Posts

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. 

******

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

*******

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.

The Pioneer versus The Reconciler. Which one is better for America?

Many of you have asked me for thoughts about the upcoming U.S. presidential election using our PROM leader archetypes: Pioneer, Reconciler, Operator, and Maverick. (Get your PROM servant leader archetype here)

My articles are never partisan, and this one won’t be either.

I’ll outline the healthy, average, and unhealthy versions of The Pioneer and The Reconciler and offer what they need to do to govern effectively.

I’ll let you decide which candidate is which archetype, and to figure out which one is most likely to become the best and healthiest version of themselves.

Key takeaway: When you are hiring people on your team, look for those who add to your cognitive diversity and who are becoming the best and healthiest versions of themselves.

Do you want to learn more about using PROM servant leader archetypes to strengthen your team and stop wasting your time refereeing disputes and prodding people to do their jobs? Schedule your breakthrough call with me.

Let’s take a look at the two archetypes in the upcoming election.

One candidate is a Pioneer. The other is a Reconciler.

A healthy Pioneer challenges the status quo and rallies people behind innovations and changes.

A healthy Pioneer recognizes the disruptive nature of change and seeks to address the downside effects on the most vulnerable.

A healthy Pioneer seeks Operators who can implement the changes to a high standard, Reconcilers who can build and maintain consensus, and Mavericks, who tether the innovations to the bigger picture of what American ought to be.

Average Pioneers are divisive and run-roughshod over the opposition. They pinball back and forth, lacking the discipline to set and maintain priorities.

Average Pioneers tend to surround themselves with people who think like and agree with them, so they do not benefit from cognitive diversity.

Frequent blindsides throw them off-track. They do not get things done to a high standard. Most of their innovations are half-baked, executed poorly, and often create resentment.

Unhealthy Pioneers turn into dangerous demagogues who surround themselves with a narrowing group of sycophants. When backed into a corner, they are likely to take considerable risks to reverse their fortunes.

To govern effectively, The Pioneer needs to build consensus across America’s many divisions, protect vulnerable populations, set clear priorities, and get things done to a high standard.

If The Pioneer can meet these challenges, he will make meaningful changes that take care of those left behind, heal divisions, and reset America’s place in the world to something more fair and sustainable.

If, however, The Pioneer emphasizes divisions, fails to build consensus, and lacks the discipline to get things done, America in the 2020s could make the 1960s look calm.

A healthy Reconciler, on the other hand, builds consensus toward a clear and compelling vision.

A healthy Reconciler recognizes the dangers of watered-down consensus and thus sets clear goals and expectations to achieve them.

Healthy Reconcilers embrace cognitive diversity. They need Mavericks to help them create the vision, Pioneers to identify the practical innovations necessary, and Operators to set the game plan and hold people accountable.

Average Reconcilers tend to surround themselves with people who think like and agree with them, so they do not benefit from cognitive diversity.

They seek consensus as a goal. They water-down their vision and agenda to something unobjectionable to everyone. The aggressive people around them use the opportunity to pursue personal agendas.

Average Reconcilers can have a hard time making decisions because they don’t want to upset anyone. Everyone leaves a meeting thinking they have the Reconcilers backing. In-fighting creates the perception of a power struggle.

Unhealthy Reconcilers exhaust themselves, trying to please everyone. They grow resentful that others are not as giving, while a feeding frenzy erupts around them as subordinates vie for control.

To govern effectively, The Reconciler needs to set forth a clear and compelling vision that can bridge America’s divisions, create a game-plan, and hold officials accountable.

If The Reconciler can meet these challenges, he will realize, perhaps for the first time in history, America’s e Pluribus Unum motto – out of many, one. An America that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Not some of the people. All of the people.

If The Reconciler fails to create a compelling vision that unites Americans and does not hold his team accountable, his ideological cabinet members will advance their private agendas.

The divisiveness and resentment they will create could make the 1960s look calm.

For me, the hiring decision is this: which candidate is most likely to rise to become the best and healthiest version of themselves?

Get your PROM servant leader archetype here.

What’s your top leadership takeaway from this article? Add a comment or email me at [email protected]

Here’s the real test for your culture: how safe and confident do your most vulnerable employees feel to contribute their best and most authentic selves each day?

Do you know what it’s like to live every day feeling like you’ve got a target on your back?

Can you understand what it’s like to feel that society has stacked the deck against you?

Do you have any idea what it’s like to feel that your co-workers and managers look down on you because you are different?

If you are like me, you cannot answer the first two from personal experience. You can read about it, talk to people who have lived it, and you can empathize.

But you cannot fully understand.

You can do your part to treat everyone with dignity and respect; to make a positive ripple in a lake of prejudice and injustice.

As a leader, you need to get question #3 and fix it. The buck stops with you.

There’s no excuse for ignorance, complacency, or self-deception.

Make your team a lake of dignity and respect that does not tolerate anyone who tries to put a toxic ripple in it.  

It’s the right thing to do.

It’s also smart.

I was bullied and sexually assaulted as a teenager. I couldn’t concentrate in school afterward or when I felt the predators were circling.

I’ve also, unintentionally, said and done stupid things that hurt other people.

I was fortunate to have had people who told me the truth – lessons I do not forget.

Employees who feel that they have to hide, live a lie, put up with disrespect, or look over their shoulders are less engaged and productive.

Wouldn’t you be?

Here’s the real test for your culture: how safe and confident do your most vulnerable employees feel to contribute their best and most authentic selves each day?

If you were to use a 1-5 scale, with 5 being “Always,” anything less than 5 from every employee means you are wasting talent and money.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to find out.

1. Get some objective data. You can’t see the label when you are inside the jar. The combination of anonymous questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews provides you points of view you are not going to get by yourself.

2. Shop your Culture. You shop your business to see how well your sales team performs, and if your processes are user-friendly, why don’t you do the same for your culture?

3. Look for the signals. What do people put in their workspace? How well do your employees care for your bathrooms and facilities? Do people cluster in like-groups or diverse groups?

Look at your workplace from a vulnerable employee’s point of view so you don’t walk past problems anymore.

Once you know the data, you can take action.

How well are these steps working for you?

Let me know: [email protected]

Accountability is a four-way intersection.

Accountability means being answerable to someone for something important.

When you lead with accountability, you keep your commitments to your vision and mission, your employees, your customers, and your partners.

Lack of accountability leads to neglect, poor performance, abuse, and backbiting.

When you uphold accountability fairly, you show that you are sincere, you set the example, and you don’t play favorites.

Accountability improves commitment to your vision, mission, goals, and values.

Accountability reduces your need to micromanage and spend energy on compliance.

Accountability is possible when you make your goals and expectations clear.

Accountability improves when you share your goals and expectations.

An accountability group accelerates your performance because you are sharing your goals with people who are committed to your success.

Accountability gives you the focus to work on your business.

Accountability strengthens your promise to sharpen yourself so you can lead to greater success.

Accountability puts you back in command.

There’s a direct line from accountability to success.

Only you can draw it.

Leadership is the art of inspiring people to contribute their best to your team’s success (check out the free Leading Well masterclass) – accountability builds commitment so that people do what’s right even when no one is watching.

What’s your top takeaway from this article? Write me at [email protected]