Category Archives: Business

Kathy Kolbe’s blog entries regarding Business uses

High School Musical by MO?

When people ask me about the beginnings of my leadership theories, they’re usually surprised that it started with a high school musical.

In 1957, I was a part of an extraordinary adventure. Over 200 kids at New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL, wrote and produced a musical comedy, performing it for several nights running. The annual show was known as Lagniappe, a Cajun word meaning a little bit extra or something more. It was developed from scratch each year.

For me, it was the something more that no MBA program could have provided. As co-director of Lagniappe, I experienced the innovative process from brainstorming about what type of show to do (ce.g. musical review or comedy sketches) to selecting and leading a group of amazingly talented young lyrists, composers, singers, actors, choreographers, dancers, salespeople, set builders, lighting experts, costumers, choral directors, orchestra members, props people and numerous other essential crew members

My co-director and I selected those who originated the music and lyrics based on challenges we created and sample solutions we received. Given the talent we realized was available, we decided to take on the challenge of having all original songs. Auditions were tense  with over 400 students trying out or applying for roles in cast and crews. We recruited some whose efforts we’d seen  in other school projects such as the newspaper, sports, government, debate and  the arts.

Ann-Margaret may have had her start in musicals with us. (She had a last name then, and as a sophomore, was considered a risky choice. We put her in the chorus.)

Over months of working together, our efforts became collaborative, self-determined, persistent, persuasive, and passionate about seemingly impossible goals. Because we were dependent upon one another, we began looking after one-another with an inordinate amount of compassion (which dissipated after the show, but proved the possibility).

During that time, I began writing short quips about the natural abilities or “Creative bent” as I called it, of those involved. I had an ever-present clip board with tasks I’d check-off on the front of pages, and notes-to-self about how to deal with the creative needs of individuals/groups on the back. (Would that I never did throw anything away, as some believe.)

I recall making a list of the people who I could count on to be precise in everything they did. They argued  about specifics that improved the final production – and I rarely sat through the entire discussion. Sure enough, many became scientists or lawyers. In current emails, these are the people who have detailed  memories about those debates. For instance  Dick Wirtz, our musical director, is still weighing the pros and cons of the show’s title:

We went around and around on the title.  Some of us thought “On the Rocks” was good because (1) Laurentz was approached by Duke Boniface through the “towering Alps” (lyric) so it must be in the mountains somewhere and (2) Laurentz was broke.  Others thought that sounded too much like the title of a previous show (On the House?) and the title ought to be “In the Year 1173.”  I argued against that because I thought the audience would mistakenly believe that the show was set in the year 1173.  My side won.  In retrospect, I think we should have lost.

Another list was of the quick-take ad libbers. They were fun to let loose on ideas, but a challenge to keep to the final script. I predicted they’d do their own thing at some point and many of them did become entrepreneurs, PR people, TV personalities.

Many Lagniappe ’57 participants are now communicating about the difference the show made in their lives. It didn’t make any of us different from who we were, it gave us confidence  to BE who we are. We were able to celebrate our differing contributions and share a sense of purposefulness that brought out our natural strengths – our MOs.

In an email this week from a cast member Laura Coleman Keith:

I know a lot of the wellness I feel about being me can be attributed to my participation in Lagniappe, where being a part of the team rounded me out.  It taught me about talent and genius, which I was able to see close up.  A person whom I wouldn’t have suspected of having gifted skills, nor someone I would probably never have known, I got to be around and appreciate in awe… I loved being there with you.

Free from the confinement of the traditional classroom requirements, we literally did our own thing – and made it work.

Lagniappe was more than just a little bit extra. It was an extra-curricular activity, done without the hovering of faculty members or parents that gave a group of high school kids the self-confidence to act on our own instincts or natural abilities — our innate conative strengths..

Lessons learned during my leadership role in this student-produced project provided a foundation for my life’s work. 

How often are today’s students given the freedom necessary for this level of thought and self-discovery?

UPDATE: Several Lagniappe ’57 alums are putting together a CD and libretto from the show. Next you may see us take it to Broadway!

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It’s Not What You Think

A publicist recently suggested that he’d love to help me tell the world about my work with cognitive styles. My response was not kind or gentle.

What he said to me was like telling a dedicated vegan that he’d be happy to help her crusade to get people to eat more beef.

I realize the guy was just showing a common ignorance. I certainly understand that most people don’t know or care about the conative domain of the mind. To them, I might seem like a crusader or missionary with a pretty esoteric purpose.

What the guy said was also like telling the mother of three children that he’d be happy to help the pretty one succeed.

I care equally about the cognitive, affective, and conative dimensions of the mind. But the mental sibling that has been overlooked for almost a century is the one to which I have devoted a great deal of time and energy. I’m determined for it to get the respect it needs and deserves. It hurts to my core when people ignore it – and focus on the more familiar, and therefore more attractive of the triplets – the cognitive kid.

What he said to me was also like telling the person who created the secret formula for Coke that he’d be happy to charge her money to get the world to drink more Pepsi.

No, I wasn’t charming or gracious. But I did invite him to submit a proposal if he wanted to help me accomplish my actual goals.

The long-term colleagues in my life are people who are attracted to rather than intimated by my outspoken passion for the work that needs to be done.

My work isn’t about what people think. And it isn’t about styles that come and go. It’s about the consistent, persistent way people need do what they DO.

I told the guy where to go.

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Conative Biases

Ignorance of often the cause of biases. Conative ignorance has kept us from refuting numerous harmful myths which fuel gender, age and racial biases.

Women are not less strategic than men.

There are as many females as males who were born with the weighing-the-pros-and-the-cons instinct (initiating Fact Finders).

So, there’s no logic to the myth that men are by nature better managers. Since there are no differences in conative natures between the genders, there is no natural difference in how they would manage. Cultural expectations and requirements can lead to restraining the use of the conative strengths – so people seem to fit the stereotypes.

Men aren’t handier.

Not as a group. 20% of them are just as klutzy as the 20% of woman for whom a tool box is a space holder.

Why should any guy, whether conatively empowered as an initiating Implementor – or not – have to deal with broken stuff and put the IKEA things together?

And why should a young girl who is blessed with the drives of an initiating Implementor be dubbed a Tom Girl?

It’s just not true that we become less innovative as we age. We may get cranky about others not paying attention to our off-the-chart Quick Start methods, but innate innovators never stop coming up with alternatives. Ageism is a widespread cause of economic loss when the elderly are laid off or put out to pasture instead of being encouraged to add their wisdom to their innovations.

Don’t trust a car just because it’s made by those supposedly detailed-oriented people. No culture, nation or race has a corner on any conative MO. There are as many slip shod Germans as there are non-entrepreneurial Chinese people. Research shows the same distribution of instinctive capabilities around the globe.

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How She Really Does It with Koren Motekaitis

Listeners can learn from other peoples journeys. “How She Really Does It” provides listeners an opportunity to learn from others so they can empower their own lives.

Recently I served as a guest on Koren’s show where we discussed how  understanding your conative strengths (instinctive patterns) can help you live a successful life.

Tune in and listen to this podcast!


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Resumes No Longer Reality

Never has the productivity of every employee been more important to employers. Having to do more with less means having to get it right with any new hires management decides to make.

For decades the #1 step in the selection process has been reviewing resumes. Now: Employers report that 72% of job holders don’t live up to their promising resumes.*

Reference checks have become almost useless because of legal considerations and listing of companies that no longer exist. Fact checking is tedious and past job titles sometimes nonsensical. The terms “consultant” and “self-employed” are used to mask periods of unemployment. Trying to figure out whether the claims a person makes about skills, natural abilities and previous successes is nearly impossible.

Kathy Kolbe pinpoints the publication of the best-selling What Color is Your Parachute? as the beginning of the end of resumes as useful tools in selection.

Richard Bolles’ advice led to a Key Word Syndrome and a standardized format that masks the reality of candidates’ abilities. He advised people plop in popular words – and those became the common qualities people claimed.” Kolbe says. “As the sales of his book grew, so did the impossibility of distinguishing one resume from another.”

“I especially loved the person whose cover letter claimed: ‘I’m a detial person.”

“Enough!” Kolbe said, “I was convinced that Kolbe Corp needed to develop a useful and foolproof selection tool. One that reports the authentic strengths of job candidates.”

Now candidates who want to describe their validated conative abilities can provide copies of their Kolbe A™ Index results, or the appropriate phrases from it.

Employers who want to avoid being disappointed in new hires because of false expectations can rely on Kolbe’s RightFit™ program.  See @

*USA Today, August 18, 2009


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Multitasking Doers and Doubters

Opinions about multitasking are biased by your conative MO.  So is your natural ability to do it.

My recent informal survey shows over 90% of people who initiate Follow Thru actions are Doubters who consider multitasking “Bad.” They seem to have difficulty even conjuring up the possibility that multitasking is a sensible way for anyone to behave. Not surprising, since they’re naturally orderly, follow sequential patterns, and rarely deviate from a step-by-step plan.

Those with the Kolbe problem solving strength to naturally adaptresistant Follow Thrus – are the Doers who overwhelmingly praise multitasking as an “Excellent” way to get more done. They value being able to keep lots of balls in the air at one time.  Some, however, have apparently read the media tirades against doing it, and just give it an “OK.” One poor guy said he knew it was “Bad” – but he couldn’t keep himself from doing “it.”

Natural multitaskers have been criticized since grade school by their predominantly Follow Thru insistent teachers. How-to study, how-to plan a project, how-to do just about anything is generally taught through an anti-multitasking approach. When’s the last time you heard an instructor say: “Go ahead and try this while you’re also doing something you actually enjoy doing.”

Multitaskers have had to put up with:

  • a university professor (who admits he couldn’t multitask if he wanted to)
  • who studied just 12 students from one pysc class
  • with a cognitive test (had to have right answers on both math and language questions when topics kept switching)
  • and came to the conclusion that switching mental focus takes too much time
  • which resulted in media headlines that trashed multitasking

[See: Why Most Persistent Multitaskers Perform Badly (NY Times):]

I won’t call my survey “research.”  But it’s been interesting. I asked thousands of people to rate multitasking on a scale from Excellent to OK or Bad.

To date:

Only one person known to be an insistent Follow Thru rated multitasking as “Excellent.”

Over 90% resistant Follow Thrus rated multitasking as “Excellent.”

Any one want to participate in a “blind” study, where people rate the value of multitasking before they know their Kolbe result, then find out their result later?


You’re multitasking when you simultaneously:

Listen to a lecture while writing on another topic

Change a diaper while talking w/ another child

Pull weeds while BBQing and talking on the phone

Fix machinery while teaching someone how to do it

Watch a movie while text messaging and eating popcorn

The non-multitasker is like a guy I know —  a 9 in Follow Thru — who is constitutionally unable to carry on a conversation and put food on his fork at the same time. Or the accountant who can’t be responsible for the accuracy of her numbers if she has to answer the phone while doing the books.

No-Multitasking Tasks

Switching what you’re thinking about is a cognitive process. Doing multiple things at one time is a conative process. Creativity requires using both processes.

A No-Multitasking Task is one that for safety or common sense reasons, requires your full cognitive attention – with little switching and no conative multitasking.

For instance: You ought not to be striving for creativity when you’re driving a car. That’s an example of a No-Multitasking Task. So is reading the dose when giving medicine, listening to or giving directions, using a dicing mandoline or acetylene torch.

Conables ™ Tips for Multitaskers

When multitaskers’ form of creativity is inappropriate and disapproved (most standardized testing, and way too many classrooms and meetings), it’s important for them to learn Conables ™ Tricks for turning this so-called disadvantage into an advantage. Better to make it a game than lose your competitive advantage.

In a classroom or meetings

  • Imagine the speaker is the leader of a rock band, and watch every move she’s making — so you can come in with the right tune (answer or question) at the right time.
  • Pick three rather unusual words that interest you. Guess how often they’ll be used during one session, then count to see how close you were.
  • Write brief descriptions of the emotions or thoughts that you think are going on in others peoples’ heads. Tie them to specific people.

You’ll find Conables Tips that tie to your MO on your Kolbe A ™ Index result. Stick to those that are recommended. (I take no responsibility for some of the dangerous ones others make-up!)


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What’s Best Idea You Never Had?

Don’t answer this question by sharing an idea you had but didn’t use. That idea has come and gone.

“What’s the best idea you never had?” requires that you have to think of something you’ve never thought of before and share it in the form of an idea, not a question, fact or judgement.

What is an idea? It’s a thought or concept, completly devoid of action or intent to act. Aalso has flat affect.

Let me think? What’s a good idea I’ve never had before???

Doing improv , maybe like stand up comedy or a TV series, based on a variety of  conative MO in unque settings. OK. I gotta run with this:

What’s a 9823 doing when his dog gets loose in cemetery?

Hliarious. Right? Yes. But sad, too.

“Oh no, don’t poop there, that’d be disrspectful. Don’t get in that mound of dirt, you’ll get filthy! Stop, it’s sooo imappropriate to be running around in here. ”

How about a 2297 kid showing his Dad (8822) how to build a bird house?
Or three highy insistent Quick Starts who are trying to avoid one-upping each other at a reunion?
Could be a party game for people in the conative “know.”

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