Your First 100 Days – Achieving Your Goals

Posted 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.

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

Posted 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!

 

Overcoming Barriers to Change

Posted 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!

 

Good Feedback Gets High Performance

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

scan0032I missed the block. The defensive end was my guy to block and I missed him, so our quarterback, Louis, ended up on his back. Again. I felt terrible—we were already struggling and now I’d made a mistake that cost us another 10 yards and Louis some undeserved bruises. Finally, I couldn’t hold it back any more, and in the huddle I told everyone that I’d missed the block and that it was my fault. At that point, Tony, our halfback stepped out of the huddle and pointed at the field and gave me some direct feedback, “Mickey, look where we are! Tell me again this is your fault!”

What he meant, of course, was that our inability to move the ball that night was not any one man’s fault—our failure was a team effort. His feedback was direct and honest, and aimed at helping me get over myself and get back to work. It’s a simple example, but it illustrates the point that high performing teams are honest with each other.

Leaders Demand Honest Feedback

Providing—and receiving—good feedback is vital to the performance of any team. Without honest and direct feedback no one gets any better, and everyone remains in their mediocrity believing whatever they want since there’s no voice outside to counter the voice inside. Leaders especially need to make certain we’re both giving and receiving honest feedback. It’s far too easy to “go along to get along” and never improve. High performance requires a good feedback system.

Everyone understands this need for good feedback, even if they don’t want to deliver it or hear it themselves. When we hire a golf instructor or take an art class or learn a musical instrument we ask the teacher/coach to push us to higher performance. In business it’s the same. Why else do we hire coaches and outside experts come into our companies? We hire them to tell us where we’re going wrong and what to do to fix it! Imagine how much more effective those coaches would be if we started from a culture of solid, honest self-assessment?

You’re Doing Fine!

Whenever I’m on the receiving end of feedback where I’m told I don’t need to change anything, I work hard to seek out something I’m doing wrong. I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes and have blind spots like anyone else. That sort of “you’re doing fine feedback” may feel good to deliver, but it doesn’t help anyone. Passing on the opportunity to critically examine my performance is just wasting time.

How Feedback is Done

OK, so now I’ve convinced you to give good feedback, let me show you how to do it right. A good feedback system should:

  • Enable leaders and team members to work together to improve performance
  • Guide professional and even personal development
  • Build trust

That’s a tall order, but these six companies are already breaking new ground by building just such a system. Big companies like General Electric and Cargill demonstrate they understand these principles and their employees are responding. Even the US Air Force is re-vamping their feedback system in order to eliminate the “Firewall 5” ratings and let the real high performers rise to the top. Here’s the tactics to reaching those goals and leading your teams to high performance:

  • Carefully explain your expectations and standards to your team well in advance
  • Give feedback more than once a year, and at least at the mid-term
  • Measure performance against those standards
  • Spend time preparing for the feedback session—review records, emails, etc.
  • Have concrete examples on how the ratee can improve
  • Make suggestions for professional advancement and development
  • Ask for feedback from your ratee—and listen!
  • Be kind!

Give Good Feedback, Get High Performance

Champion athletes and CEOs have one thing in common: they seek and give good feedback. If you want your team to reach high levels of performance, then build a culture where honest feedback is a core value. An honest and consistent feedback system will improve performance because it reduces mistakes and miscommunication. Leaders who show a genuine interest in the professional and personal development of their teams generate good morale, and accomplished teams. All of that build trust—and leads to high performance.


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 blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

 

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

 

Dynamic Dozen: Step Up and Step Out

Posted Posted in GeneralLeadership.com

Maj Dick Winters sought out and accepted responsibility

Looking for leadership opportunities–and accepting responsibility–is a crucial ingredient to any leader’s character.

The colonel looked at four squadron commanders and said, “The general will be inspecting the facility tomorrow, everything needs to be perfect.” Three of the assembled commanders looked at their feet, while the fourth simply smiled and said, “Sir, I got this. Leave it to us and we’ll take care of it.” In this particular case, it wasn’t even in that squadron commander’s assigned mission set, but as he said later, “It’s no sweat, Sir. The job needed to be done and I knew we could do it.” That sort of “can-do” attitude is the essence of this month’s Dynamic Dozen post: leaders seek out responsibility.

Look for Opportunities to Lead

People drawn to leadership roles are usually given the mantle of leadership because they seek out responsibility. Perhaps they believe they have a better idea, or are uniquely qualified to solve a problem, or are the one who cares for the people in their charge the most. Whatever the reason, the kind of person who seeks responsibility is the same kind of person who wants to lead. It’s the attitude that drives entrepreneurs, and it’s the attitude that enables people to effect change in large organizations.

“I may not have been the best combat commander, but I always strove to be. My men depended on me to carefully analyze every tactical situation, to maximize the resources that I had at my disposal, to think under pressure, and then to lead them by personal example.” -Dick Winters (1/506 Airborne Infantry Regiment, WWII)

Rewarding “can-do” behavior is important for leaders at all levels. We want to encourage others to grow and we want to ensure we’re not the only ones thinking and acting on the team. If a leader makes himself a single point of failure, the results will be predictably bad. Only by setting the example of seeking out responsibility, and encouraging that same skill in those we lead, can we expect our teams to excel in the face of adversity. Believe me, whether you’re facing bullets or board rooms you want to be part of a team with the same “can do” ethic as you have if you expect to come out on top!

Work Your Boss’ Boss’ Priorities

One of the best ways to seek out responsibility, and be successful in the process, is to work your boss’ boss’ priorities. Your boss is trying to be responsive her boss’ priorities; by figuratively putting yourself in your boss’ place you can more clearly see what you need to be doing. Taking your boss’ view of things is important because it enables you to understand where she’s trying to take the unit and what might be influencing her thoughts, and because it helps you grow as a leader. You’ll never be in all the meetings your boss is in, but striving to understand the environment helps you translate your boss’ instructions to your team much better. This principle is the reason military leaders spend so much time on commander’s intent. If tactical leaders understand the strategic environment, they’ll be able to make independent decisions congruent with the overall goals.

There is, of course, a wholly selfish reason to work your boss’ boss’ priorities: it makes them look good and a happy boss makes for a happy workplace. I remember the sage advice from a senior Chief Master Sergeant when I became frustrated over the direction my commander gave me, “Sir, the pay’s the same!” What he was telling me–albeit a bit tongue in cheek–is that the commander was in charge and I wasn’t. He wasn’t asking me to violate the law or my conscience, my commander had merely issued an unpopular order. The lesson is: unless someone asks us to do something illegal or immoral, then our job as leaders is to execute as if the idea were our own. More than once I learned later there were things were not as I believed them to be, and that “stupid” direction to do something wasn’t so “stupid” after all!

Success Means Responsibility

Seek out responsibility and work your boss’ boss’ priorities–sure ways to succeed as a leader!

Originally posted at GeneralLeadership.com


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 blogs.

Dad’s Sage Advice for Sophomores

Posted Posted in Advice Column

keep-calm-and-sophomore-onMy annual advice for new college students is really focused at freshmen, but you sophomores need advice, too. In fact, if my own personal experience is any measure, sophomores need it more.

You’re Experienced, but You’re Not an Expert.

Returning to college this fall will feel familiar. You know the locations of your classrooms, you have established friendships, you even know which dining hall lines have the best food. Despite all this experience, you’re not a collegiate expert yet. It’s very easy to get distracted and make costly mistakes. One bad semester can create years of work rebuilding a reputation and a GPA. Don’t get cocky, maintain the edge you had during your freshman year.

Set a Good Example.

Remember your first day of class as a freshman? Well, that’s happening to somebody else now, and guess what: they’re looking at you to see what to do! Set a good example for the new guys–be respectful of the campus and others, don’t lord your new status over the new guys, and be the kind of upperclassman you wanted to see when you were new.

Help a Freshman.

Remember that nice sophomore girl who showed you the way to the classroom in the cryptically numbered building? Or the nice guy who helped you pick up your stuff when they piled into a heap in the bookstore line? Or maybe the helpful clerk at the bursar’s office who waited patiently while you filled out the correct form this time? Be that person, pay it forward.

The Coursework Gets Harder–This Is the Weed-out Year.

Freshman year, at least for me, was more like a repeat of my senior year in high school than a first year in college. It’s intended to ease the new student into college-level work, as well as encourage the new student she can achieve at the next level. It doesn’t mean the work isn’t demanding, but freshmen work at a basic level. That was then, this is now. Sophomore courses are intended to remind the student that this is college. It’s serious. Nothing to be afraid of, you can do it, but recognize you’re now working at the next level.

Build and Maintain a Network of Friends.

As I’ve said before—college, well, life for that matter, is a team sport. Up until now, anyone could be academically successful by locking themselves in their room, doing their homework, and passing tests. That won’t work any more. Your success in academia and in life depends on both your skills and your network. Figure out how you can help others, and never pass up an opportunity to expand your circle of friends.

Commit to Your Faith.

Now you’re living off campus, things that used to be very easy–like practicing your faith, working out, grocery shopping–will require planning and effort. As an adult now, make a commitment to your faith: with time and with heart. That commitment should include being involved in your parish and including both pastor and peers in your network.

Don’t Hesitate to Bail–There’s Always Summer School.

You have three or four more years, including summer terms, to sort out your degree plan. It’s good to have a plan (you do have a plan, right?), but a degree plan is not a suicide pact. If the prof is a screwball, or if the course isn’t what you thought it was, if the class is full of smelly people—whatever–don’t hesitate drop the class. You can always take it in summer term—from the graduate teaching assistant. You know, the cute one.

Don’t Worry, You Can Do It.

Your sophomore year will be a great year, full of challenge and maybe even a little fear. You will do great–know why? Because you made it into college in the first place, and you made it through your freshman year. Don’t worry, kiddo, you can do it!


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 blogs.

Throwback Thursday: What 100 Miles Taught Me

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership, Throwback Thursday

In 2013, I completed a personal goal of riding in the Honolulu Century Ride, 100 miles through the beautiful Hawaiian countryside and back to Honolulu. It’s a great lesson in goal setting.

In 2013, I accomplished a personal goal by completing a “century” bicycle ride.  On hundred miles in six and a half hours flat on a bicycle took commitment to a training schedule, some acquired knowledge on endurance nutrition, and not a small amount of determination to finish.

Besides the “ordinary” preparation of putting lots of miles on my bike, I also had to learn the art of setting intermediate goals.  Just gotta make it up Heartbreak Hill, I thought at the beginning, then Makapuu, then Kailua, then the Mike’s Kiawe Chicken stand, then Kualoa Ranch, then the turn around at Swanzy Beach Park…. then the whole thing in reverse.  I never focused on the odometer, only on the next goal because I knew that if I stuck to my plan I’d make it back to Kapiolani Park in Waikiki and complete the “century.”

It’s rare, I think, to accomplish any big goal without checking off intermediate goals first.  Breaking difficult and complex tasks down into a series of steps is a good way to cope with big projects.  Sometimes biting off the entire thing can be overwhelming, intermediate steps make the big project manageable.


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 blogs.

How to Build Shared Purpose in Your Team

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading Leaders

09.28.2014 (1)“Shared Purpose” is shorthand for getting people connected to the mission of an organization. The most effective leaders are able to build a collective sense of shared purpose and connect each individual to the mission of the larger team. In fact, the teams who think and work together with a sense of shared purpose are the happiest, and the most successful. When leaders keep the welfare and engagement of their teams in the forefront of their decisions, they enable those teams to connect to the mission of the organization. That connection leads to a sense of mission and shared purpose–both keys to high performance.

When Leaders Serve, Teams Connect

In contrast to the Industrial Age, Information Age leaders have to pay attention to the needs of individuals. Those leaders who do, will be giving the individuals in their teams a sense of shared purpose. During the Industrial Revolution, management specialists de-emphasized the needs and variations of individuals in an effort to standardize the product. While standardization and mass-production enabled large scale availability of consumer goods, it often produced, ahem, sub-optimal results in employee morale and even safety. In fact, when we form a caricature of a soul crushing work environment, an industrial age factory or office comes to mind. Thankfully, we’ve learned a few things since the 1940s.

Today’s corporate leaders understand the need to develop their people, facilitate their engagement, and the need for individuals to contribute meaningfully. Good leaders care about their people and give their teams a shared purpose and mission. Companies who repeatedly score highly on “Best Companies to Work For” lists take these principles seriously. In my book, Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, I talked about companies who do this successfully. The data is a little old, but their names will be familiar:

For example, according to CNN Money Magazine, the top three companies to work for in 2012 were Google, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and SAS Institute. Employees at all three companies reported they felt valued by leadership, their work was meaningful, their pay was good, and that the workplace was a fun place to work. Google’s success as an organization is legendary: good pay, self-paced work, and plenty of free food. BCG has a focus on work–life balance, including requiring their employees to take time off, which demonstrates they value their employees’ well being as much as they value their productivity. SAS has a number of programs emphasizing the value of their employees’ well-being, including subsidized Montessori childcare, intramural sports leagues, and unlimited sick time. All three of these companies value their employees and prove that through their HR policies. What’s more, the leaders themselves model the behavior they require of their employees.

In addition to the work environment, 21st Century corporate leaders are getting a renewed sense that their place in the community also requires them to be involved in the common good. More than sponsoring community events, companies who value their contributions to the community are engaged in community service work as a company, and also encourage their employees to engage in individual volunteerism. In this way, corporate leaders help their people connect to the community as individuals and send the message that the company cares about the community as well.

Inspire and Connect

Corporate leaders can be just as successful as military leaders by inspiring and connecting their employees to something larger than just a paycheck. Leaders should demonstrate they care about the people they lead–and understand that leadership is a call to service rather than a mantle of success. No matter whether a company is for-profit or nonprofit, there is a purpose for the company to exist: it performs a service or produces a product people need. If there wasn’t a need, there would be no company. Leaders are responsible for helping their people see that they’re not simply creating paper or making a widget–they’re enabling others and filling a need in others’ lives. SpaceX is an excellent example: they’re going to Mars! Not every company is trying to revolutionize space travel and colonize another planet, but every company produces value or they won’t be in business for long!

Here’s the key: leaders help the employees see the value of the work they’re performing beyond the paycheck they receive each week. If leaders do that, if they truly inspire their teams and connect them to the larger mission and the community they serve, their teams will strive and reach high performance. What’s better, they’ll get there will enough gas in the tank to go farther, and they’ll enjoy the journey as well.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He 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 of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating TeamsMickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Dynamic Dozen: Build Networks of Leaders

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com

Dear General McClellan, if you’re not going to use the army, may I borrow it for a while?

~ Abraham Lincoln

thunderbirds USAFThe squadron was broken and the commander was the reason. He empowered no one, made all the decisions himself, and insisted on controlling even the most minute details in everything we did. By any measure, the commander was what we call a “single point of failure.”

The result of this sort of leadership was predictable: people simply refused to take responsibility for anything. Knowing he would likely countermand their orders–or worse, berate them for making a decision in the first place–the commander’s direct reports pushed all their decisions to him. Mid-level and first line leaders couldn’t understand why their bosses wouldn’t make a decision. Eventually, the business of the squadron ground to a halt. Even the simplest decisions seemed impossible to make, no one took any initiative, and morale was very low. Finally, that commander was relieved of his command for misconduct, and that came as no surprise to anyone in the squadron. We all saw it coming.

The Principle of “Leaders Lead”

In my book, Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, I outline my leadership principle of “Leaders Lead.” Unlike my wayward squadron commander, good leaders cultivate and grow leaders around them. When I meet my staff for the first time, I emphasize how important it is for everyone to exercise the authority I give them. There’s two practical reasons for this: efficiency and growth. First of all, senior leaders’ time is very valuable, and if it is consumed making decisions for others, then that colonel or CEO is not doing their job. We need our senior leaders focused on the strategy not tactics. Empowering our teams to make decisions opens the aperture so those senior leaders can see pitfalls and opportunities much sooner. The second reason to push decision making out and down is to grow new leaders. In the military, we’re always training someone else to do our job. Military people change jobs often–we get promoted and we move–so there’s also the need for redundancy should there be casualties. In business, people may be reluctant to train others to do what they do for fear of losing their job to their trainee. However, good leaders know even in business no one has a lifetime contract. Furthermore, people get sick or have to travel. Building redundancy into the organization ensures we can continue to operate when someone is away from their desk, and we can eventually grow new leaders. Many a professional network is expanded through developing leaders, even if they move on to other firms.

Networks Are More Agile Than Hierarchies

Perhaps there was a time in the past when leaders could afford the time to centralize all the decision making, but the 21st century requires far more agility than that. In the military, we expect our cohort of junior leaders to understand the commander’s intent and make dozens of parallel decisions aimed at achieving that mission. Business in the Information Age must operate with the same agility. Time to Market (TTM) cycles are shrinking as new technology and new sources enter the manufacturing sector. In the tech sector, TTM can be mere weeks or days from idea to offering. Companies who use networks like those described in Gen Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams  will always be ahead of those that demand adherence to hierarchy. When the C-suite execs all the way to front line leaders empower their teams to make decisions and execute, the company can be very agile and has a much greater chance of success. This is exactly the way America’s military fights and the reason we’ve been so successful. Senior leaders give broad guidance, junior leaders dissect specified and implied tasks, then execute in concert with units around and supporting them. This system creates a network where we can rapidly respond to dynamic conditions and bring maximum force to bear at critical points. Centralized control is very slow and extremely unresponsive. From blitzkrieg during WWII to the destruction of the Iraqi Army in 1990 and 2003—highly centralized control is no match for a network operating in three dimensions. The lesson for all leaders in those military examples is if you demand centralized control you will never be able to respond fast enough to be first.

Grow Your Own and Be Agile

When leaders at all levels push out authority and empower others to make decisions, the entire organization benefits. In the military that means accomplishing our mission–in business that means a healthier bottom line.

Originally posted at GeneralLeadership.com


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 blogs.

Be Balanced

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

 

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I believe that being successful means having a balance [in] life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.

– Zig Ziglar

 

 

When my son was very young, he would give me the same advice as I left for work each day: “Goodbye, Daddy, have a good day at work. Be sure to drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.” Without realizing it, my son was encouraging me to live a balanced life. 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 way to think about life balance.

My own model for thinking about the complexity of the average human is Mind, Body, and Spirit. No matter how you model the facets of the human person, the takeaway is that humans are multi-dimensional. Therefore, we all should be deliberate about developing our whole person and not just one aspect. Each person has a body, mind, and the intangible part of themselves called a soul or human spirit. There is more to every person than meets the eye.

Body-Mind-Spirit
Mickey’s Model of the Human Person

Being a well rounded person means trying to determine what motivates and fulfills you, and then intentionally working to harmonize those very personal needs with the needs of your family, team, or workplace. It’s more than a mere transaction; leaders must recognize that their team is more than names on an organizational chart. Each is a person with needs and aspirations of their own, who have come together to do a job for their own reasons. As individuals, we need to understand our personal engagement with those around us is just as important as our self-awareness.

The companies consistently rated ‘best to work for’ seem to understand that idea. Those companies provide benefits that let the employees know they are valued for more than just their contribution to the bottom line, but also valued as people. In each case, the employees at the top rated companies enjoy their work environment; the benefits provided are a bonus. The companies that treat their employees as whole persons, with more than a single dimension, are the ones who get the most engaged and involved employees, in return.

Living life balance is challenging. There are a lot of demands on a person’s time: work, family, friends, hobbies, etc., and finding time to feed all aspects of the body and soul is key to any successful life. Anyone can put their head down and power through life, however, it takes a mature person to understand that how you live is equally important as what you accomplish. Keeping our lives in balance and living an integrated life is important to everyone. The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, 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.”

The above is an edited excerpt from my book The 5 Be’s for Starting Out, available at Lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many other retailers.

 

Be Free – Part II

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, The Five Be's

Moby_1In Part I, I put forth the idea that “freedom” is not simply doing whatever we want, but doing what’s good and in a way that builds ourselves and others up. To illustrate, we will look at traffic controls which are tools such as traffic signals, signage, speed limits, and pavement markings. Traffic controls restrict the flow of vehicular traffic on roads and highways to comply with specific safety rules and guidelines. A superficial look at traffic controls would imply that traffic controls restrict a driver’s freedom, but the opposite is actually the case.  Imagine how dangerous roads would be without speed limits, signage or lane markings.

What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay.

– Moby, musician-songwriter

The opposite of freedom is not “just” confinement or restriction. As we will discuss in the next section, Aristotle’s philosophy of the Golden Mean, is that virtue lies in the middle between the extremes of vice.However, with appropriate traffic controls, we have the freedom to safely travel wherever we like. We can feel safe travelling at high speeds on the highway since we know that our fellow motorists will also be following the guidelines ensuring safe travel for all. Appropriate behavioral controls permit us to remain free, and in this case unharmed.

Therefore, on one end of the “freedom continuum” lies slavery, and on the other lies license. Just as slavery is the abuse of freedom to hold another unjustly bound, license likewise is an abuse of freedom since it binds our own will to our appetites or passions. The newspaper is brimming with stories of people who abused their own freedom either through the self-abuse or by allowing others to abuse them. “Excessive freedom” is as much a problem as a complete lack of freedom, and in fact ends up in the same place: slavery. On the ends of the “freedom continuum” is slavery to others and slavery to appetites – both are self-destructive.

As a military officer, I often remind my Airmen that the Air Force doesn’t set standards of behavior to hinder their freedom (i.e., regulations). Rather, we set standards of behavior to keep them safe and healthy, ready to accomplish our mission – to have the defense of our countrymen in our hands is a serious responsibility.

When Airmen violate these standards, leaders must do their duty and hold them accountable – this is justice. Furthermore, being held accountable is actually good for morale. The consequences for violating military standards range from minor to severe, depending on the seriousness of the offense, and always entails some sort of penalty such as a fine, extra duty, or demotion of rank. When others see an offender receive their just deserts for violating the rules or the law, it reinforces their confidence in their leaders and each other.

To summarize, true freedom does not come at someone else’s expense and true freedom doesn’t result from selfishness or self-centeredness. True freedom comes from serving others and respecting both our own and others’ dignity. True freedom enables us to grow as human persons.

For the New Graduates

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Pure Inspiration

It’s the graduation season, and young people across the country are throwing their square caps into the air in celebration of their accomplishment. My daughter was honored to present the Valedictorian speech at her school (which I’ll post tomorrow), and as a Dad I’ve got some advice I’d like to offer as well.

In honor of all those new high school grads who are preparing to enter college or the working world (or both), I thought I’d pen my very own Commencement Speech:


Aloha Graduates!

That word is heavy with meaning isn’t it? To be a graduate signifies you’ve accomplished something–something not everyone accomplishes. For good reasons and bad, roughly 10% of your peers nationwide weren’t able to finish. Maybe they had a tragedy in their lives that caused them to leave school and enter the workforce early, or perhaps there was some other reason. But regardless of the reason, you’ve accomplished something others have not. You shouldn’t take your accomplishment for granted. I share in your family, friends, and the faculty’s pride for you getting this far, and so should you be proud of yourself.

Some of you will be going on to college–congrats for your acceptance by your college or university! That is no small accomplishment even in an age when so many seek those college diplomas. Colleges can afford to be choosy, and they chose you. Let that sense of accomplishment carry you over the summer and into the orientation week at your new school; then forget it. You won’t be attending the 13th Grade, you’re in college and everyone expects you to perform at the collegiate level. Whether you’re majoring in Underwater Basketweaving or Nuclear Engineering, your faculty (and your parents!) will expect you to be an adult who can make their own decisions, ask for help when you need it, and deliver results with the work they give you. In a very real sense, you’ve got a $24,000 a year job (at your average state school) and your new boss expects you to earn your pay.

Some of you will be attending vocational training, either at a community college or trade school–congrats for your acceptance in your program! Employers constantly tell me how hard it is to get good employees, so you’re acceptance into a vocational training program is something of which you can be proud! But just like your college-bound classmates, you can have the summer break to savor your graduation and acceptance, and then you need to realize that accomplishment is not what will get you your license or certificate.  It will definitely not get you your first job, although it will get you in the door. Vocational training courses range in cost from $11,000 in non-medical fields, to more than $60,000 for medical training. That means you also have a job to do and your instructor is expecting you to earn your “pay.”

For those entering the workforce directly or the military: congrats on your very brave decision to grow up immediately! I commend you for your heart and for your willingness to get out and earn your own way in the world.  Unlike you’re classmates who still have a year or four to go before they start earning a living, you probably won’t get a summer to savor your graduation–but you get to start your adventure immediately. Remember, you’re not in high school. Your employer or your Military Training Instructor are there to train you up to do a job, and they expect you to perform. Do what your boss tells you, be honest and punctual, and be ready to do the dirty work. If you work hard and forthrightly it won’t be long until you’re the one giving the orders, but you’ll have to earn that privilege.

In case you haven’t guessed, all that advice actually applies to every graduate no matter what path you’ve chosen after high school. Some sprinted across the line and others made it just before the time expired, but you all made it! I want you all to be proud of yourselves, regardless of your class rank or the path you’ve chosen to pursue in life. Getting to the finish line of high school, whether you arrived in style or slid into your parking space just as the engine gave out is not only praiseworthy, it’s exciting and worthy of a victory cry.

One last word–your next set of decisions about the course of your life are significant, but they are not carved on stone tablets. If you decide college isn’t for you, or you’ve chosen the wrong field of study, or the wrong vocation, or the wrong job, then I want you to exercise the same will to succeed you did to complete high school to chart a new course for your life. I don’t mean you should make monumental choices lightly, or change life paths on a whim; but I do mean that you don’t have to go down with the ship if life changes in unexpected ways.

Reach for the stars, chase your dreams, and above all: work hard. You’ve earned your celebration tonight and you’ve earned your place in society. Tomorrow, begin the work of earning it anew. In the world you’re stepping into, not everyone gets a trophy but everyone gets a chance. Take that chance and make the most of it.

Class of 2015: Heartfelt congratulations for a job well done, and “Aim High” as you launch into the next chapter of your life!

From the Blogs: What the Team Needs

Posted 1 CommentPosted in From the Blogs

I spotted this great article from People Development Mag on leading teams and wanted to share!  I like their model:

“What the Team Needs” -Lora Schafer

 

and it closely resembles my own:

The Leadership "COP" - Mickey Addison
The Leadership “COP” from “Leading Leaders” – Mickey Addison

 

 

Says Ms Shafer:

When initiative, productivity, creativity and execution are lacking, the costs to the team can be very real. The tangible results can be a lackluster product or service, subpar customer service, team members finding it difficult to work with each other, a leader struggling to get vital feedback. This costs your company, your department, your team and you revenue and reputation.

So, how do you get your team back on track when it is under-performing? How do you ignite a spark that will open up a higher level of performance and excellence?

There are 4 vital elements that your team needs for them to perform at optimal levels. However, they cannot attain these on their own. You, as the leader, must provide each of these element and support your team as they utilize each.

It’s a great article, and you’ll want to go read the whole thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying On Course to Your Goals

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Technique Only

Set your goals then get moving!Each new year the resolutions fly…we promise to lose weight, eat better, work harder, read more, you name it. Now that we’re at the end of January, it’s time to take stock of our goals and re-commit to them.

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once spoke about the snooze button, and how it was really superfluous. “When that alarm goes off, get up! You made the decision to get up at that time when you set the alarm, don’t re-make that decision.” That advice is the same for goal setting, and commitment to achieving them. You made the decision to strive for a goal when you set it, don’t second guess yourself before you get there.

The common joke about the empty gym in December being full in January then empty again by February is funny because it’s true. People really do run out of steam during the “dark ages” in winter. It’s difficult for busy people to remain committed to goals when so many things are working against them psychologically and practically: short days, cold weather, busy work, school, family commitments, etc. So do we just surrender to the winter and wait again until next year? No way!

That’s not what leaders do.

Leaders re-commit themselves to their goals, and don’t let temporary failures become permanent habits. It’s not easy to overcome the inertia we build up that prevents us from achieving our goals, but it’s worth the effort to push through. I recommend a three step process for getting back on, or staying on, track to achieving the goals I’ve set for myself:

1. Write It Down.

Putting something in writing, even if it’s just on an index card. Wherever you write the goal, it has to be visible and something you see often. It’s much harder to blow off a goal if it’s always “right there.” I write my goals on an index card and keep them in the journal I use every day to take notes at meetings. That ensures I see it daily and remember I made the decision to achieve it when I wrote it down in the first place. By the way, the same is true for organizations: once you set a goal, put it on the wall for all to see.

2. Take Stock Regularly.

Once the goal is on the index card (or the wall!), take stock regularly on your progress. Be honest with yourself on how you’re doing, and then recommit yourself to the goal. If you’re doing well, be proud of yourself and your team, celebrate a little and keep moving toward the goal.  If you’re off track, don’t lose heart! Just remember why you set the goal in the first place and re-commit to getting to the finish line. If you made a New Year Resolution, don’t get down…you still have 11 months to go!

3. Make A Plan & Stick to  It

Commitment is important to achieving goals, but you can’t be “all thrust and no vector.” Energy will only carry you and your team so far if you don’t have a plan. Not having a plan is probably the biggest reason people don’t reach their goals. Just like being on the wrong trail won’t get you to Maunawili Falls no matter how long you hike, expending all your energy on something that doesn’t help you reach your goals will ensure you don’t achieve what you set out to achieve. Don’t give up, just make a plan then execute it one step at a time!

Just like setting that alarm clock, you made the decision to reach a goal when you set it. Don’t let the winter blues get you off track from being the person you want to become!

Learning from Starbucks About Mission

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs

starbucks logoOne of my core tenets is leaders must give teams a sense of mission:

In my book Leading Leaders, I recount the story of a friend of mine who took over leadership of a volunteer re-sale shop.

“She and her leadership team began by listening to the volunteers and addressed their personal concerns about the rigidity of the workplace, and then went on a communication campaign to remind all the volunteers why they were there. It was an effective leadership style but it required a great deal of work on her part to get the organization moving again. When she turned over leadership to her successor, the volunteers were happy and the resale shop was thriving again. It’s amazing what a great leader can do when she connects with her people and then connects them to the mission.”

Apparently, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and I are on the same page in this regard, for which I’m grateful every time I stop in at my local Starbucks for a cappuccino.  Listed first on a list of 12 business lessons from the global coffee giant is “mission.”

1. Have a Mission

Starbucks has one simple mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

That mission statement has served the company for more than four decades, because Starbucks is more than just a coffeehouse. It’s become an escape for anyone needing a break from the daily grind. It’s become a centralized meeting location for friends to catch up and business people to have meetings.

Starbucks wanted to provide people–no matter their age, profession, or location–with a unique experience: the coffeehouse as a place to relax, work, and socialize.

I’ve always believed one of a leader’s most important jobs is to give the team a sense of mission.  It’s the reason military units have such good espirit de corps, and will hang together even under the most dire circumstances. As a leader you have to have a vision, communicate it clearly, and then cheer on your team as they move toward the goal. If your people believe in the mission of your company, they’ll work very hard. If they believe in you as their leader as well, they’ll get to the goal with smiles and ready for the next challenge.