Why No One is Listening to You

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules
Mom’s advice is still true

I have a little rule that I rarely break: never read the comments. In general, I find online discussions and online reviews of products and services routinely devolve into ugly comments and hyperbole. In a world where everyone can broadcast to the planet, many of us believe we have to exaggerate to be heard. I’m here to tell you that’s a false premise.  If you feel like no one is listening to you, I’ll tell you why I think that’s the case.

When I first began blogging, there were no social media platforms. Then came Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, and on and on. Naively, I signed up for many platforms and participated in many discussions online. The problem, of course, is obvious. If you write online or participate in discussions online, sooner or later you’re going to make someone upset. Maturity has given me some perspective on how to constructively engage online, and one of the key lessons I learned is to avoid hyperbole.

Clickbait and Fake News

I know I don’t have to tell you that headlines and ads constantly use misleading or even salacious headlines to get your attention online. We’re at the point now where people don’t trust websites that don’t already tell them what they “know” is true. During the 2016 election cycle, we learned about “fake news” –  websites produced by pranksters, political hacks, nutjobs, and foreign agents designed to appear like legitimate news outlets. The term has become entangled with “propaganda” – which uses hyperbole extensively – but true “fake news” isn’t reporting or editorial slants we don’t like, it’s fiction or at least mostly fiction.

It’s important to separate editorial approach and truth. Just ‘cause a given news story, or blog post, conflicts with your view of the world doesn’t make it factually incorrect.  More importantly, I hope we’ve also learned to research a little before re-sharing something on social media.

Tribal Communication

One of the interesting things I’ve become aware of is how hermetically sealed almost everyone is in their own echo chambers. When people do venture away from their tribes, the language others use is so foreign to them, it’s difficult to have a discussion. When we can’t agree on the definitions of basic terms, like ‘person’ and ‘crime’, then arriving at any sort of mutual agreement is ne’r impossible. I have many examples, but here’s a benign (non-political) one.

Years ago and fresh from my master’s program in national resource strategy, I was steeped in the language of policymaking and economics. When someone was decrying fiscal policy of the then Administration and cited some incorrect facts, I thought I’d provide some help by dropping some economic knowledge on them. I used the term, “economic shock” which is a technical term for a, well, shock to the economy, in this case, the Great Recession of 2008. A person in the conversation was incensed that I would use such a “mild” term to describe something that was so devastating to her personally. I was speaking with my own “tribal language” with a blind spot on how others might hear it.

The same can be true with in-person discussions. It’s obvious when we see people from opposite political views talk to each other – they seem to be speaking completely different languages sometimes. When we make a word mean what we want it to mean rather than using the common or dictionary definition, then we’re only speaking to our own tribe. Go read the comments about news stories about almost anything and you’ll see what I mean.

Primary Sources, Please

It’s certainly not 100% successful, but choosing to use primary sources to educate yourself on the facts can help dial the emotion down a bit, and increase your chances of making your point. People are much more likely to listen when you start a sentence with, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported…” or “according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis…” rather than, “Actually, the answer is…”, or worse, “You’re an idiot…”.

Most often, a 5-second internet search is sufficient to prove/disprove a given assertion. Interestingly, the perspective of spending 5 minutes skimming a couple of articles (don’t forget: primary sources) is enough to move the argument to a discussion.

Be Prepared to “Disagree Agreeably”

Look, there are some people who you will never win over to your cause. You can improve your chances by being respectful, supporting your assertions with facts from reputable sources, and making a compelling case. However, there are some who will never find your case convincing. That’s OK, let it be. If you believe strongly about something, then support organizations that advocate for your issue. Educate yourself about the issues and opposing views. And for Pete’s sake exercise your freedom to vote. But when you can’t win someone over, let it be. Bringing drama or anger into yours or someone else’s life is only going to make yours worse.

For 34 years I wore the uniform of my country, and for 30 of those years I served alongside some of the finest people I will ever know. We did that job because we love our country. Honestly, I never cared much about who my fellow Airmen voted for, what they looked like, or whether or not they went to church, or who they dated. All that mattered, in the end, was our shared mission. I wish the rest of my countrymen could share the same view. If you’d like people to listen to you, then be the kind of person others are willing to listen to. The bottom line is this: if you love your country, then at least try to love Americans, too.

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#TBT Mickey’s Rule #8: Be Curious; Ask ‘Why?’ A Lot.

Posted Posted in Mickeys Rules

SarrisSuccessful leaders are curious about their business and the people who work for/with them.  This sort of curiosity is an imperative for a leader because he/she has to both accomplish the task at hand and the “care/feeding” of the team.  To put it more succinctly, the leader needs to know what’s going on.

There’s a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where alien general Sarris (Robin Tobin) is interrogating the human starship captain/actor Commander Peter Taggart/Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) that is illustrative of this principle.  Sarris asks Commander Taggart/Nesmith repeatedly about the workings of a particular artifact on board the ship, and is incredulous when “the commander” says he doesn’t know.  “A captain knows every weld, every rivet in his ship,” says Sarris.

None of us is very likely to be matching wits with an alien general, but the point for us is that the “commander” needs to understand how the organization works down to the “rivets and bolts.”  This means understanding who does what to whom, the stakeholders, customers, and teammates who produce whatever it is the organization produces.

The leader does this for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s not possible to diagnose problems if the leader doesn’t  know how the process works.  Without that sort of detailed knowledge, it might not even be possible to know if there’s even a problem!  There’s certainly not much hope for making process improvements. Second, it’s much harder to look after the people if the leader didn’t understand the details of the organization and process.  A curious leader who knows their people will know when there’s something amiss with an employee.  They’ll notice when production drops off before it becomes a crisis.

There are some barriers to a curious leader, however.

The first barrier is the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality.  This mentality positively breeds a lack curiosity.  Everyone is comfortable, no one attempts to improve things, no one notices inefficiency or wasted effort.  “This is how we’ve sideways done it” is a recipe for organizational extinction.

The second barrier pertains mostly to senior executives and occurs when the staff and direct reports protect the executive from bad news.  If the executive isn’t sufficiently curious to seek out bad news, or to go and see the operation for themselves, he/she can be blindsided with catastrophic news.  As the saying goes, ”bad news doesn’t get better with age.”

Perhaps the best reason for a leader to be curious is the effect it has on the team. If the leader is curious and engaged, asking “why ” a lot, that behavior will become party of the  organizational culture. It will generate engaged employees, it will foster a culture of continuous improvement, and it will create an environment that improves everyone’s job satisfaction.  “Curiosity” is one of the best ways to ensure  organizational success.

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #11: Check Your Moral Azimuth

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules, Throwback Thursday

az·i·muth [az-uh-muhth] noun

1. Astronomy, Navigation . the arc of the horizon measured clockwise from the south point, in astronomy, or from the north point, in navigation, to the point where a vertical circle through a given heavenly body intersects the horizon.

2. Surveying, Gunnery. the angle of horizontal deviation, measured clockwise, of a bearing from a standard direction, as from north or south.

Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English azimut < Middle French ≪ Arabic as sumūt the ways (i.e., directions

It seems a constant to me that people who get themselves into trouble with their families, their workplace, or the law are usually caught living a hidden or double life. Whether it’s the website a husband doesn’t want his wife to know about or the businesswoman fudging on her company expense account, people hide what they know is illicit. We see it all the time in the news: politicians caught doing the very thing they campaigned against, military leaders violating their code of conduct, and seemingly average people living secrets that when exposed resulted in arrest and sometimes horrible crimes. The interesting thing is on the whole people know when they’re doing something wrong. If we’re doing something that we wouldn’t want posted on the company bulletin board, it’s not likely healthy behavior. Or as my mother used to say, “it’s either illegal, immoral, or fattening.”

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President Ronald Reagan once said that character doesn’t just “happen” at times of crisis, it’s constructed bit by bit by seemingly insignificant decisions. Our character is the compass on which we guide our decisions and our lives. When we have to make decisions, particularly those that involve morals, money, or the mission, we consult our character compass. I call it “checking your moral azimuth”

Of course a compass is of no value unless it points north. So it is with our internal compass. As I wrote in this post, to be useful a compass can’t be self referencing. For those of us in the military, that external orientation is our Core Values and our Oath. For others, the “North Star” is their religious beliefs or political philosophy, or perhaps their professional code of ethics like the ones for physicians or engineers. For companies large and small, that orientation should include personal ethics and the organizational mission. When leading a team, leaders must foster a shared vision and shared code of ethics, because no team can be successful when traveling in multiple directions at once. Not everyone has to pray or vote the same way, but everyone should buy into the same organizational values and goals.

On a personal level, living life with something hidden usually means eventual personal and professional disaster. It was true 30 years ago and in the internet age it’s even more true that secrets don’t stay secret for long. In other words, successful people live an integrated life free from hidden activities. They are the same person on Monday morning they were Saturday night. This sort of consistent approach is a recipe for excellence. Excellence is not only the standard of what we seek to achieve, it is the expectation of those we serve as leaders. We also have the right to expect mission success and high personal standards from each other.

Finally, we have to be on a good azimuth, the right “compass heading,” when making decisions about our jobs or our lives. Having the right direction is important for any person, but it’s crucial for leaders because people will follow us and do what we do. From making decisions on personal finances, to personal risk management, to the discipline to follow that same checklist for the umpteenth time, staying on the correct moral azimuth will ensure we make the right decision.

As much as we try to set a good example, no one can make decisions for another person. Each person must have a well developed enough sense of personal responsibility to make good decisions for himself. It’s the leader’s responsibility to set and maintain a culture of excellence and responsibility, but ultimately we make our own choices.

Whether its navigating the businesses landscape or making a low-level bomb run, checking your compass is an accepted part of our habit pattern. Its just as important to check our moral azimuth…and that’s a skill for success in life.

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #10: Drink Your Water, Eat Your Lunch, and Make New Friends

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules, Practical Leadership

When my son was very young, he would give me the same advice as I left for work every day: “Goodbye, Daddy, have a good day at work. Be sure to drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.” I always thought his farewell each day was far more insightful than just a small boy’s simple advice. In fact, it’s a great chance to talk about life balance.

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There are many different ways to understand and dissect the topic of life balance. My model consists of 3 main focus areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. Others use Health, Wealth, and Friends, or Work/Life. The US Air Force has an outstanding approach to balancing the demands of work and life in their Comprehensive Airman Fitness Model which takes the familiar Mental, Physical, and Spiritual dimensions and adds a fourth, Social. And of course there’s always the familiar Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

No matter how you slice up the dimensions of the human person, the take away is that humans are multi-dimensional, and therefore leaders should be intentional about engaging the whole person and not just the external part. Each person has a body, mind, and the intangible part of themselves religious people call a soul, and non-religious people often refer to as the human spirit. The point is that every person is more than meets the eye.

Being a leader means trying to find what motivates people, and what fulfills them, then intentionally working to harmonize those very personal needs with the needs of the organization. It’s more than a mere transaction: leaders must recognize that their team is more than their collective job titles. They are people with needs and aspirations of their own, persons who have come together to do a job for their own reasons that may or may not be because they’re drawing a paycheck.

The companies consistently rated best to work for seem to get that idea. They provide benefits that let the employees know they’re valued beyond their contribution, but also valued as persons too. There’s plenty of examples with Google and Southwest Airlines often at the top of the list. In each case the employees at those top rated companies like their work and their environment first; the benefits are simply the externals. The companies that treat their employees as whole persons, with more than a single dimension, are the ones who get the most engaged employees at work in return.

So the next time you look out over your team, stop for a minute and remember the words of my then four year old son: drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.

Living life balance as a leader is challenging. There are a lot of demands on a person’s time when they’re in charge, but finding time to feed all aspects of your body and soul is a key to any successful life. Anyone can put their head down and power through life; it takes a mature leader to understand that how you live is equally important to what you accomplish.


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 and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #9: Walk The Horses

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules, Throwback Thursday

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There’s a great scene in the 1949 John Ford film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon that contains a lesson in leadership.  You guessed it: they were walking their horses.

What does “walking horses” have to do with leadership?  Just this: leaders can and must try to get the best out of their people, but no one can go at a gallop all the time.  The savvy leader needs to know when to gallop, when to trot, and when to get off and walk.

Back when I first joined the Air Force, leaders extolled the virtue of working the long hours.  The guy who was at work the longest was considered the “workhorse” and admired for his dedication.  We all bragged about how little sleep we got and how poorly we ate.  That sort of pace can’t last forever, however.  Lack of sleep, long hours, and bad food are a recipe for burnout rather than achievement.  Thankfully, the culture has changed a bit and today’s leaders understand the benefits of managing the workload.


That’s where Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) comes in.  It was standard procedure on long patrols for the cavalry to get off and walk the horses a bit.  It allowed the troopers to stretch their legs a bit, and gave the horses a break by taking 200 pounds off their backs.  Having enough energy left in the tank (so to speak) meant that when the troop needed to hop on and gallop, horses and riders were ready. If the horses run too far or too long, they will be too exhausted when it comes time to sprint to the rescue of the wagon train.

The experienced leader works with his/her team to develop a “battle rhythm”, a normal pace of business.  Every business process/operation has a natural ebb and flow, with periods of “surge” where there’s maximum effort (“gallop”) and periods with much less demand on their personal/organizational resources.  One officer I worked with went so far as to map out a 90 day period and code days as “red” (high tempo), “green” (medium/normal tempo), and “blue” (slow tempo) so he could plan ahead for things like employees’ vacation planning and training schedules.  As an executive, I’ve made it a practice to look for opportunities to encourage employees when to plan their leave/vacation, and when I had to plan for everyone to be working long hours.

Part of good strategic planning is developing and tracking the pace of operations.  Make time in that plan to walk the horses.


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 and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #7: The Other Team is Not the Enemy

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules, Throwback Thursday

Note: As we’re in the throws of a bitterly fought election year, Rule #7 takes on greater urgency. Try not to look at somone who thinks or believes differently than you as the “enemy.” Rather, begin by assuming your neighbor is a person of good will trying their best to do what they believe is right and go from there. You’ll be surprised how differently your conversation goes.

Rule # 7: The other team is not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy; don’t confuse the two.

siblings-sticking-out-toungue-at-each-otherRule #7 may seem like it only applies to war or possibly sports, but it applies to business and life as well.  Conflict can arise when goals or methods between people or organizations differ.

People being people, this difference of opinion can rapidly become a conflict that escalates beyond the scale of the actual problem, and a barrier to both individuals or groups getting what they want.  What’s more, conflict between organizations can be a huge emotional drain on both organizations that saps creativity and initiative.

Contrary to the popular myth of the hard charging “corporate warrior” who thrives under conflict, most people don’t want or like it.  Most of us would much rather have calm and happy places to work. What’s more, a perpetual state of conflict takes effort to maintain, and it consumes resources that could be productively spent on furthering the organizational goals.  Imagine the staff time it takes to fight an “ad war” between to rival companies?  It used to be just a matter of coming up with sharp advertisements, but in the age of social media and online reviews managing a reputation against false or misleading information can overwhelm small companies quickly.

The trick is to maintain relations with competitors and peers in what the military calls “Phase 0” (a state of peace or at least peaceful competition).  There will always be conflicting goals, but in general even in the modern marketplace there is plenty of “pie” for everyone.  Starting a “war” with “the other team” turns the “other” into an enemy, and that usually comes from seeing others as enemies rather than as  potential partners.  That’s a reason it’s a good idea for businesses and individuals to participate in professional and civic organizations.

You never know when you’re going to find a friend or teammate.

I touch on this idea in my book, Leading Leaders:

As a young officer, I missed an opportunity because I didn’t recognize a teammate when I saw him. In the early 1990s, the Air Force had adopted Total Quality Management (TQM) as an overarching organizational philosophy. As a result, we began a series of “awareness” classes in TQM theory and practice at each level of command.

During an exercise in my week-long introduction to TQM, we were put into a team and given the task to produce paper airplanes. We spent considerable time developing our internal processes and then called over the “supplier” (our instructor) to negotiate a price for our raw materials. The goal was to spend the least amount of money and produce the most paper airplanes. We quickly developed an adversarial relationship with our “supplier,” who repeatedly stressed that he had plenty of “Grade A” paper for our airplanes. After extracting the best possible deal from our supplier, a deal he assured us he was losing money on, we produced a number of paper airplanes. It was only after the exercise was complete that our “supplier” asked us why we didn’t ask him about the rest of his product line. “Why would we want anything other than ‘Grade A’ paper for our airplanes?” we asked. Then he showed us the “Grade B” paper: sheets of paper already folded in half, and he would’ve sold them to us at half price. That would’ve saved a lot of work! Then he showed us the “Grade C” paper: already completed paper airplanes. These were the least expensive of all, a third of the cost of “Grade A” paper. We had never asked our “supplier” what else he had, nor had we invited him into our team. We had simply treated him as a resource to be exploited.

A teamwork approach could’ve gotten our little paper airplane manufacturing company a “win” against our real competitors (the other manufacturing teams) and saved us both time and money. Lesson learned!

Of course, not everyone is willing to “keep the peace,” and sometimes conflict arises.  Even in times when you are seriously hurt, it’s useful to refrain from thinking in terms of unconditional warfare.  In all but the most extreme circumstances little is gained by crushing the opposition.  In business especially, you’re likely to have to deal with that person/organization again.  Best to avoid turning a temporary opponent into a permanent enemy if possible.  However, when your livelihood or reputation is at stake and the other side is attacking ruthlessly, you have to defend yourself.  But be judicious in the application of power, crushing the opposition utterly will usually only extend the conflict.  Being magnanimous in victory, and gracious in defeat, will open the door to detente and perhaps even future cooperation.

Soldiers understand this principle.  It is only the most fanatical and committed enemy that must be annihilated.  Usually it’s enough to defeat the enemy and let them retire from the field with some dignity.  America’s World War and Cold War foes are friends and two of them are allies because the US extended the hand of friendship after the war.

Keeping the peace, both within and without, ensures our organizational and personal resources are spent furthering our goals, and not just parrying the thrusts of a competitor.


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 and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, Personal Development Magazine, and GeneralLeadership.com.

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #6: Ask The Right Questions

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules, Throwback Thursday

Asking the right questions is usually better than knowing the right answers.There’s an old saying in the Air Force that colonels rarely ask questions to which they don’t already know the answer.  I never really understood that saying until I became a colonel, then the light came on.

Everyone wants to show the colonel how smart they are, and further, few senior people like to be told what to do; they really want the colonel to let them do their thing.  The same is true of VPs and their directors in the private sector.  The skills that got an executive to a senior position aren’t necessarily the skills that make that senior executive successful.

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I’ve found it useful to coach a solution out of a subordinate in most cases than to merely direct a solution.  In fact, many times I’ve regretted giving direction to a problem rather than asking questions because even though it was efficient in problem solving, I ended up wounding the pride of a subordinate leader unnecessarily.  When I’ve used questions to lead a subordinate to a solution, even when I knew in advance where we were probably heading, I’ve been more successful.

The thing is, by the time an officer rises to the rank of colonel, that officer is expected to be a strategic leader not a tactical one.  That means it’s far better to stimulate thought among subordinates than to direct the answer to a specific problem.  It’s easy for any senior leader to know the answers…chances are most have seen it all… it’s much more productive to help subordinates come to the right solution on their own.

At some point we all get a pink slip.  We change jobs, we get transferred, we retire.  If we truly care about the organization we work for, and the people we lead, we’ll make sure the people who replace us are ready for the job and worthy of the responsibility.


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

#TBT Rule #5: The First Report is Usually Wrong

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules

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5. The first report is usually wrong. Be patient and ask questions.

In my military career I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch news bring made, both in Washington and in the field, then watch it being reported on TV. I’ve also meet many reporters, and in my experience they’re trying their best to tell what they see, but it’s also been my experience that the “breaking news” first reports are at best incomplete and at worst completely wrong.  That situation is not confined to journalism.

my military career I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch news bring made, both in Washington and in the field, then watch it being reported on TV.  I’ve also meet many reporters, and in my experience they’re trying their best to tell what they see, but it’s also been my experience that the “breaking news” first reports are at best incomplete and at worst completely wrong.  And that situation is not confined to journalism.

The first reports aren’t usually wrong because the people reporting the news are trying to get it wrong.  The first reports are usually wrong because in fast moving situations it takes an enormous amount of skill and patience to sort through to find out what’s really going on.

Everyone expects a little chaos in an emergency situation, so commanders and first responders learn quickly how to sort “possible” from “probable” and “true” from “false.”

Those same “sorting” skills are useful in any situation when leaders have time-sensitive decisions to make and the information is coming at them in rapid bursts.  Perhaps the hardest thing to do in a scenario like that is to breathe deeply and patiently ask enough questions to determine the veracity of the report.

The reason it’s hard for leaders to be patient is that there is pressure to act now in a crisis.  No matter if it’s a terrorist attack or someone forgot to notify the customer their order is messed up, subordinates and teammates will look to the leader and demand action.  What’s more, leaders often pressure themselves to act, sometimes painting themselves into a corner where action is both inevitable and unwise.

Good leaders resist pressure to act until the time is right for action.  Somewhat counter intuitively, sometimes the best decision is not to act.  But act or not, the leader has people looking at him wanting to know what’s next.

Now, before I go on, there are certainly many instances where some action now is better than the perfect action later.  Combat or an emergency situations are times when it’s important to act immediately rather than later.  It doesn’t mean that those quick actions are rash or uninformed, rather, the soldier and the first responder train to face uncertain and dangerous situations so that they’ve done their “cold consideration” many times over before engaging the enemy or running into the burning building.  But these instances are not the point of Rule #5.

Rather, the purpose of Rule #5 is for those crisis situations where there is a little time to figure out what’s true and what isn’t.  In those situations, the skilled leader takes a deep breath and thinks before he acts or speaks.  The skilled leader is patient while she sorts out where she needs to put her attention.

Last tip: be sure to separate your skepticism of the accuracy of the first report from the truthfulness of the person making the report.  People are usually doing their best.

That requires the leadership maturity to be patient enough to figure out when and how to act.

 

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #4: Can’t Never Gets Anything Done

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules, Throwback Thursday

scan0127My Dad taught me a number of really great sayings, but among the best he ever taught me was “’Can’t’” never gets anything done. Keep it out of your vocabulary.”  Actually, the exact words he used were,  “Can’t” never could do anything.

You see, Dad always believed that if you try hard enough, work hard enough and never give up, you can succeed.  Through his encouragement, I came to believe it, too.

Now neither I nor my father believe that anything is possible. Some things are plainly beyond reach because of limitations in talent, or opportunity, or for some other reason. But history is replete with stories of people who meet with disaster and defeat, but never gave up and ultimately achieved their goals.

Take the story of Thomas Edison.  He failed making the lightbulb over 100 times before he finally succeeded. His quote, that he’d succeeded in finding over 100 ways not to build a lightbulb is fairly well known.  But despite the cliche of “try, try, again” the fact remains that Edison truly believed that electric lights were not only possible, but inevitable. We owe him for a wholesale change in our way of life.

Or how about the story of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner?  Warner went undrafted in 1994, then tried out for the Packers only to be cut before the season began.  He went to work sacking groceries for minimum wage until the next year when he made an Arena football team and played several seasons in that league, and the European league, before being given a shot at the NFL.  He went on to a successful NFL career, winning Super Bowl XXXIV and being named league MVP for the 1999 season.  Warner believed in himself, and worked hard in order to gain success.  I doubt if the word “can’t” is even in his vocabulary.

Growing up, Dad made sure we learned the “never give up lesson”, and it paid off time and time again.  In Little League, I never expected to make the “Majors” my first year in–but I sure did my second year.  When I was relegated to the “Texas” league the second year in a row, I was disappointed.  Dad wouldn’t let me give up, though.  “Hang in there,” he said, “just do your best and it will all work out.” During my first week of practice, it was plain to me that I was much better than most of my teammates.    I worked out with that team for about a week before I got “the call” from a Major League coach!  He told me about my new team, and that it was my attitude that had prompted him to call me up.  Despite having a terrible tryout, despite being out of sight on my Texas league team, I was getting “the call” for my stick-to-it positive attitude.

Now, no one can promise success. Like most, I’ve had my share of failure, but it’s my view that  true success comes as much from now you handle adversity, as how you handle the win.


cropped-20141026_102425.jpgMickey 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 six books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.

Like Mickey’s Rules for Leaders? Buy the Ebook!

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I received so much positive feedback from my “Mickey’s Rules” series, I’ve assembled the entire list into an ebook!

Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverDeveloped over career spanning three decades, in this book I give leaders a “how to” rule book for leading at any level. The eleven rules in the book are excellent guidelines for relating to other people, correctly prioritizing work, and leading teams to high performance. Learn the secrets of leadership from a leader who’s lived it! With Rules like “Don’t Spook the Herd” and “The First Report is Usually Wrong”, this is not your average handbook!

It’s short and accessible for leaders at any level–with some practical examples and a little humor thrown in for good measure.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

#TBT Mickey’s Rule #1: Have a Direction and Go There

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The Sweet Spot
Which Way Are You Going?

Rule #1. Have a direction and know what it is. Go there.

The first rule of leadership is for the leader to know where he or she is going. People look to leaders for inspiration and motivation, but above all, they look to leaders for direction. That’s why it’s so very important for leaders to lead in a defined direction.

Few things are more frustrating than when the person in charge lacks a clear direction. People get bored and restless when they feel like they’re merely biding their time rather than accomplishing something. That restlessness can manifest itself in a number of ways: everything from listless employees who perform poorly, to bored employees who use their time for mischief. Highly motivated employees will feel frustrated at being held back, and will soon move on to greener pastures.

Leaders should take the time to define in their own minds where they want to take the team. This means spending time thinking. It’s very easy for a leader to get mired in the day to day, and forget to look at the horizon. There’s lots of ways to do that strategic thinking: in the morning, in a journal, an off-site, or some other way. The point isn’t the method, it’s the time the leader puts into charting his course. The journey may be important, but a perpetual journey serves no one.

Once a leader has a destination in mind, he must put in the hard work to get his team there. Setting goals are meaningless if the leader is unwilling to lead her team there. Leadership is an active job: to do it right leaders have to be engaged. Getting people and teams to their destinations requires leaders to monitor progress, and make adjustments along the way.

Be an active leader: have the end in mind, then lead your team there.

#TBT Mickey’s Rules

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For years I kept General Colin Powell’s “Rules” on a worn, type-written sheet of paper somewhere on my desk. His Rules had been published in a news magazine article, and I thought they were fabulous, so I typed them up and added a few of my own to the bottom. Over the years, I developed my own “Rules” that gradually replaced “Colin Powell’s Rules” even though that worn piece of paper still adorns my desk.9780679432968.OL.0.m

I’ve found these rules to be very useful to me, and I’ve regretted it every time I’ve violated them. The eleven rules listed below are my guidelines for relating to other people and to my work and reminders about leading my organization.  In the coming weeks, I’ll take each in turn and discuss it.  In the mean time….here they are!

  1. Have a direction and know what it is. Go there.
  2. Don’t spook the herd. Emotional demonstrations are always counter-productive and stifle initiative.
  3. Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.”
  4. “Can’t” never gets anything done. Keep it out of your vocabulary.
  5. The first report is usually wrong. Be patient and ask questions.
  6. Asking the right questions is usually better than knowing the right answers.
  7. The other team is not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy; don’t confuse the two.
  8. Be curious. Ask “Why?” a lot. Keep asking until you understand.
  9. Walk the horses. No one can go full throttle all the time.
  10. Drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.
  11. Check your “moral azimuth”…if you’re doing something that you wouldn’t want posted on the Internet, it’s probably illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Rule #11: Check Your Moral Azimuth

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az·i·muth [az-uh-muhth] noun

1. Astronomy, Navigation . the arc of the horizon measured clockwise from the south point, in astronomy, or from the north point, in navigation, to the point where a vertical circle through a given heavenly body intersects the horizon.

2. Surveying, Gunnery. the angle of horizontal deviation, measured clockwise, of a bearing from a standard direction, as from north or south.

Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English azimut < Middle French ≪ Arabic as sumūt the ways (i.e., directions

It seems a constant to me that people who get themselves into trouble with their families, their workplace, or the law are usually caught living a hidden or double life. Whether it’s the website a husband doesn’t want his wife to know about or the businesswoman fudging on her company expense account, people hide what they know is illicit. We see it all the time in the news: politicians caught doing the very thing they campaigned against, military leaders violating their code of conduct, and seemingly average people living secrets that when exposed resulted in arrest and sometimes horrible crimes. The interesting thing is on the whole people knowwhen they’re doing something wrong. If we’re doing something that we wouldn’t want posted on the company bulletin board, its not likely healthy behavior. Or as my mother used to say, “it’s either illegal, immoral, or fattening.”

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President Ronald Reagan once said that character doesn’t just “happen” at times of crisis, it’s constructed bit by bit by seemingly insignificant decisions. Our character is the compass on which we guide our decisions and our lives. When we have to make decisions, particularly those that involve morals, money, or the mission, we consult our character compass. I call it “checking your moral azimuth”

Of course a compass is of no value unless it points north. So it is with our internal compass. As I wrote in this post, to be useful a compass can’t be self referencing. For those of us in the military, that external orientation is our Core Values and our Oath. For others, the “North Star” is their religious beliefs or political philosophy, or perhaps their professional code of ethics like the ones for physicians or engineers. For companies large and small, that orientation should include personal ethics and the organizational mission. When leading a team, leaders must foster a shared vision and shared code of ethics, because no team can be successful when traveling in multiple directions at once. Not everyone has to pray or vote the same way, but everyone should buy into the same organizational values and goals.

On a personal level, living life with something hidden usually means eventual personal and professional disaster. It was true 30 years ago and in the internet age it’s even more true that secrets don’t stay secret for long. In other words, successful people live an integrated life free from hidden activities. They are the same person on Monday morning they were Saturday night. This sort of consistent approach is a recipe for excellence. Excellence is not only the standard of what we seek to achieve, it is the expectation of those we serve as leaders. We also have the right to expect mission success and high personal standards from each other.

Finally, we have to be on a good azimuth, the right “compass heading,” when making decisions about our jobs or our lives. Having the right direction is important for any person, but it’s crucial for leaders because people will follow us and do what we do. From making decisions on personal finances, to personal risk management, to the discipline to follow that same checklist for the umpteenth time, staying on the correct moral azimuth will ensure we make the right decision.

As much as we try to set a good example, no one can make decisions for another person. Each person must have a well developed enough sense of personal responsibility to make good decisions for himself. It’s the leader’s responsibility to set and maintain a culture of excellence and responsibility, but ultimately we make our own choices.

Whether its navigating the businesses landscape or making a low-level bomb run, checking your compass is an accepted part of our habit pattern. Its just as important to check our moral azimuth…and that’s a skill for success in life.

Rule #10: Drink Your Water, Eat Your Lunch, and Make New Friends

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When my son was very young, he would give me the same advice as I left for work every day: “Goodbye, Daddy, have a good day at work. Be sure to drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.” I always thought his farewell each day was far more insightful than just a small boy’s simple advice. In fact, it’s a great chance to talk about life balance.

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There are many different ways to understand and dissect the topic of life balance. My model consists of 3 main focus areas: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual. Others use Health, Wealth, and Friends, or Work/Life. The US Air Force has an outstanding approach to balancing the demands of work and life in their Comprehensive Airman Fitness Model which takes the familiar Mental, Physical, and Spiritual dimensions and adds a fourth, Social. And of course there’s always the familiar Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

No matter how you slice up the dimensions of the human person, the take away is that humans are multi-dimensional, and therefore leaders should be intentional about engaging the whole person and not just the external part. Each person has a body, mind, and the intangible part of themselves religious people call a soul, and non-religious people often refer to as the human spirit. The point is that every person is more than meets the eye.

Being a leader means trying to find what motivates people, and what fulfills them, then intentionally working to harmonize those very personal needs with the needs of the organization. It’s more than a mere transaction: leaders must recognize that their team is more than their collective job titles. They are people with needs and aspirations of their own, persons who have come together to do a job for their own reasons that may or may not be because they’re drawing a paycheck.

The companies consistently rated best to work for seem to get that idea. They provide benefits that let the employees know they’re valued beyond their contribution, but also valued as persons too. There’s plenty of examples with Google and Southwest Airlines often at the top of the list. In each case the employees at those top rated companies like their work and their environment first; the benefits are simply the externals. The companies that treat their employees as whole persons, with more than a single dimension, are the ones who get the most engaged employees at work in return.

So the next time you look out over your team, stop for a minute and remember the words of my then four year old son: drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.

Living life balance as a leader is challenging. There are a lot of demands on a person’s time when they’re in charge, but finding time to feed all aspects of your body and soul is a key to any successful life. Anyone can put their head down and power through life; it takes a mature leader to understand that how you live is equally important to what you accomplish.

Rule #9: Walk The Horses

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Rule #9: Walk The Horses

she_wore_a_yellow_ribbon_frame_20100308154326

There’s a great scene in the 1949 John Ford film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon that contains a lesson in leadership.  You guessed it: they were walking their horses.

What does “walking horses” have to do with leadership?  Just this: leaders can and must try to get the best out of their people, but no one can go at a gallop all the time.  The savvy leader needs to know when to gallop, when to trot, and when to get off and walk.

Back when I first joined the Air Force, leaders extolled the virtue of working the long hours.  The guy who was at work the longest was considered the “workhorse” and admired for his dedication.  We all bragged about how little sleep we got and how poorly we ate.  That sort of pace can’t last forever, however.  Lack of sleep, long hours, and bad food are a recipe for burnout rather than achievement.  Thankfully, the culture has changed a bit and today’s leaders understand the benefits of managing the workload.

That’s where Captain Nathan Brittles, United States Cavalry, comes in.  It was standard procedure on long patrols for the cavalry to get off and walk the horses a bit.  It allowed the troopers to stretch their legs a bit, and gave the horses a break by taking 200 pounds off their backs.  Having enough energy left in the tank (so to speak) meant that when the troop needed to hop on and gallop, horses and riders were ready. If the horses run too far or too long, they will be too exhausted when it comes time to sprint to the rescue of the wagon train.

The experienced leader works with his/her team to develop a “battle rhythm”, a normal pace of business.  Every business process/operation has a natural ebb and flow, with periods of “surge” where there’s maximum effort (“gallop”) and periods with much less demand on their personal/organizational resources.  One officer I worked with went so far as to map out a 90 day period and code days as “red” (high tempo), “green” (medium/normal tempo), and “blue” (slow tempo) so he could plan ahead for things like employees’ vacation planning and training schedules.  As an executive, I’ve made it a practice to look for opportunities to encourage employees when to plan their leave/vacation, and when I had to plan for everyone to be working long hours.

Part of good strategic planning is developing and tracking the pace of operations.  Make time in that plan to walk the horses.

Rule #8: ”Be Curious; Ask ‘Why?’ A Lot. Keep Asking Until You Understand”

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Successful leaders are curious about their business and the people who work for/with them.  This sort of curiosity is an imperative for a leader because he/she has to both accomplish the task at hand and the “care/feeding” of the team.  To put it more succinctly, the leader needs to know what’s going on.
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There’s a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where alien general Sarris (Robin Tobin) is interrogating the human starship captain/actor Commander Peter Taggart/Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) that is illustrative of this principle.  Sarris asks Commander Taggart/Nesmith repeatedly about the workings of a particular artifact on board the ship, and is incredulous when “the commander” says he doesn’t know.  “A captain knows every weld, every rivet in his ship,” says Sarris.

None of us is very likely to be matching wits with an alien general, but the point for us is that the “commander” needs to understand how the organization works down to the “rivets and bolts.”  This means understanding who does what to whom, the stakeholders, customers, and teammates who produce whatever it is the organization produces.

The leader does this for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s not possible to diagnose problems if the leader doesn’t  know how the process works.  Without that sort of detailed knowledge, it might not even be possible to know if there’s even a problem!  There’s certainly not much hope for making process improvements. Second, it’s much harder to look after the people if the leader didn’t understand the details of the organization and process.  A curious leader who knows their people will know when there’s something amiss with an employee.  They’ll notice when production drops off before it becomes a crisis.

There are some barriers to a curious leader, however.

The first barrier is the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality.  This mentality positively breeds a lack curiosity.  Everyone is comfortable, no one attempts to improve things, no one notices inefficiency or wasted effort.  “This is how we’ve sideways done it” is a recipe for organizational extinction.

The second barrier pertains mostly to senior executives and occurs when the staff and direct reports protect the executive from bad news.  If the executive isn’t sufficiently curious to seek out bad news, or to go and see the operation for themselves, he/she can be blindsided with catastrophic news.  As the saying goes, ”bad news doesn’t get better with age.”

Perhaps the best reason for a leader to be curious is the effect it has on the team. If the leader is curious and engaged, asking “why ” a lot, that behavior will become party of the  organizational culture. It will generate engaged employees, it will foster a culture of continuous improvement, and it will create an environment that improves everyone’s job satisfaction.  “Curiosity” is one of the best ways to ensure  organizational success.

Rule # 7: The Other Team Is Not The Enemy

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Rule # 7: The other team is not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy; don’t confuse the two.

siblings-sticking-out-toungue-at-each-otherRule #7 may seem like it only applies to war or possibly sports, but it applies to business and life as well.  Conflict can arise when goals or methods between people or organizations differ.  People being people, this difference of opinion can rapidly become a conflict that escalates beyond the scale of the actual problem, and a barrier to both individuals or groups getting what they want.  What’s more, conflict between organizations can be a huge emotional drain on both organizations that saps creativity and initiative.

Contrary to the popular myth of the hard charging “corporate warrior” who thrives under conflict, most people don’t want or like it.  Most of us would much rather have calm and happy places to work, A perpetual state of conflict takes effort to maintain, and it consumes resources that could be productively spent on furthering the organizational goals.  Imagine the staff time it takes to fight an “ad war” between to rival companies?  It used to be just a matter of coming up with sharp advertisements, but in the age of social media and online reviews managing a reputation against false or misleading information can overwhelm small companies quickly.

The trick is to maintain relations with competitors and peers in what the military calls “Phase 0” (a state of peace or at least peaceful competition).  There will always be conflicting goals, but in general even in the modern marketplace there is plenty of “pie” for everyone.  Starting a “war” with “the other team” turns the “other” into an enemy, and that usually comes from seeing others as enemies rather than as  potential partners.  That’s a reason it’s a good idea for businesses and individuals to participate in professional and civic organizations.

You never know when you’re going to find a friend or teammate.

I touch on this idea in my book, Leading Leaders:

As a young officer, I missed an opportunity because I didn’t recognize a teammate when I saw him. In the early 1990s, the Air Force had adopted Total Quality Management (TQM) as an overarching organizational philosophy. As a result, we began a series of “awareness” classes in TQM theory and practice at each level of command.

During an exercise in my week-long introduction to TQM, we were put into a team and given the task to produce paper airplanes. We spent considerable time developing our internal processes and then called over the “supplier” (our instructor) to negotiate a price for our raw materials. The goal was to spend the least amount of money and produce the most paper airplanes. We quickly developed an adversarial relationship with our “supplier,” who repeatedly stressed that he had plenty of “Grade A” paper for our airplanes. After extracting the best possible deal from our supplier, a deal he assured us he was losing money on, we produced a number of paper airplanes. It was only after the exercise was complete that our “supplier” asked us why we didn’t ask him about the rest of his product line. “Why would we want anything other than ‘Grade A’ paper for our airplanes?” we asked. Then he showed us the “Grade B” paper: sheets of paper already folded in half, and he would’ve sold them to us at half price. That would’ve saved a lot of work! Then he showed us the “Grade C” paper: already completed paper airplanes. These were the least expensive of all, a third of the cost of “Grade A” paper. We had never asked our “supplier” what else he had, nor had we invited him into our team. We had simply treated him as a resource to be exploited.

A teamwork approach could’ve gotten our little paper airplane manufacturing company a “win” against our real competitors (the other manufacturing teams) and saved us both time and money. Lesson learned!

Of course, not everyone is willing to “keep the peace,” and sometimes conflict arises.  Even in times when you are seriously hurt, it’s useful to refrain from thinking in terms of unconditional warfare.  In all but the most extreme circumstances little is gained by crushing the opposition.  In business especially, you’re likely to have to deal with that person/organization again.  Best to avoid turning a temporary opponent into a permanent enemy if possible.  However, when your livelihood or reputation is at stake and the other side is attacking ruthlessly, you have to defend yourself.  But be judicious in the application of power, crushing the opposition utterly will usually only extend the conflict.  Being magnanimous in victory, and gracious in defeat, will open the door to detente and perhaps even future cooperation.

Soldiers understand this principle.  It is only the most fanatical and committed enemy that must be annihilated.  Usually it’s enough to defeat the enemy and let them retire from the field with some dignity.  America’s World War and Cold War foes are friends and two of them are allies because the US extended the hand of friendship after the war.

Keeping the peace, both within and without, ensures our organizational and personal resources are spent furthering our goals, and not parrying the thrusts of a competitor.

Rule #6: Asking The Right Questions Is Better Than Knowing The Answer

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6. Asking the right questions is usually better than knowing the right answers.

There’s an old saying in the Air Force that colonels rarely ask questions to which they don’t already know the answer.  I never really understood that saying until I became a colonel, then the light came on.

Everyone wants to show the colonel how smart they are, and further, few senior people like to be told what to do; they really want the colonel to let them do their thing.  The same is true of VPs and their directors in the private sector.  The skills that got an executive to a senior position aren’t necessarily the skills that make that senior executive successful.

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I’ve found it useful to coach a solution out of a subordinate in most cases than to merely direct a solution.  In fact, many times I’ve regretted giving direction to a problem rather than asking questions because even though it was efficient in problem solving, I ended up wounding the pride of a subordinate leader unnecessarily.  When I’ve used questions to lead a subordinate to a solution, even when I knew in advance where we were probably heading, I’ve been more successful.

The thing is, by the time an officer rises to the rank of colonel, that officer is expected to be a strategic leader not a tactical one.  That means it’s far better to stimulate thought among subordinates than to direct the answer to a specific problem.  It’s easy for any senior leader to know the answers…chances are most have seen it all… it’s much more productive to help subordinates come to the right solution on their own.

At some point we all get a pink slip.  We change jobs, we get transferred, we retire.  If we truly care about the organization we work for, and the people we lead, we’ll make sure the people who replace us are ready for the job and worthy of the responsibility.

Rule #5: The First Report Is Usually Wrong

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wpid-Breaking_News.jpg5. The first report is usually wrong. Be patient and ask questions.

 

In my military career I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch news bring made, both in Washington and in the field, then watch it being reported on TV. I’ve also meet many reporters, and in my experience they’re trying their best to tell what they see, but it’s also been my experience that the “breaking news” first reports are at best incomplete and at worst completely wrong.  That situation is not confined to journalism.

The first reports aren’t usually wrong because the people reporting the news are trying to get it wrong.  The first reports are usually wrong because in fast moving situations it takes an enormous amount of skill and patience to sort through to find out what’s really going on.

Everyone expects a little chaos in an emergency situation, so commanders and first responders learn quickly how to sort “possible” from “probable” and “true” from “false.”

Those same “sorting” skills are useful in any situation when leaders have time-sensitive decisions to make and the information is coming at them in rapid bursts.  Perhaps the hardest thing to do in a scenario like that is to breathe deeply and patiently ask enough questions to determine the veracity of the report.

The reason it’s hard for leaders to be patient is that there is pressure to act now in a crisis.  No matter if it’s a terrorist attack or someone forgot to notify the customer their order is messed up, subordinates and teammates will look to the leader and demand action.  What’s more, leaders often pressure themselves to act, sometimes painting themselves into a corner where action is both inevitable and unwise.

Good leaders resist pressure to act until the time is right for action.  Somewhat counter intuitively, sometimes the best decision is not to act.  But act or not, the leader has people looking at him wanting to know what’s next.

Now, before I go on, there are certainly many instances where some action now is better than the perfect action later.  Combat or an emergency situations are times when it’s important to act immediately rather than later.  It doesn’t mean that those quick actions are rash or uninformed, rather, the soldier and the first responder train to face uncertain and dangerous situations so that they’ve done their “cold consideration” many times over before engaging the enemy or running into the burning building.  But these instances are not the point of Rule #5.

Rather, the purpose of Rule #5 is for those crisis situations where there is a little time to figure out what’s true and what isn’t.  In those situations, the skilled leader takes a deep breath and thinks before he acts or speaks.  The skilled leader is patient while she sorts out where she needs to put her attention.

Last tip: be sure to separate your skepticism of the accuracy of the first report from the truthfulness of the person making the report.  People are usually doing their best.

That requires the leadership maturity to be patient enough to figure out when and how to act.

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Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Rule #4: “’Can’t’ Never Gets Anything Done”

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My Dad taught me a number of really great sayings, but among the best he ever taught me was “’Can’t’” never gets anything done. Keep it out of your vocabulary.”  Actually, the exact words he used were,  “Can’t” never could do anything.

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You see, Dad always believed that if you try hard enough, work hard enough and never give up, you can succeed.  Through his encouragement, I came to believe it, too.

Now neither I nor my father believe that anything is possible. Some things are plainly beyond reach because of limitations in talent, or opportunity, or for some other reason.  But history is replete with stories of people who meet with disaster and defeat, but never gave up and ultimately achieved their goals.

Take the story of Thomas Edison.  He failed making the lightbulb over 100 times before he finally succeeded. His quote, that he’d succeeded in finding over 100 ways not to build a lightbulb is fairly well known.  But despite the cliche of “try, try, again” the fact remains that Edison truly believed that electric lights were not only possible, but inevitable. We owe him for a wholesale change in our way of life.

Or how about the story of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner?  Warner went undrafted in 1994, then tried out for the Packers only to be cut before the season began.  He went to work sacking groceries for minimum wage until the next year when he made an Arena football team and played several seasons in that league, and the European league, before being given a shot at the NFL.  He went on to a successful NFL career, winning Super Bowl XXXIV and being named league MVP for the 1999 season.  Warner believed in himself, and worked hard in order to gain success.  I doubt if the word “can’t” is even in his vocabulary.

Growing up, Dad made sure we learned the “never give up lesson”, and it paid off time and time again.  In Little League, I never expected to make the “Majors” my first year in…but I sure did my second year.  When I was relegated to the “Texas” league the second year in a row, I was disappointed.  Dad wouldn’t let me give up, though.  “Hang in there,” he said, “just do your best and it will all work out.” During my first week of practice, it was plain to me that I was much better than most of my teammates.    I worked out with that team for about a week before I got “the call” from a Major League coach!  He told me about my new team, and that it was my attitude that had prompted him to call me up.  Despite having a terrible tryout, despite being out of sight on my Texas league team, I was getting “the call” for my stick-to-it positive attitude.

Now, no one can promise success. Like most, I’ve had my share of failure, but it’s my view that  true success comes as much from now you handle adversity, as how you handle the win.