01 August 2022

Closed Sunday

"Remember, the unmoored boat floats about."

--Murasaki Shikibu

Who typically lives longer?  

A business or individual?

The average lifespan of a U.S. S&P 500 company has fallen by 80% in the last 80 years (from 67 to 15 years), and 76% of UK FTSE 100 companies have disappeared in the last 30 years.   

Overall, two out of every three businesses with employees will last two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About half will last five years.

Smaller businesses dominate the commerce landscape. According to the BLS, nearly 20% of those businesses fail within the first year of opening. After five years half of those size companies go out of business--and only about 30% make it to year 10, as reported in Forbes Magazine.

Larger corporations have a lot of inefficiencies. The English economist, E. F. Schumacher, pointed toward this factor in his book, "Small is Beautiful." That may contribute to their disappearance as they are then bought out, merged, or go bankrupt.

McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2027 75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P will be gone.

100 years+

Yet there's hope.

Organizations, big and small, can be around for decades. Some reach the 100-year mark or more such as Coca-Cola, UPS, L.L. Bean, and Kellogg's. Or smaller enterprises such as Seaside Inn, Casewell-Massey, or Pensacola Hardware, which began in 1851.

In addition to having the right people, products or services, and favorable market conditions, researchers have identified two "incongruous" practices carried out simultaneously for a long life:

First, have and preserve a stable core, an unchanging organizational purpose.

The second step is to have a disruptive edge, which involves bringing in outside expertise and learning from other sectors (even the ones that have nothing to do with yours).

Along with other key factors, including luck, those who achieve longevity appear to balance the radical and traditional to stay on top of their respective fields. 2

What's in the core?

Much has been written about Chick-fil-A, the 55-year-old family-owned business with 2,700 restaurants located across 47 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Franchise Times reported system-wide sales totaled $16.7 billion in 2021. 

(C) Chik-fil-A

How does the company generate consistently impressive results? 

By joining its organizational core with corporate discernment in practical matters. Both are critical for the execution of strategy. In a highly competitive industry, the Atlanta-based company finds a way to make the ingredients of culture, customer service, tasty chicken, and common sense come together--most of the time. 

No ingredient by itself explains the company's success. 

Here's a closer look at Chik-fil-A: 3

--The chain's business model is unique among its competitors--explicitly guided by Christian values.

--Founder Truett Cathy's faith was embedded into business practices that have directly contributed to the company's success. Mr. Cathy's beliefs are the rulebook for running one of the restaurants. These values are now overseen by his son, current CEO, Dan Cathy.  The elder Cathy passed in 2014 at age 93.

--The secret weapon is its rigorous franchise operator-selection process that finds and trains "Truett Cathy clones." Chik-fil-A's acceptance rate for new owners is 37x more selective than Harvard University. And the start-up fee is $10,000 compared to McDonald's $1.8 million fee.  

--Industry insiders observe that while Chik-fil-A's culture gets most of the attention, the company is populated with top-notch management who are constantly investing in the future. 

--For the eighth year in a row, the restaurant chain was voted American's favorite place to eat, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Chik-fil-A is periodically called out for its support of conservative cultural causes. However, from 2012 to 2019 at the height of this backlash, systemwide sales went from $4.6 billion to $10.5 billion. 

In that same period, the average store location grew from $2.6 million to $4.6 million in sales.

(Jim Collins makes the point that it doesn't matter what core values you have. It matters that you have core values. And that you preserve and are passionately committed to them.)

--By being closed on Sunday, it's estimated that Chik-fil-A gives up $1 billion annually in revenue. Is it worth that price? Leadership says it is. A day off for employees, management, and an opportunity to attend a house of worship is an original corporate value. 4

Not playing it safe

With core and operating fundamentals established, does Chik-fil-A have a disruptive edge?

Management believes the path to a viable future is combining Christian values with Silicon Valley ideology. 

1.  The company brought in expertise from Ritz Carlton Hotels and other places to codify hospitality and politeness ("My pleasure.") The goal is to integrate those behaviors with a simple and reasonably priced menu.

(C) Hatch Innovation Center Chik-fil-A/Interior Design Magazine

2.  At the Hatch, a company incubator designed to explore next-generation service, Chik-fil-A is looking at drones and driverless delivery. Will robots be as polite as a carefully trained workforce?  

3.  Planning is straightforward. Values stay--everything else is on the table.  

Where is Chik-fil-A in its lifecycle?

David Farmer, vice-president, Menu Strategy and Development, says progressing gradually is essential. "You have to evolve."    

In a meeting with top management, CEO Dan Cathy, said, "One-day Chik-fil-A will no longer exist." He was referring to the diminishing lifespan of businesses.

What does Cathy's caution mean for his 170,000 team members? Without overpromising, and with everpresent Chik-fil-A values: provide great service; offer good food at fair prices; continually improve, and be hospitable to everyone.

For now, the only closing Chik-fil-A customers have to think about is Sunday.

  U.S. overall life expectancy is 77 years--CDC.gov.
2  Harvard Business Review, September 2018.
3  Business Insider, August 2019.
4. Hobby Lobby, a $6.4 billion business, is also closed on Sunday.


© Bredholt & Co. 

01 July 2022

18 Minutes of Baseball

"Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical."  

--Yogi Berra (Baseball Hall of Famer)

Other than the offseason, strikes, and lockouts, how much inaction is there in Major League Baseball?

Before attempting to answer that question, let's look at the state of today's National Pastime.

The delayed Opening Day was on Thursday, 7 April 2022. The first game of the MLB season was a matchup between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, played at Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers won 6 - 5.

The last game of the 2022 MLB regular season will be played on Sunday 2 October. With the expansion of the playoffs, MLB eliminated the tie-breaking 163rd game that teams typically played on Monday. The postseason will begin on 4 October with the entire season concluding after the final out of the World Series.

The 2022 MLB All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, 19 July at Dodger Stadium.

There are 162 games of baseball this season barring any unforeseen developments. There are less than 100 games remaining. 1

Money ball

How does baseball make money?  The 30 MLB teams each have a 26-man roster (expanded during the playoffs) with an average payroll of $148 million. Everyone is paid, win or lose.

The owners have new contracts with TBS, ESPN, plus local outlets. Beginning this year, they will take in about $100 million each before selling a single ticket, according to Blake Williams, Managing Editor, Roundup News. 

Is it time for a 7th inning stretch?

(C) Post-Gazette

Starting young

My earliest recollection of professional baseball is a magical one. My dad's favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, was playing the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series. The seventh and deciding game of the series was at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. 

We were with friends on the playground at Calvin Britain Grammar School in Benton Harbor, Michigan listening to the game on a transistor radio.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, on 13 October at precisely 3:36 p.m., on a pitch thrown by Yankee reliever, Ralph Terry, Pirates shortstop, Bill Mazeroski hit the most dramatic home run in World Series history. 

Final score--World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates 10, New York Yankees 9.

There was bedlam that afternoon as 36,683 Pittsburgh fans drowned out play-by-play announcer, Mel Allen. I knew that dad, from the City of Bridges, would in his own quiet way, be a happy man.

Slow to change

The Associated Press reported the average time of a nine-inning game set a record once again despite Major League Baseball's efforts to improve the pace. The average was 3 hours, 10 minutes, and 7 seconds for the 2021 regular season, the commissioner's office said. That was up from 3:07:46 for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 3:05:35 in 2019.

Starting with the 2018 season, MLB imposed stricter limits on mound visits by managers, coaches, and players; however, there were some exceptions. Commercial breaks are shorter. And pitchers may throw as many warmup pitches as they want before the commercial break ends but are no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches.

Even with rules designed to trim playing time, which is mostly opposed by the players' union, the games are taking longer. Those 25, 258 fans (on average) who turn out to root for the home team are patient to a fault. But for how much longer? 

Why are major league games getting longer?  

Grant Brisbee, who writes on baseball for SB Nation, decided to look into that question. Brisbee stopwatched two games, one from 1984 and one from 2014.  Some things were the same. The changes were in the inaction pitches--balls, strikes, or missed swinging strikes that didn't result in the end of an at-bat or the advancement of a runner. 

What wasn't identical was the time those inaction pitches took up. In the 1984 game, inaction pitches accounted for 32 minutes and 47 seconds.  In the 2014 game, they accounted for 57 minutes and 41 seconds.  A nearly 80 percent increase.

Frisbee said, "Pitchers don't get rid of the ball like they used to, and hitters aren't expecting them to get rid of the ball like they used to."  A couple of minutes to each inning adds close to a half-hour to the game.


In any given year just under 70 million people will attend a major league baseball game. 

What do they see?  Not much.

This brings us back to our original question about inaction. 

According to a non-scientific stopwatch study conducted by baseball statistician, Steve Moyer, and published in The Wall Street Journal in 2013, there are 17 minutes 58 seconds of action and 2 hours 39 minutes, and 58 seconds of inaction. (A similar study found just 11 minutes of action in NFL football games.) 2


-Balls in play or runners advancing: five minutes, 47 seconds.

-Other actions (such as pitches, foul balls, and pickoffs): 12 minutes, 11 seconds.


-Time between batters: 33 minutes, 39 seconds.

-Time between pitches: one hour, 14 minutes, 49 seconds.

Only 7 Teams Have a Cost Index Under $200 

The MLB Fan Cost Index calculates the average price for four people to see a game at any given ballpark. It includes the cost of four tickets, parking, four hot dogs, four drinks, two programs, and two of the stadium’s least expensive hats. 

Across all 30 teams, a family of four can take in a game for less than $200 at only seven stadiums. Among 30 MLB teams, the average ticket now costs $65.

Let's call this baseball inflation--paying more and getting less.

More challenges ahead

There's a lot of talk in professional sports but money talks the loudest. 

Here's a short list of dollar-driven critical issues facing professional baseball:

1.  Aging fans who put up with high costs because they can. What about younger families who want to attend games but can't?  

2.  Starting play-off and World Series games at a later hour to placate networks (who pay the bills) but short-change younger fans who often have school the next morning. Little League participation rates continue to decline (as do all youth sports). Where is the inspiration to play ball?    

3.  MLB exclusive deals with pay-walled and soon-to-be pay-walled streaming partners. Keeping loyal fans from watching their favorite teams at certain times of the day seems counterintuitive. 

4.  Robo umpires to eliminate human error--as if using technology would be error-free.

What we've learned in our study is that the antidote to inaction is not action--it's the right action at any given moment.  

Extra innings

Perhaps Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, and billionaire team owners could benefit from the wisdom offered in a movie, The Sandlot--

"Man, this is baseball. You gotta stop thinking, and just have fun.” 

No doubt Yogi Berra would agree.


(C) Bredholt & Co.


1 SportsNaut.com

2 The number of stopwatched games is low due to the difficulty of the task. Politfact judges this study to be mostly true. 


01 June 2022

Books of Summer (2022)

 "Classic:  A book which people praise and don't read."

--Mark Twain

Forbes Magazine reported that print book sales in the U.S. were up 9% in 2021. There's similar growth in the U.K.

U.S. publishers sold 825.7 million books last year although the share of Americans reading remained flat. The typical American adult read five books during 2021, a consistent number since Pew Research began tracking that information in 2011.

Who's reading

Pew found that women read more than men, younger people read more than older people, more educated people read more than less educated people, members of higher-income households read more than members of lower-income households, and urban residents read more than suburban or rural residents.

(C) Pinterest
Recommended reading

Consider adding one or more of these books to your leadership library:

Making Numbers Count. Chip Heath and Karla Starr (Avid Reader, 182 pages)

Whether you run a FORTUNE 500 company, consignment store, or charity, numbers are essential to the enterprise. It's not only important to keep track of the right numbers but to communicate what they mean. 

For example, when it comes to energy costs, think about inflation this way--a $1 increase in the price of a gallon of gas costs the average American driver $56 per month or $672 annually, according to Kelly Blue Book research.  

"Math is no one's native tongue," observe Chip Heath and Karla Starr. They write that "after we get past 1-2-3, our ability to grasp numbers quickly deteriorates."

The Bookshelf Review in The Wall Street Journal highlights the value of making numbers come alive through stories, which our brains process better than statistics. The best way to translate numerical information is to do so through images and messages that make numbers unnecessary. 

Unlike too many cluttered presentations, Steve Jobs used simple, creative images and prose to support his Apple narratives.

How to Think Like a CEO. D. A. Benton (Hachette Audio, listening length 3 hours 2 minutes; Warner Books, 470 pages)

This is a book that's helpful for anyone working in an organization of any size. Or who sits on a governing board responsible for finding the next CEO.  I recommend the audiobook format. Listening to Debra Benton narrate makes the stories come alive. 

An observer of executive behavior for over 40 years, she reminds us that many high achievers don't make it on the first try, but have to be tenacious. Ms. Benton also notes that CEOs make mistakes. But they generally don't make the same mistakes, twice.

Leading Change. James O'Toole (Jossey-Bass, 304 pages)  

The sub-title is, Overcoming the Ideology of Comfort and Tyranny of Custom.

That says it all. Why? Comfort is a thief and custom is a way to become frozen in time. O'Toole is saying that leadership is about "change."  But that it should be values-based, not just a trendy next move on the part of those in charge. Trust, integrity, listening, and respect for others come from his study of Rushmorean leaders--those who grace Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.  

Leading Change makes a good book study by management teams.  

A Failure of Nerve. Edwin H. Friedman (Church Publishing 10th Anniversary Edition, 228 pages) 

A review posted on Amazon offers this assessment of the book--

Friedman's thesis is that many approaches to leadership end in failure because they fail to recognize that leadership is more about a leader's own emotional processes than techniques to motivate others.

Leaders who have weak emotional processes are susceptible to avoiding all risks, blaming others for their mistakes, or being influenced by emotionally reactive people. Leaders must have the capacity to move themselves and their organization forward; propelled by their own internal guidance system rather than being tossed by the perceptions, complaints, or reactions of others.

Leadership takes confident character (courage) and strength (nerve).  


©  Bredholt & Co.


01 May 2022

Standing Apart from the Crowd

Edited excerpts from a college commencement address we were honored to give on 8 May 2021.*

Receiving your diploma today makes you different as only 36% of adults 25 and older have a college degree.1 Yet—there's more. 

The goal is learning to live in community, which includes a sense of belonging while standing apart from the crowd.  As has been said, “The person who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.”2

Simply put, it pays to be different. That means possessing qualities such as integrity and perseverance--both sought-after employee traits.  

(C) Olivet The Magazine
Wisdom literature

From the writings of noted American Quaker and theologian, Dr. Elton Trueblood, here are three practices that contribute to being different:

First--“The cultivation of reverence.”  This comes from the continuous nurturing of our inner beings. It includes humility and self-discipline.

Second--“A life of service.”  Which is a healing ministry to individuals and social institutions.  

Third--“Possessing intellectual integrity.”  Leadership demands the price of rigorous thinking. To be uninformed (or ill-informed) is to live at the mercy of others. 

Let's summarize

Sameness, like the Dan Ryan, is a congested expressway.   

With an improving job market and similarity of talent, something must separate you from the masses. For example, being trustworthy; listening well, and cooperating with others to get things done.  Even if working from an apartment on Zoom.

An online survey of employers conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that candidates’ demonstrated capacity to (1) think critically, (2) communicate clearly, and (3) solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major. 

Those three proficiencies help define a liberal arts education.

What do positive behaviors mean for your career?  Combining personal qualities employers are looking for, with the right skills, helps a college graduate get off to an exceptionally good start. 

Final thoughts

Another benefit to standing apart--it helps keep bad company from corrupting good character.  As the late best-selling author and businessman, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, observed: 

“In five years, you will be the same person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

The upside to developing strong moral qualities is to look in the mirror, know the person within, and like what you see.

It pays to be different.


U.S. Census Bureau, March 30, 2020.

Attributed to both Francis Phillip Wernig and Albert Einstein.


© Bredholt & Co. 

01 April 2022

An Employment Revolution

"Without labor, nothing prospers." 


Three industrial revolutions shaped how we live and work:

  • First Industrial Revolution. Water and steam are used to mechanize production. 
  • Second Industrial Revolution. Electric power is used to create mass production.
  • Third Industrial Revolution. Electronics and technology are used to automate production.
            (World Economic Forum) 

The transition to a fourth industrial revolution--physical, digital, and biotechnology--appears accompanied by a human phenomenon.

British economist, Dr. Charles Goodhart, describes the turnabout this way: "Since the 1990s, hundreds of millions of inexpensive Chinese and Eastern European workers pushed down wages and prices of products they exported to rich countries. Together with female workers and baby boomers the labor force in advanced economies more than doubled between 1991 and 2018." (The Great Demographic Reversal)

However, as the American economist, Dr. Herbert Stein once said, "If something can't go on forever, it will stop."

Supply and demand reversed

Keeping in mind Dr. Goodhart's concept of declining low-cost labor, and scarcity of help, it's safe to conclude that the global economy is now experiencing an employment revolution, something akin to a "worker's moment." In nearly all sectors, but especially manufacturing, employees are gaining the upper hand as employers scramble to retain and recruit a shrinking workforce. 

(C) Depositphotos

Worker shortages, clogs in the supply chain, and rising energy prices have resulted in 7.9 percent annual inflation in February, the highest in 40 years. In the U.S. average hourly wages in the private sector rose by one penny last month falling behind inflation. War in Ukraine, and pandemic outbreaks in Europe, U.K., and China, further complicate matters.

In a recent FORTUNE magazine survey, two-thirds of respondents put the labor market as the force most likely to disrupt their business this year.  

Speaking to the U.S. Congress, Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, underscored the nature of a highly competitive labor market this way: "What you have is 1.7 openings for every unemployed person. That's a very, very tight labor market. Tight to an unhealthy level," Powell said. 

An HR crisis

When it comes to people, here are five overlapping trends which help explain why management is facing labor shortages and employment conditions that will likely continue for some time:  

1.  Free to chooseThe "Great Resignation" is getting a lot of attention and rightfully so.  All told, over 38 million workers quit their jobs in 2021. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)  Surveys with exiting workers show the reasons for jumping ship include higher wages, better conditions, or different opportunities. Half of Americans who quit their jobs in 2021 made a career change. 

Indeed found that 92 percent of those who voluntarily left their jobs since March 2020 did so because "the pandemic made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren't passionate about."

This doesn't mean that everyone will have a job. No job seeker is fit for every job. 

2.  Job flexibility--the holy grail. Returning to the office may look different. The past two years have given white-collar workers the chance to manage their own schedules. Even while being on Zoom. And they like it. This arrangement proved helpful to parents whose children were in school online. 

The tech industry, and professional services, may find that a hybrid schedule fits well with newly adopted habits. As for a negotiating chip, flexibility could mean the difference between attracting qualified candidates and not. 


Hiring will also be more geographically dispersed--removing the pressure to live in high-cost housing markets.    

Full-time remote work has a downside. As more employees gather in corporate spaces, those working from home will be at a disadvantage when it comes to mentoring, acquiring behavioral skills, and collaborating with experienced colleagues.  

Former Google HR chief Laszlo Bock said, " 'Googlers' who come into the office less frequently will be at a disadvantage for promotions, pay bumps, and desirable assignments." 

The idea that out of sight is out of mind, rings true.

3.  Baby boomer retirements. From February 2020 to March 2021 up to 2.6 million more boomers retired than expected. (U.S. Federal Reserve, St. Louis) This heavily populated cohort might have left sooner were it not for the Great Recession (2007-2009). 

There are two sides to that departure coin. It opens opportunities for next-generation employees but a good deal of corporate culture, history, and know-how walk out the door.

4.  Demographic shifts. The working population has started shrinking across advanced economies--the first time since World War II. That decline squeezes the labor force causing prices to go up, contributing to inflationary pressures. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Germany is seeking to attract 400,000 skilled foreigners a year. China, says the Journal, is expected to see its workforce shrink by 100 million over the next 15 years. That's like having nearly one-third of the current U.S. population disappear.

5.  A drift toward idleness.  Absence is compounding the labor shortage. The labor force participation rate, which peaked at 67 percent in 2000, is now 61.6 percent, 1.9 percent below pre-pandemic levels of 63.5 percent. 

One in eight men is neither working nor looking for work. (Nicholas Eberstadt, Ph.D.) Male students now make up a smaller share of all enrolled students in the U.S. than ever before--just 41% of students enrolled in a postsecondary institution in the fall of 2020 were men. (Brookings Institution)

This inactivity, along with an aging population, helps explain why there were 11.3 million job openings in the U.S. in February. 

Be creative

This is a time to innovate.  That means solving problems. Differentiating from competitors. Keeping the business alive.

Rethinking process, like the hotel industry making daily housekeeping optional, is an economical way to maintain essential services. 

(C) USA Today

Even the smallest company can be innovative with feedback from customers and employees.

"The pandemic prompted a widespread re-evaluation of our lives," says Dorie Clark, who teaches at Duke University. One study reported that 54 percent of Americans are currently re-examining their life priorities.  The situation is similar in the U.K.  "More than three-quarters of Britons said they were considering major life changes, from moving to quitting their jobs, to ending relationships," according to Global Future. 

A 2021 Pew Research study showed that only 17 percent of adults now cite their job or career as a source of meaning--down 7 percentage points from four years earlier.  

To improve retention, Professor Clark recommends leaders understand what motivates employees. "Recognizing new forces shaping their own career ambitions may enlighten what's going on with others."  

The most cost-effective HR initiative is to keep recruiting your own employees. Show your appreciation, dedication, and commitment to existing talent as a way to retain and expand your base. (An Adobe Principle)

For a free subscription to StrategistBlog, send your request to rbredholt@strategist.com

© Bredholt & Co. 

01 March 2022

What Kind of Leader Are You?

"Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect."

--Theodore Parker

Leaders think differently.

About themselves, the organization, and the world around them.  Thinking alike seldom contributes to anyone's success. How one develops personally and professionally benefits greatly by being distinctive in some way. In the arc of life, it pays to be different.

Dissimilarity applies to ideas and people. "Leaders must bring together diverse ideas, which often means engaging with differing perspectives and those with diverse backgrounds." (Journal of Character & Leadership Development, Summer 2021)

To be clear when speaking about leaders we're not necessarily equating that term with a position. Untitled leaders are found throughout most structures.     

Leadership styles

Much that's written about leaders has to do with "style."  Author, Joseph Garvey, reminds us of three from social-psychologist, Kurt Lewin:

  • Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic).  The leader dictates policies and procedures and decides what objectives are to be completed.  Control is a major theme.
  • Participative Leadership (Democratic).  Here the members participate in the decision-making process. Team morale is higher and members are more engaged. Unfortunately, this style is noted for an absence of clear communication.
  • Delegative Leadership (Laissez-Faire). Team members receive little or no guidance from leaders and they are free to make their own decisions.  Tools are provided along with processes to make good decisions.  The groups solve problems on their own.
Max Weber and Bernard Bass add to the list of styles:
  • Transactional Leadership.  This style focuses on the role of supervision, organization, and group performance. Employees perform well when there is a clear chain of command in the organization.
Professor Bass expands the work of James MacGregor Burns with another concept:
  • Transformational Leadership.  This style enhances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers.  The traits of transformational leaders are energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. 
Styles can fluctuate depending on the circumstances such as a crisis or restructuring. Nevertheless, they generally return to a predominant pattern of behaving.  

Leaders' personalities have a direct impact 
on behavior and corporate culture.

Leaders' personalities have a direct impact on behavior and corporate culture. Attributes such as integrity, courage, maturity, and caring for others have been found to support and promote strong executive and managerial effectiveness. (European Scientific Journal, July 2016) 

Being self-aware is the secret to better decision-making.

(C)  Mark Sanborn

Program evaluation

The Training Industry Report estimates that approximately $70 billion is spent annually on helping individuals to learn, grow, and change. With such a large expenditure of time and money, why do so many programs come up short?  

Areas of deficiency:

No long-term measures prove the permanency of training (Kivland and King, University of Illinois); lack of support from upper management; decoupling reflection from real work situations (Gurdjian, Halbeisen, and Lane; McKinsey & Company); and the absence of interest on the part of employees. (Panopto, Inc.) 

Where programs may need greater emphasis:

By taking a more deeply person-centered approach the cultivation of character can help leaders to successfully engage the opportunities and challenges of leadership in our complex and uncertain times.

Intellectual virtues, such as truth and understanding, are what we need for good thinking across situations combined with moral virtues which are at the heart of a well-lived life. (Edward Brooks, University of Oxford) 

Full disclosure 

Where does the burden of learning rest? Largely with the participants. Here's why:

1.  You are ultimately responsible for your own development. Even if you attend corporate-sponsored programs, with instructors, relevant courses, in off-site settings, the application and practice are up to you. The pursuit of knowledge is a personal decision.

2.  There's a need to acquire clarity on who you are. "The number one issue in leadership today is a failure of nerve to define oneself more clearly," wrote Edwin Friedman.  He goes on to say, "Self-differentiation is the ability to be in charge of self, even when others are actually trying to make a person different from how the person really is." 

Styles don't exist on their own. They emanate from who we are or are emulations. Family backgrounds have some say about who a leader is, how they relate to colleagues, and how they conduct themselves on the job.
Remember, you have to know who you 
are to be true to yourself. 

Remember, you have to know who you are to be true to yourself. 

3.  Leading means taking personal responsibility for your actions. "Freedom and responsibility--two faces of a single coin--are philosophical and theological, even political concepts but not really scientific ones. And before you can use them they must be clear to you," offers Dr. Peter Koestenbaum. 

4.  Are you willing to follow? "He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander," said Aristotle. 

5.  Seventy percent of leadership development requires the right kind of experience.  We don't always know what the right experiences are and therefore need guidance. Our life has the potential to become a deep well of past performance, good and bad. What do we take away from those experiences? That's what counts.

What makes up the 30 percent?  

Teachers. Networking. Peer learning. Reading. Continuing education. Colleagues and trusted friends. 

Employees don't work for an organization, they work for a supervisor. Having someone to properly observe us, help interpret our experiences, and offer wisdom about life is invaluable.  A supervisor with the right temperament can be one of the best things that happen early in one's career. Retention begins here.

And good mental health results from these kinds of personal, not remote, interactions with colleagues.  

Regardless, raising the level of maturity in associates, which is what mentoring is about, is a gift that keeps on giving.  


An extensive study of millennials (1980-1996) by Gallup gives us a closer look at a cohort that will be 40 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2025. (U.S. Department of Labor)

What are those findings? Here are four:

--Millennials don't just want a paycheck, they want a purpose.

--Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction, they are pursuing development.

--Millennials don't want bosses, they want coaches.

--Millennials don't want annual reviews, they want ongoing conversations.

Millennials differ in a few significant ways from their older counterparts, especially when it comes to using mobile technology. Yet, Gallup finds that millennials have plenty in common with Gen-Xers, baby boomers, and traditionalists. 

Demographic labels aside, there remain shared generational values plus the enduring nature of human need, including the honor and dignity that come with self-respect.

For a free subscription to StrategistBlog, send your request to rbredholt@strategist.com

© Bredholt & Co. 


01 February 2022

The Power of Belief

 “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

--Madeleine L'Engle

An overlooked competitive advantage is a deeply held, empowering belief--in oneself, the enterprise, and its purpose. Shared belief makes execution possible. 

Beliefs, or principles, when embraced by a critical mass of employees (members, volunteers), have a far greater impact on your success than a plan. Why? A document seldom matches reality and tends to be outdated before it's implemented.  

The right ideas or beliefs inspire, they are motivational and a form of differentiation. Beliefs create vision and clarify purpose. They are characterized by their simplicity. One can begin to understand them when one hears them. And they can be explained to others. 

Plans are the opposite--verbose, and filled with complexity. 

"If your business beliefs are solid, you will quickly find a way to create new solutions when the old systems break down," says Bedros Keullian, writing in Entrepreneur Magazine.  "Innovation and pandemic economies will make your operations look completely different.  None of us can afford to get stuck on how we do business today. Hacks and quick fixes are going to become outdated almost as soon as they appear," notes Keullian.  

Loyalty is a two-way street

It wasn't that long ago employers made a practice of handing out pink slips to employees, often the result of restructuring a business undone by management mistakes.  Now, the reverse is underway where employees are handing out pink slips to employers.  

The number of U.S. workers who quit their jobs reached a new high in November 2021, when 4.5 million people resigned.  That's up from 4.2 million in October of the same year.  

According to the Society for HR Management (SHRM), workers are taking advantage of strong demand to look for jobs with better pay or working conditions.  Flexibility, not remote work, is becoming a driving force for departing associates.

The other side of strategy

What else should job seekers be looking for in their next employer?

A business with a strong sense of purpose at its core.

The more admired small and medium-size workplaces among millennials (NerdWallet, Better.com, Evergreen Loans) or larger companies (Cisco, Salesforce, Red Hat) long ago moved away from outdated strategy-structure-systems which were created at the turn of the last century.  That design made people irreplaceable parts, especially in manufacturing.

In 1994, Christopher Bartlett and Sumantra Ghoshal published an article in Harvard Business Review and described purpose-based cultures this way:
  1. First, they place less emphasis on following a clear strategic plan than on building a rich, engaging corporate purpose. 
  2. Next, they focus less on formal structural design and more on effective management processes. 
  3. Finally, they are less concerned with controlling employees’ behavior than with developing their capabilities and broadening their perspectives. 
Bartlett and Ghoshal show that adaptive organizations "have moved beyond the old doctrine of strategy, structure, and systems to a softer, more organic model built on the development of purpose, process, and people."

The research reveals that employees don't just want to work for a company. They want to belong to an organization. 

The redemption of Delta Air Lines 

In 2020, U.S. airline travel plummeted by 90%. 

When Covid made its disruptive appearance, Delta Air Lines lost 95% of its revenues in 30 days. The steep fall was more than financial. Leading up to that moment, Delta was the best-performing airline in the world. 

"While we were seen as the leaders in the industry, as the champions in our own sort of way, Covid leveled all of that. It took all of our advantages away, and we had to start over again," said Ed Bastian, Delta's CEO, in an interview with Chief Executive Magazine.

"We're emerging on top with an even stronger brand, a stronger company, a stronger passion and purpose for where we're going.  That comes from the fact we've had to learn.  We had to listen to each other, we had to rely on each other, we had to follow our instincts, and we had to keep very focused," Bastian added.  

Consider the backdrop for this current turnaround--9/11; a 2006 takeover attempt by US Airways; Delta files for bankruptcy in 2007; and a 2008 merger with Northwest. 

(C) Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Within that historical context, Delta's leader let it be known there are more questions than answers in a global pandemic.  

The CEO offered this candid appraisal of the circumstances facing Delta--

"Leaders are looked to for direction and guidance, and there's a vulnerability and authenticity to letting people know that I'm just not sure where this is going, but having the confidence to know we're going to figure it out."

Consequential decisions 

"I set out the principles, right in the second week of March 2020, that we were going to focus on protecting each other. We didn't know how the business was going to come back, but we were going to do our very best to protect our people, our customers, their safety. We were going to protect our cash, but also protect our future. And those were the guiding principles all throughout the pandemic," Bastian emphasized in that same interview.

The reward?

In The Wall Street Journal's 14th annual ranking of nine major airlines by operational performance in 2021, Delta Air Lines came out on top.  Delta took the top spot in five of seven categories, with a cancelation rate of just 0.6% in scheduled departures.

"If employees are to put out extraordinary efforts to realize company targets, they must be able to identify with them. It's fine to stress what to aim for, but people also need to know what the company stands for," Bartlett and Ghoshal conclude.

Delta's redemptive story makes the point.

Headwinds remain

Any comeback for the travel industry faces turbulence. In addition to Delta, other carriers such as American Airlines, United, and Southwest are looking at a potential loss of highly profitable business travelers, though what percentage is an educated guess. 

Face-to-face still makes a difference. As someone observed, "The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that's only felt with in-person conversations." How true that is.    

As a friend and global traveler, Bobbi Smisko likes to say, "In order to know you got to go."  

Covid variants, unruly passengers, and 36% higher jet fuel costs than a year ago, according to Aviation Weekly, require confidence to "figure it out." 

Look in the mirror, first

"The level of success you see in your life is a direct result of your belief system. What I mean is your belief in your ability to succeed," advises Lyn Christian.  

Christian goes on to say, "Believing in yourself means having faith in your own capabilities. It means believing that you CAN do something--that it is within your ability. When you believe in yourself, you can overcome self-doubt and have the confidence to take action and get things done."

After two harrowing years, Delta Air Lines team members can testify to the power of belief--in leadership, themselves, and above all, a reason-to-be.  

*I am a long-standing Delta SkyMiles member. 

For a free subscription to StrategistBlog, send your request to rbredholt@strategist.com

© Bredholt & Co.