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: 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 we're getting wrong about “Command and Control” and why you need it to succeed.

What we’re getting wrong about “Command and Control” and why you need it to succeed.

Have you heard leadership and management gurus rubbishing military-style command and control leadership practices?

The military has a field order paragraph called Command and Control. The gurus presume command and control means someone barking orders (command) and micromanaging compliance (control).

If you’ve ever been in a good military unit, you probably scratch your head at what they mean by the term versus what you’ve seen with your own eyes.

Only the worst leaders in the U.S. military try to lead that way.

The only ones who’ve been successful using that approach fought even bigger idiots who barked orders while no one listened to them (or, even worse, did listen to them).

When you look at what the terms actually mean, you’ll notice that command and control is precisely what good leaders have done across time and cultures. 

Command means to be clear about responsibility and accountability: the authority to make decisions, set priorities, and enforce standards, while exemplifying the behaviors expected of everyone in the organization. 

You make decisions. You have the authority to do so unilaterally, but only the most benighted and ineffective make it a habit. Sure, there are times in combat when you need to do so. As a matter of normal practice, wise commanders take the time to co-create so they gain buy-in among the ranks. Doing so creates trust. Good leaders draw from that well of trust only when absolutely necessary. 

Command creates clear accountability. You are answerable to your boss (or board), your employees, and your peers and partners for your mission and desired outcomes.

You must exemplify the values they expect of every team member. In the U.S. Civil War, for example, commanders rode on horseback so they could see and be seen. The message was simple: I’m the most vulnerable person on this team; everyone is shooting at me. If I can do my job, so can everyone else.

The highest casualty rates in the Civil War were colonels and brigadier generals. Their examples of courage inspired their unit’s performance.

The good news for business leaders: no one is shooting at you. 

Control identifies the scope of the person’s responsibility, which includes communication and cooperation. 

Effective delegation includes identifying the mission and desired outcomes along with the boundaries of your direct report’s decision-making authority. The boundaries may include territory, resources, legal and regulatory restrictions and the like. You have your direct reports let you know when they get close to the boundary to coordinate and preserve your decision-making space.  

Control delineates your expectations about cooperation between your direct reports. You cannot afford the silo-effect where people operate in fiefdoms and don’t cooperate for the common good. You know you have a silo challenge when everyone reports progress but the overall situation is going downhill. 

Creating objectives that rely on the cooperation of your direct reports yields a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts effect.

Are you ready to use command and control properly?

  1. Set clear objectives by identifying the task you want someone to do and the outcomes you want them to achieve. X so that Y is your winning formula.
  2. Use co-creation to gain buy-in for decisions and changes – it makes accountability much easier.
  3. Model the behaviors you want from your employees. You lose trust with a do as I say, not as I do approach.
  4. Set up your direct reports for success when you delegate by giving them the X so that Y, co-creating boundaries, and asking “what does ideal support from me look like?”
  5. Identify lead and supporting actors for each company objective, so your direct reports are clear on their roles and cooperation responsibilities.

Practice command and control like this, and you’ll find your company improves trust, communication, cooperation, and performance.

Are you interested in a company offsite that will make a positive impact for many years? Battlefields, historical venues, and national parks are terrific venues for adventure experiences that build trust and capacity. 

Send me an email or schedule a call to discuss if a leadership off-site like this is right for you. 

Chris Kolenda: Here’s how the most respected leaders simplify.

Here’s how the most respected leaders simplify.

Do you find that getting everyone in your company on the same page is a struggle, especially in a hybrid work environment?

The benefits of everyone rowing in the right direction and cadence reduces anxiety and distress, increases cooperation and innovation, and avoids wasting time in misunderstandings.

The challenge, of course, is that our businesses are both complicated and complex. 

Complicated means you have many connected elements: step-by-step processes to follow so things work properly. A car engine is complicated – the engine, transmission, steering, brakes, etc. must integrate for the car to function. 

Your business is also complex, meaning interwoven. You have multiple dependencies outside your control, such as suppliers, partners, regulations, laws, competitors, technology, social changes, etc. These variables are constantly interacting, often creating novel situations and arrangements.

Inside your head, your business starts to look like this:

Imagine trying to explain this picture to your employees. Your complexifying would be incoherent. People would take away what they wanted and discard the rest. The result: employees are on different pages, pulling in different directions, and your business wastes time and money in misunderstandings, relitigating decisions, and heightened distress.

The likelihood that you are complexifying is worse than you imagine.

I asked my Chatbot to draw a picture of complexity arising from the interaction of only two variables over time. 

One of the examples of this picture the Chatbot provided was the interaction between Market Demand and Supply Chain Efficiency:

An increase in consumer demand can lead to complexities in the supply chain, especially if the supply chain isn’t agile enough to adapt. This scenario can result in stock shortages, delayed deliveries, or increased costs. Conversely, an efficient supply chain facing low demand can lead to overproduction and excess inventory.

Instead of trying to explain the picture above, you could simplify the matter using a double-axis chart like this:

You can plot where you are on the chart and take actions that move you to the upper right quadrant. Everyone can visualize the situation and actions that lead to the desired result.

Simplifying does not mean dumbing down. 

Simplifying makes complex information accessible while retaining its integrity. Simplification is a skillful art of communication that preserves content quality and improves understanding. Doing so respects your audience. 

Dumbing down, on the other hand, alters or diminishes the value of the information, removing important content and context and patronizing or misleading your co-workers.

I tend to get complex descriptions when asking CEOs about their business strategy. I’ll query their direct reports and mostly get different answers. As you can imagine, the deviations increase as you ripple from the center to the periphery. 

The explanations make perfect sense to you but leave everyone mystified and confused. They do what they think is right, leading to people rowing hard in different directions at different cadences. 

Can simplifying improve your outcomes? I’ll help you see where you are complexifying and identify ways you can simplify without becoming simplistic.

Schedule a call with me or email me to begin your simplifying process.

Chris Kolenda: The Harvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents show the Cost of Hypocrisy.

The Harvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents show the Cost of Hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is the destroyer of trust. 

Only 21 percent of people trust leadership at work (Gallup), and do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do practices are at the heart of it. If you want to improve places in your organization that experience challenges with buy-in, accountability, and employee turnover, addressing hypocrisy is an excellent place to start.

Only a rare person, like Roman Roy in Succession, is genuine in their hypocrisy. The vast majority rationalize their inconsistencies and say-do gaps. 

This problem was on powerful display as the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn quibbled and prevaricated about whether on-campus calls for the genocide of Jews were ok. 

If you listened to the Ivy League presidents’ responses in isolation, you might believe that they used the First Amendment to guide their responses.

The problem, of course, is hypocrisy.

The same presidents who enforce ideological speech codes, embrace woke racism (as John McWhorter terms it), use DEI officials as thought police, and whose institutions rank at the bottom for freedom of expression suddenly became First Amendment defenders when it came to antisemitism.

They probably did not intend to be hypocritical; they just were. They’ve spent so much time inhaling their own gas inside air-tight thought bubbles that they could not see the inconsistencies or imagined people were too blinkered to notice the double standards. 

Do you think it can’t happen at your company?

Most workplace examples are more subtle but have the same toxic effect. Managers who:

  • selectively enforce rules and personally flaunt them, 
  • take credit for their employees’ work but throw them under the bus when they make a mistake and 
  • ask their employees to “go the extra mile” but not do the same in return 

These are common reasons your employees do not trust their supervisors.

In each case, the manager has made some rationalization to excuse the hypocrisy. Their direct reports and teammates see a pattern of behavior that damages trust.

To build trust and avoid hypocrisy, encourage your subordinates to follow the principle of reciprocity. 

  • Do I sanction myself for violating the rule? Change the rule if it’s bad, or correct the inconsistency. Everyone sees when you don’t walk the talk, and believing otherwise assumes that your employees are morons. Yes, they see that, too.
  • Would I want my boss to treat me the same way? Start passing the credit and absorbing the blame. Give your boss some credit for recognizing that a positive environment boosts performance and that decent leaders take the hit when shortcomings occur. They won’t replace you with an employee you’ve bragged about. 
  • Do I go the extra mile for my employees? Do your employees believe that? How do you know? 

Machiavelli said that no one knows the prince like the people. They don’t believe what they hear or read from you, only what they see. They see you – warts and all – more thoroughly than you imagine. They know when the emperor has no clothes.

Getting employees’ candid views is challenging because people fear retribution. The best way to elicit their sentiments is a combination of confidential questionnaires, focus groups, and individual interviews. 

Then, you’ve got to let them know the action you plan to take, take it, and follow up.

Do you want to understand better how your workforce sees their managers? I can help you identify the say-do gaps that undermine trust and impede performance and implement practical actions that strengthen your company. Send me an email or schedule a call with me today 

If you think investing in leaders is expensive, try paying the price of hypocrisy.

Chris Kolenda: What an Offsite should do for your leadership team

What an offsite should do for your leadership team

Are you looking for ways to strengthen how well your leadership team works together?

You are not alone. Remote and hybrid work reduce in-person contact time and place a premium on building trust, communicating clearly, and strengthening buy-in.

Relationships are vital to successful leadership teams; you must make every in-person opportunity count.

Many leaders use offsites as a team-building tool and often come away disappointed.

If done poorly, the offsite becomes a forgettable boondoggle as people nod off in the conference center, breathing stale air, staring outside at the pool, and wondering when the pain will end.

You wonder if the juice was worth the squeeze.

It does not have to be that way.

If done well, an off-site can boost your relationships, strengthening trust, buy-in, and communication. You get people out of their comfort zones, doing something interesting that brings new perspectives and energy to your business.

You should gain new tools that get results and shorten the path to success. The experience should get everyone on the same page and pointed in the right direction and create a shared language and stories that speed up trust and understanding. You come away with a durable commitment to the leadership team you aspire to be.

Your #1s will draw on that experience for years, using it to overcome obstacles and seize new opportunities. People remember the best offsites for the rest of their lives.

Creating unforgettable, high-value experiences is vital to your team’s growth and health, so my events occur at national parks and powerful historical venues.

Here’s how the process works. 

  1. We discuss your focus areas and select a location and game plan.
  2. You get adventure, thought leadership customized to your needs, tools that improve performance and decision-making, and time to address your most essential issues.
  3. We conclude with a workshop, creating action steps that get results.

Are you ready to forget the hotel “bored-room” offsites and go for something extraordinary that will pay dividends for years?

Here’s what CEO Lisa Larter said about our recent trip to Antietam & Gettysburg

Our leadership team recently attended an exclusive leadership experience with Chris in Antietam and Gettysburg. We spent three days immersed in conversations that were specific to our team and the aspirations and challenges we are currently facing as leaders.

Chris used lessons from the battles at Antietam and Gettysburg to help us see our leadership skills in a whole new way. He provided us with tools and models that we can use for a lifetime.

What was great about this experience was the level of customization Chris provided for us in conjunction with being outdoors in beautiful and historic places. This was not a traditional talking head leadership experience. Chris is thoughtful in terms of how he is able to get every member of the team to participate.

His use of intentional questions not only allowed us to get to know each other better but also gave us the opportunity to share openly and honestly, which strengthened trust between all of us.

Chris fosters an environment where he models what he is teaching and inspires everyone to really use critical thinking in all aspects of how we lead.

He is a master facilitator and guide, providing us with a life-changing and transformational leadership experience. If you have a team of 5 or more leaders and you want to improve your culture and communication, I can’t recommend this event enough.

Some of what we discussed included:

  • How to make courageous decisions and become brave leaders
  • How to get over imposter syndrome and the importance of caring about others
  • How to move out of your comfort zone and navigate chaos
  • The competitive advantage of clarity, speed, and disruption
  • How to create a high-performing organization
  • The importance of defining acceptable versus awesome to eradicate perfectionism
  • Why feedback is useless and feedforward is the only way
  • How to cultivate initiative within a team
  • How to inspire accountability and get people to anticipate outcomes
  • How to disagree agreeably

This is what we covered in one day…

My notebook overflows with value from the time we spent with Chris. If you need a leadership expert who walks his talk and delivers value, Chris Kolenda is definitely that person.

Let’s discuss what an outdoor offsite could look like for you and your organization.

P.S. I’m thinking about hosting an innovative thought leadership event in May at the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields. The objective is to help you develop new thought leadership that simplifies complexity for your clients and employees, provide tools that improve clarity, accountability, buy-in, and decision-making, and arm you with new stories to convey ideas and inspire buy-in. 

Sharing these ideas and experiences will build your relationships with other top leaders and consultants. Magic always happens when terrific people with an abundance mentality help each other grow. 

The investment in this program is $5500 if you pay before December 31st, 2023 or $4500 if you confirm and pay by Friday, December 15th, 2023.

Interested? Send me an email.

Chris Kolenda: Why you have to apply for Expert Consulting Mastery.

Why you have to apply for Expert Consulting Mastery

You likely have never been asked to apply for a coaching program before. Allow me to explain why I do this FOR you. 

The right fit matters when it comes to doing deep work. In Expert Consulting Mastery, I want your experience to be as joyful and meaningful as possible and for you to be surrounded by like-minded people. When you’re part of our community, you’ll be surrounded by other veterans who are serious about growing just like you are.

The application process ensures that each participant is able to extract and contribute the maximum value from this program.

Wondering if you should apply? Here’s some of what I’m looking for from you:

  • You earn $100,000 in revenue and want to grow beyond $250k without increasing your workload;
  • You are coachable and have an open mind;
  • You have an abundance mentality and like to share ideas with others;
  • You are willing to try new things.

As you experienced in the military, standards are vital for success. You need to have standards for your clients so that you attract people who you believe will succeed, that you cheer for, and who are a joy to work with. 

You’ll find we have standards you can get behind in this program too.

Here’s why you should apply:

  • You gain a proven process that accelerates and simplifies your business so you get better revenues at less work and zero frustration.
  • You get an accountability partner who wants what’s best for you and is willing to tell you the truth.
  • You have lifetime access to the materials.
  • You create relationships with like-minded peers who share insights and support.
  • You get my promise and guarantee: if something is not working for you, I’ll work with you until it does – at no additional charge.

Participants in my programs build strong connections quickly and support each other long after the program finishes. 

Having the right people around you shortens your path to success.

If this program sounds like a good fit for you, schedule a call with me. There’s no downside and a massive potential upside.

Are you interested in learning more about Expert Consulting Mastery? Register for my September 20, 2023 webinar.

P.S. 100 percent of the people who have previously participated in this program and who have implemented each step of the process have been successful. Most find the program pays for itself in the first few weeks.

Create best value experiences: offer employees an EVP

Is your company trapped in the doom loop of high turnover, poor execution, and poor customer experience? 

This loop leads to your customers seeking alternatives, which means declining sales, lower profits, and a higher risk of bankruptcy.

Organizations typically take their employees for granted, failing to invest in their well-being and future growth because they don’t see the payoff. A recent Harvard Business Review article shows the impact of this short-sighted approach. 

People who feel unfulfilled and taken for granted tend to be on the lookout for a better fit. That means they are paying less attention to your company’s well-being because they are preoccupied with their own. It’s no wonder 69 percent of Americans report being unengaged at work. 

People feeling undervalued jump ship. Losing people you’ve trained reduces productivity and heightens the likelihood of poor execution. 

Poor execution damages your customers’ experiences, leading to more problems you need to fix. Unsatisfied customers will vote with their feet for a competitor.

Now you’re paying penalties on two levels. 

First, losing existing customers undermines your business and makes you invest more heavily in attracting new customers (keeping existing customers tends to be cheaper than finding new ones).

Second, you get consumed in damage control. Instead of focusing on strategy, innovation, and growth (why you get paid X), you are cleaning up problems that a junior employee (who you pay Y) should have prevented in the first place.

X minus Y is your opportunity cost. If your salary is $250/hour and your employee’s is $50, your damage control costs you $200/hour. 

[NOTE: Micromanaging has the same math.]

An employee value proposition (EVP) helps you reverse the spiral because your employees see how you are investing in them as people. A good EVP includes tangible and intangible benefits, both short and long-term.

Many organizations focus on short-term tangible benefits, such as pay, and neglect the other three areas that emphasize purpose, belonging, and growth opportunities. Beyond a certain threshold, these factors are more prominent in stay-or-go decisions than pay.

Creating an EVP for your employees is an important forcing function that gets you to provide compelling, intangible benefits that will attract and retain the right people.

If this blog resonates with you and you are wondering about the next steps, Schedule a Call with Chris Kolenda. 

Do you have 360 awareness?

360 external awareness occurs when you know what people think and feel about you and their workplace. The key stakeholders include your bosses, peers, and the employees you lead. The latter is the trickiest, and Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired for neglecting this responsibility.

I remember watching Pat Fitzgerald play football at Northwestern in the mid-1990s and cheered him on as he became the head coach who turned around a lacklustre program.

The allegations of serial hazing on the team are disheartening. The stories of cruelty and mistreatment keep materializing.

Fitzgerald should be fired as the head coach, whether he knew about the hazing and condoned it or did not know such activities were happening on his watch. 

Leaders must discover what’s happening in their organizations, particularly regarding their most vulnerable employees. 

Knowing what your bosses and peers think about you and your organization is normally straightforward. 

Figuring out what your employees think and feel about your workplace is trickier. 

A camouflage net obscures your view from above. You only see what you want to see, the bits that emerge into plain sight, and what people are willing to reveal to you. The net conceals everything else.

The best leaders develop ways to get underneath the net to see things as they are, identify problems, spot talent, and gain fresh ideas.

Here are some ways I help leaders do that.

  1. Feedback loops. Use a combination of short questionnaires, focus groups, and individual interviews to get ground truth. Identify the issues you want to address, tell your employees, follow through, and follow up.
  2. Trusted Advisers challenge your assumptions and help you see what’s hidden in plain sight. Your biases do not inhibit them, so they’ll notice and report issues and opportunities as they find them. 
  3. Off-sites get people out of their comfort zones and open minds to new ideas. These adventures increase trust, strengthen relationships, and improve communication. People report problems and offer fresh ideas when they trust the people around them. Taking people to powerful places like national parks and historic venues creates experiences that last a lifetime and pay massive dividends for your organization.

It’s too bad Pat Fitzgerald did not find ways to peer underneath the camouflage net to see things as they are. 

He’s not alone, of course. Many good people have fallen from grace because they fooled themselves into thinking they could see everything from up high.  

Would an adventure off-site improve trust in your organization? View our programs and schedule a call with Chris to see if it could be a good fit. 

Cognitive Diversity: What the best leaders look for in an alter-ego

Cognitive diversity occurs when you bring people together who have complementary natural strengths, a.k.a. Superpowers. For most organizations, ideas – details are the vital complement.

The ideas people tend to be the big picture strategic thinkers, the innovators, and status quo disruptors. 

Some, like Steve Jobs, are hedgehogs: they have a big idea that will change the world. They are the Mavericks in our PROM archetypes®.

Others, like Elon Musk, are foxes: they bring existing ideas and technologies together into new combinations (Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter). These are your Pioneers.

They rarely succeed without support from the executors who can implement their ideas. These are Operators, who nail the details, and Reconcilers who build and maintain consensus.

Google is a classic example. Visionaries Larry Page (Maverick) and Sergei Brin (Pioneer) excited people with their new search engine but they could not run a sustainable business. When the funders threatened to pull out, Google hired Eric Schmidt (Reconciler) and Jon Rosenberg (Operator). The cognitive diversity propelled Google’s success.

Apple succeeded because Steve Jobs had Tim Cook (Operator), Mark Zuckerberg began succeeding at Facebook (now Meta) after Sheryl Sandberg (Operator) came on board. Tesla struggled until Musk hired Zach Kirkhorn (Reconciler).       

The visionaries get into trouble when they lose their alter-ego. Zuckerberg has not replaced Sheryl Sandberg, dividing her role among various executives, which waters-down the vision-execution interplay. Meta is struggling. 

The reverse is also true: people naturally inclined toward the details need the ideas people to push the envelope and avoid complacency. Tim Cook’s innovative subordinates keep Apple thriving. Eisenhower (Reconciler) needed Montgomery (Maverick) and Patton (Pioneer) to win the war in North Africa and Europe. Lincoln (Reconciler) needed Seward (Pionerr) and Grant (Maverick) to win the Civil War.

Finding the right alter-ego can be challenging. People tend to seek out others who think and act similarly, which is known as affinity bias. You get the comfort of surrounding yourself with people exactly like you, but you don’t grow, you develop blind spots, and you’re at high risk of making bad decisions as you inhale your own fumes.

To help you identify your natural strengths and determine your best alter egos, I developed the simple PROM archetypes® quiz.  

Cognitive diversity is vital to selecting the right alter-egos. You also need someone who wants what’s best for the organization and is willing to tell you the truth. 

Combine those three qualities and you have a powerful senior leadership team that will propel your business to new heights.

Take the PROM archetypes® quiz and then send Chris an email to discuss your results!