Chris Kolenda: What Baltimore’s Key Bridge Tragedy tells us about Risk Management

What Baltimore’s Key Bridge Tragedy tells us about Risk Management

My heart goes out to the families of the six killed and all people harmed by this terrible tragedy. The Singaporean-flagged ship, Dali, lost power on its way out of Baltimore’s harbor, crashing into a Key Bridge pylon and destroying the majestic bridge.

Similar to the 9/11 hijackings, the risk of this particular catastrophe is more evident in hindsight. As a leader, you don’t live history backward, though, and your livelihood depends on a lot of factors outside of your control, so you have to manage risk well.

Read on if you want a simple risk management process.

As author Alan Weiss suggests, risk is a function of probability and seriousness. Probability is the likelihood of a particular risk materializing, while seriousness is the extent of harm it causes.

Two variables make for a good risk management double-axis chart.

Chris Kolenda: Risk Management Char

When a risk has a high probability but low seriousness, you should move forward while monitoring and aiming to lower the likelihood. Minor equipment failures and small-scale supply delays are common examples. You can reduce the seriousness by making routine repairs and keeping appropriate stockage levels. Preventing these risks altogether can create massive opportunity costs. Swapping out major equipment each month might reduce the risk of failure, but the cost of such action would be prohibitive. 

Low probability, low seriousness risks are not worth stewing over. You should drive on and adjust as necessary. There’s a low probability, for example, that someone will object to this article and unsubscribe. It’s a free newsletter, so the seriousness is low, too.  

The Key Bridge disaster was a low-probability, high-seriousness risk. Your best choice here is to have contingencies, like insurance. There’s a tendency after such tragedies to try to lower the probability even further, but trying to prevent freak accidents is fraught.

Innovation is another contingency you can consider. To Sears, the probability of Amazon coming along was low even as the seriousness of such a competitor would be high. As digital technology permeated the workplace, Sears got complacent, and Amazon put them out of business. What’s your innovation plan for AI?

High-probability, high-seriousness scenarios require you to avoid them altogether or take action to mitigate one or both problems. Do ships like the Dali have chronic power problems? If so, another crash will be more likely. You can reduce the probability by having inspections in port, using tugs, and requiring redundant power systems.

Take fifteen minutes to identify your business risks in each quadrant and identify mitigation measures. Even better, involve your team members. They’ll understand the mitigation measures you’ll want to put in place, and will be more likely to identify and report problems quickly because they’ve thought about the consequences.

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

P.S.

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 rest 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 | What Princess Kate’s doctored photo teaches Leaders about Transparency

What Princess Kate’s doctored photo teaches Leaders about Transparency

Have you ever struggled with how transparent you should be with your employees? Pay levels, promotion decisions, disciplinary action, and profitability rank among the more difficult information-sharing decisions. 

You may invite conflict and grievances if you share too much information about everyone’s pay. Share too little, and an employee may leave, suspecting you are screwing them over. Lack of information about profitability can cause employees to wonder about the business’s viability and whether their bonus was appropriate. Too much information about a promotion decision can prompt grievances and concerns about unfairness.

Princess Kate’s doctored photo can help you navigate these information-sharing quandaries and make the best possible decision.

As you’ve probably heard, UK’s Princess Catherine underwent abdominal surgery and expected a lengthy recovery. The Royal Family provided no other information, leaving people to speculate on what problem prompted the surgery and if she’ll ever recover. To assuage the rumor mill, the family sent out a picture allegedly showing Kate and her children happy and healthy. The photo was doctored, heightening the swirl of speculation.

Similarly, the Royals revealed that King Charles has cancer but won’t reveal the type or stage, thus fueling speculation about his reign. 

Glass has three levels of see-through: transparent, translucent, and opaque

Under Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Family was largely opaque: don’t explain; don’t complain. This approach kept most personal matters private and added a level of dignity but created a media frenzy around the late Princess Diana and Harry and Meghan’s Megxit.

The monarchy under King Charles has grown translucent, a tricky balancing act that can quickly go wrong. You come across as too cute by half, fueling drama and speculation.

The royal family might be better off with transparency about Charles’s and Kate’s conditions and opaqueness regarding their daily struggles. There’s little to gain by noting an illness exists but not what it is and much to gain in greater revelation. At the same time, the royals should determine what to share about their personal journeys. Stories about perseverance, courage, and resilience are inspiring. 

What does this mean for business leaders? 

Set your information-sharing standards around what you want to be transparent about and opaque about. Your processes, for example, should be transparent, especially concerning decisions that affect people’s lives and livelihoods. 

Opaqueness is appropriate regarding an individual’s reasonable right to privacy. You can be transparent about the process you used to determine pay without revealing individual pay and benefit packages. 

You don’t want to be translucent about the processes or individual matters because people will suspect favoritism, and you’ll find yourself embroiled in drama like the royal family. 

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 this newsletter over 50% of the time? I’m thrilled that you get so much value out of it. 

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

Chris Kolenda: How a Catalyst can help you SOAAR to New Heights as a Mentor

How a Catalyst can help you SOAAR to New Heights as a Mentor

I love helping people, so being a good mentor is essential.

My journey towards good was rocky sometimes because I offered too much value too quickly. I’d often latch on to my employee’s or client’s first words and provide advice. I made this mistake with Geraldine (not her real name), one of my first clients.

I liked being fast and responsive, but that approach got in the way of understanding and buy-in. A person’s first observation tends to be a symptom of a more significant challenge that you need to uncover because they often have not identified it clearly for themselves. Providing advice based on surface understanding met Geraldine’s resistance, and we didn’t get anywhere. We both felt frustrated.

Read more
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: What Socrates, Roosevelt, and Navalny can teach leaders about courage

What Socrates, Roosevelt, and Navalny can teach leaders about courage

Alexei Navalny reportedly died in prison after an accident, a dictator’s typical euphemism for murder. 

What’s striking about Navalny is that the Russian government tried poisoning him on an international flight. He recovered in the UK and could have remained a dissident in exile. Instead, he returned to Moscow, knowing that he would be imprisoned and probably killed for his beliefs.

Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher who taught that the unexamined life was not worth living, was condemned to death for allegedly corrupting the youth and introducing false gods. Everyone in Athens knew it was a sham verdict, and leading citizens plotted to free Socrates from prison. Even the guards agreed to look the other way. Socrates refused to escape when the plot unfolded, saying he would die obeying Athens’ laws. He drank hemlock the next day. 

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt described the “man in the arena” as someone who strived to achieve big goals, bounced forward from setbacks, and stayed true to their convictions despite the critics.  

Their examples show there is more to courage than doing your duty in the face of physical danger. Courage, Aristotle explained, is the virtue that allows all other virtues to exist. Developing your courage requires being in life’s arena, risking danger, and making choices that strike the balance between cowardice and recklessness.

Courage is also the foundation of leadership qualities. Developing your subordinate leaders’ courage will increase their credibility and your employees’ trust in you.

If you are like leaders in most jobs outside of the military and first responders, you rarely, if ever, face physical danger. Moral, intellectual, and emotional danger are more common and can be more challenging to face successfully,

Moral courage means doing the right thing in the face of pressure to violate your standards. Leaders may face pressures, for example, to fudge the numbers, tell the emperor their clothes look great, or elude responsibility for a shortcoming or mistake. 

Imagine the cost to your company when leaders cut corners or obscure the facts to protect their backsides.

You can help people boost moral courage by defining your standards (your values and expectations), identifying the 3As (what Acceptable, Awful, and Awesome look like for each), and providing employee examples of the standards in action. Use periodic “feed-forward” sessions to discuss these standards and how you can help your direct reports succeed.

Imagine the boost to your company when leaders do what’s right without you having to watch.

Intellectual courage means balancing conviction and open-mindedness despite pressures to waver in the face of adversity or drive eyes wide shut into disaster. Lego, for example, returned to profitability by re-focusing on its core products and seizing lucrative licensing deals, while Kodak rode its 35mm business into bankruptcy. Apple, on the other hand, overcame losses by innovating new products like the iPad and iPhone, while 23&Me lost billions in valuation trying to pivot from DNA testing to pharmaceuticals. 

Imagine the cost to your company when leaders fail to adapt to change or create hyperactivity.

You can boost intellectual courage by strengthening your employees’ psychological confidence and giving them the tools to manage risk. Psychological confidence combines the willingness to speak up, disagree agreeably, and confidence you’ll be taken seriously. People with psychological confidence report problems quickly, offer fresh ideas, and try new things. Risk, meanwhile, is a function of likelihood and seriousness. Give your employees the tools to address both factors and the expectation to tell you when even mitigated risk is too high. 

Imagine the benefit to your company when your employees innovate, nip problems in the bud, and let you know when the juice is not worth the squeeze.

Emotional courage is the willingness to place yourself in emotionally challenging situations for the common good despite the urge to avoid it or pass the danger to someone else. Leaders with emotional courage take on crucial conversations, manage conflict, provide regular feedback and feed-forward to improve performance. They serve as the heat shield – passing the credit and taking the hits – so their employees have the backing to try new things without fear of retribution.

Imagine the cost to your company when behavioral problems go unaddressed and become bad habits, no one knows how to improve their performance, and organizational conflict becomes endless.

You can boost emotional courage by giving people the tools to quickly and effectively address toxic or counterproductive behaviors without creating resentment. Correcting behavior early is far easier than trying to reverse a bad habit. Organizational conflict is about objectives or ways to get there. When your employees know how to address these factors, they’ll keep conflict healthy and confidently approach it.

Imagine the boost to your company when leaders help employees improve their future performance, keep behaviors in line with your standards, and manage conflict so people can move quickly into implementing solutions rather than talking in circles and litigating decisions.

I have simple, practical tools to help you build the kinds of moral, intellectual, and emotional courage displayed by the most respected and admired leaders. Email me or schedule a call to discuss ways to increase your bench strength of courageous leaders.

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: 3 Steps for Managing Fear

Overcoming Fear: Proven Strategies for Managing and Empowering Your Team

Do you have employees and clients that have fears? Fear is a powerful emotional response to danger that can motivate people to lash out, flee from a task, or paralyze their progress. 

Helping them will boost their confidence and productivity, strengthen your relationship, and set a solid foundation for growth. The best way to do that is to give them a conscious process for understanding their fear and action steps to move forward. 

You don’t want to miss this article if you want to help your employees move forward in the face of their fears.

Fear can be a tape that plays in the back of your mind, activating your amygdala’s fight, freeze, or flight instincts. You feel deep anxiety or trepidation, but you often cannot put your finger on the actual cause. The results can include anger, procrastination, stewing, withdrawing, and other impulses designed to reduce the fear. Such actions can harm your performance and relationships.

As my friend Dr. Mark Goulston (may he rest in peace) counseled and Dr. Susan David discusses in Emotional Agility, the first step is to label the fear. “I am feeling fear, because …” Identifying the emotion and cause lowers the intensity and makes the intangible tangible. Now, you can create some space between the emotion and your response.

F.E.H.R. can help you categorize the source of the fear – what is the danger you perceive? Some fears involve Failures: you try something new that does not work. Others concern Errors; you fear making mistakes. The prospect of Harm or physical danger can arouse fear. Relationships are another source of anxiety; you do not want to let someone down.  

Second, you can use this double-axis chart to help you understand why you fear Failure, Error, Harm, or Relationship damage, and, third, develop action steps to manage it. 

Fears can result from past experiences or anticipation of future events. You can fear Problems or Success.

In the upper left, you fear an inability to repeat past successes. You turned around a struggling enterprise, ran a successful fundraising campaign, or climbed a difficult mountain peak, for example, and you don’t think you can do it again. The prospect of making mistakes, failing to achieve past results, hurting yourself or others, and/or letting people down causes fear. 

To deal with this fear category, you can set a different success benchmark based on the conditions you face today, strengthen your support network, and take steps that reduce the risk of problems.

The lower left deals with the fear of repeating past problems. To address this area, you can identify the causes of those problems and take steps to reduce the probability of recurrence or their seriousness.

You can manage fear of future FEHR problems (lower right) with risk mitigation, insurance, boosting capacity, and pre-mortems that identify hidden challenges.

People can fear their inability to manage future success or harm to relationships that come from it. Strengthening your support system, anticipating future needs to meet success, and reducing the sappers and trappers in your life are some ways to deal with this area.

Giving people the tools to understand and address their fears is one of the best ways to help position your employees for success and roles of greater responsibility. 


I’d be delighted to discuss ways to position your employees to soar to new heights and make ever-better contributions. The call is free. There’s no sales or B.S. I’ll give you action steps that get results whether or not we decide to take the next step.

Chris Kolenda: Poor Leadership is an Aberration, Not a Norm. What you can do to make your subordinate leaders even better.

Poor Leadership is an Aberration, Not a Norm. What you can do to make your subordinate leaders even better.

Do you have to put up with bad behavior from your subordinate leaders as the price of getting results? 

It’s easier to rationalize poor leadership practices if you believe these are the norm. The good news is that most of the leaders in your organization seem to be doing a good job, which means you should lower your tolerance level for toxic behavior.

Bad leadership behaviors scream so loudly that it’s hard to hear reports about the good ones. 

Just recently, we’ve seen the shocking hypocrisy of Ivy League Presidents who could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ atrocities, even as they enforce ideological speech codes and use DEI administrators as thought police. Government officials have engaged in outright lies and manipulation during COVID, along with some high-profile do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mandate flaunting. The rules are for the little people.

It’s no wonder that trust in officials is at an all-time low since Pew Research began its trust in government survey in 1958. Back then, over 70 percent of Americans trusted the government. Only 25% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans today say they do. Trust in the military is at a historical low.

The news gets better as you come closer to home.

A recent Pew Research survey suggests that most American employees highly regard their supervisors, with 55% reporting their boss as Very Good or Excellent and 26% selecting Good. 

Fifty-eight percent or more of respondents said that their bosses were confident, capable, fair, and caring. Only twelve or thirteen percent characterized their supervisors as arrogant, dismissive, unpredictable, or aggressive.

This chart helps you determine what your subordinate leaders need.

In short, a small percentage of leaders engage in toxic behaviors and drag your business down. Most are leading well. Here’s how to handle each type.

  1. Proper-Fits. (culture and skill fit) Invest in these leaders with more coaching and development opportunities. Those skills are infinitely upgradable, making your business thrive even more. When you invest in them, you signal that you appreciate and reward excellence.
  2. Culture Fit, Skill Misfit. Train them on the specific job skills they lack and upgrade their leadership qualities. They care for your employees, so boosting their capacity will increase their confidence and respect.
  3. Skill Fit, Culture Misfit. These are your talented people engaging in toxic behavior and dragging your company down. You have to take clear action to improve their behavior, or people will believe you condone it. If the Culture Misfits don’t improve, you need to fire them or they will demoralize your proper-fits, who will vote with their feet. 
  4. Misfits. Easy call. Fire them. They’ll fit somewhere else.

If you are ready to help the excellent leaders in your company upgrade their skills, let’s discuss my two trademarked programs, Becoming a WHY Leader® and Building an Inspiring Culture®, or an off-site experience at a spectacular national park or historical venue. 

Send me an email to schedule a call, or click here.