way to creating the motivation essential to grit and resilience. These three questions are:

• In terms of what I want or what is being asked of me, can I do it?

• Will it matter?

• Do I care about the outcome?

These are the building blocks of great success — the hallmarks that define champions. Leaders create a compelling narrative that help people arrive at an empathetic “yes” and support their reasons for “yes.” They also figure out ways to show tangible proof of micro-wins with those they lead. 

You must constantly be preparing.

A common characteristic amongst the best leaders in sports, business and the military is they all possess a humility to constantly prepare and develop themselves so that they are ready for opportunity when it presents itself. The song “The Room Where It Happens” is about the character Aaron Burr’s desire to have a seat at the table where political decisions are being made. It made me think about the difficult moments when leaders are alone. In order to make themselves ready for the big moment, they must prepare and sacrifice. They work to be the best when no one is watching and, in a way, on this quest to become more self-aware and improve their skills, they are alone in the room — just themselves with no place to hide. As a leader, do you seek to “catch” your people in moments of preparation and sacrifice? Do you remind them that comfort disables and discomfort enables? Great leaders understand “I’ve got to be in the room where it happens,” and getting to the “it” involves relentless preparation.

“Hamilton” is a powerful reminder that we possess free will and unlimited potential, and how we think and act can mean the difference between a mediocre or great executive and team.


As you know, a simple, effective decision-making process enables you to solve problems, avoid expensive mistakes, and seize opportunities that grow your business.

Here are the four most critical steps in the process.

Think FD3: Frame, Define, Develop, Determine.

1. Frame your decision statement with an action verb, object, and so that.

Clarity on what you are deciding and the purpose of that decision will save you hours of frustration and prevent you from spinning in circles.

“To purchase [verb] a new car [object] so that I can get to work [purpose].”

“To invest in marketing so that my ideal clients know how I serve them.”

2. Define your MUSTS and Wants so that you have clear criteria.

A must is a mandatory requirement that you can measure. Use “so-thats” for clarity.

“A compact car so that it fits in the parking garage.”

“Clear materials so that my ideal clients know the outcomes to expect.”

A want is something you desire but can live without if necessary.

“I want a blue car.”

“I want to invest less than $15,000.”

Rank order your wants, with ten being the most important and one being the least important.

3. Develop your options so that you have alternatives to compare.

You should create at least three viable options so that you do not fixate on the first solution that comes to mind.

You might wind up selecting what your “gut instinct” identifies, but creating options helps you avoid errors that come from what’s known as availability bias – defaulting to a recent, high-profile example that has stuck in your mind.

Advertisers rely on availability bias to influence your choices.

People who cancel airline tickets after a plane crash and decide to drive instead are using a high-profile incident to make a less safe travel choice.

4. Determine your best option by ensuring you’ve met the Musts, and you’ve got the most critical Wants.

Use a simple chart to check off the Musts and tally up the Wants.

The best score wins.

Frame – Define – Develop – Determine (FD3) is a simple, effective process that you can use for any decision you need to make in life and business.

Once you make the decision, you will need to deploy it to your team. We’ll discuss that in another post :0)

How well is this process working for you? Leave a comment below or send me an email: [email protected]

“I want my subordinates to make decisions,” Jim told me, “but they keep asking for permission.”

Why is that so bad, I asked him, you know they won’t make a wrong decision.

“The problem is that the decisions keep piling up on my plate. It’s like the salad bar at Olive Garden. Before you know it, you’ve got a mound of everything, and you lose your appetite for the main course. I feel like I can never get to the main course.”

Greens can be good for you.

“The problem is that I need to make my decisions – that’s the main course. My decisions are getting cold and stale because I’m choking on the salad bar. We’re losing opportunities because I’m in the weeds.”

That makes sense. What have you done to encourage your subordinates to make decisions?

“I tell them that’s what I want them to do. They nod in agreement. An hour later, the emails come in asking me permission to do this, that, and the other thing.”

What happened the last time someone made a poor decision?

“I kinda lost my mind.”

Does this conversation sound familiar?

I’ve had a version of it three times in the past week, which is why I’m writing this article for you.

The COVID pandemic and economic uncertainty have made people even more risk-averse.

Decisions that your direct reports should be making are piling up on your plate and reducing your bandwidth to do your job.

Here are three action steps that will help you boost people’s confidence to make decisions.

1. Define the decision-space. Have your direct reports outline the scope of their decision-making authority and boundaries. Discuss and refine. You’ll be able to reinforce the shared commitment to your common purpose as you do so. 

2. Set the expectations. Every time you lose your mind when someone makes an honest mistake, you discourage initiative.

Let people know how you will respond if a decision they make does not work out well.

If it’s a mistake of commission – someone erred when trying to do the right thing – then you need to underwrite the error and coach.

Underwriting the mistake will sustain their confidence that you won’t throw them under the bus. Coaching will help your subordinates learn from the experience.

A mistake of omission – laziness, ethical short-cuts, etc. – deserves punishment.

Walk your talk.

3. Practice. Rehearse the decisions and your responses if things go well or go poorly. When someone tries to put the ball in your lap, give it back to them, and review steps 1 and 2.

What’s your top takeaway about encouraging people to make decisions?

Let me know with a comment or email at [email protected]

The United States Army says that leadership is “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.”

A cringe-worthy business leadership definition is “the capacity of a company’s management to set and achieve challenging goals, take fast and decisive action when needed, outperform the competition, and inspire others to perform at the highest level they can.”

Here’s the problem with these definitions: any jerk with a big enough stick can meet these standards.

Here’s the effect: the lack of standards that differentiate leaders from jerks can prompt you to rationalize bad behavior that gets results.

As you know, excusing tyranny is a devil’s bargain that rarely ends well.  

“Chickenshit” behavior, to use historian Paul Fussell‘s elegant term for toxic leadership in the Army, ends up pushing your top talent out the door, demoralizing your employees, and creating a toxic workplace.

Disengagement, presenteeism, and turnover are the highest costs most companies face.

Turnover, according to Gallup, costs somewhere between 50 and 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

That means a 100-person company with a 50k average salary that has a 26 percent turnover rate (the U.S. average in 2017) loses $660,000 to $2.6 million each year.

What options would $1.6 million give you?

Getting turnover to a healthy eight percent begins with good leadership.

Here’s SLA’s definitionLeadership is the art of inspiring people to contribute their best to the common good.

Here are five action steps to inspire people to contribute their best to your company’s common good:

* Lead with authenticity so that you get past imposter syndrome and stop allowing the red cape at work to make you comatose at home.

* Inspire people to do what’s right even when no one is watching so that you avoid micromanaging and focus instead on growth.

* Get the right people in the right roles doing the right things so that you plug the drain on employee turnover and boost productivity 2X – 3X.

* Adapt quickly to turbulence and uncertainty so that you can innovate and lead change – and avoid slow-rolling and risk aversion that kills your best initiatives.

* Set aside empty cheerleading and carrots-and-sticks so that you can spark a genuine commitment to results.

What do you think of our definition of leadership? Add your comments to the article or email me at [email protected]

Historian and WWII veteran Paul Fussell has the best definition I’ve seen:

“Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant ‘paying off of old scores’; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances.”

Yes, America’s Greatest Generation had plenty of chickenshit.

It’s no surprise we do, too.

Substitute “business” or “nonprofit” for “military,” and you would not need to change much else from Fussell’s definition.

Good leadership cleans up chickenshit quickly.

Leadership is the art of inspiring people to contribute their best to your team’s success.

Petty harassment, bullying, upstaging, back-biting, bureaucratic pedantry, gaslighting, and cheap power-plays undermine your team’s performance as people look over their shoulders and cover their butts.

What happens in your halls, slack chats, and zoom calls is more important than what you write on the walls.

If you want to nail your next 100 days, you need to focus.

Get command of your time, talent, and energy, so that you have predictable times every week to work ON your business.

You can get so carried away meeting everyone else’s demands that you allow your priorities to gather dust.

You spend your time on email, social media, and in constant firefighting.

You find yourself at the end of the day wondering where all the time has gone.

You don’t have enough time for the fire-prevention tasks that allow you to grow sustainably.

I’ll get to it tomorrow. Rinse. Repeat.

Stop the madness.

Here are four action steps to get out of the spin cycle.

1. Set your priorities. Maintain a top 3 so you don’t diffuse your efforts.

2. Put good ideas on a Not-Now list, so you maintain visibility, but don’t get distracted.

3. Make your Not-To-Do list and outsource, delegate, or drop everything on it.  

4. Weekly planning. Set aside chunks of time each week for you to work on your business. Make these the same days and times so that you build a natural rhythm and bring your best to these sessions.

Focus is part of the 8-step process so that you can nail the next 100 days, build momentum, and rack up wins, even in turbulence and uncertainty.

You will get this process during my free masterclass.  

Yes, it’s free and takes only ten seconds to sign-up. There are no sales, no gimmicks, just value for you.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from your next level of success.

Get the peace of mind that you have made time to work ON your business.

What is your top takeaway from this article? Let me know: [email protected]

You would have to be an idiot not to take diversity and inclusion seriously.

Study after study shows the economic power of diversity.

A diverse, high-performing team is more productive, your leaders make better decisions, and you avoid the drama that makes for a toxic workplace.

The return on investment is such a no-brainer that companies spend millions each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs.

The likelihood that these programs deliver diverse AND high-performing teams, though, is too limited.

A recent Wall Street Journal study shows that companies are doing well in hiring diverse talent, but not in promoting them.

The first management rung seems to be the hardest to climb.

What’s happening?

Systemic bigotry is part of the problem.

Another part of the problem is that companies set their employees up for failure when they fail to align work with people’s natural inclinations.

When your hiring focuses mostly on diversity-that-you-can-see, you heighten the risk of putting the round peg in the square hole.

You know the results: heightened frustration, less productivity, and faster burnout.

People who report using their natural inclinations – their superpowers – each day are two-to-three times more productive than those who do not.

Using your superpowers each day means higher engagement, better performance, and less frustration and burnout.

Aligning work with natural inclinations is the best way to set up your employees for success so that you are more likely to retain and promote them.

We’ve developed a straightforward and free tool that you can use to promote diversity of natural strengths and make your leaders successful.

Servant leaders come in four broad archetypes: Pioneers (innovators), Reconcilers (team-builders), Operators (implementers), and Mavericks (game-changers).

Your subordinates are more likely to thrive when you put them in positions aligned with their superpowers.

You will be a better mentor when you help each person be the best version of themselves rather than sub-consciously encouraging them to copycat you.

You will also avoid what my mentor Michele Flournoy calls the mini-me syndrome – the tendency to surround yourself with people who think and act as you do.

The combination of physical and cognitive diversity will power your growth, limit expensive mistakes, and make your company a better place to work.

Do your most vulnerable employees feel that they can contribute their best and most authentic selves each day?

Get the tool here.

What’s your top leadership takeaway from this article?

Add a comment or email me at [email protected] 

Decide’s Latin origin means to kill off or to sever.

To make a decision thus means to kill off the alternatives.

Common decision-making errors result in you killing off the better alternatives – they are short cuts to expensive failure

Here are two doozies.

Confirmation bias happens when leaders place excessive weight on data that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and discounts contrary information.

We are living this problem right now. 

People on one side of the political spectrum highlight worst-case data on COVID-19. Their opponents emphasize opposite data. 

So many “expert” assessments and statements by political leaders are tainted by confirmation bias that ordinary people like you and me lose faith in their credibility.

It’s not just a political problem.

I fell into the confirmation bias trap myself. 

I wanted to take people on leadership trips to Normandy battlefields. I know the impact these experiences have on leaders and teams, and I’m very good at delivering them.

I wanted to do a lot of good for a lot of people, so I was eager to get going.

I believed that a good social media campaign could lead to mass interest.

A digital marketing agency I hired felt the same and suggested that Facebook ads would be a winner. They had had success with Facebook ads before, with a life-coach. They believed that they could replicate the outcomes. 

We made a series of (really cool) videos, created a complicated sales funnel, and crafted the ads carefully. 

We launched the ads. The videos were really popular and we saw superb engagement rates.

No prospects. 

We needed to create enough volume, we told ourselves, and the ads would pay off. Even if only .1 percent were interested, one million views should lead to 1000 prospects. 

We spent more.

We got nearly 2 million views and 300k “likes.” 

No prospects. No buyers.

I finally shut off the ads.

It turns out that we had tapped into an audience that loved military history, but they were not leaders or buyers.

Most entrepreneurs and leaders go to Facebook to keep up with friends and family, not for business advice.

That was an expensive lesson. 

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We will discuss decision-making and seven more steps to nailing your next 100-days during my free masterclass.  

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Status quo bias, on the other hand, increases resistance to change, even if your situation sucks and your plan is failing.

Leaders perceive that the status quo is safe. After all, the executive team signed up for the approach at one time.  

Board members or executives poke holes in alternatives, shoot-down proposals, and emphasize the risks of change.

Some resist change for fear of being “wrong” in adopting the current plan. 

Others do not have an apples-to-apples comparison of risk, so they place more confidence in managing the challenges of the failing plan they know than in a proposed alternative that they don’t. 

Solo-entrepreneurs and small business leaders with status quo bias make a decision one day and then talk themselves out of moving forward the next morning. 

You get trapped in the hamster wheel.

Here are two action steps to deal with these problems.

First, assess your assumptions. 

Ask “what must be true” for the plan to work. Those are your assumptions. 

Do a sanity check on the validity of the assumptions.

Do the same with alternate plans. 

This approach gives you an apples-to-apples comparison of the risks and opportunities.

It also helps you check your confirmation bias.

Second, use premortems.

A premortem is a story or two about how the plan failed so that you can identify the indicators and warnings. 

Make those indicators and warnings part of your risk assessment.

When the indicators and warnings light up in the wrong direction, you know it’s time to make a change.

Red-teams or designated critics can be helpful, too, but I prefer the pre-mortems. 

Leaders may rationalize away the former because they are supposed to point out problems. 

They go with the plan anyway and lose the benefit of the premortem’s indicators and warnings.

The premortem is something the decision-makers own, so they are more likely to take them seriously.

We will discuss decision-making and seven more steps to nailing your next 100-days during my free masterclass.  

Yes, it’s free and takes only ten seconds to sign-up. There are no sales, no gimmicks, just value for you.

Sign up now while this article is in front of you. You are one decision away from making even better decisions :0)

Get the peace of mind that you have decided to work ON your business

What is your top takeaway from this article? 

P.S. Do you want to nail your next 100 days? Of course, you do. Here’s the free training that will help you do exactly that. It’s perfect for solo-entrepreneurs, consultants, and micro-business owners.

You are one decision away from nailing your next 100 days.