The Single Military Strategy Every Business Needs

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Intrinsic Discipline|The Single Military Strategy Every Business NeedsWhat comes to mind when you hear the word discipline? Most people think of punishment. They view discipline as a way to gain compliance and turn people into unquestioning automatons. This type of discipline is extrinsic, and it’s common in many compliance cultures.

But there’s a second form of discipline, one that you’ll find in the best military units: intrinsic discipline. Intrinsic discipline occurs when people advance the common good voluntarily. It comes about when people understand the difference between right and wrong and do what’s right—even when the boss isn’t watching or when times are difficult.

Intrinsic discipline is a powerful tool. It creates the trust that’s needed to promote organizational initiatives, it empowers your people, and it produces a durable competitive advantage—all factors that lead to success in business and on the battlefield.

However, intrinsic discipline doesn’t happen by accident. As a leader, you must develop it intentionally, or your teams will get stuck in extrinsic compliance. But where should you start?

1. Define and explain the common good.

The first step to gaining your team’s commitment to the common good is to define and explain it so your people understand what it is, why it’s important, and how the organization will get there.

Xenophon, a pupil of Socrates and an experienced military commander, was the first great thinker in the Western world to outline this component of discipline. According to Xenophon, the first step to intrinsic discipline begins with the leader, who must possess areté—a combination of character and competence—to gain support from followers even in times of great danger.

Xenophon explains that leaders must teach their followers the common good and the difference between correct and incorrect performance and behavior. Defining and explaining the common good will create clear expectations and explain why you’re asking people to do what they do.

“Obedience,” Xenophon tells us, “must be given voluntarily rather than under compulsion.”

2. Gain buy-in by building trust.

The second step is to gain buy-in by building trust. People need to trust their leader, the desired outcomes (your organization’s vision, mission, and goals), and how they’ll reach these outcomes (through values, expectations, and strategies).

As so many studies of human decision-making attest, people make choices based on emotion and then rationalize those decisions. Trust and mutual respect are what create this emotional connection.

Exceptional military leaders understand this. While admonishing the United States Military Academy Corps of Cadets to end the practice of hazing in 1879, Academy Superintendent General John M. Schofield crafted what’s now referred to as “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline,” which still must be memorized by all West Point cadets:

The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instructions and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey.

The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.

The takeaway? Leaders who are trustworthy and treat people with respect create an environment in which intrinsic discipline can emerge.

3. Strengthen accountability.

The third step is to strengthen accountability. Accountability means to be answerable. It’s a four-way intersection: up, down, and lateral. Everyone on the team needs to be answerable for doing the right things in the right ways.

Importantly, this includes you as a leader; accountability begins in the mirror. Leaders need to walk the talk and enforce standards consistently so that everyone sees that the standards are essential rather than arbitrary.

As Greek military leader Xenophon explains:

Good workers get depressed when they see that, although they are the ones doing all of the work, the others get the same as they do, despite making no effort and being unprepared to face danger, if need be.

Playing favorites and haphazard enforcement are morale killers—they indicate to everyone involved that the standards and expectations are arbitrary and unimportant. And Xenophon is quite clear that the leader, not the followers, is to blame if the expectations and their importance are unclear or selectively followed.

To illustrate this principle, Xenophon provides examples in his famous work Anabasis of two commanders during the expedition with Cyrus against the Persian king Xerxes in 401 B.C. Both commanders failed in different ways.

Clearchus, a Spartan commander, took pride in his severity, believing that soldiers should fear their superiors more than the enemy. Because his rule was considered arbitrary, many of his men deserted.

In contrast, Proxenus, a Boeotian and a friend of Xenophon, sought to win the love of his soldiers by withholding praise from wrongdoers instead of punishing them. He became an object of contempt, and his soldiers ran roughshod over him.

The bottom line

These three steps—clarity, buy-in, and accountability—are the foundations for intrinsic discipline. They interact like a Venn diagram: Clarity and buy-in without accountability mean that any good results are a matter of luck. Clarity and accountability without buy-in creates compliance only, and people won’t contribute their best. Buy-in and accountability without clarity creates the hamster wheel effect: a lot of activity but no movement toward your goals. Having all three in place helps organizations move from compliance to a deeply inspired culture.

About the Author

Christopher D. Kolenda, Ph.D., founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, works with leaders who want to apply insights from history and military operations to take their businesses to new heights. He is a West Point graduate, internationally renowned combat leader, retired Army colonel, and former trusted adviser to three four-star generals and two undersecretaries of defense. He’s the author of Zero-Sum Victory: What We’re Getting Wrong About War and Leadership: The Warrior’s Art, a trusted anthology that’s been in print for over 20 years and helped tens of thousands of leaders succeed in combat and business. Learn more at

Why a Business Coach Is Every Entrepreneur’s Best Friend

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article |Business Coach|Why a Business Coach Is Every Entrepreneur’s Best FriendThere are certainly a lot of attractive selling points to starting your own business, including increased freedom, personal fulfillment, and an escape from the traditional nine to five career. However, venturing out on your own also carries its fair share of risk. As a result, there are a few key things you need to know before you start a business. Sometimes, getting all of this information can be tricky and time-consuming. You may find yourself bouncing between websites, reading multiple business books, or attending multiple conferences.

Luckily, there’s a simpler way to gather all the knowledge you need: hiring a business coach. Business coaches help entrepreneurs and business owners clarify the vision of their companies. They aid in setting goals and creating strategies for reaching these objectives. Hiring a business coach is an excellent way to streamline your knowledge acquisition process, among other key benefits. A business coach is every entrepreneur’s best friend when they are preparing to start their business. Here’s why you need to hire a business coach today.

Increased Accountability

When you’re in the early stages of your entrepreneurial journey, it can be tough to hold yourself accountable. Since it’s just you, you might be a little too lenient with yourself if you don’t get certain things done on time.

When you pay to work with a business coach, you want to ensure you get your money’s worth. You also don’t want to feel guilty when your business coach checks in on your progress only to find you haven’t implemented any of the strategies you decided on together. In these two ways, a business coach can be an outstanding accountability tool.

Impartial Third-Party

When you’ve dedicated so much time, effort, and potentially money to your business idea, your perspective can get a little blurred. Similarly, because your business proposal is your passion personified, you’re likely going to be a bit biased and view it favorably – even if there are areas for improvement.

A business coach, on the other hand, is a completely neutral, impartial party. They can take an honest and critical look at your venture and complete a type of SWOT analysis, identifying its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They can then use their unique position to provide some constructive feedback on how you can strengthen your business idea.

Helping You Stay On the Right Track

Building a business from the ground up is a huge challenge. You need all the guidance and resources you can get to help you steer the path and stay on the right track. A business coach can provide exactly that.

While it’s easy to get distracted or overwhelmed by entrepreneurial opportunities, a business coach can help you stay focused and streamlined in your approach. They can consistently remind you of your company’s vision, its mission, its goals, and its strategies for achieving them. With these helpful reminders, staying on track will be easier than ever.

The future of your business is now. With the help of a seasoned business coach, you can get one step closer to making your business vision a reality. Reclaim control over your future by hiring an experienced business coach to back you and guide you through every step of your entrepreneurial journey.

Business Performance Assessment Program Best Practice 13 – Capture Improvement Opportunities within the Corrective Action Program

StrategyDriven Business Performance Assessment Program Best Practice ArticleSelf-critical business performance assessments yield multiple opportunities for performance improvement; yet their benefits often go unrealized because assessment recommendations are not acted upon. To ensure the organization profits from each self assessment, it is necessary to programmatically pursue the recommended performance improvement actions*. The structured approach employed should drive accountability for implementing the improvement activities balanced with the organization’s other priorities.

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About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

The Best Jobs Go to the Best Educated People and Here is Why

Quite a bit of debate exists about whether education is obtained in school or through life experience. Looking at homes and families, the latter may reign supreme. However, universities, and the job market, often argue that a college degree is necessary to succeed in life and obtain a high paying job. Assuming that people can be educated in more than one way, what are some of the reasons why the best jobs go to the best educated people?

Education Blended with Common Sense
To succeed in the work world, people need to have a strong background in their field, but they also must exercise skills in common sense. Knowing the discipline provides the appropriate background information and the technical skills that are needed to succeed. However, the application of that knowledge often comes in the form of common sense. Exercising a blend of these skills allows workers to be confident, determined and strong in their decisions.

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About the Author

From her 25 years in business, Elizabeth Hill aims to pass on knowledge and skills gained in that time through her writing. She loves walks in the countryside, spending time with family and friends, and is ever so ‘slightly’ addicted to coffee.

Fire the Slugs! And Other Great, No-Nonsense Ways to Retain Your Best People

StrategyDriven Organizational Accountability ArticleThere isn’t an organization anywhere that doesn’t have a problem with some type of personnel turnover problems. Depending on the study you look at, the impact of turnover ranges from three months of salary for a low level employee who leaves to as high as 400 percent of the annual salary of an upper-level person who leaves.

It’s doesn’t have to be all bad. There’s good turnover and bad turnover.

Firing a non-performer is good turnover. When a top performer leaves to go elsewhere and leaves your organization with a huge void, that’s bad turnover. It can affect the performance of the whole organization.

If you are going to maximize your organization’s performance you have to make a conscious, binding top-down management decision and commitment to develop a no nonsense approach to retention. The following are several must-do actions items for retaining the high-value human assets you’ve worked so hard to acquire:

  1. Start at the top! Assess your supervisory and management team! Seventy percent of the people say that the worst thing about their job is the boss. Find out what’s wrong and fix it! Identify the prima donnas and micromanaging control freaks, the whiners, complainers, and blamers. Get them basic supervisory training and improve their performance continuously. If you are the boss, take ownership!
  2. Clean Up the House! Identify the non-performers. Identify the poor managers and supervisors. If they do not respond to training and show significant improvement, remove them from an influential role and replace them with someone that does what is truly desired and required for the role and position they are in.
  3. Manage Visibly! Get out of the ivory tower. Begin each day by walking around. Stroll around the floor several times a day. Meet the customers, talk with employees, visit with the supervisors, greet the vendors, help the delivery trucks load and unload. Get out of your office. Let people know you are there and that you care. The point here is that you set lead by example. If they like you they are less likely to leave you. Visibility drives retention.
  4. Care About Your People! If you don’t really care about your people, your business is doomed. Caring is the reason why people stay. Get to know your people. Learn what each person likes and enjoys. Listen to them and learn about their interests, families, and hobbies. Protect your people from harm and from others in your organization. People are loyal to those who care about them and care for them.
  5. Keep your door open 80% of the time. Let your people know you are accessible to them. Avoid telling people to make an appointment or come back later. Make sure the time you do spend with your people is quality time.
  6. Focus on Employee Assistance Actively. Sit down with the other managers in your organization and identify the problems that are faced by people in your workforce. Develop innovative ideas and deploy specific new plans to provide employees with more flexibility in their work, support for their common needs, and help for dealing with personal issues that impact their life.
  7. Treat Everyone with Respect Always! Every leader and manager and supervisor must set the standard that respectful behavior and sincere open appreciation are expected with no exceptions! Investigate and take immediate action for all non-respectful behavior incidents. Have the managers and supervisors bring food to be shared on a regular basis! Break bread with your people regularly instead of forcing people to eat baloney.
  8. Ask Your People What They Want! Sit down with your people and ask them what they want out of their work. Identify what they want to grow, to develop greater control, autonomy and responsibility for the work they do for you. Help them achieve these goals specifically and incrementally. Meaningful engagement in their own future drives commitment and loyalty.
  9. Tell Your People What You Want of Them! Be specific and be clear but make sure you explain what you expect of them. Give them the tools, support and the time they need to get the work done. If they do not meet your expectations, bring them in and talk with them and find out what it will take to get them on track.
  10. Fire the Slugs. Hold your people accountable for their performance. If they don’t solve the problem, then terminate them with respect and dignity. Your good performers will love you.

About the Author

Jeff Kortes is known as the ‘No Nonsense Guy.’ He is the President of Human Asset Management LLC, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive search and leadership training. He has trained hundreds of first-line supervisors, managers, and executives during his career. His approach to training is no-nonsense, and practical.

Jeff is also a member of the National Speakers Association and a regular speaker on the topics of retention, recruiting and leadership. For more information, visit