• Courtney Kirschaum

Rare access to a US Ambassador's secrets

Sharing this with you because it seems especially relevant now. About 70 people, along with yours truly, sat front row, spellbound as four-time U.S. ambassador Chris Hill shared behind-the-scenes stories about events he'd strategized as part of his job, including the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis and the war in Kosovo.

Ambassador to both Iraq and Korea, Senior Director to the National Security Council, Assistant the President and US Envoy to Kosovo are just a few of the things on this guy's WOW-sumé.

He was speaking at a small symposium in my town and I scored a ticket. 

I'm going to share what he said that night because it reverberates strongly in the here and now.   To summarize: 1. Hard choices lead to inaction. In your life, your job your career, it's not bad choices that bite you in the backside with sharp puppy teeth as much as not making a choice at all. Just letting day fall after day while your non-choice calcifies.  2. Hard choices seduce you into waiting. Further down the road, you find yourself in a state of wishing. Wishing you still had the options that were on the table but aren't now. Wishing you'd jumped into action in the past, when you thought the choices were "impossible." Now, they're worse.

Hill regularly encountered what most of us might see once in a lifetime. If you want to be the leading diplomat in your own career, enjoying more security, and navigating tough situations to get the best out of them, remember what Chris Hill said and I'm sharing my checklist below, apply it as needed. Rinse and repeat.

1.  Take 100% responsibility. Hint: if you're blaming complaining, justifying or defending, you're not taking 100% responsibility. 2.  Consider the source before taking action. Beware of the bias to believe something just because it's "The first thing you heard." 3. Look for patterns. Patterns reveal secrets.

4.  Be proactive and transparent. Trust is paramount. Gone is gone forever. 5.  Get ahead of the story - anticipate instead of reacting. Answer the question: what's going to happen next?

6.  Communicate clearly. Repeat key messaging. They're still not getting it? Change your messaging.

7.  TAKE DECISIVE ACTION. 8.  You are not alone, find your allies.  With who do you share a common enemy? 9.  Know your top priority, second, third and so on...write them down. Say them out loud. Communicate them if it makes sense to do so. 10.  Be human. That's it for now.

Stay healthy, Courtney P.S. If you're wondering how I came to be in the same room with a diplomat... confession time:  I'm a Master, Guru, (real) Expert junkie. I don't mean the quacks who claim to be experts because it's fashionable. I mean "R-experts" as in the Real deal. If you want people to beg you to work for them and sweeten the pot with a higher salary, better benefits and more freedom to get you to do it, I suggest you pick up the habit too. If the topic interests you even a little, go. Listen and learn.  For example:

  • Daffodils. Check

  • Art theft in WWII.  Check

  • Dams & Hydrology. Check

  • Norman Rockwell. Check

  • Spent three days listening to Buck Brannaman talking about horses at a county fairground in Steamboat Springs (it helped that I like horses.)

Another time, I took a seat in an elementary school auditorium in Eagle Colorado to hear Sir Ken Robinson (of TED fame) talk about what's next in education. They went through about 5 mics, couldn't find one that worked and he did his talk without it. He was the most patient and kind human I think I've ever seen. Through no less than 5 bad mics,  he never lost his cool. Made jokes that kept us laughing.

Brilliance has its own patterns (repeating: patterns reveal secrets.)

You'll hear and learn the nuances beyond skills and know-how. R-experts share secrets not just about their specialty, but how they evolved into R-expertise. That helps you get there faster.

Grow your R-Expert addiction. Let me know how it goes in the comments.

P.S.S.  Books are great, yet look for opportunities to see your R-expert live on-screen, in person or take their courses.  P.S.S.S.  Bet you already know this one: number of followers does not equal R-expertise at anything but using social media!

I'd love to hear what you think about this or any old thing. Drop a comment below!👇

Grab some free career expertise here.


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