December 2020 Edition Happy Holidays. Thanksgiving 2020 has arrived and gone. For many of us, it was one of the most non-traditionally celebrated ho

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December 2020 Edition

Happy Holidays.


Thanksgiving 2020 has arrived and gone. For many of us, it was one of the most non-traditionally celebrated holidays we’ve ever experienced. Normally I go to New York from Minneapolis, to spend time with my youngest son and my grandchildren. Since we lived in New York for nearly thirty years, I take the opportunity to stay for several days and try to catch up with our old friends there. Not this year. Not only is it unwise to travel, New York has declared Minnesota to be quarantined and therefore they are not allowing anyone from Minnesota to enter New York state.

Nevertheless, whatever your circumstance and however you get through the holidays this year, let me wish you happy and safe holidays.

Yes, I’m back in school.

On a personal note, I am completing my first semester of graduate school. Okay, okay, okay… what is a 78 year old doing in graduate school? The answer is, I am actually hoping to teach in graduate school at some point. While I have lectured to graduate classes, almost throughout my entire career, I have never taught a graduate class. That’s pretty interesting. I’m taking a course in advocacy and political leadership. I am twice as old as half of the members of my cohort and three times as old as the other half. It’s actually quite an honor to be in this class with all of these young firebrands, committing to changing the world in some truly important way. One interesting sideline, in Minnesota, when you’re attending a public university and you’re 62 years of age or older, your education is free, except for whatever class expenses are incurred.

Two Special Podcasts

In this issue, there are two special podcasts. The first is an episode of my two minute drills; if you haven’t watched these yet, find them on my LinkedIn, my website, or by subscribing to my YouTube channel. The second is a podcast I did last year about the concept of counseling very senior people. In there, I tell what I think is the toughest and most unsuccessful attempt at counseling very senior people. In this case, 75 First Nation chiefs from British Columbia. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript.


James E. Lukaszewski
ABC, Fellow IABC; APR, Fellow PRSA; BEPS Emeritus
America's Crisis Guru®
President, The Lukaszewski Group
203-948-7029 |


Two Minute Drill Episode 4: The Stupidity of Stalling

Two Minute Drills is a new feature of my newsletters. I take a single topic and talk about it with you very intensively for a couple minutes. I hope you find them interesting and helpful.

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Profiles in Failure: Behavior Patterns That Precipitate and Perpetuate Trouble*

by James E. Lukaszewski,
ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus

*This document is the core of nine of the two minute drills. We’re going to talk about each of the elements of Profiles in Failure. If you have any questions or comments, please direct them my way: send them to

Sometimes the only way to help organizations avoid embarrassment, humiliating visibility, enormous litigation, and just plain stupidity is to illustrate dramatically the pattern of behaviors and attitudes that lead to catastrophic reputational trouble. I call this pattern “Profiles in Failure.” These behaviors can be easily recognized, and their impact predicted. If you are looking for trouble, here’s the pathway to quickly multitask your way into long-term difficulty and, if you are the leader, likely unemployment (often with a big departure bonus).

1). Two Minute Drill #3 – Silence: The most toxic strategy possible. Makes you look like a perpetrator, whether true or not. There is no credible way to explain silence in the face of crisis. Silence is the most frequent leadership career-killer in crisis situations. It’s why the boss gets fired first.

2). Two Minute Drill #4 – Stalling: Speed beats smart every time. Failure to act immediately, even incorrectly, is impossible to explain or apologize for. Doing nothing, even for what appear to be good reasons, is never explainable. #1 response criticism: failure to speak and act promptly.

3). Two Minute Drill #5 – Denial: Refuse to accept the fact that something bad has happened and that there may be victims or other direct effects that require prompt public acknowledgement.

4). Two Minute Drill #6 – Victim Confusion: Irritable reaction to reporters, angry neighbors, and victims’ families when they call asking for help, information, explanation, or apology. “Hey! We’re victims too.”

5). Two Minute Drill #7 – Testosterosis: Look for ways to hit back, rather than to deal with the problem. Refuse to give in, refuse to respect those who may have a difference of opinion or a legitimate issue.

6).Two Minute Drill #8 – Arrogance: Reluctance to apologize, express concern or empathy, or to take appropriate responsibility because, “If we do that, we’ll be liable,” or, “We’ll look like sissies,” or, “We’ll set a precedent,” or, “There will be copycats.”

7). Two Minute Drill #9 – Search for the Guilty: Shift blame anywhere you can while digging into the organization, looking for traitors, turncoats, troublemakers, those who push back, and the unconvinceables.

8). Two Minute Drill #10 – Fear of the Media: As it becomes more clear that the problem is at least partly real, the media begin asking, “What did you know, and when did you know it?”, “What have you done, and when did you do it?”, and other humiliating, embarrassing, and damaging questions for which there are no really good, truthful answers anymore because you have stalled so long.

9). Two Minute Drill #11 – Whining: Head down, finger in your navel, shuffling around, whining, and complaining about how bad your luck is, about being a victim of the media, zealous do-gooders, wacko-activists, or people don’t know anything; about how people you don’t respect have power; and, that you “don’t get credit” for whatever good you’ve already contributed.

Execute one, some or all of these behaviors in any order and I guarantee trouble, serious reputation problems, and brand damage. By the time you recover - if you do - look for some career-defining moments including involuntary departure, and a new team may replace you and yours.

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How to Effectively Counsel the C-Suite on Ethics: Jim Lukaszweski

An Ethical Voices podcast, from November 2019

In this interview with Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA, Jim discusses:

How to most effectively counsel senior executives around ethics issues
How to speak up and be heard when you notice an ethical lapse
How all ethics lapses are intentional and what it means

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Order The Decency Code as a Hard Cover, eBook, or Audiobook on Amazon

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Educator Offer  TDC  1

Book Title: The Decency Code: The Leader’s Path to Building Integrity and Trust
ISBN: 978-1260455397

*If you use the Decency Code as a class text, I will be happy to do up to two 1 hour webinars or Zoom calls to your class about the book. If you use any of my books for class texts, I make the same offer.