Chris Kolenda, founder of SLA, helps principled business owners who want to drive their growth at the right time, with the right team, in the right way.

Chris Kolenda: Is it time to dismantle your DEI and ERG programs

Is it time to dismantle your DEI and ERG programs

Are your DEI and ERG programs serving their purpose, or is it time for a radical reevaluation?

How to turn discomfort into growth.

Valuing Discomfort 

One of the most transformative experiences of my professional life was attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin as a U.S. Army captain before teaching at West Point. As the only active-duty officer in the student body, I was immersed in a very different environment than I’d experienced in the past. 

I grew up in a conservative household, attended West Point, and served in the mostly conservative military. Madison’s liberal faculty and student body took me outside my comfort zone, and initially, I felt like a fish out of water. 

One professor remarked, “We don’t teach military history,” as if I could not study anything else. 

Stepping out of my comfort zone, I found myself among people who engaged in agreeable disagreements on various topics. This experience of embracing viewpoint diversity expanded my intellectual horizons and challenged me to reevaluate ideas I had previously held without much thought. 

Along the way, I developed the ability to listen without judgment to someone’s point of view and ask open-ended questions that helped me understand where they were coming from. 

Doing so develops your empathy skills, which, years later, helped our unit motivate a large insurgent group in Afghanistan to stop fighting and become allies. 

Those skills proved vital when I participated in unofficial meetings with Taliban representatives in 2017-8, resulting in the group writing an open letter to the American people requesting peace talks.

I wonder how differently I would have developed had I accepted loads of unsolicited career advice to avoid teaching at West Point and do what everyone else was doing.  

Taking off the Body Armor

I worry about the trend where people seek safety by bubble-wrapping themselves in their comfort zones. 

Like attracts like, and people naturally gravitate toward others who look, think, and act like them, creating comfort zones that can become exclusionary, even hostile, echo chambers.

Listening to new ideas and ones you disagree with takes courage; screaming at people from inside your comfort zone does not. 

Building bridges with people who look, act, and think differently than you do takes courage; fortifying your bubble wrap does not.

Joey Hutto, a captain during our 2007-8 deployment to Afghanistan, exemplified courage when he accepted a dinner invitation from village elders who’d been supporting the insurgents. Joey removed his helmet and body armor, handed his weapons over to his patrol, and walked with his interpreter into the home.

We were new to the area. The elders told Joey why ninety-five percent of the people were fighting us: years of civilian casualties and government corruption convinced them that the insurgents were the lesser of two evils. 

Joey listened to their point of view and asked follow-up questions so they knew he understood their message. “We cannot change the past,” he said. “But we can find ways to fix these problems and work together for a better future.” 

And they did.

Transcending Comfort

Strengthening your self-awareness and committing to growth are a good places to start if you want to become an ever-better version of yourself.

Knowing yourself, learning how others see you, and understanding what others need from you helps you approach people and situations with an open mind. This allows you to combat comfort zones that limit your exposure to new ideas and experiences. 

Chris Kolenda: Is it time to dismantle your DEI and ERG programs

Self-aware people recognize that growth requires entering their discomfort zones. Having guides (mentors, coaches, advisers, friends, etc.) to help you through vulnerability turns your discomfort into your growth zone. 

That successful journey leads to your transcendent zone, creating a new comfort zone for growing beyond.

Are you transcending or entrenching your comfort zone? 

  • When was the last time someone disagreed with you? 
  • How did you respond?

If your direct reports do not flag problems, offer new ideas, and try new things several times per week, you’re probably sending signals that you don’t brook disagreement. 


Employees may believe you lack of curiosity, react poorly when someone disagrees with you, or punish those who take a risk and fall short. Either way, people will self-censor, and you and your company won’t grow to new heights.

What discomfort zone are you entering next? Email me to let me know.

Chris Kolenda: Is investing in your culture worth it?

Is investing in your culture worth it?

Should you invest in that off-site or training program that promises to strengthen your culture? 

I admit that I am a bit biased because I’m a believer. I support my clients in these ways, and I even have a trademarked program called Building an Inspiring Culture®

To give you a concise report, I asked my chatbot to outline the business case for Building an Inspiring Culture®.

Taken together, these studies suggest that investing in your culture can have a huge payoff, provided you invest in quality. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that culture drives employee retention, more so than pay and benefits. In a 2024 study, over seventy-five percent of job stayers reported satisfaction with their company’s culture, while less than twenty-two percent of leavers reported the same. 

Can’t afford to invest in your culture? These data points suggest that you can’t afford not to.

Are you ready to invest in your culture? 

Stay away from the goofy catch-me-while-I-fall-backwards gimmicks and one-off “morale-building” picnics.

Your best option is to invest in programs that provide you and your employees with simple processes that you can teach, evaluate, and improve.

Most leaders use unconscious processes that work to varying degrees. Because you cannot teach, evaluate, or improve an unconscious process, leaders get frustrated that employees are not picking up what’s intuitive to the leader. Employees get frustrated that the leader expects them to be mind readers and is not giving them the tools to be successful. 

What would be the impact if you had simple, practical tools to build your leaders and culture? 

The best places to find them are in my trademarked programs Becoming a WHY Leader® and Building an Inspiring Culture®

Becoming a WHY Leader® is a video-based program that moves you from being a “Hands-On” to an “Eyes-on, Hands-Off” leader, which is necessary if you want to lead multi-unit organizations and inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success. 

Do you want to create a culture where people voluntarily meet your standards and expectations? Building an Inspiring Culture® is a video-based program that outlines the process for doing so. 

You can engage in these self-directed programs at your own pace and order. Do you want to improve your self-awareness or strengthen buy-in? Go directly to the module you want, watch a short video, and apply the process visual to get results immediately.

Each program retails for $997 or $1450 for both. 

I am offering lifetime access to you for $297 each or $397 for both until May 15th.

You can enroll in one or both of them using these links:

Becoming a WHY Leader®: https://sla.circle.so/checkout/becoming-a-why-leader

Building an Inspiring Culture®: https://sla.circle.so/checkout/building-an-inspiring-culture

Bundle It! Get both programs for just $397: https://sla.circle.so/checkout/why-leader-and-inspiring-culture

Do you want to license these programs for your organization? Send me an email, and we’ll set up a time to discuss.

Chris Kolenda: Catch people doing something right.

Catch people doing something right.

Do you want to know the #1 secret to improve performance? Catch people doing something right.

I’ve led, been led, and helped leaders for over 35 years, and how to improve performance always leads to lively discussion. I began on the wrong side of it.

I used to think constructive criticism was a leader’s most crucial role. When you root out problems, you can solve them. Problems fester when you ignore them, and your organization will rot from within. Besides, why praise someone for doing their job and meeting standards when that’s what they get paid to do?

I focused my attention on identifying problems and providing corrective action. I started to notice fewer problems but more resentment. C’mon – you’re grown people. No one’s perfect. You should be able to take some criticism and drive on.

Then I met Sergent Cline. He was Europe’s heavyweight champion powerlifter and the gunner on one of our platoon’s tanks. We called him Tiny.

Tiny, did you check the engine and transmission fluids? I asked during an inspection.

Yes, sir!

Ok, let’s take a look. 

I jumped up on the tank’s back deck, pulled the plates, and checked the fluids. Good-to-go. No problems here. I was ready to move to the next item I wanted to inspect.

Sir, that’s pretty messed up. Tiny said.

What do you mean?

You asked me if I checked the fluids. I told you I did, and you then checked behind me. Either you think I’m lying to you or that I’m incompetent. 

I’m just doing my job inspecting the tank.

It’s not about the inspecting. We want you to do that. We love showing off how good we are. When you want to check something, just do it. Don’t ask me first if I checked it. 

I was inadvertently trying to catch somebody doing something wrong. It built resentment and undermined my relationships. That discussion happened in 1988, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson. 

Searching for problems is lazy accountability. We’re hard-wired as humans to detect aberrations. It’s part of our amygdala’s fight-or-flight instinct. Problems stand out to us. 

Of course, you want to nip problems in the bud, like Sergent Cline did with me, or they become habits and much more challenging to correct. 

Avoid treating the problems you find as buried treasure. Simply ask, “How will you do it better next time?” Get the people responsible for correcting the problem involved in seeing it and developing ways to fix it. 

It’s also easy to acknowledge someone doing something extraordinary and essential to appreciate it. The challenge with only praising extraordinary performance is that most people won’t face the same circumstances or have the same capacity. As much as they’d like to repeat the behavior, they probably won’t be able to.

Acknowledging and appreciating to-standard performance is the most mentally challenging because we are hard-wired to gloss over it. You have to seek out good performance intentionally and admire it. 

One way to do this is to highlight a particular value or expectation and seek evidence for it. Note when someone’s actions exemplify your standards. “Way to go, Joe. You treated that customer’s complaint exactly right. You gave your full attention so she felt heard and used your judgment to fix the problem.”  

Catching people doing something right is your most potent behavior-shaping tool. When you acknowledge and appreciate someone’s behavior, they will repeat it and so will everyone else. 

How well is this process working for you? Email me to let me know. I love cheering your success and helping you get over obstacles.

Did you know people read my newsletter over 50% of the time? I’m thrilled that you get so much value out of it. 

You can increase your value to others by sharing what helps you grow. Whether it’s this blog or another, share it and encourage your colleagues to experience what’s valuable to you. Sharing wisdom is like a rising tide lifting all boats. 

Chris Kolenda: What Golf’s Masters Tournament Tells Leaders About Hiring

What Golf’s Masters Tournament Tells Leaders About Hiring

You’ve told me that attracting and retaining talent is at the top of your concerns. The economy is in full employment, and people are less willing to job-hop, so gaining new talent is challenging. 

Widening the applicant pool by reducing your standards is tempting, but what invariably happens is that you get more wrong-fit employees, which creates friction and leads to more turnover. The U.S. Army relearns this lesson every generation.

You should do the opposite and strengthen them. The Masters shows why.

I confess that I’m not a golfer or fan of the sport. I calculate the value of a golf game in strokes per dollar (I get a great ROI) and believe in testing myself in the most challenging situations. My balls invariably end up in the rough, the sand, the ditch, the lake, and behind the largest trees. Watching the sport on TV is like watching paint dry.

Golf has strict rules, which the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, takes to new heights. You cannot bring your mobile phone or a camera onto the course. You can bring a chair to reserve your spot and not remove another person’s chair. Those chairs cannot have arms or be large folding chairs.

There is no running, no jeans, and no attire with logos. You must consume alcohol in designated areas, but you can puff on a cigar anywhere.

These types of rules are standards: something that anyone can live up to.

Arbitrary rules that deny membership based on race, sex, gender, etc., by contrast, are discriminatory. The Augusta National Golf Club has removed its discriminatory policies, allowing people of all races in 1990 and accepting women in 2012.

30,000 to 40,000 people attend the Masters tournament daily. Their standards attract and retain people willing to buy into them and repel people who won’t. 

People like working and playing with people who share the same standards, so if you want to attract and retain your best-fit talent you should strengthen rather than relax your standards.

Here are three action steps you can take:

1. State your standards using the X so that Y formula. X is the standard. “So that” is a prompt to ensure you cover Y: the result or outcome you intend by doing X. For the Masters the Y is “maintaining decorum.”

2. Use the pressure gauge to make them more explicit. This tool helps you define what is acceptable and what behaviors are out of bounds. Co-create them with your employees to gain greater buy-in.

3. Provide employee examples of the standards in action. Real-life examples help people see themselves in the story and clarify your company’s expectations.

Straightforward, sensible standards that obviously benefit your company’s common good attract and retain the best-fit people.

Standards are vital to your company’s common good, which is at the heart of my trademarked program, Building an Inspiring Culture®. You can review the contents here

CEOs use this program to get their key leaders on the same page. In the live-led version, I coach and facilitate your team so that you get results faster. Email me to discuss what a live-led version would look like for your company.

Chris Kolenda: A tool for Recruiting and Retaining the Right Talent

A tool for Recruiting and Retaining the Right Talent

Thank you for your replies on the topics you want me to address. The most popular thing on your mind is recruiting and retaining your top talent, so I’ll give you a powerful tool to help you do that.

The Great Resignation (or Great Escape) has receded, so fewer people are job-hopping, which means that quiet quitting and disengagement are rising. 

I recently spoke with a CEO, who we will call Fred. He is facing a staggering sixty percent turnover rate among recent hires, which suggests they are attracting wrong-fit candidates.

Fred has very high standards because his employees do grueling and dangerous work. His hiring process focuses on the nature of the work so people know what they are getting into. What they don’t know in advance are the strict standards that drive them away.

Fred’s not about to change his standards; his safety record is terrific. He needs to be more explicit about his expectations in the hiring process.

The pressure gauge is an excellent tool for spotting right-fit talent because it helps people see themselves relative to your essential standards.

State your standard in the X so that Y format, so people know what behavior you expect and the WHY – the results and outcomes – the standards promote.

For example, ACME expects employees to show up on time, in the proper uniform, with their equipment ready (the WHAT) so that they can respond immediately to calls and not waste time getting their act together or placing themselves or others at unnecessary risk (the WHY).

The pressure gauge, see the visual below, prompts you to outline what awful and acceptable looks like so prospective employees can determine whether to opt in or out, and you strengthen accountability among your workforce.

The green area represents acceptable: on time (8 am, clear head, proper uniform, ready equipment).

The yellow area denotes lackluster: showing up at 8:01 or later, missing uniform or equipment items, or unserviceable equipment, for example.

The red area symbolizes excessive pressure that damages the team: bullying, belittling, or abusive behavior, stealing or sabotaging equipment, showing up drunk or high, etc.

Chris Kolenda: Pressure Gauge Diagram

Fred now has a clear visual representation of his standards and what behaviors are unacceptable. Prospective employees can discuss where they see themselves, and Fred can ask questions to determine their willingness to buy-in. The clear visual also helps his current employees stay on track and ensures Fred provides the resources and support people need to succeed.

Create a pressure gauge for your standards. Better yet, ask your employees to co-create it so they have even more buy-in. Accountability is much easier when people voluntarily promote standards. Your retention improves because people value being around those who share common standards.

How’s this process working for you? Email me to let me know.

This tool and other visuals give you a conscious process you can teach, assess, and improve. 

Most leaders use unconscious processes that work to varying degrees. You cannot teach, evaluate, or improve an unconscious process, so people get frustrated and leave. 

What would be the impact if you had more tools like this one? The best places to find them are in my trademarked programs Becoming a WHY Leader® and Building an Inspiring Culture®. 

Becoming a WHY Leader® is a video-based program that moves you from being a “Hands-On” to an “Eyes-on, Hands-Off” leader, which is necessary if you want to lead multi-unit organizations and inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success. 

Do you want to create a culture where people voluntarily meet your standards and expectations? Building an Inspiring Culture® is a video-based program that outlines the process for doing so. 

You can engage in these self-directed programs at your own pace and order. Do you want to improve your self-awareness or strengthen buy-in? Go directly to the module you want, watch a short video, and apply the process visual to get results immediately.

Each program retails for $997 or $1450 for both. 

For the month of April 2024, I am offering lifetime access to you for $297 each or $397 for both.

You can enroll in one or both of them using these links:

Becoming a WHY Leader®: https://sla.circle.so/checkout/becoming-a-why-leader

Building an Inspiring Culture®: https://sla.circle.so/checkout/building-an-inspiring-culture

Bundle It! Get both programs for just $397: https://sla.circle.so/checkout/why-leader-and-inspiring-culture

Do you want to license these programs for your organization? Email me, and we’ll set up a time to discuss.

Chris Kolenda: How to help your employees build resilience and improve their mental health: One size does not fit all

How to help your employees build resilience and improve their mental health: One size does not fit all

Mental health is finally a workplace topic of conversation, and it’s a welcome change. 

No one deserves to be put through psychological abuse such as belittling, bullying, and gaslighting, and leaders have an obligation to handle those who use such tactics. 

Life outside work also creates emotional taxes that people may carry into the workplace. The result can include adverse reactions to triggers that damage relationships. Wouldn’t everyone be better off if someone feeling extreme duress took a mental health day instead?

At the same time, employees in chronic mental health crises exhaust their co-workers, and leaders with fragile mental health may shut down or become abusive. 

There’s an excellent chance that you are not a trained therapist, and you might be wondering what you can do when one of your employees struggles on the job to cope with setbacks or uncertainty.

The key is to provide the proper scaffolding so they can move forward.

The chart below can help you provide actionable support for people in duress. The vertical axis represents their locus of control. Some people have an internal locus of control: they believe their actions are primarily responsible for the outcomes they experience. Those with an external locus of control believe that factors outside their control are responsible principally for outcomes.

The horizontal axis depicts flexibility: constant versus adaptable. Constant people tend to have deep convictions that guide them through the world, whereas adaptable people roll with the punches regarding matters beyond their control. A constant person may attribute the weather to divine intervention, while the adaptable person says there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Constant people with an internal locus of control take responsibility and maintain their convictions through difficulties. On the downside, they can drift into Master of the Universe mode and have unrealistic expectations about their ability to control outcomes. They can beat themselves up and demoralize their teams when things don’t work out. Help them see that they cannot control outcomes, but they can control their inputs and processes. COVID, global supply disruptions, inflation, AI, and other externalities drastically affected outcomes. Those with sound processes rode the waves successfully.

Constant people with an external locus of control often go with the flow, believing fate controls their destiny. This can calm them in the face of uncertainty. However, they can shatter when something goes awry because they think luck, karma, and divine guidance are against them. You can support them by identifying small action steps they can take to move forward and gain momentum.

Adaptable people with an external locus of control are great at contingency planning. They can see the risks and opportunities from outside forces and create Plans B, C, and D to mitigate the downsides and seize opportunities. In the face of uncertainty and ambiguity, they can dither in paralysis by analysis. You can help them move forward using a simple, effective decision-making process (and here, too).  

Adaptable people with an internal locus of control tend to show resilience in the face of challenges because they believe they can problem-solve and innovate to make the best of any situation. However, they can heighten others’ anxiety by ruminating out loud or spitting out new ideas at a machine gun rate of fire. Get them to explain their priorities and describe their game plan, and encourage them to stick to the new idea long enough to see it through. 

This process also works for managing up, so you can help your boss get unstuck and back into action.

What topics do you most want me to write about? Send me an email or comment and let me know.

Chris Kolenda: How I learned to gain buy-in

How I learned to gain buy-in

For most of my military career, gaining buy-in for change was pretty easy.

I had an excellent system for acquiring feedback, so I learned what frustrated my troopers and took action to address the problems. They readily helped me implement the changes. I presumed it was because they had confidence the game plan would work.

Afghanistan changed all of that.

In addition to clarity and confidence, people buy-in when they believe doing so leaves them better off. You can’t lecture people into that belief. They need to see it for themselves.

We were fighting for our lives against an enemy that seemed to get stronger even as we inflicted significant casualties. We believed people wanted us to attack the enemy and support the Afghan government officials. We were flat wrong. About 95% of the people we thought we were helping were actually trying to kill us, which is why their numbers swelled.

Three of our troopers were killed in those first sixty days of a 450-day deployment. More of the same was the safer choice regarding what the military expected, but it would not improve the situation. 

I’m a voracious reader and feedback consumer, so I looked to history, trusted advice, inputs from paratroopers and elders, and behavioral sciences for answers.   

To succeed, we had to build relationships with Afghans, especially those close to the insurgents. The challenges included getting our troopers to take risks in reaching out and convincing Afghans (many of whom were angry at international forces and the Afghan government) to reciprocate.

Asking troopers to go against years of training and Afghans to let go of decades of hatred toward foreign forces required clarity, confidence, and belief that change would make them better off. 

Chris Kolenda Drawing: 3 Elements of Buy-In

First, we had to clearly express what we wanted our troopers to do and the benefits of doing so. “X so that Y” is your formula for expressing clear guidance. We wanted to build relationships so that Afghans would see us as partners in their success, which would reduce incentives towards violence. 

Improving relationships with Afghans required trust-building. “Afghans hear with their eyes,” one elder told me—they believe what they see. We started with small measures and built from there.   

Our troopers and Afghans were confident the approach would work, provided the other side lived up to their commitments. Trust-building was essential for reinforcing confidence.

Inspiring belief was the biggest challenge. People have to believe they will be better off for making the change. Otherwise, they will undermine the initiative. Military tactics that seemed to improve safety, such as maintaining a threatening posture, aggressive driving, etc. actually increased hostilities thus heightening risk of injury or death. 

Small, incremental wins increased belief, which led to more significant measures in a virtuous cycle. Our troopers saw that stronger relationships reduced violence and improved security. Afghans saw that working together on mutually-agreed measures that they chose strengthened local governance and improved quality of life. Eventually, the top insurgent group in the area stopped fighting and switched sides.

You cannot force people to believe that they’re better off, they have to come to the conclusion for themselves. Discussing the potential change and asking your employees how they will be affected can reveal areas of opportunity. Giving people the agency to strengthen the positives and mitigate the negatives increases their sense of ownership and belief in the new policy or initiative.

How well is this process working for you? Email me to let me know. I love cheering your success and helping you get over obstacles.

Did you know that you read my newsletter over 50% of the time? I’m thrilled that there is so much value out in it.  

One of the ways you increase your value to others is by sharing what helps you grow. Whether it’s this blog or my newsletter or another, share and encourage your colleagues to experience what’s valuable to you. Sharing wisdom is like a rising tide lifting all boats.

Chris Kolenda: Optimism versus Wishful Thinking? Here’s what you need to know.

Optimism versus Wishful Thinking? Here’s what you need to know.

I was so sure that leaders would jump at the opportunity for leadership seminars at historical battlefields that I hired a digital marketing company, made excellent videos, created sales funnels, and poured thousands into Facebook ads. 

It was an epic fail. 2 million views, over 250,000 likes, not a single buyer. I was right that leaders value off-sites at historic venues, but the marketing strategy was flawed. Wishful thinking costs me tens of thousands of dollars. I fixed the value proposition and marketing and it’s now among my most successful and impactful programs. 

Are you optimistic or a wishful thinker? Do you sometimes struggle to decide whether to stay or change the course? You are not alone. 

Having the courage of your convictions can help you weather inevitable ups and downs, keep naysayers at bay, and provide the patience you need to see innovations succeed. You can easily cross into wishful thinking, hurtling eyes wide shut into bankruptcy.

At the same time, a lack of conviction can lead to hyperactivity as you swing from one idea to another, shift courses constantly, and perpetually change your mind. 

Leaders need optimism; no one will follow you if you don’t believe in success. You also need guardrails against ostrich-like wishful thinking that can ruin your business or get people hurt. For example, wishful thinking was in plentiful supply until the bitter end in Afghanistan.

You need the right balance between conviction and open-mindedness – a prudent optimism. It’s not easy.

According to The Wall Street Journal, 23andMe, a DNA-testing company, has seen its valuation plunge to nearly zero today from $6bn in 2021 as it tried to pivot into becoming a small biotech. Meta, meanwhile, reportedly loses $3bn to $4bn per quarter on Metaverse. Autonomous vehicle companies are struggling to meet safety concerns and avoid liability issues in the event of a crash or injury. Electric vehicles aren’t selling well despite generous government subsidies. Since FTX’s fall, crypto seems even more of a gamble. A lot of money seems to be circling the drain. 


Should these companies press on and risk bleeding cash until bankruptcy, like Blockbuster, or miss out on a massive breakthrough, as Kodak, which invented the digital camera and ditched it in favor of film?

This chart can help you determine whether you are optimistic or inhaling your own gas.

Chris Kolenda: Optimism vs Wishful Thinkful diagram.

The critical difference between optimism and wishful thinking is the willingness to try new things. Here are some indicators that you might be on the wrong side of the line.

  • You believe information that confirms your pre-existing views and discount contrary ones (confirmation bias).
  • You create a higher bar for new ideas to prove their worth than you do for the existing approach (status quo bias).
  • You emphasize the effort and investment you’ve already made to justify staying the course (sunk cost paradox).
  • You point to a single anecdote instead of assessing a more comprehensive array of evidence (availability bias).
  • You sideline critics and surround yourself with people who agree with you (sycophancy bias).
  • You treat tough questions as personal attacks (thin-kin syndrome).

Here are strategies to keep hope alive without self-delusion.

  • Have two or three trusted advisors who 1) want what’s best for you, 2) are willing to tell you the truth, and 3) can build your capacity. These confidants will alert you to the traps above.
  • Identify and assess your assumptions about the product or idea. Ask, “What must be true for [x] to work?” Your answers are your assumptions. If the assumption proves untrue, it’s time to modify your approach.
  • Compare alternative strategies using a level playing field. AI can be a superb tool for reducing some of the biases above. AI has its own biases and limitations, but it will give you logical responses that will help you ask tough questions.
  • Gain perspective through history and the experiences of others. You’re not the first one to face challenging situations or tough decisions. Learning how others created proper firewalls between optimism and wishful thinking will help you develop a system that works for you.

Providing you with the tools to sustain prudent optimism is one of the outcomes you’ll get when you join me on a battlefield leadership experience like Antietam & Gettysburg. These and other historical venues are perfect for off-sites because you get everyone out of their comfort zones into the fresh air and gain tools that help you manage your business’s most vital elements.   

Send me an email or schedule a call if you’d like to discuss an off-site for your company.

Chris Kolenda: Boosting your Self-Awareness

Boosting your self-awareness

He lacks self-awareness! She’s totally un-self-aware. Leaders need more self-awareness.

Have you heard descriptions like these at work? If you are like most people, you get the importance of self-awareness, but you have few tools to put it into practice. If you’d like to improve your self-awareness, you’ll want to read on.

What’s the big deal about self-awareness? According to Tasha Eurich, author of Insight, self-aware people tend to be happier, have better relationships, and be more effective leaders. Who doesn’t want that?

Self-awareness might seem like a new management buzzword, but the idea has been around since the ancient Greeks. Travelers to see the oracle at Delphi saw the words “Know Thyself and Seek Mortal Thoughts” as they made their way to the temple. 

Know Thyself means your purpose, motivations, values, natural talents, and blindspots; Seek Mortal Thoughts implores you to be humble and avoid what the ancients called hubris or overweening pride. Ancient Greek literature is full of cautionary tales of pride preceding faceplant.

How, exactly, can you know yourself? The earlier discussions of purpose, of course, are vital for self-awareness. You also need to know your natural talents and values. Here are two tools to help you. 

First, get to know your PROM Archetype®, which helps you identify your natural talents. PROM stands for Pioneers, Operators, Reconcilers, and Mavericks, which denotes how people contribute when in their zone of genius. I developed a quiz that you can use to determine your PROM Archetype®

Next, pinpoint the values that are most important to you. I based this quiz on the four cardinal virtues of ancient Greece and Rome: Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Moderation. Based on your responses, you get a list of supporting values.

Internal self-awareness, as Eurch points out, is not enough. You also need external self-awareness. I like to break down the latter into knowing how others see you and what others need from you (I’m indebted to Lisa Larter for helping me with this formulation).

Knowing how others see you helps you learn if your actions and behaviors are consistent with your sense of yourself. Let’s say you view your purpose as a spouse or parent as a top priority and encourage others to do the same, but you spend late nights at the office, which prompts your employees to stay after hours, too. They are likely to see your family-time emphasis as empty and hypocritical. 

In this case, you can do what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did: leave the office daily at 5:30 pm. Take some work home if you need to. When you leave the office at a reasonable time, so will your employees. 

Combining knowing yourself and how others see you creates authenticity. 

Knowing what others need from you helps you to use your talents to inspire others to be their best. You might be upset that your child’s team lost the game, for example, but what the kids need from you now is to model resilience and grace. When you do, your actions are aligned with your purpose of helping young athletes become good adults.

You have integrity when you know yourself and what others need from you. Knowing how others see you and what they need from you shows empathy.

Do you want to discuss your self-awareness or your PROM Archetype® results? Schedule a call with me or send me an email.  

Chris Kolenda: Daisy showed us what gratitude looks like

Daisy showed us what gratitude looks like

Do you have people and companions in your life that inspire gratitude? 

My wife, Nicole, and I are grateful for our dog, Daisy, who blessed our lives for six years before dying on February 1st last year from cancer. 

She showed us the meaning of gratitude in her love and affection (and the strange way she would shake her butt at us when she was ready for a walk!).

How do you show gratitude for the people (and companions) in your life and work who matter most? The 3 As can help.

Acknowledge: people want to be seen and heard. When someone’s talking to you, do you listen to understand, or are you multitasking (a.k.a. fake listening) or thinking about your response to an earlier point (listening to respond)? Acknowledge people by giving them your undivided attention.

Appreciate: Notice what people in your life do and how well they do it. Be specific when you compliment. Instead of saying, “You’re awesome” (empty praise), say, “I love how you gave that customer your full attention, understood their concerns, and used your resources to solve their problem and make them feel that they were the most important people in the world to you at that moment.”

Anticipate: Know their aspirations well enough that you can anticipate ways to help them grow personally and professionally and set them up for success as they face more significant challenges and levels of responsibility.

Daisy was found several years ago on the side of the road in Virginia and taken to a shelter and then a foster family. She found us on the internet. We think she was in an abusive household because she would often growl at men when we first got her.

The nearly six years we were together brought joy to our lives. Daisy loved chasing her ball, following Nicole obsessively, and treasuring her five daily walks. She was a dear friend and excellent companion, and we are grateful for our time together.

Rest in Peace, sweet girl. 

P.S. I help you combine your unique genius with simplicity and practical wisdom by turning your patterns and ideas into conscious processes you can teach, evaluate, and improve. Your genius creates an inspiring belief in the future. Simplicity creates a shared understanding, and practical wisdom generates coordinated action. 

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