“Sync To Swim”: The Synchronized Leader Model

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Twenty-first-century business requires agility–from teams, from institutions, and from leaders–and that agility comes from synchronized leadership. Despite the radical change in the environment, many institutions still cling to Twentieth-century management models. Those Industrial Age management models are ill-suited to guide leaders in the Information Age.

Perhaps the “king” of management models from the last century is the Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid. The Blake-Mouton model (below) uses a 0-9 scale to quantify the “production vs people” tension, and is still in use in some circles, and is good for creating leader archetypes for discussion.

Blake Mouton Management_Grid

Fig 1. The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid

However, the Blake-Mouton model has a couple of shortcomings. First of all, the leadership environment is much more complex than a simple linear graph can describe. A two-axis grid implies there are only two things leaders must hold in balance, and those are dependent on each other. Secondly, a graph with a 0 to 9 scale implies a limit. By virtue of looking at a chart, some of us will set limits for ourselves and hold in tension those things that should be harmonized.

The leadership dilemma is not whether to balance people and mission, rather it’s how to synchronize the various needs and priorities a of task, institution, and team members’ individual needs. At a basic level,leadership means working with people and managing things effectively. That means the most effective leaders find the best fit for people to task within an institution to get something done. So how do we visualize that?

The Synchronized Leader Model

Leaders have many considerations and priorities to balance, but we can group most of them into three major categories: Institution, Project, and People.

The Synchronized Leader Model (c) Mickey Addison

Fig 2. The Synchronized Leader Model

As you can see from the figure, the Synchronized Leader Model is not linear, nor is it binary. This model reflects the complex nature of integrating people, tasks, and institutions into a single mutually supporting system. Leaders who maximize the intersection of all three categories of needs will get very high performance from their team.

There’s clearly tension between competing priorities, to say otherwise is to be Pollyanna, but “competing” doesn’t need to be “opposing.” In the Synchronized Leader model, leaders have the ability to move the circles around based on resources, staffing, and the situation. It’s a dynamic model that reflects the complexity of the environment with the realities of constrained resources. In the end, leadership is about people—but people operating in a real environment rather than a binary world. That makes the three sets of needs–Institution, Project, and People–independent variables rather than dependent. Being independent variables is a key point. It means it’s possible for a leader to commit energy or resources to something without necessarily reducing the ability to do the same elsewhere.

Institutional Needs

Organizations have institutional needs. Boards of directors and shareholders demand profits and efficiency, donors want to know their money is going to the mission, manufacturers are concerned about quality, and everyone wants to have a good reputation in the community. Leaders must work within a structure or institution, and with other leaders who set agendas and distribute resources. They have to be respectful of culture and process within that institution. Leaders who ignore their parent organizations and its institutional needs at their own peril. The institution’s needs are legitimate, and must be part of a leader’s calculus. Leaders have to take on their institution’s values as their own, and transmit those values to their teams. As I’ve written before, if you can’t respect your institution get yourself another institution. It’s leaders’ responsibility to help their teams understand and accept their institutions’ needs and internalize their institution’s values. Leaders who do that successfully will inspire confidence in their teams and give them a mission with which to connect.

Project Needs

Each individual project has it’s own set of “needs” leaders must consider. Leaders can succeed by understanding and accounting for the various demands on their resources. Project needs are time and resource driven, and so managing those things is usually a math problem. This is an area where many leaders prefer to “live”–math is straight-forward and easy to understand. We can produce charts and graphs to use in decision-making, and we can even allow the “data” to make our decisions for us. Accounting for project resources is certainly important, as I wrote above, but it can’t be the only way for us to lead. Said another way, because we manage things and lead people, the data isn’t the only answer.

People Needs

The third set of needs are the personal needs of the individuals on the team. Each person has their own reason for what they do, as well as their own skills. Leaders have to know their people well enough to understand each person’s motivation and ability. By way of illustration, consider the case of professional football teams. Team managers will actively recruit players for their athletic ability and even for particular positions: goalkeeper or striker, for example. But those same managers also understand that not every player fits in with the team’s culture or the other players. That same team manager might pass on a very talented player because they “don’t fit” with the team dynamic. The goal is to find out, by knowing the player well, where a particular person is best suited and will be happiest. Happy players are usually the most productive.

That same principle of hiring compatible people and placing them where their skills are best used and motivations are best “fed” applies to any team, not just athletics. In my own military experience, we trained our people for particular jobs but we also were keen to place people where they were happy and productive. It does no good for a leader to recruit a star performer only to have him or her drag the institution down because he’s unhappy. So how does a leader make the right choices? There really aren’t any shortcuts–leaders have to engage individuals on their teams and understand them. Put more simply—the most successful teams aren’t always the ones with the most talent, but the ones where the entire team is made up of people contributing, collaborative, and happy.

Bringing It All Together

The real aim of the leader, then, is not to simply parrot their institution’s values, minimize cost, or create a happy workplace; rather, it’s to synchronize all three to make the “sweet spot” in the middle as large as possible. It’s a constant balance of sometimes competing priorities, but if done skillfully can create an impressively productive and happy team. Understanding and transmitting institution needs effectively to the team leads to them internalizing institutional values. Effective project management reduces the stress on the team, and gives them creative space to innovate. Hiring and coaching “players” into the right spots in the institution so they can be their best harmonizes the workplace and inspires people to be their best. The larger that “sweet spot” becomes, the higher the performance of the team.

Originally posted at People Development Network.


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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Monday Motivation: Lead Like a Lion

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Spring Cleaning: Getting Rid of “Extras” in Your Life

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sync to Swim

The theme of this month around the Addison household is “spring cleaning” as we prepare to move our household from Hawaii to Texas. We do this every Spring, but before a move we start about six months out to get rid of the stuff we don’t need–preferably to a good home, recycled or donated, and into the landfill as a last resort. It’s a good way to get ourselves ready for an organized move–after 16 moves we have this down to a science and we execute each move with military precision! It’s also an exercise in removing distractions from our lives and prevent ourselves from accumulating what my wife charmingly calls “crapola” in the house.

What Do You Actually Need

The very first thing we do is take an inventory. What is it that we have: what do we actually need at the next place, are our clothes, furniture, home decor, tools, etc. relevant in the next locale? This move is a special case, because we don’t yet have a “final” landing spot but we usually have a floor plan and sometimes photos of our new house by now so we can begin to plan out the furniture layout, decide who gets what room, etc. But even without a physical move it’s possible to do some planning in April and May that has bearing on how you’ll live in the next 6-12 months.

Think critically about what you actually need to live and work in your home. If you’ve got two of the identical item, think hard about whether you really need two or more of them. Clothes are the same way. It’s easy to collect t-shirts you never wear or socks with holes, or pants you can no longer fit. Think about climate, social events, formal and informal. What do you need to live your life?

Sorting Your Stuff

Approach Spring Cleaning in your household as if you were going to move into your house as its unoccupied. Take an inventory of your stuff and bin everything into three categories: (1) Stuff we need here, (2) Stuff we like but maybe don’t need, and (3) stuff we don’t like or need.

Category 1 is easy–that stuff goes into the house. It might be in the same place it is now or it might be time to move it somewhere else, but it stays.

Category 3 is also easy–get rid of it! Take it to the local thrift store, donate it to the DAV, give it to a friend or family member, or throw it out. But once you decide you don’t like or want something, get it out of your life! Again, if you haven’t used it, worn it, or played with it in a year–you don’t need it.

OK, so Category 2 is definitely the most difficult because it’s stuff you like but you might not need. We all love our favorite jeans, but if you can’t wear them out of the house because they’re full of holes–well, then maybe those need to go to the rag bin. That shirt Aunt Susie gave you that’s still in the wrapper? Yep, Goodwill Store. That lawn mower you’ve been planning to fix? The one that’s been sitting in the garage for 2 years? Get it out of the house. The point is, Category 2 requires a person to look himself in the mirror and answer the Do I need this? question honestly. This category is an opportunity to be a gift to another person, provided the stuff is worth giving away, or at least declutter your life if it’s not.

Follow Through

The most important part of any spring cleaning is to follow through. It serves no purpose to simply move things from your closet to a pile to the garage, you have to get the extra stuff out. No matter how often I do this, the feeling after getting rid of the “extras” in my life is always surprising lightness. It truly feels as if I’ve unburdened our household and my life. It feels good to come home to a clean and uncluttered house. It’s true in life and work as well. When we unclutter our life through personal “spring cleaning” we can really reach for high performance.

This Applies to All Aspects of Your Life

A horse runs faster with a lighter jockey and a car gets better mileage when it’s lighter as well. That principle applies to our life, too. Uncluttering your life by removing “stuff” is powerful, and uncluttering your life by removing unnecessary distractions, commitments, and sometimes even negative people is even more powerful. Always strive to be a friend and a peacemaker, to serve others, and be useful–but if all else fails, get it out of your life. You’ll be the better for it, and so will those around you.


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Sync to Swim

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Leaders Focus the Team

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

How Not to Get Unfriended

Posted on Posted in Practical Leadership

I don’t need to tell anyone that sometimes people with–shall we say strong political views?–have difficulty communicating below the 100 decibel level, especially on social media. Navigating the office and social media environment in the age of the 24 hour news cycle while maintaining your sanity and your friendships is not as easy as it once was.

But it should be. It’s not that you shouldn’t have opinions, it’s just that it’s not always necessary to share your opinions. It’s important to know when to speak, to whom, and on what subject. To that end, and as a public service, I’ve developed a set of “rules” to guide online and office behavior.

Before I get into the “rules” I’d like to take a moment to quote Founding Father James Madison’s Federalist 10 on the virtue of republican democratic government for resolving the inevitable “faction” that develops among people attempting to govern themselves. I also want to point out that when Madison refers to “republicans,” he’s referring to the idea of a republic as a form of government not the political party by the same name.

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.

– Madison, Federalist #10

The Federalist Papers are a collection of what we’d call today blog posts that made the case for the form of government we have today in the USA. In Federalist 10, Madison writing under the pen name Publius described both the inevitability of developing “factions” among people, and the virtue of a “republic” over a pure “democracy,” and offered a remedy for moderating the passions of the day. It’s worth the read, for sure, and is a great reminder to be optimistic about our country’s ability to work through issues and (eventually) reach a solution. You might not know it sometimes, and the Civil War notwithstanding, but Americans have a remarkable resilience and ability to solve problems peacefully, although usually loudly. OK, end of preamble, now on to the rules.

The Rules

1. All humans deserve to be treated with respect. Someone else’s lack of respect doesn’t justify you doing the same.

When someone is being disrespectful or rude the natural reaction is to return fire and as we say in the military, “establish fire superiority.” Resist the urge–either remove yourself from the situation or return rudeness with kindness. Trust me, it’s a far better place to be. You might feel good in the moment by “winning” but in business and in life relationship is not about “winning” or “losing,” but rather about mutual respect.

2. Public figures are humans, not messiahs and not devils.

It’s very important to remember the people we see on TV are, you know, actual people. They have virtues and flaws, friends and family who love them, and their own thoughts. They make mistakes. They do good work. Public pronouncements and actions are fair game for discussion or disagreement, but be careful to separate criticism or praise of an action from criticism or praise of the person. Always give people the benefit of the doubt. We’re always free judge a person’s actions, but we’re not to judge a soul–leave that to God.

3. If you’re partisan before you’re a patriot you are part of the problem.

The good of the country should always be a primary consideration, and we should always be ready to change our minds if presented with enough facts, so long as we don’t violate our values.

4. The first report is usually wrong; remember the real work of politics gets done in committee and in board rooms, rarely in public.

This is also one of “Mickey’s Rules for Leaders,” and it applies to political discussions as well. Remember that just because someone told you something is true, or you saw it reported a certain way on your favorite news outlet, doesn’t necessarily mean you have the whole story. Avoid rushing to judgement.

5. Always check multiple primary sources before believing and passing on a link, no matter what the source and especially if it seems to confirm something you believe.

Avoid taking someone else’s word for something; seek out primary (original) sources of information. Modern search engines online allow you to read what a person actually said and in context. If a particular report seems to confirm something you think you know already, be doubly skeptical.

6. Data doesn’t care who you are. (Corollary: if you torture the numbers long enough they’ll confess to anything).

Data is data, and there’s as many ways to parse numbers as there are to count. Be open to changing your mind when presented with facts, rather than dismissing data simply because someone with an opposing ideology presents it to you.

7. I never learned anything while I was talking.

Listen first, second, and even third. Then speak. This is harder than it sounds.

8. Being “pro” something isn’t necessarily the same as being “anti” something.

Remember that being  for something isn’t the same thing as being against something else. Begin by assuming the best about someone and asking questions, like “Did you mean to say…?” You might be surprised at the common ground you have with someone you might have thought was your polar opposite. Not always, but often we merely disagree on method, and agree on goals.

9. Insulting people guarantees they’ll ignore you.

Strong language is generally a bad idea. If you’re looking to severe a relationship, that’s the quickest way to do it. There’s a reason it’s polite to use gentle language. I think us moderns have become far too comfortable throwing verbal bombs and profanity. Again, the benefit of the doubt and a little kindness goes a long way.

10. No one changes their mind based on your political Facebook post.

Frankly, I generally avoid political discussions altogether, especially online. I do this not only because as an officer I respect our institutions and our military apolitical tradition, but because people need space to believe what they want and change their minds if they like. The greatest voice we have is a vote, no one is going to change their minds based on your ten-links per day from “MyPoliticalOpinionIsRighteousAndYoursIsEvil.com.”

Remember, we’re all in this together!


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: A Bone Isn’t Charity

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Continue the Mission: The First 100 Days

Posted on Posted in Practical Leadership

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. -John F. Kennedy

My first month as Mission Support Group Commander at the Air Force Academy was wonderful. Sure, there was work to do, but I spent the first few weeks touring the campus and meeting many of the 2,600 people who I led. There were plenty of awards to hand out, challenge coins to deliver, and interesting people to meet. When I was on horseback with the Academy Stablemaster touring the South Training Area, I thought to myself, this is the best command I’ve ever had! Of course, all honeymoons end and sooner or later a new leader has to stop being “oriented” and get to work. It certainly wasn’t going to be two years of kissing babies and riding horses through the Front Range.

Previously, we talked about the first 30 days after your “change of command.” The job of making a successful transition isn’t over at Day 30; in fact it’s only just begun. If your transitions are like mine, the first 30 days are the easiest.

The Next 70 Days

During the remainder of your first 100 days is the time to build relationships with your new team and learn the organization thoroughly. It will also be time to deliver on the goals you set for the team. Spend time getting into the details, walk around your organization and learn the people and their issues, and be visible to them. Build on relationships you’ve established with your leadership team and work hard to forge new ones with as many others in the larger team as possible. I actually carved out time in my scheduled deliberately for visiting various work centers in my Mission Support Group and when possible, to work with them. Take that time to recognize high performers and learn if senior leaders are passing down your priorities and principles to the first line workers. People respect senior leaders who are willing to do the “dirty work” of the organization, and

Those goals could be as modest as making a plan for later, or as ambitious as sweeping changes in the organization and products. Whatever your goals, and whatever changes you want to make in your team, once you announce where you intend to go focus your energy and organization on getting there. You’re credibility is now in play, but this is exactly why getting your team on board with you in the first 30 days is so important. Some organizations will need a firmer hand than others, but whether you’re turning around a failing organization or taking an already high performing team to the next level, you’ll need a team effort.

Day 100 – Move Out

Once you reach the 100th day recognize your work is only beginning. As a senior leader your “grace period” is finally over–you’re no longer the “new guy” and you own all the successes and failures. If you’re turning around a failing organization it’s unlikely you made any significant progress in the first 100 days and they’ll be plenty of work left to do. A high performing team will be accustomed to you at this point, so it will be important not to let them rest on their laurels. Make adjustments in your leadership style and continue to lead from the front. A solid first 100 days will set the tone for the months and years ahead.

Originally posted on General Leadership


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Be a Giver

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Continue the Mission: The First 30 Days

Posted on Posted in Practical Leadership

When things go wrong in your command, start wading for the reason in increasing larger concentric circles around your own desk. – General Bruce D. Clark

Standing on the platform in front of troops and family for the fourth time to take command, this time of a Mission Support Group, I was following a popular and successful commander. I’d be leading a very talented unit of 2,600 Airmen, civil service personnel, and contractors. They had a tremendous reputation for excellence.

In the previous three months, I’d prepared as best I could and now it was “go” time. Under the big Colorado sky on a stunningly beautiful summer day, thoughts about both the mission and people I was now responsible for leading circled my mind. All my previous leadership experience, all my networking, all my preparation had come to this moment. When it was my turn to speak, I stepped up to the mike and began my command.

In this series, I’ve written about how to exit gracefully and how to your prep for your new “command.” This month we take a look at what it takes to be the “New Guy” and we’ll focus in on the first crucial 30 days in “command.”

Before You Arrive

Changes in leadership like the assumption of command I described above are often planned and announced in advance. Retirements, promotions, and the like create openings in leadership positions in all organizations. Even when someone gets the sack, there’s usually time for some limited preparation. That time is important because every team is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works. Even experienced leaders will need to make adjustments to their own style to suit the new team and mission.

If you have a good transition, your predecessor will have sent you plenty of information and planned a Left Seat-Right Seat time. If the transition is short or unplanned, your prep time is limited. No matter how long you have, spend it learning as much as you can before you arrive. Mission statements, public financial records, customer reviews, press releases, and anything available on the personnel. You’ll get two opportunities to speak to the team, once in public and once to your senior staff. Plan those talks carefully: first impressions really matter and it will be obvious if you haven’t done your homework.

At the “Change of Command”

The military conducts a change of command ceremony where the outgoing and incoming commanders exchange the unit’s flag as a symbol of passing the leadership of the unit. Those ceremonies and their civilian equivalents are all about the farewell for outgoing leader. As the new guy, your job is to thank everyone, give a brief version of your priorities, and get off the stage. Give your predecessor the room to bask in the adulation of the team one last time; it’s your team now and you’ll have plenty of time with them in the coming months and years.

During your speech, be gracious to the outgoing leader–even if he/she doesn’t deserve it. No matter what the circumstances that required a change in leadership, it’s not your place to pile on or take issue with the outgoing guy’s style or achievements. They know him–they don’t know you–so being gracious will make a good impression. It’s just good manners. I assure you no one will remember the “bumper stickers” you talk about at the ceremony, but they will remember if you’re snarky, rude, or go long. Get up, say your piece, and get off the stage.

The First Month

On your first day in the seat, you’ve got only two things to do: meet with your senior staff one and one and as a group. Use that time to get to know them better, get a sense of their professionalism and proficiency, and lay out your strategy and priorities. If you have an office or administrative staff, give them your expectations on how you expect work to flow. They’ll want to know how you like to organize your day and about any pet peeves you might have regarding the logistics of running the office.

Once you’ve met with your senior team–we call it a “command team” in the Air Force, it’s time to meet with the larger senior staff as a group. Plan to spend about an hour, and lay out your priorities and guiding principles, your expectations, and let them know where you’ll be focusing your attention. A few Powerpoint slides or a handout is a good idea since it allows them to listen better rather than taking notes. Allow them all time they need to ask questions–few of them will take you up on it anyway–and then give them a preview of what you plan to publish to the entire team. This is the first step to gaining their trust and getting them on board for where you’re planning to lead them. Set some achievable goals for the first 100 days and ensure your new team is on board.

During the first month, commit to spending time looking around and listening to your new team. As a rule of thumb, and unless something is badly broken, dangerous, or illegal, don’t make any changes for the first 30 days. This gives your team some breathing room to get used to you, and more importantly, time for you to understand why things are the way they are in the first place. Rare is the case where a leader or an organization is completely incompetent. Understand the context of your predecessors’ decisions before you begin making changes. Doing so will help avoid unwanted second and third order effects, and it will give you a better chance of finding root causes of problems rather than just symptoms.

Make time in the first few days to have an “all hands meeting” and address the entire team. If your team is geographically separated, then record your session and make that recording available to them. During that all hands meeting, lay out your priorities and principles Boil down your priorities and principles into 2-4 easy to remember phrases. You want your “slogan” to be memorable and easy to repeat–you’ll be repeating it often. Give the broad strokes to the whole organization, and spend some time with the senior staff to be sure they understand clearly who you are and where you intend to go.

Lastly, get a thorough orientation to your new organization unit by unit. Resist the temptation to spend that entire orientation in a conference room reading PowerPoint slides. Whenever I take over a new organization I spend that first week or so walking through each unit and learning as much as I can from the people doing the actual work. You can read slides on your own–you need to see where people are working and let them tell you what they’re doing. Believe me, you can tell a lot about an organization by asking questions and observing the work environment. The morale will be self-evident and you’ll gain important insight into what needs to be changed on day 31.

Originally posted on General Leadership


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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Monday Motivation: Optimism

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Throw Strikes!

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Leave the Harbor!

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Your First 100 Days – Achieving Your Goals

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Achieving Goals, Practical Leadership

Every four years or so we grade our leaders on their “First 100 Days,” but other than watching pundits debate on TV what does that mean for us? It’s an opportunity for us to take a look at our own progress toward our goals. We’re certainly not going to have Bret Baier talking about our performance on his TV show, but the “100 day” marker is a good reminder to for us self-evaluate.

Why re-evaluate?

Well, for the same reason we follow our progress on a map during a road trip–to know how close to the destination we’re getting. Knowing where you’re headed is important, of course, but if you don’t know where you are, you’ll have no idea whether or not you’re actually getting there. Do we need to have started a new job or something in order to grade ourselves on our own “First 100 Days”? Nope! We can do it at any time, and 100 days is a fabulous reminder and a convenient period of time. Not too long to let things get out of control, and just long enough to show some real progress.

So, how do we do a self evaluation?

Easy–just compare where you are to where you expected to be at the same time. The key here is to be honest with yourself! The worst feedback I’ve ever gotten is, “Don’t change a thing, Mickey, you’re doing great!” That’s flattering, but it really doesn’t help me get better. Don’t do that to yourself! Look in the mirror, face your flaws, and resolve to achieve by making a plan to get from where you are to where you’re going. When ever I’m evaluating my progress I start with some essential questions:

  1. What was my actual goal? I know this sounds basic, but it’s easy to get off track and forget why you started your journey in the first place. That’s why I always recommend writing your goal down! Goals should be specific and actionable. If you resolved to “get in shape” or “advance in your career”, what does that actually look like? A better goal is “Lose 10 pounds” or “get a promotion to senior manager”–specific targets are always best.
  2. Have I reached the goal? Be honest with yourself. If you wanted the promotion and you didn’t get it, that’s easy to judge. Fitness goals can be a bit more “fuzzy”, as are relationship goals. If you’re “there”, you should be able to track measurable progress. On the other hand, if you find yourself making excuses–well, you’re likely not there.
  3. What are the steps I need to take to get back on course or stay on course? This step is a bit more difficult, of course, but if you were honest with yourself in the previous step, this one is manageable. Visualize your goal, and write down the concrete steps you plan to take to get there in the next 100 days. You don’t have to get there in a single “step”–some goals take a lot of work–but by setting smaller intermediate goals the bigger goals become reachable.

Need some additional help? Check out the Resources Page for downloadable worksheets and links to helpful sites.

Be Your Own Scarlet

If you’re on track, then great! Celebrate a little. If you’ve fallen a little short, don’t get down because you’re starting the next 100 days and that’s a chance to improve. As Scarlet O’Hara famously quipped, “Tomorrah is anothah day!”

Remember, the only real failure is quitting–never quit!


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Tracy on Teamwork

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Continue the Mission: How to Exit Gracefully (and Why You Should)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time. -George W. Bush

This month, I continue my series on successful leadership transition. If you missed the first part, you can go back and read it here. When we accept a leadership position we accept two things: (1) stewardship of the people and organization we’re leading, and (2) the understanding that we’ll be replaced some day. Regardless of the reason we may be handing off the reins to a successor–good or bad–how we manage that transition says a great deal about us as people and leaders.

Leadership transition is far more than just “exchanging salutes” and reporting to your new office. A successful transition of leadership depends on a servant leadership mentality and maturity. The principles below are my guide for a smooth transition of leadership. As I wrote last month, good transition planning begins well in advance of the actual day. In fact, successful transitions occur because of the prep work done well before the “new guy” shows up.

Five Principles for Success

Below principles to keep in mind for the outgoing leader. Adhering to them is the best way to prepare the team and the organization for success under the incoming leader.

  • Prepare the Team for the New Guy’s Style. You may be the best leader ever, but when you hand over the reins of command to another leader, his style is the most important one. Give your staff the benefit of helping them understand the “new guy’s” style and if you can make adjustments to accommodate him or her before you leave, so much the better. Your goal should be to make a difficult time as smooth as possible. Be sure to spend some energy with the senior staff to prepare them for the change.
  • Leave a Trail of Breadcrumbs on Your Decisions. While any leader should be prepared for their decisions to be reversed by their successor, we can maximize the chances good decisions remain in place by documenting our decisions well. That’s what I mean by “leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.” If your successor understands the context of your decisions, and has access to much the same information, it makes it more likely good decisions remain. If there must be a change, then there’s enough data to make solid adjustments. Many a time I’ve avoided a bad decision by understanding why what I wanted to change was done in the first place–you owe that to your successor.
  • Plan for Overlap “Right Seat-Left Seat” Time. For any transition, planning for a few days of overlap is crucial to success. Use that time where the incoming leader (“Right Seat”) shadows the departing leader to learn the staff and see how things are run (“Left Seat”). When the incoming leader moves to the “Left Seat” she’ll be thoroughly prepared and will know what adjustments she needs to make.
  • Don’t Bad Mouth the “New Guy” or the Old Company. I can’t understate how important this principle is to a successful transition. If you and the incoming leader get along famously, great! If not, keep it to yourself. You’ll do great harm to everyone–including your reputation–by disparaging the “new guy.” Believe me, no matter whether he’s a “saint” or “sinner”, your people will make up their own minds about the new leader soon enough. They don’t need your help. When you’ve moved on to other things, keep your words positive. What you say about the guy who replaced you or the company says more about you than them. Even if you’re the only one, be the adult in the room.
  • Say Your Goodbyes and Then Take Your Leave. Once you’ve moved out of the proverbial “Left Seat”, then get going. Hanging around makes it awkward on everyone. This requires a little planning, you really don’t want to be walking back into the building the day after those tearful goodbyes to return your security badge.

Mature Leaders Do Transition Well

Remember leadership is never about you. Leadership is always about those you lead and serve. Leaders who understand that principle first will be the ones who leave a place better than they found it. That’s a successful leadership transition.

Originally posted on General Leadership


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Teamwork Builds Trust

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Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Life as a Mission, Best Life Ever, and The 5 Be’s

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Podcast

Do you ever feel like your life is “stuck” in neutral? Well, do I have a real “dynamic duo” of women who can help you put your life in 5th gear! I had the honor and pleasure of being a guest on the Best Life Ever podcast, hosted by Kimi Morton and Pua Pakele & Cabot. Kimi and Pua are two Success Coaches, Authors, and “Work+Life Integration Ninjas” on a mission to help you create your Best Life Ever. They’re two of the most positive, motivated women I’ve ever met!

We met at a Project Management Institute meeting here in Honolulu, and their positive message of intentional living really resonated with me. Their talk was fun, engaging, and positive–exactly the kind of thing everyone needs to hear in a world where the 24-hour news cycle dominates our thinking. Kimi and Pua were kind enough to give me a copy of their Best Life Ever Weekly Planner, and my daughter loved it! I particularly liked the idea of the weekly plan review and creating the “big vision.” As I’ve written before, leaders have to know where they’re headed.

The 5 Be’s

We talked about living intentionally and how my book, The 5 Be’s for Starting Out, fit in with their mission. It actually began as a talk for our newest Airmen, but I’ve been very pleased at how the message hasWant to know more? Click here! resonated with more “seasoned” audiences. It is by far my most requested talk! The message of The 5 Be’s is simple:

  • Be Proud of Who You Are – everyone has something to contribute
  • Be Authentically Free – don’t be bound by your appetites and whims
  • Be Virtuous – Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Fortitude (H/T to Aristotle)
  • Be Balanced – Integrate and feed your Mind, Body, and Spirit
  • Be Courageous – Both physical and moral courage are keys to being successful; especially moral courage.

Boundaries are Fine, But People Need a Positive Vision

Ever feel like all you ever hear from your boss, your parents, authorities, etc., are lists of “no’s” and “don’ts?” So did I. As I matured into leading larger, and often younger, groups of people I came to learn that boundaries simply is not enough. Here’s what I wrote in The 5 Be’s:

All of these “don’ts” form the boundaries of acceptable behavior. When reasonably imposed, boundaries are a necessary part of establishing appropriate and acceptable behavior. Manners, after all, are intended to make everyone comfortable, so that each person’s dignity and feelings are safeguarded. All human groupings develop norms for behavior that each group member is expected to adhere to. They vary in complexity and formality, but norms, boundaries, or “don’ts” are common. Of course, we can overdo boundary setting. When there are too many boundaries, it becomes a tyranny. In general, boundaries and standards of behavior (“manners” ) are necessary to the function of any human society.

What’s generally left unsaid when establishing our group norms is a target to focus on. It’s not sufficient to merely describe the outside boundaries of the target; you also have to show people what the bull’s-eye looks like. That’s what this book is all about.

People can function in a world of “do’s” and “don’ts,” but knowing what to do and what not to do only describes external behavior. What people, particularly young people, really need is a vision of who we want them to be. With that vision, people are then empowered to reach for something rather than avoiding something.

If you want to lead–know where you’re going!

How to Listen

Links to the podcast are below, and I hope you listen in to our conversation as well as their other podcasts. We talked about my book, The 5 Be’s for Starting Out, and how it is similar it is to their message. There’s even a Yoda impression and I reveal when I wear my “jammies,” so it’s not dull! Kimi and Pua are two great women on a mission to make the world better, and it was fun chatting with them! Be sure to also check out the Podcast page for more podcasts!

Listen online

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

 

Sign up for Mickey’s mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Monday Motivation: Caterpillars Become Butterflies

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Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 29 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

Overcoming Barriers to Change

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How To Change

One of the highest barriers to effecting change is getting enough people to change their thinking from “the way it is now” to the way you want to operate. In fact, many people are very resistant to change–I call that resistance “institutional inertia.” The most successful companies are able to help their teams and their stakeholders make the transition in thinking, and it’s absolutely crucial to innovation and transformation. How do they do it?

Knowing Where You Want to Go

Obviously, you have to know where you’re going or you’ll never get anywhere, so that’s the first step. Senior leadership teams need to spend some time thinking clearly about where you want to move the organization well before engaging the rank and file. A solid vision statement is a must, and not one of those flowery ones full of meaningless buzzwords. A clear vision of where you want to move the organization must also be congruent with your existing mission statement. If it’s not, you’ll either need to change your vision or revise your mission. It does no good to change one and not the other!

Knowing The Barriers to Change

There are all sorts of barriers to change, both internal and external. Understanding what those barriers are and making a plan to overcome them is the next step in effecting transformation and innovation. In large organizations internal barriers to transformation will be:

  • Threats to positional power
  • Uncertainty in accomplishing the organizational mission
  • Threats to personal careers

Take time to identify the key players and list the threats to your transformational plan, then make a concrete plan to mitigate each. For example, if people are concerned with losing their jobs you can mitigate that with assurances you don’t plan staff reductions. If organizational reorganizations will change certain persons’ positional power, you can mitigate those by engaging those people directly and ensure you have a plan to either move them into a commensurate position or offer compensation to take away the sting.

There’s also external barriers as well:

  • Resistance from functional communities
  • Resistance from key stakeholders
  • Resistance from customers

Like the internal barriers, making specific plans to reduce the resistance to the planned transformation is key to success. Overcoming these barriers is where senior leaders really earn their pay! Getting functional communities on board, for example, will likely mean lots of time discussing planned changes with key functional leaders and getting their buy in. Of course, even the most gifted negotiators sometimes can’t get everyone on board. In those cases, it’s necessary to build a stable of allies that can help you exert political influence on decision makers and stakeholders to make the change happen. For small companies, those functional leaders will often be industry associations and government oversight staffs. For larger organizations, it could be “higher headquarters” or even key C-suite or board members leaders in the company. Assemble the team, make the case, and build consensus among those who can stop the transformation. Be prepared to use influence and power to knock down barriers if necessary!

Knowing When to Engage the Entire Team

As the senior leadership team, you’ll have consider when to bring more people into your planning process. In complex change efforts, keeping the team as small as possible initially will prevent “paralysis by argument.” Again, you’ll need to clearly articulate where you’re headed and why it’s beneficial to all involved. Get as many people as possible involved in creating the transformation plan, careful not to overdo it with too many! Ideally, the more people invested in effecting the change, the more successful you’ll be in making it happen. However, don’t grow the team too fast, and don’t allow the team to take over the transformation from the senior leadership team!

Make it Happen

To effect any transformation, you’ll need to (1) Know Where You’re Headed, (2) Know Your Barriers, and (3) Know Who to Involve. Follow this three-step process and you’ll be able to lead your teams through change!


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

 

Sign up for Mickey’s mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!