Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
1. Pay people what they are worth, not what you can get away with.
2. Take the time to share your experience and insights.
3. Tell it to employees straight, even when it’s bad news.
4. Manage up … effectively.
5. Take the heat and share the praise.
6. Delegate responsibility, not tasks.
7. Encourage employees to hone their natural abilities and challenge them to overcome their issues.
8. Build team spirit.
9. Treat employees the way they deserve to be treated.
10. Inspire your people.
The list seems pretty self-explanatory, but if you want to read the whole article it’s here: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=1951&tag=main;banner
So what’s missing? I know that when I was the Divisions Night Shift Network Administrator, I tried to do most of these. Hey, when you’re in the Army, it’s a little hard to control pay, okay? But I did try to keep the majors and colonels (and sometimes generals) off my staff’s back so they could work. Most of the time my staff was smarter than I was at fixing specific network issues, so I delegate the responsibility of repair, rather than laying out a list of tasks for them to accomplish. As a final example I encouraged my staff to go for the various professional certifications. Those certifications would help with promotion points and if the person decided to leave the Army, he/she would be that much more marketable.
Good bosses (and thus leaders) are hard to come by. We all have experiences both good and bad. So what experiences do you have? Is there anything missing from the list?
Monday, December 6, 2010
1. Now personnel could transition across similar units (not Armor to Signal Corps, but maybe Armor to Armor) and fit right in without a need for training.
2. New Personnel would also be able to learn quickly because there was an SOP within the Division that everyone adhered to
3. There would be a universal measuring stick for those units. How close did you stick to the SOP?
Sounds like a good idea. Now comes the "fun" part. The division created a chapter list that assigned "authors" could choose from to populate the SOP. Each chapter was already written from another Army Manual (Field Manuals, Technical Manuals, Tactical Manuals, etc). Also, the division decided the chapter list and order for each manual. It was up to the "authors" to pull the required information, place it in the proper place, and make any modifications as necessary. Guess who was an author? Anybody starting to see a problem?
Okay, to set the record straight, I like the idea of a SOP within a unit. It makes it easy to identify the expectations and how to handle situations. However, the execution of this one probably wasn't the most effective for the units involved. First, platoon leaders, company commanders, and battalion commanders were not involved in the chapter selection (either in the numbering or in which manual to use as the baseline). This means that people who haven't been in a platoon leader position for 15 years (if they were at all) were deciding what a platoon leader needed without his input. The other fun part of this was that the chapter selections were made largely by Combat Arms (CA) Officers (Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery); however a large number of units are not combat arms (Signal Corps, Quartermaster, etc). These units CANNOT operate the same way that a Combat Arms unit can. So the chapters were selected based on CA and passed out as if they applied to everyone.
Second, the selections didn't take into consideration any special jobs a unit might be regularly performing, like managing the divisions Communications backbone. There is only one Company that does that in the entire division, but their SOP looks the exact same as all the other Signal Corps units.
Third, there was no classes to explain what the new standards would look like, and no centralized governing body to ensure the standards were met. Once the chapters were released to the "authors," so long as the chapter numbering stayed the same, the author could cut and paste, delete or pull anything he/she wanted. All he had to do was pass his Battalion Commanders approval. Once that occurred they went off to be published.
Finally, this was done between deployments, when the units had a lot of training and retro-fits to complete in order to be combat ready for the next deployment. How much priority was given to these SOPs? Very little.
What was the end result? In my case, I tried to find ways to fit the information necessary into the chapters dictated. That meant I spent a lot of time rewriting things that probably never would have passed mustard if an Infantry guy got a hold of it. But what I wrote was what the Signal Corps Platoons and Companies needed. My book actually became the baseline for the 10th Mountain and 101st Airborne Divisions' own SOPs for their Signal Corps units.
However, for the most part the books looked pretty, but sat on shelves. I know of at least 3 Platoon Leaders (old Armor buddies) who wrote their own "Addendum's" to the SOPs and printed them out. These addendum's were handed out to their units, and the Division SOP was left on a shelf. Worse yet, when the Commanding General moved on, the SOPs were no longer published (except in a case by case basis).
So what is the lesson learned? First, involve the people impacted by the decision from the beginning. If representatives with more recent Platoon Leader and Company Commander experience were present. Also, people from across workstreams needed to be involved. When the only people making decisions are CA, then the only perspective is CA (in the business world, include the Engineers and Sales people in conversations, not just the Manufacturing people). Have this group set the original standards, then the books would be more relevant.
Second, have classes to the authors about what the expectations are. Make sure everybody is aware of the standards, and perhaps more importantly, keep people to those standards (including the graders). This should prevent massive rewrites and wasted time.
Third, educate the personnel receiving the documentation on what they are getting. Let them know what can and cannot be done with the documents, as well as the expected uses.
Fourth, allow the individual units add their own chapters at the end of the manual, so that the special tasks and projects are included in the manual.
Finally, once the documentation is complete, let it sit in for a while (3-6 months), and then conduct a review. Are the documents being used? What changes would make them more effective? Should they be scrapped completely?
In the end, if these steps aren't conducted then you probably are wasting time. Before the SOPs were created, each Platoon Leader, Company Commander, and Battalion Commander was expected to create his/her own SOP, which meant setting their own standards and expectations. BECAUSE THEY WERE THE ONES WHO KNEW THEIR JOB.
For the most part, the best way to do that was to take the predecessor's manual and see what worked and what didn't. You keep what works and throw out what doesn't (even if you are in the position of rewriting the whole thing). Why would you do it that way? Because those standards are already known within your unit. Almost any leadership position in the Army changes out in 2 years. Could you accomplish anything if the standards in your job shifted every 2 years? How confused would your personnel be?
In Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about moving the grind stone, and how it takes a lot of effort to get it started, but less to keep it going once the momentum is built up. Standards are the same as the grind stone. Tweak them (change where the momentum is coming from), but don't stop the stone that is turning unless it is about to come off the access (and sometimes that happens).
For the most part, all of these steps comes down to communication. It is a 2-way street. Lots of managers have these great ideas about standards and then dictate them down to the masses. How effective is that (as you can see above)? Instead, communicate to your staff, get them involved in the standards setting and the metrics. Your standards will be more realistic and useful because of it.
So, did I miss anything?
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
When you get a second, read the names of the boat and dingy. Well, at least the email was well understood...
But I have to ask the question, if you are the leader, do you want to leave problems you can fix to become Change Orders later, or do you include the solution in the Original Quote? Any thoughts?
Monday, November 29, 2010
To set the scene, the kitchen I "Led" served 300+ meals a day, 3 meals a day 6 and 1/2 days a week. On Sundays we didn't serve dinner. The kitchen was hot and humid all day, every day. The staff consisted of a professional cook, the Kitchen Manager (KM), the Assistant Kitchen Manager (AKM), and about 5 boys from 16-18. Each person had 1 day off a week. If the kitchen staff was solid, a person could literally be out the door before the merit badge centers opened, so a lot of advancement was possible.
So, here was my problem... I had a brand new staff, with nobody who worked in the kitchen before. My AKM was from a different staff the year previous. He impressed me, so I requested him. We worked well together, but he was clueless in the kitchen, and hadn't led in a work environment before.
So here were my mistakes, as I look back.
1. During the 2 weeks of camp set-up before campers arrived, my guys were pulled all over the place, instead I should have fought for them to spend some time in the kitchen learning the job. I had plenty of people helping me clean up the kitchen, getting ready for the health inspection; but I didn't plan any time with MY guys to TRAIN them on their new job, or to set the expectations for them. They came in blind, expecting an easy job. They were wrong and that was my fault.
2. As the Kitchen Manager, I was also the assistant cook. That meant my back was turned to the kitchen through most of the meal because I was cooking the meal beside the actual cook. I didn't tale into account the amount of time I would need to spend cooking rather than watching and working with the staff. My AKM wasn't aware of the priorities, and to be honest, couldn't manage the staff. He tried hard, but we always seemed to be falling behind. I should have taken time to pull him aside and ensure he knew what the duties were and the proper order in which to perform them, as well as the expectations for the staff (which was the job I did for the previous KMs!).
3. I didn't evaluate my staff often enough, and in some cases I did this in order to avoid being mean. A leader must work for the betterment of his team. That meant I should have given reviews weekly (as was expected), and if there was a problem with a specific person (there was) I should have either confronted and addressed it: or I should have transferred him to somewhere he would perform better (he was always sneaking off to the Nature Center). In the long run, if I didn't think he would work out at the Nature Center, I should have fired him rather than transfer my problem to somebody else. By letting him stay and continue to run off and hide, he was dragging the morale and work ethic of everybody else into the gutter.
4. Our hours were ridiculous. We would be in the kitchen by 0530 to start breakfast. On most days we worked through to the end of lunch, which took us until 1400 (2 PM). Then the staff would have to be back by 1600 or 1630 (4/4:30 PM) depending on the dinner. Clean-up would take us until 2000 (8 PM). And the KM had even longer hours because of prep-work and cooking needs. A good group would be in half that time but we weren't a good group (see all of the above). So basically, it was extreme hours in a rough environment with very little down time, and it repeated for 6-7 days a week (we may not serve dinner, but Sunday was the extreme cleaning day). The guys were getting burned out and I didn't address it.
I didn't organize anything fun. Something I learned in Iraq. No matter how tired the leader is, he/she needs to let his team have fun as a team. I could have scheduled an afternoon canoe race, or maybe a challenge course; but instead I was so tired from the long hours from my team not knowing what to do that all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.
As a second thought, I could have instituted an afternoon off program so that people could go work on merit badges, swim, or maybe just sleep. If I made it merit based, I could have created a carrot.
5. My immediate boss was a former kitchen manager. He was a giant pain in my ass, always telling me how he did things, and pointing out where my staff was insufficient. On top of that, he used the kitchen as a place to escape his responsibilities as Camp Director; so he was always there! Instead of resenting him for it though, I probably should have taken him up on some of his advice. He was a pain about how he offered it, but even a jackass has a good idea every now and then. Don't throw out the message because you don't like the messenger!
6. Finally, I didn't set goals for myself or my staff. I didn't use a stop-watch to see who could clear dishes the fastest, or set-up the trays for the next meal the quickest. I didn't offer recognition for the cleanest floor, or the best preparation for the next meal, or the most neat and organized storage area. All I saw was the work and I let my team down. If I had set metrics and then recognized based on those metrics, the group would have steadily improved, and we wouldn't have worked such ridiculous hours.
In the end, we survived the summer, but only barely. Most of the staff (myself included, but that was due to ROTC commitments) didn't return the following year, and I don't blame them. Looking back now, I can say I learned a lot from that experience. It was a failure on my part, but sometimes you learn the most from failures. I wouldn't be the leader I am today without this experience.
So, there is one of my Learning Experiences. Anyone care to share his/her own? We can all learn by example.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
The honest answer is all of the above. I am the President of the company's Toastmaster Club, and the goals for the club are pretty much set-up by Toastmasters International (TMI). TMI has a program called the Distinguished Club Program, which is a series of 10 goals that a club is expected to aim for. If you get 5 goals, the club is Distinguished. 7 Goals gets the club Select Distinguished, and 10 Goals makes the club Presidential Distinguished. Since the corporate club is only a little over a year, and needed that year to get it's footing, I am shooting for 5 goals. Usually, a President should probably have the club shoot for 10 of 10, but in this case, the club doesn't have anyone ready for the advanced awards. It will be a struggle to get the lower level awards certified before June. In a manner of speaking, those lower level awards are the stretch goals. But as the leader for that group I have a vision: the InNOVators Toastmaster Club will be Distinguished this year.
To pull back to a different time, when I was a tank platoon leader in Iraq, there were goals for the leaders. Each mission had a specific objective, so each mission was a goal. But those missions didn't coalesce into a vision. My vision was simple, get everybody home safe. A tough vision in a war zone, but I was responsible for 16 guys (counting myself), and I know how much it would have hurt me to leave Iraq without all of them. So what goals did I have to set to accomplish this. Largely, the goal was to be tactically and technically perfect (or as close to it as possible). It also meant responding with force in a lot of difficult situations where others might have hesitated. However, within several months of taking over the platoon, my platoon had a reputation as one you didn't mess with. The reputation got so strong that after 6 months, we weren't attacked with IEDs or fired upon anymore. Our tanks would roll through ambush points without being touched. The regrettable thing was that other platoons and convoys would get hit 5 minutes later. I don't know for sure if it was our reputation that made them wait, or it was just the way life works, but it still sits heavy on my conscious. However, I can't complain too much, all my men came home safe (I wish I could say the same for all the soldiers I knew in country).
The last question is probably the best situation for a leader. Many books, groups and people talk about the selfless leader, and I would imagine that it is that person who is able to go to his team and say "What can we accomplish this year?" and expect an answer that isn't lazy, or the easy targets. I rarely have the opportunity to work in a group like this. More often I find myself in charge of a group that needs drive and direction. Perhaps that is a personal flaw? I often wonder if I am not giving my people enough opportunity to sink or swim. I would love to have a meeting where a brainstorming session not only sets up the vision for the group, but also the goals necessary to achieve that vision. Perhaps I need to concentrate more on getting the right people "on the bus," to steal a concept from Jim Collins. Then the team could have that moment.
So, then the question is... how do you find vision for your teams? How do you Conceive it?
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
It was almost 1600 hours on a day that started at 0400 the calendar day before. Not a completely uncommon occurrence when you are a platoon leader in Iraq. The Brigade had just searched a town in Iraq outside of Baqubah which was the source for a regular mortar attack on 2 nearby Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). We were tankers who had been dismounted for over 12 hours, with a late night patrol the night before. Most of us slept last night, but not all (including yours truly)...
When we arrive at the new rally point (we shifted rally points when we moved to support another platoon's house clearing) there was a problem. The vehicles for my men had arrived.... at the old rally point, 2 miles east of our current location, and they couldn't move to the new rally point due to a lack of security vehicles to escort them. If you know what a Charlie Foxtrot is, this about fits the definition.
My platoon was ordered to run across the town to the old rally point. Never mind that we just searched every house (and kicked in some doors), so locals would be upset. Never mind that my men have been on their feet more than 12 hours in body armor and helmets, with only about 30 lbs of gear each anyway. And never mind that the sun was starting to set, so visibility in the alleys and rooftops would either be shady or obscured by the low sun. Great idea!
So what does a leader do? With the rank I had, I could have stayed with the vehicles (I was the highest ranking guy on the ground, and could have claimed command of the convoy). That would mean that the platoon would make the run without me. Now, how demoralizing is that to your team? The leader bails when the going gets tough?
Well, like the old song, instead WE got going. I told the radio operator to inform the other rally point to hold all vehicles because we were coming across town. Then my 25 guys and I took off at a run (yes, my platoon grew for this one operation) across a town where we weren't exactly the guests of honor. It was quite possibly the longest run of my life. 2 miles in the mud, after being on my feet for more than 36 hours, with about 60 lbs of extra gear (30 lbs gear, ~30 lbs body armor/weapon), in fading light, while trying to keep 25 people moving as a cohesive unit so that we could support each other if the Charlie Foxtrot become a Mike Charlie Foxtrot. Ever see the movie Black Hawk Down? That situation went from a Charlie Foxtrot to a Mike Charlie Foxtrot, and this one only needed a little nudge to get there.
Long story short, we made it to the old rally point (without the nudge, thankfully), where I was asked "what took you guys so long?" by a First Sergeant in a nice clean uniform who had spent the day back at base until it was time to release the pick-up convoy. And guess who it was that didn't send enough vehicles to the RIGHT rally point. Sometimes rank doesn't mean competent...
If you want to know about the whole day, send me an email and I may talk about most of it. Rather long drawn out story. So why share even part of it? Because when things went Charlie Foxtrot I was there with my men, visible and in the same mud as them. I LED BY EXAMPLE.
I talked about this once before, about being present when there is a problem. So why bring it up again? Because it needs to be said over and over. Because it isn't cliche.
But really it's because I was talking with somebody who reminded me about this incident and the outcome; and because it reminded me that it doesn't always need to be a Charlie Foxtrot situation. So what does this mean in the business world? If you got people working late on a project for you, stay late and help. If you have people on the shop floor cleaning up after a long day, go out with them and grab a broom (you only have to do it once in a while, I promise). Prove that you are willing to do what they are told to do. They will love you for it.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Thankfully I didn't encounter this situation. One of my friends did. The man had a grenade, and a young corporal took the shot while everyone else was still deciding. The grenade fell under the parked care and exploded. Only the young man was killed. Nobody else was hurt, unless you count the car (an old POS Toyota).
Also, thankfully, most leaders today don't face those decisions. Mostly they worry about P&L statements; the trouble making employee; or making next month's figures. But that doesn't mean that situational awareness isn't important.
Situational awareness is the knowledge of what is going on around you. A leader cannot be oblivious to his surroundings, his environment. In the Army, that can mean the difference between life and death. In the business world it can be the difference between pro-actively fixing a problem or reactively trying to salvage something from it.
So, how aware are you of your surroundings. Do you know what your team is working on? Do you have metrics in place? If you do have metrics, what are the expected boundaries for good performance? And how often do you check them?
In a previous blog I talked about making time to meet with your employees individually. That would be a time to gain some situational awareness. You gain understanding about your team.
Another example would be with the metrics I mentioned earlier. The PMBOK talks about how to gauge those metrics, and how corrective action can be taken before an item falls outside the proper limits. How do you know? If the results of your metric move in a particular direction 7 times, then you know you have a trend that needs to be addressed.
So, lets say that you lead a quality department, and you notice that a particular piece you manufacture is sliding on the Factory Acceptance Tests that are performed. It is still within the acceptable range, but 7 times in a row that model of equipment is losing ground. Now would be the time to address the situation, because you are aware that it WILL BECOME a problem. You handle it before it IS a problem.
In essence that is what Situational Awareness is. Taking care of problems before they ARE problems. Sometimes it is in an instant, other times measured out through careful review of results. Either way it is about being one of the favorite words of leadership: PROACTIVE.
So, the real trick here is making sure you have the right metrics, and asking the right questions. Ahh... sounds like the potential for another blog entry. What do you think?
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
So, I was in charge of a platoon of 16 people in Iraq, so 120 lines of communication. Within the platoon, not including communication to Company and Battalion. How do you manage 120 lines of communication. Largely with a plan. I had sergeants who were responsible for 3-4 people each. I would communicate with them, they would push the information below to their people. They would handle anything they could, and pass the more difficult stuff on to me. In turn, I told them what needed to be accomplished, and trusted them to accomplish it (Ronald Regan once said "Trust but verify," so I would go onsite and make sure that everything was up to snuff). It was an effective communication plan, so long as you can trust your people.
There are many books out there about getting the "right" people on the bus. In some cases it takes time, however you need to identify the people you can trust and put them in the proper place for control and communications. In almost every company there is middle management (the sergeants) that you have to trust to push the right information to the team. A leader cannot be everywhere. He/she can mitigate risk, can give detailed instructions, and can even be standing over most of them a lot of the time. But at some point you need to trust your managers, then go back and verify that they told the right thing... maybe during your lunches with the staff/troops/whatever.
So when you are figuring out your staff, as a leader, you need to have a communication plan. You need to know how information gets from place to place. You also need to make sure that everyone else knows what the communication plan is. Otherwise, channels get muddles, lines get misused, and people can get hurt, or projects can fail.
Failing to plan is planning to fail, and communications is just another plan that needs to be thought out and executed. Sometimes its given to you, sometimes you have to figure it out. Either way, take the time to review it, because it may not be what you need it to be. Good Luck.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
at least until:
Monday, October 18, 2010
My platoon was responsible for the outer perimeter of a house search, as well as the immediate response team if the house clearing team got into trouble. I instructed the sergeants where to place their personnel and once secured, signalled that the house clearing team could move in. Then I went to each of my guard points and checked on the men. Good idea right? Well, not really. About half way around the perimeter, I realized that if the "fit hit the shan" NOBODY KNEW HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH ME, OR WHERE I WAS. I was literally jumping from checkpoint to checkpoint. Good for soldier morale, BAD for control and communication. I immediately grabbed my radio operator, and an extra body from the checkpoint I was at. I sent the extra body back to the previous checkpoint to grab another "extra body" there and report to me at the car port of the house still being cleared. I then established a command point at the car port, where I could see most of my perimeter, had communications with my higher and support elements (through the radio operator), and had runners to send messages to the checkpoints. As soon as the two extra bodies arrived (now runners), I sent one out to tell all my checkpoints were to find me. I kept the other runner close by, just in case. I know was in a position to make decisions, and EVERYBODY knew where I was and how to get ahold of me.
Thankfully, that night the worst we had to deal with was a drunk man who stumbled into one of my checkpoints before he realized he was surrounded by camouflage. He was quickly searched and hustled to the back of a HMMWV so that he wouldn't compromise the search. He was released later that day, no worse than some of the college students I've seen coming out of the "drunk tanks."
But I learned a very valuable lesson. I was expected to lead and make decisions. In order to do that, I needed to be where people could find me so that I could make the decisions. I needed an established line of communication (either through the radio or the runners). And, I needed to be somewhere the troops could see me. I accomplished all three by setting up in that car port. But what does this mean to the business world?
In a previous post I talked about managers (notice I didn't call this person a LEADER) who show up and close their door. I also mentioned the positive affect of spending time with your subordinates. Now here is the catch. If the fit hits the shan (as it so often can), then you as a leader need to be at a known location, with clear paths of communication, and visible to your subordinates. If you are out with a particular subordinate, and nobody knows where that is, you need to get visible and established. With iPhones, Crackberries, and regular cheap cell phones, communication really isn't a problem today; but you still need to be established, and preferably visible. A leader in absentia is no leader at all.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
I came across this link at Business Week's website, and thought it was worth sharing. Although this is a blog about leadership, sometimes we do have to talk about managing. And yes they are different! However, in this case the advise is sound in both arenas. Take a look at them, and let me know your comments. Some notes from my side:
Number 2: Meet your People Individually - Just last week I wrote about one-on-one lunches to get to know your people. Seems similar? I thought so.
Number 4: Make a Memorable Gesture - This is one I just had a conversation with a co-worker about. He works out in California and we were talking about how to make an impact. My advice was to find some "low hanging fruit" that could impact either a process or customer's relationship. No process is perfect. Once identified, improve it. In general paperwork is an easy target: either there is too much (redundant) or what is filled out is so ambiguous it is useless (some shipping documentation I use to have to work around!).
Number 6 - Develop Each Person - Again, sounds familiar. Once you get to know your staff, you need to help them grow into their next job. Seems familiar.
I could go on and on, but this blog is young, and I want people to draw their own conclusions and comment. I am not perfect... and I can always use another opinion. Let me know what you think!
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Your team is comprised of PEOPLE! If you are the leader you have to interact with them, you have to learn about them, and you HAVE TO SHOW YOU CARE! Why? Because even the most Analytical person is still a person! He/she will have interests and a life outside of work. In many cases they will have ambitions and a need to learn. Or they might be completely content in the job they currently hold and don’t want to move, EVER!
But how do YOU as a leader know this? You can’t send out a survey asking these questions, HR would have a fit! If you don’t believe me, go ask HR. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn about your team. If you are the leader, then once a week take a member (or two) from your team out to lunch. During the lunch, ask questions about them, use the opportunity to learn more about them. Ask where they went to school. How are the wife and kids? Ask how long have they been together? How old are the kids? Do they play any sports? etc. etc. etc. Now, here is the hard part… after the lunch, write down what you learned about the person. Take that information and make use of it. If you learned about a kids' birthday, put it in your outlook calendar with a reminder. When the reminder comes up, go past the person’s desk and tell them to wish their kid a happy birthday. Do the same for anniversaries. If you think a card is appropriate, then get a card (or better yet, keep a supply in your desk). The team member will know you care because you remembered what they told you.
But this is just a trick. It cannot replace actual caring for your team. It has to be REAL; otherwise people will know when you are faking it. You can manage the trick for a while, but without REAL CONCERN members of your team will doubt if you actually care for the team, or just your own goals and progress. So what else can you do? How do you show your concern?
First, DO NOT hide in your office. Too many managers walk into their office and sit down at the computer. They work on spreadsheets and reports; trying to keep ahead of the curve. They claim to have an open door policy, but don’t want to interact with anybody and the team knows it. So how do you keep this from happening (or correct it while it is happening)?
Set-up the computer, and while it boots, head out to the pits and interact with your team. At least say good morning to the more Analytical, trade stories with the Amiables and Expressive, and ask the Drivers how the latest project is going (If you aren’t familiar with People Styles at Work, by Robert and Dorothy Bolton, I would suggest picking up a copy). Now you are showing you care and that you might actually work with them rather than see them as resources to be utilized and pushed aside.
After that, do your work at your desk, and then work on your team. Do the lunch trips, check for statuses, and make sure progress is happening. And when the day is done, say good night to people! Don’t just bolt for the door. That too sends the message that you don’t care.
There are other things you should do with your team and we will talk about them in future blogs. One thing would be identifying what people need to move on in their career. You also need to identify your successor. How about determining where your team spends the most time and how to make it easier? These are all worthy pursuits that need to be addressed, and will be in future blogs.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I recently was trolling some of the leadership boards at LinkedIn and found a recurring topic of how to evaluate and develop potential leaders. There were lots of suggestions, but I found a couple of comments interesting. Obviously I wasn't the only one with a military background checking in on the subject, because comments were made about the effectiveness of leadership training in the military. In fact, one lady pointed out in her research that more good/great leaders appear to come from the military, and she was wondering why.
The solution, at least to my eyes is simple. From the moment a person is designated in a "Leadership" position (or is designated to have the potential for it) he/she is constantly evaluated and reviewed (potential officers in particular); in a manner that is meant to be a growing/learning experience. This is where the Blue and Yellow Cards come in (no it isn't a reference to soccer).
No they are not related to soccer. Officially they are forms 156-4A-R and 156-2-R. You can find them on Google by searching for the form numbers. Go ahead, I'll wait...
Okay, now that you have them, you should be able to see that the first one (blue) is an evaluation criteria for a rater. The second is for reflection from the leader (yellow). These cards were constantly utilized in officer training. Every exercise, every position of authority held during the training cycle was evaluated with these cards, and were evaluated immediately after the event (called an After Action Review, AAR). Here are the benefits of the system:
1. The candidate knows what he/she will be evaluated on. He/She knows in advance what the blue card looks like, and was told in advance of the experience what the expectations where. The goals and criteria are simple and easy to follow.
2. The candidate is required to perform a self evaluation, immediately. He/she must review the objectives of the event, in their own words, and evaluate how he/she met those requirements.
3. Feedback is instant. Not only does the candidate know where he/she thought he/she did wrong/right, but also gets immediate input from a more experienced supervisor, who knows what was expected. This provides a great way to provide input with the most impact. And as young leaders, who doesn't want more knowledge?
4. There is a written record of the events, with the evaluations. These records can be kept on hand to show growth and trends. It also can be useful in determining blind spots of the candidate.
Now, once the candidate actually becomes an officer, these cards are not used. However the AAR still occurs in many areas. The Lesson's Learned are identified, and improvements are determined. In fact, the officer is required to fill out paperwork at the beginning of each evaluation cycle that states what his/her goals are for that period (usually in relation to the boss' established goals, more on that in another blog). How often does this happen in the business world? When you come out of a sales meeting, or a particularly crucial project meeting, do you sit down and evaluate the meeting? Do you review what was said and done, and not improvements? I am willing to bet now.
And what if you have a candidate that could be a stupendous leader, but needs some development. Do you perform the AAR with him/her after important meetings or events? Do you ask him/her to reflect on the activities of the event and where he/she could have had more impact?
I am not saying you should adopt this format. It works great for the military, but probably doesn't cover all the areas necessary for business. Perhaps the cards can be modified; but the CONCEPT is what is important.
Leadership isn't developed in a vacuum. It needs constant evaluation and modification; dependent on the people involved and the situation at hand. If you aren't reviewing your progress (or your candidate's), then how do you know what needs improving?
BTW, in case you couldn't find the cards...
Friday, August 27, 2010
It’s Friday Again,
Just a quick thought on what happens without leadership. You’ll usually hear about how to be a good leader, what that looks like, the results that can be achieved, etc. What happens to your organization when there is no leadership – not bad leadership, everyone’s had to suffer under that at some point, but literally no leadership.
I’ve been watching a show called The Colony on the Discovery Channel (I know it’s cheesy but I find it amusing anyway). It’s a hypothetical scenario where survivors are supposed to try to rebuild in a post-apocalyptic environment. If you ever get a chance to see it you’ll see what I mean. The group that is thrown together, and has been on site for several weeks now, has no leadership to speak. No one rallies the group, informs others of what’s going on, tries to build consensus, or give direction to the group. It’s just a group of individuals living and working near one another.
And the end result is rather interesting. It’s not just lack of efficiency within the group (check), poor prioritization (another check), lack of decision making (everyone seems to make their own), or even insubordination (they’re too timid or apathetic to step up as a leader – so no one’s insubordinate). The real result is confusion. No one has any certainty of what they should be doing or why, if it’s important or not, or what the overall mission is so they may be better able to contribute. What you end up with is rot. The group will rot away bit by bit as it fails to perform at a high enough level to justify its continued existence.In the scenario on the show this group would not survive, they’d probably all be dead by now (but the show must go on…..). What does survival look like for your group? Your company may be in dire straits right now where survival is just that – the continuation of those paychecks we all enjoy. It may be picking up that new account, eeking out a little more efficiency, or simply successfully completing the next task. Whatever it is, your group needs leadership, whether you’re the one with the title or not. Your co-workers want leadership too, and they need it. You may never hear it (except for the inevitable gripes), but in some ways they know it. Great coworkers will even demand it of their bosses. So, step up, fight the confusion, learn the C4 and apply it.
I can hear many of you groaning already. In fact, I groan to think about it too… but if you can’t think of it as Completing, think of it as setting yourself up for success. The reason I say this is that the lessons learned will help the team learn from a mistake rather than repeat it. The storage of files and paperwork removes clutter, and if properly done, can be quickly accessed in cases of audit, or heaven forbid you find yourself redoing the work after a disaster. Finishing the paperwork provides the same benefits. Bills of Lading, Invoices, shipping documents all need to be processed and cataloged for future references. Do not let these slip unless you want to find yourself digging through reams of paper trying to find a document from 2 jobs ago.
And what about recognition? Once a project/job is done, doesn’t the team at least deserve some “kudos.” I think that the leader should at least hold a team meeting and say “Thank you” for the long hours and work that the team put in. At best, I would hope the leader is hosting some type of event (even if it is just a jaunt to the local watering hole), and is recognizing individual contributions with some type of reward or certificate (a lot of the military does this through “Challenge Coins,” a useful tool to have).
So the next time you find yourself nearing the finish line, take a look at the job and decide if you are Complete. It isn’t easy to do, but you are setting yourself up for success with goodwill from your team, lessons learned to prevent mistakes, and proper paperwork to keep the auditors happy and off your back. How often have you Completed a job?
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Jack Welch states that a leader needs to "...Passionately own the vision...." In the previous entries I talked about Conceiving the vision and Communicating it; this is the step that most people equate with leadership, Command.
The Army actually calls it Command and Control, the first 2 Cs, in their version of 4C (see the first blog entry for more on that one). It makes a lot of sense. In any situation you need Command and Control of it in order to effectively navigate it. But, when I looked back, I thought that Control is redundant. You cannot have Command of a situation without having Control. So Control was removed from my C4.
But what is Command? Command is the impact a leader has to make sure things get done and that people are pulling in the same direction. It is setting realistic deadlines for the vision; it is having confidence in the vision; it is making sure that the metrics are not only being met, but they are correct in the first place. And finally, it is ensuring that the team moves in the right direction to execute the vision. Notice I did NOT say that Command is executing the vision. Why? Because executing the vision is what the team (and the leader is part of the team) as a whole is supposed to accomplish, but if you are lost in the execution of the vision, then you are not in Command of the vision. A leader needs a good sense of the details, the execution, and in fact may dictate the exact steps necessary to accomplish the vision. But if the leader is the only one executing the vision, then he/she isn't a leader. That person can be dedicated, growing, developing, and can be considered a super-star. But unless there are people involved (not person), then he/she isn't a leader!
A good example is the story of a group of people cutting brush through a jungle. There are the bushwhackers with machetes, sharpeners to make sure a new machete with a crisp edge is on hand, managers to oversee the whackers and sharpeners, and a leader. Each person has a job to do. You can guess about the first two groups (whackers and sharpeners). But what about the Managers and Leader? The Managers are interested in making sure that there is progress, moving forward. But it is the leader that makes sure that everyone is cutting the jungle in the right direction. Can a manager be a leader? Absolutely. But if the Leader is acting like a bushwhacker or sharpener, then who is making sure the group is on course?
Out of all the categories, this one is probably the most thought of and written about. When an author talks about quarterly reviews, about setting timelines, about building teams this is the part of Leadership he/she is talking about. The important thing to note is that Command exists in conjunction with the other 3 Cs. I do not think you can start without Command, and you cannot finish without it.
As this blog continues to grow and explore, we will continue to talk about specific aspects of Command. For the moment, just be aware that when somebody talks about Leadership, most of the time he/she is talking about Command activities.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I was also with Matt over in the desert, but I was in Kadhimyah (Baghdad) rather than Baqubah. During and following the invasion there was definitely a lack of clarity, but it turned out to be a great developmental experience in terms of leadership growth – because that was the only option.
“Know Thyself” – Temple at Delphi, possibly Socrates
“To Thine Own Self Be True” – Hamlet, Shakespeare
Two brilliant minds separated by the centuries with essentially the same piece of wisdom continuing from their time into ours. How can you ever be a great leader if you don’t understand yourself? Just as you would assess an enemy – his capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses – you have to be able to assess yourself. What are your own personal capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses? You have to be able to determine these key facts about yourself before you can expect anyone to follow you – after all, great leadership is about influencing others to follow you of their own volition.
Just like there are many steps to IPE (Intelligence Preparation of the Environment, we’ll get into that sometime later) there are many steps and different ways to determine these characteristics about yourself. To be brief for the sake of the blog, these characteristics cannot be simplified into what you THINK you like/don’t like and what you THINK you’re good at/not good at. I happen to have a particular knack for IT, I pick up programming, databases, web design, etc. pretty quickly and receive lots of praise for my products. Great, that can be counted as a strength, but only because there is some external evidence verifying what I THINK I’m good at. Just because you think you have a strength doesn’t mean you really do: consider the 45 year old busboy who is, of course, not really a busboy but a writer, singer, actor, whatever. He may believe he has a great talent and is really good at it, but the fact that he’s been waiting for his big break for 25 years should be evidence enough to show that his talent probably isn’t much of a strength – even if he continues to think it is. This may be a particularly egregious example but I bet that in less than one minute you can name at least two people you know personally that are participating in a similar suspension of disbelief.
A similar paradigm works when assessing your weaknesses. For capabilities though, you need to go a step farther. I may have a natural knack for computers and IT, but I HATE working on that stuff all day, and could never make a career in that field without ending up on the evening news. A capability has to be a realistic assumption of how strengths and weaknesses may be utilized based on the viable options open to you. Any career that involves me wading in IT problems constantly is simply not viable. It may be a strength but it ends up counting more as an ancillary skill than a true capability.
So go back and take a look at your last resume, which of the strengths are on there because you thought they would sound good? How many do you loathe actually doing? When was the last time you received meaningful positive feedback on one of them, not just an ‘atta boy’?
Dig a little deeper to find your Terra Veritas, and then you’ll be in a much better position to lead others.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Here you see what happens when a person is impatient and treats another human being with disrespect. Do you think he got what he deserved?
Come back on Friday for our first guest blogger!
Monday, August 2, 2010
Once a plan/goal is conceived, it needs to be communicated. Initially with trusted staff and advisers, to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. After that it needs to be communicated to the team so that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Once it is communicated down, the results need to be communicated back up the chain in order to make sure that the plan is being properly implemented and that the results are what is expected. If the results are not what is expected, then you need to conceive a modification (or in some cases an entirely new plan) and communicate it back down. Then the cycle continues. And finally (and perhaps the most forgotten step) a leader should communicate to his/her team when they did a good job.
Of course, communication gets more difficult the more people involved. The Project Management Institute has a formula for determining how many channels of communication exist in a given project. It can be found online or in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK, now in its’ 4th edition). The formula is N(N-1)/2. N represents the number of stakeholders involved in the project. Businessdictionary.com identifies a stakeholder as “A person, group or organization that has direct or indirect stake in an organization because it can affect or be affected by the organization’s actions, objectives and policies.”
Why am I bringing this up? Because as a leader you need to worry not only about your team (who are stakeholders), but also about anybody/anything else that might be impacted by your decisions. You need a communication plan, and that starts with the above formula. Once you figure out how many channels of communication you have, then you can start planning to deal with them. Until then, all you are dealing with is guesswork (a topic for a future blog?).
So Communication is vital throughout the cycle for a leader and his team. I don’t think there is another “leadership expert” (if I can claim to be one), that would argue against this. It rightly deserves a spot as one of the C4’s, and arguably may have the greatest impact. Next week we will talk about Command, and to use the quote from Jack Welch why it is important to: “Passionately own the vision…”
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
This is the first step in every activity in leadership: an idea becomes a goal; which leads to a plan; that requires metrics to ensure the plan is progressing; and of course how you will celebrate when the plan is complete. Each of these starts with Conceiving it.
One of the most common forms of a developed idea is the Mission Statement. I am hoping that this will be a future topic in this blog, but I wanted to share a famous one with you today:
I shall not fear anyone on earth.
I shall fear only God.
I shall not bear ill toward anyone.
I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
I shall conquer untruth by truth.
And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.
Mahatma Ghandhi said this everyday, setting himself up for what actions he would take. It guided him and provided clarity in what he was trying to accomplish. He practiced it everyday. But before it can be practiced, it needs to be developed. Before it is developed, it needs to be conceived.
Now, once an idea is conceived it isn’t over. Unfortunately ideas need to be flushed out, communicated, executed and finished. In fact Jack Welch from GE said:
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”
The first step in creating a vision is conceiving it. In the following weeks, we will talk about communicating it, commanding it, and completing it.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
First, C4 is a plastic explosive that can be molded to fit many different shapes and situations. As little or as much C4 can be applied as needed to complete the job. During my time in Iraq, I saw it do some really interesting stuff. Leadership is the same way. A leader has to decide how much or how little to apply, but when done correctly, the results (like the plastic) are always explosive.
The second reason is that C4 actually stand for 4 C's: Conceive, Communicate, Command, and Complete. These, I feel are the basic steps of leadership. Over the next four weeks I will blog on those topics, so I don't want to go into too much detail here; but I think most people would agree that each of these C's are necessary to be an effective leader.
I do have to give some credit however to my time in the Army. When I was a lieutenant, the Army taught us about the 2C's: Command and Control. Later somebody (probably a Colonel looking for a bullet point in his evaluation) started using 4C's: Command, Control, Communicate, and Computers. I loved the first 3, but Computers? I am in technology, and I had to wonder... why Computers? From my standpoint, they provide information and analysis... Sounds like Communication and Conceiving ideas (more on that later). And I wondered why this anonymous Colonel didn't put the 4 after the C's.
Anyway, the 4C's from the Army are what got me thinking. I started to break down what I thought was in leadership, which is where I came up with my own list of C's. Hopefully, over time we can journey down the road of my experiences, where I can describe how each one impacted my decision making process. I hope that you will join me in this experiment, and feel free to comment with your own insights and experiences. After all, a large part of Leadership is Communications!