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!

Optimize your workplace

Anger, boredom, frustration – what happens when you optimize the wrong things

Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it. Optimization creates unintended consequences that can undermine your business.

Baseball may be the most data-mined sport. Ever since the championship Oakland A’s Moneyball, big data has dominated the game. 

Big data told you where and how to pitch the ball to a given batter, and how to shift players to take advantage of a batter’s tendencies. The strike zone narrowed to give the batters a better chance against 95+ mph fastballs.

Pitchers and batters tried to tilt the odds with mind games – the between-pitch rituals, preening, adjusting, pointing, and glaring.

The result: total boredom. A nine-inning game dragged on for longer than three hours on average. Exciting balls-in-play became fewer; many at-bats ended up in strikeouts, home runs, or outs.  

Baseball analytics optimized the chances of getting the batter out and winning individual games, while losing fans and the soul of the sport.

Changes this year include a pitch clock, a batter clock, and no major shifts. The games are back to 2.5 hour average, with more balls in play, and more fans in the seats. [I saw the Brewers beat the Pirates 5-0 in two hours and fifteen minutes!]

Businesses that seek to optimize the ease and speed of communication offer tools ranging from chat and IM to email, workflow programs, and task organizers, to video and voice calls.

Communication speed and volume are higher than ever, while communication quality could be worse than ever. According to a 2022 Harris poll, managers believe their teams lose an average of 7.47 hours per employee per week due to poor communication. 

Nearly a full workday each week evaporates.

In a 2000-hour work year, you lose 400 hours; the equivalent of 10 weeks per employee. Ouch!

Imagine what you could achieve if your employees got half that time back.

Here are some ways to reduce communication fratricide.

  1. Establish protocols for channel usage. HINT: don’t use chat or IM for anything complex.
  2. If the matter is not resolved in three back-and-forths, get in person, on video, or on the phone to talk it over. In these cases, written cues are not communicating sufficiently, so you need to add verbal and non-verbal cues.
  3. Let people set their messaging engagement times and deep work times. Don’t let perpetual distraction rule the workday.
  4. Set boundaries. Topics like religion, sex, and politics should be off-limits in most workplaces. Ditto goes for disrespect.
  5. Reduce the volume of information emails. Set up a common info-sharing portal where people can make routine updates. This step will reduce the length of meetings, too.

More broadly, consider the tradeoffs before you bandwagon onto a new tool. 

Are you looking to improve the optimization of your business? Consider joining one of our programs or schedule a call with Chris Kolenda. 

fumes

How Inhaling your own Fumes Damages your Decision Making: Plus ways to Bring in the Fresh Air

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma.

Personal climate change subtly undermines your decision-making, sending you into drift as you inhale your own fumes and enjoy the aroma. Until you allow in the fresh air, you will think the increasingly toxic fumes are normal.

Decision-making was a hot conversation topic during last week’s leadership event at Antietam and Gettysburg. Union General McClellan habitually inflated confederate strength, which caused him to move with an abundance of caution and attack in the most risk-averse manner he could conceive. He lost an opportunity to win the war in September 1862, instead of presiding over the bloodiest day in American history.

Less than a year later, confederate general Lee invaded the Union again hoping to win a big victory and force the Union to sue for peace. The strategy relied on assumptions so flawed that even a big victory would have been inconsequential. Lee believe his army was invincible and attacked a larger Union force that occupied better terrain. After two days of bloody and inconclusive fighting, Lee ignored sensible advice from one of his subordinates and ordered the disastrous Pickett’s charge. The picture below is from the High Water Mark.

The high-water mark of the Confederacy or high tide of the Confederacy refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863.

We see the consequences of people becoming accustomed to their own fumes. People shout at one another from ideological silos. We elect idiots to Congress. Putin surrounds himself with sycophants who have a vested interest in pleasing the boss. He gets a green light from China, which is interested in seeing how the West reacts to the invasion of Ukraine as China set its crosshairs on Taiwan.

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani continued to believe that America would leave troops in the country until the final moments. When the scales finally fell from his eyes, he fled and left people to fend for themselves (Ukraine’s Zelensky is a welcome distinction). President Lincoln, by contrast, surrounded himself with people who thought differently than he did and would provide alternative views. Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in July 1862 as part of his effort to reframe the war from preserving the Union to freedom versus slavery.

Secretary of State Seward counseled waiting. Union forces had suffered recent setbacks, and European powers considered recognizing the confederacy. Issuing the Proclamation in the wake of defeats would be seen as desperation at home and abroad. Lincoln accepted the logic and waited until after Lee’s invasion of Maryland had failed. The Emancipation Proclamation gained sufficient support at home and ended European considerations of confederacy recognition.

Action steps:

1. Get outside points of view from people who are willing to tell you hard truths. You might not always take their advice, but they will keep you breathing the fresh air.

2. Test your assumptions by asking yourself: “what must be true for this plan to work.” You’ll reveal implicit assumptions that you can evaluate for validity.

3. Participate in mastermind groups of like-minded people who help you stay true to your purpose, push you to be your best self, and remind you when your fumes start smelling too good.

Also – I invite you to join my online forum Chris Kolenda’s Sustainable Growth Mindset ®. I post unique thought leadership there nearly every day, using historical and world events to boost your imagination about growth and innovation. It’s free for you and you can sign up here.