Dynamic Dozen: Be Technically and Tactically Proficient

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com

Grader FestThe vast majority of Airmen we train are going to be somewhere in harm’s way within the next year or two. It is up to us to impart to them the talent and skill they need to accomplish their mission in a world-class fashion and at the same time make sure we get them back safely to the families that love them.
General William R. Looney III, USAF

I remember it just like it was yesterday. As a young lieutenant, I was designing an asphalt road for a road my engineer Airmen would construct during a Field Training Exercise (FTX) I was to lead. The master sergeant assigned to my leadership team leaned over my shoulder and asked,

“Watcha doin’ L-T?” I looked up and said, “Calculating how much asphalt we’re going to need.”

He looked at my calculations where my arithmetic indicated 30.56 tons of asphalt and smiled. “L-T, asphalt comes in 10 ton trucks–you need four trucks.” It was an object lesson in technical and tactical proficiency from a seasoned professional, and I was grateful to him for correction. His mentoring saved me from the giggles I’d surely have received from my Airmen if I’d tried to order “30.56 tons” of asphalt.

Leadership is More Than Charisma

Personal charisma is certainly useful in leaders, but charisma without actual proficiency in the business of the organization only goes so far. While it’s true an exceptional leader can help an organization through difficult time, if you really want your organization to be high performing, you have to hire the right team captain. I’ve worked in many different teams during my nearly 30 years in uniform, and the leader with the most charisma wasn’t always the one who got the most from their team. Rather, the leader with a keen sense of how to garner resources and put the right team member in the right job is far more important. Some of my most effective commanders were among the least charismatic. What those leaders lacked in charisma they more than made up for in developing their team and setting clear goals.

Leaders Need Technical and Tactical Proficiency

The combination of solid interpersonal skills and technical proficiency is a formula for an exceptionally successful leader. If your team spends half their time trying to educate you on the “nuts and bolts” of your mission, I can guarantee they’re not spending enough time getting the mission done. A technically proficient leader can skip the “101” go directly to the graduate level. That’s where a leader really shows his worth. It’s analogous to a team rowing a boat. If the leader has a steady hand on the tiller and eyes on the horizon, the boat will reach its destination quickly.

A tactically and technically proficient leader marries their knowledge and vision to lead their teams. A technically proficient is constantly learning. Developing a leader’s mind means keeping up with the current books in your field, attending conferences and industry forums, and engaging in the industry’s conversation online and in person. LinkedIn groups, professional societies, and reading lists by thought leaders are all proven ways to build and maintain your technical proficiency. A tactically proficient leader understands the environment. Networking with other leaders and contributing to your industry’s development through writing and speaking are ways to build your tactical proficiency. Finally, a technically and tactically proficient leader is a teacher–he or she is able to pass on their skills to the team and elevate the team’s performance by increasing their skill level.

Summing Up

Leaders who pay attention to their proficiency as well as their leadership skills have an edge over those who don’t. If your team is spending all day teaching you the business, they’re not doing the mission. Additionally, it’s difficult to give direction if you don’t know what you’re doing. Therefore, learning the business is just as important as relating to people. If you do both, you’re truly leading the team to high performance.

Originally posted on GeneralLeadership.com

 

Be Free – Part I

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

9215883633_0b13a03051_o“Freedom” is a word often misused in our current vocabulary. We view our “freedoms” in such a broad manner that the word sometimes loses its meaning. Particularly in the case of young people, “freedom” is synonymous with “doing whatever I like”, but that’s not authentic freedom. Authentic freedom is being able to choose what’s good for you, and yet remaining unencumbered by things that prevent you from being healthy. In fact, unbounded freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want is not freedom; it is license.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

– Nelson Mandela

It’s really not a radical concept, the idea that freedom is bound by responsibilities and limits; in fact it’s preserved in our system of laws and our notion of justice. We regulate speech and assembly both for the common good and for the individual’s good. People are not permitted to gather for the purpose of fomenting violence, and we don’t allow a person to run into a theater and shout “fire” without just cause. Ideally, our laws are constructed to both protect the common good, and safeguard individual liberty. However, the freedom we enjoy as Americans is not unfettered liberty. We are free but we do not have license to do whatever we want.

Authentic freedom is an individual’s ability to choose what is good without being impeded or bound, be it an internal or external restriction. If an individual’s appetites or another person’s demands prevent the individual from making good choices, then we can objectively say that the individual is not free.

Living and Leading with Authenticity

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

In the marketplace, more and more people are now seeking authenticity, and whole industries have grown up in the last ten years to meet that need. The demand for artisan products ranging from spirits to furniture to health care products has grown significantly. “Authentic” connotes something that’s real, something that’s connected to the world around it, and something that’s honest. When we seek out “authentic” restaurants, we are looking for something made by humans rather than stamped out in a factory and re-heated. When we purchase “authentic” antiques, we want a piece that is actually from that other time and place, not a replica. In other words, when we seek “authenticity” we’re seeking something real, tangible, and connected to the world around us. In an age when privacy is difficult to come by and it’s hard to predict what can go viral in an instant, people are also seeking authenticity in their work and their leaders. They’re seeking that authenticity, I think, because despite the electrons whizzing about in the air, people still have a fundamental need to connect to each other and the world in tangible ways.

Authentic in the context of “living and leading” is just like that handmade loaf of bread from Mom’s kitchen or the reclaimed shiplap on the wall of the newly renovated home: it means being a leader who is real, connected, and honest. An authentic leader is mindful of both the common good and individual good. An authentic leader both requires respect and gives it. An authentic leader is the same person on Monday morning as they were on Sunday morning or Friday night, and they intend to do good rather than just avoiding doing wrong. They are the same person from day to day–they assure people around them their “face” is in fact their “person” and mean it. An authentic leader will put others before themselves, and they will always seek to leave their teams and their organizations better than they found them.

Leaders also have a responsibility to husband their own personal resources and set a good example of character to lead their teams to high performance. In the military, we call that “walking the talk,” but that same principle is played out in all occupations and every endeavor daily. As leaders, we must never ask someone to do something we are unwilling to do ourselves. We follow the rules we set for others, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves and help our teammates out when it’s necessary. Truly, who wants work for someone who is not who they pretend to be? Who wants to follow someone who can’t relate to their teammates as human beings, or is unwilling to follow their own rules? The answer: no one wants to follow a leader like that–at least not for very long–no matter how many digits in the paycheck.

In my upcoming book, The Five Be’s, I discuss my philosophy for living an authentic life. The Five Be’s are Be Proud, Be Free, Be Virtuous, Be Balanced, and Be Courageous, and the underlying principle is living and leading authentically. It’s a talk I used to give to the new Airmen when they were freshly arrived at my unit, where I offered them a positive vision after months or years of hearing little else but “don’t” and “no.” I think it’s applicable to all age groups, not just the young ones, because each of us must wake and make decisions daily about what gets our energy that day. Living authentically and The Five Be’s is certainly a philosophy applicable for leaders who want to be their best and get the best from their teams. Good character and authenticity are perquisites for good leadership.

It’s central to good leadership to set the example by being authentic, and encouraging our teams to do the same. While sometimes, the job we’re doing requires personal sacrifice and the proverbial “blood, sweat, and tears,” leaders cannot be blind to the human factor in every equation. Leadership, after all, is primarily a human endeavor. We must remember our people can’t give 110% all the time; no one can give more than they have. So while that “110%” cliché is a helpful metaphor for “maximum effort” it can’t be a reasonable way to live or work. If we sprint all the time, we won’t have any energy for the sprint when it’s really necessary. An authentic leader–or any person striving to live an authentic life–understands that truism. Work hard and work smart, but remember to sprint only when you have to do so.  If we’re real and not two-faced, if we connect to the people and world around us, if we’re honest with others and ourselves then we’re living and leading authentically. Doing that will lead enable us to lead our teams to high performance, and will make sure we get everyone to the finish line together–including ourselves. Authentic leaders are honest to themselves and their teammates, and they remember they are part of a team, a family, and a community that also deserve some of their energy. The authentic leader is able to stay connected, even in the hardest times.

Living authentically—real, connected, honest– is a formula for success in business and in life.


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.

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

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Leading Through Tragedy – Part 1

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

Photo by Chris Jakubin
Photo by Chris Jakubin, Colorado Springs, CO

Tragedy is a part of the human experience: we can’t escape it and as leaders we get one chance to get that right. Whether that tragedy is the loss of a co-worker to an untimely death, a teammate with a life threatening disease, or the loss of an employee’s family member, leaders have to be ready to step up and guide their teams through the trauma of those events.

The military and emergency services have a great tradition of caring for the fallen and the fallen’s families. We know that, God forbid, something bad should happen to any of us that our commanders and colleagues will look after our families and us. That is a great comfort that builds trust between us and our buddies, as well as our families. But that sort of camaraderie and teamwork shouldn’t be restricted to those who put their lives in danger as their profession. Tragedy can strike in the form of a serious illness, an accident, or even as the result of an act of violence. Organizations of all types need to be ready to provide support to their suffering colleagues if the time comes.

Good teams form bonds of trust and mutual support for each other; it’s the leader’s responsibility to create an environment for that trust and then nurture it. When tragedy strikes the team, it’s the work the leader and the team put in over time that will enable the group to overcome the trauma. That sort of resilience, both personal and organizational, isn’t born in the moment; it’s cultivated over time deliberately.

Leaders have a number of tools and techniques at their disposal to prepare for a tragedy before it happens, and then guide their teams during and after the trauma happens. Churches and other religious organizations, government social services, and non-profits like the American Red Cross can all assist in developing a coping plan so leaders are ready when disaster strikes. Good planning will ensure you have the ability to function if/when the worst happens, when people look to their leaders the most.

Besides planning, the most important thing a leader can do when tragedy strikes the team is to be present and avoid the temptation to try to solve every problem. You can’t. The best you can do is be there for those suffering, offering what help they want, and supporting them as they grieve. Don’t say, “I know how you feel”…you don’t. Don’t say, “it will be OK,” it might never be OK.  Do say, “I’m so sorry” and “we’re here for you.” People deal with tragedy and trauma in their own way, and must be given the freedom to experience their personal pain in their own way as well. What leaders can do is make sure their colleagues have the space they need, and the firm foundation of support, to cope with the left turn their life took as a result of the tragedy.

The team also needs leaders, and a strong presence in the organization can strengthen the bonds of the team. The strength a leader demonstrates in crisis will infect the team and enable them to be supportive of their colleague. It’s especially important to maintain your own humanity and willingness for others to see you suffer, too. Robots comfort no one…humans comfort each other.

In short, good leadership is more than encouraging victory; it also means leading through the tough times as well.

Guest Post: A Valedictorian’s View

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Guest Post

20150529_173904Administration, faculty, staff, parents, family, and friends, I think I speak for everyone here when I say thank you for all your support these past four years. Your individual attention, long hours, and encouragement made it possible for us be here today. Mom and Dad, you have especially shown me unwavering support—they’d kick me off the stage before I could even begin to express my gratitude, so I’ll leave it as a simple thank you.

Okay Class of 2015, I know its graduation night, but I have a pop quiz for you: What is unbreakable, up for a good adventure, comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, never breaks a sweat, and has a lifetime guarantee? If you haven’t figured it out yet—it’s the HydroFlask. One report says that 9 out of 10 people carry one regularly, and we’ve all noticed these colorful steel water jugs under desks, on lab tables, and hanging from backpacks. With so many of us cradling our precious HydroFlasks, I figured there must be more to these things than just a container for water. Come on Expos Writing kids, let’s dive into the symbolism of our Hydros.

Hug your Hydro like a baby, although many of us probably already do, because it’s a reminder to embrace our individual achievements. No two are alike—will your life be a bright pink, wide mouth, 32 ounce kind of life? Maybe the subdued green, flip-top 18 ounce is more what you’re after. Our HydroFlasks are kind of like our successes—each one unique to us. You can’t compare one Hydro to another, just like you can’t compare one life’s work to the next. Some wins are pretty obvious—like making it to this field here tonight. Others, however, aren’t so universal. Success is not one-size fits all—there’s no one “right” way to be successful in life. Each one of us, class of 2015, are successful when we find a purpose—doing what we were created to do, and doing it well. Hug your Hydro because it reminds us to be comfortable with our own individual gifts, achievements, and successes, knowing that our lives are as individualized as our HydroFlasks.

As we take what we’ve learned here at Moanalua out into the world, we start a fresh chapter of our lives, and this time, we have the pen. We have the opportunity to take control and make deliberate choices—don’t let someone else write your life for you. The idea of not having our lives controlled by the mystical and random bell schedules here at Moanalua is a little scary—especially when it seemed like just yesterday when we were all going crazy for Silly Bands. I could give the formal definition of fear from Webster’s dictionary, but for me, true fear is that moment we’ve all experienced and dread—the sound of a Hydro crashing to the ground.

We’ve all been there—you’re in class, and you hear the sudden, sharp clang of metal meeting concrete. Fear washes over you, and maybe you frantically feel for your own Hydro just to make sure it’s still okay. The class goes quiet and then lets out a collective groan of agony over the fallen HydroFlask. For me, the worst part is having to pick it up and assess the damage. You turn it over, and there it is—a big ol’ dent.

Yet still, hug your Hydro, even when it has dents. Like our HydroFlasks, we’re all going to fall. You haven’t met the mark, you missed that deadline, you tried your best but still came up short. We’re all scared of failure, sure, but we have a responsibility to use the education we’ve been given to the best of our abilities. It’s silly to have a HydroFlask and not use it because we’re afraid of dents, and it isn’t different with our education. We must go forth with the tools and knowledge that our teachers have gifted us and reach for our goals, aspire to dream, pursue our purpose. Yes, they’ll be dents and dings along the way, but that shouldn’t keep us from exploring this great adventure called life. As Ms. Frizzle said, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

Graduating class of 2015, congratulations. We made it through all the ups and downs and left turns of high school, and are ready to find our own success in the next stage of life. You remember that quiz at the beginning of this speech? I told you the answer was a HydroFlask, but if you think about it, it could also be the class of 2015. Although we definitely sweated these past couple days while our Hydros stayed cool, we are also unbreakable. We are individualized. We are up for a good adventure. And we, class of 2015, can make our own lifetime guarantee to live gratefully for all Moanalua has given us.

So the next time you see your HydroFlask, remember, and hug it proudly.

Thank You.


 

Haley Addison is the daughter of Mickey and Betsy Addison. She was the Valedictorian speaker at the Commencement ceremony for the Moanalua High School Class of 2015. This speech is published with her permission.

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!

Are You In The Club?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Road Wisdom

If you wonder if you are in the club,  you are not.

Ever have that feeling that you’re just not “getting it?”  Boy, I do sometimes. I’d thought that when I became an adult I’d have access to “The Rules” and I’d never feel awkward again. The truth of course, is that age is no guarantee of “knowing” or “fitting in.” If there are any rules to dealing with new and awkward situations, though, this is it: “If you have to ask, you aren’t.” In those situations, just be yourself. You might stumble, you might even look foolish, but at least you won’t do it pretending to be something that you’re not.

======== Like what you’re reading? Check out “Patio Wisdom” in the Lulu Store and at Amazon.

Check Out My Newest Blog: Patio Wisdom

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements, Books, Patio Wisdom, Pure Inspiration

Check out PatioWisdom.com! I’d originally intended the blog “Patio Wisdom” to be a static page as an intro to the book by the same title. Patio Wisdom is a fun book I believe will inspire young men, and can be an inspiration to any one who’s a student of the School of Hard Knocks. Life isn’t always fair, but it can be fun!

I had fun doing the project with my brother. I hope you’ll enjoy the blog!

Who Inspires You?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Pure Inspiration

 

abraham-lincolnAs a student of history, I’m often inspired by the lives of the people who lived through and shaped great events. I think we need heroes, and not just the ones we watch for 30 seconds on a news program’s “profile” short. Great men and women from history should inspire us to see our own circumstances in light of how they conquered adversity and achieved greatness.

Sometimes we reduce historical figures to “ordinary” status by over emphasizing their flaws and under-selling their accomplishments. I think that’s a mistake. What makes our heroes “great” is not merely their virtues and accomplishments, but that they did great things despite their flaws. Celebrating only a hero’s virtue without acknowledging the flaws is dishonest, but so is discounting their accomplishments because of those flaws. Sometimes a historical person’s human weakness and failings are defining characteristics, but most often those people are like the rest of us: a mixture of weakness and strength married with the courage to rise above and accomplish something remarkable. In my mind being mortal makes their contributions all the more inspiring: that somehow our heroes were able to rise above (sometimes even themselves) to do something great.

I think leaders need heroes and role models. We need them because even the most confident Type A leader has self-doubt. We need heroes because we sometimes take counsel of our fears. We need to be inspired to believe even flawed humans can do good, even in spite of their own flaws. Acknowledging that there’s no such thing as a perfect human, but that imperfect humans can do good is beneficial for our collective souls. Inspiration can come from the unknown person working hard on a cause they believe in, but let’s not overlook our national heroes.

Heroes can teach us something about ourselves and inspire us to greatness—if we allow it.