Why You Need a Coach

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I’m taking the remainder of the summer off from blogging. In the mean time, please enjoy this “throwback” post from the archives.

I need a coach. Anyone can trudge through a task or lesson on their own, but if I truly want to get better I’m in need of a coach. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I started soccer at age 6, baseball at age 8, and I lettered in both football and track in high school. Attending a senior military college and then entering the Air Force afterwards meant intramural sports, physical training and annual physical fitness tests from the age of 18 until my retirement from the service this past June. Of course, we lead active lives in our house as well: hiking, cycling, CrossFit, surfing. Well, you get the idea. I’m not a couch potato.

The reason for that self-absorbed preamble is to establish that at 52 years, I’m not a novice to physical fitness or the gym—and despite all that experience I STILL need a coach!

Successful People are Lifelong Learners

The man in the picture at left is one of my CrossFit coaches, Coach Andrew, of New Braunfels CrossFit. In my last job, my commute and work schedule combined to prevent me from going to a CrossFit “box” (gym), so I worked out on my own. Sure enough, working out with no coaching and no partner to provide some accountability meant I’ve developed many bad habits. That’s where Coach Andrew comes in. He’s there to correct, guide, and encourage—exactly what a coach should be. I can go out and work hard on my own, sweat, and stay in shape. If I want to improve, however, I need a coach.

As I discuss in my book, The Five Be’s, a key part of being healthy and successful is nourishing our minds—and that means being a lifelong learner. Learning requires a teacher, and putting thought into practice requires a coach. You can make a lot of progress watching YouTube videos and practicing on your own, but if you really want to improve then get a coach! One of the defining characteristics of successful people is being in “learning mode” their entire lives. President Bush (43) for example, was a voracious reader who consumed 95 books during his first year as president, and after he left office learned to paint!

What Makes a Great Coach

A great coach has three defining characteristics: (1) Technical Mastery, (2) Ability to Motivate, and (3) Patience. Technical Mastery is essential because a coach must have something to give; we expect our coaches to be experts. Technical Mastery is not enough, however, because the coach must be able to motivate the student and then patiently guide the improvement. There’s many people out there with one or two of these characteristics, great coaches possess all three!

When looking for a coach, whether it’s athletics, speaking, or executive leadership, look for someone whose an expert who can walk with you as you learn. Just as I need a coach to break my bad CrossFit habits, we all need people in our lives who can hold us accountable and make us better. A good coach imparts knowledge, a great coach inspires you to be better.

Be Balanced

To Be Balanced, you must nourish your minds and be a lifelong learner. Desire and hard work will only get you so far, to really improve you’ll need a coach.

Be sure to check out The Five Be’s, available in a few weeks in paperback and hardback!

 


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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High Performing Leaders Live a Balanced Life

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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. -Mickey Addison, The Five Be’s

 

 

We sat in the Officer’s Club at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho: three lieutenants with cold beers in hand trying to impress each other with the hours we were working. It was a perverse matter of pride for us–and lots of others at the time–to brag about the amount of time we were working. Bragging about children’s birthdays missed, anniversaries spent away, and late nights was a badge of honor. Forget family life, personal development, even physical fitness; our sole measure of merit was how many hours we put in at work.

We lieutenants were seriously out of balance; how times have changed! Remember, this was during the Cold War, before the Air Force and our country was pulled into war in ‘90 in Iraq and a decade before 9/11. By the end of my Air Force career, we developed many better ways to measure our effectiveness, both as individuals and as teams. We’re all ready and willing to work hard when it’s necessary, but as a former commander once said, “You can’t run at 110% all the time.” There are still sacrifices to be made, but I think we’re a much better military as a result of paying attention to “Be Balanced.”

Be Balanced

If 30 years in the Air Force leading Airmen taught me nothing else, it taught me the lesson of “Be Balanced.” Living a life in balance makes a leader more effective, and more resilient. By attending to our mental, physical, and spiritual balance, we store up strength like in a battery. Then, when the time comes to reach into those reserves, we have something left to draw from. Mental balance means proper management of stress, and it also means nourishing our minds with new and interesting things. Leaders are learners. Physical balance means taking care of our bodies–we only get one of those–so proper food, sleep, and exercise delivers a body that won’t quit when the going gets tough. Finally, spiritual balance means feeding our human spirit good things, storing up spiritual energy in our internal “batteries” so that when times are hard, we have a reserve. It means a recognition that we are more than mere flesh and blood, and need a connection to things larger than ourselves.

Balance Brings Resilience

Agility and resiliency are popular topics in today’s business leadership circles. The reason that’s so is because business is learning what the military has know for some time: people are the weapon system and the real reason for victory. Technology and organizations change, but people who fight are the reason we succeed or fail. A team of balanced people can perform at very high levels, and still have “gas in the tank” for more!

 


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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Why You Need a Coach

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

I need a coach. Anyone can trudge through a task or lesson on their own, but if I truly want to get better I’m in need of a coach. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I started soccer at age 6, baseball at age 8, and I lettered in both football and track in high school. Attending a senior military college and then entering the Air Force afterwards meant intramural sports, physical training and annual physical fitness tests from the age of 18 until my retirement from the service this past June. Of course, we lead active lives in our house as well: hiking, cycling, CrossFit, surfing. Well, you get the idea. I’m not a couch potato.

The reason for that self-absorbed preamble is to establish that at 52 years, I’m not a novice to physical fitness or the gym—and despite all that experience I STILL need a coach!

Successful People are Lifelong Learners

The man in the picture at left is one of my CrossFit coaches, Coach Andrew, of New Braunfels CrossFit. In my last job, my commute and work schedule combined to prevent me from going to a CrossFit “box” (gym), so I worked out on my own. Sure enough, working out with no coaching and no partner to provide some accountability meant I’ve developed many bad habits. That’s where Coach Andrew comes in. He’s there to correct, guide, and encourage—exactly what a coach should be. I can go out and work hard on my own, sweat, and stay in shape. If I want to improve, however, I need a coach.

As I discuss in my book, The Five Be’s, a key part of being healthy and successful is nourishing our minds—and that means being a lifelong learner. Learning requires a teacher, and putting thought into practice requires a coach. You can make a lot of progress watching YouTube videos and practicing on your own, but if you really want to improve then get a coach! One of the defining characteristics of successful people is being in “learning mode” their entire lives. President Bush (43) for example, was a voracious reader who consumed 95 books during his first year as president, and after he left office learned to paint!

What Makes a Great Coach

A great coach has three defining characteristics: (1) Technical Mastery, (2) Ability to Motivate, and (3) Patience. Technical Mastery is essential because a coach must have something to give; we expect our coaches to be experts. Technical Mastery is not enough, however, because the coach must be able to motivate the student and then patiently guide the improvement. There’s many people out there with one or two of these characteristics, great coaches possess all three!

When looking for a coach, whether it’s athletics, speaking, or executive leadership, look for someone whose an expert who can walk with you as you learn. Just as I need a coach to break my bad CrossFit habits, we all need people in our lives who can hold us accountable and make us better. A good coach imparts knowledge, a great coach inspires you to be better.

Be Balanced

To Be Balanced, you must nourish your minds and be a lifelong learner. Desire and hard work will only get you so far, to really improve you’ll need a coach.

Be sure to check out The Five Be’s, available in a few weeks in paperback and hardback!

 


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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My Favorite BE – To Be Authentically Free

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be spotlighting ideas and concepts from my book, The Five Be’s, in advance of the release of the Second Edition in September. Over the last two weeks, we discussed authentic pride in oneself and highlighted a really cool young entrepreneur. This week, it’s all about being authentically free.

When I say, “Be Free,” what comes to mind? Does it mean doing whatever we want? Well, what if I told you that to be authentically free we won’t be doing whatever we want to do, but that we’re able to choose what’s good for us?

What Freedom Isn’t

Our own passions and appetites can be those metaphorical chains that keep us bound. Being hindered from choosing good things for ourselves in order to be healthy is the definition of slavery. The fact that sometimes people make poor choices isn’t really news. In fact, there are entire industries that have grown up around treating various addictions from substance abuse to porn to shopping and even internet use. Whenever we allow our appetites to begin to force choices on us, we’re no longer free. So even though we have have “freely” chosen to make that first internet purchase, once we lose the ability to stop maxing out that credit card we’re no longer free. As I used to tell my Airmen, “Beer and XBox is not a hobby.”

Authentic Freedom

Authentic freedom means we’re truly able to make our own choices and we’re not bound by our appetites and passions. As St John Paul II once said, “It’s the freedom to do what we ought.” It might seem like a no brainer, but often choosing what’s good for us requires sacrifice. To be physically fit, or successful in business, or a good father, we have to put in the work and master ourselves. Sometimes it’s not fun to get up at 5am to go to the gym, but the results are worth the effort. That same principle applies to every other part of our life as well. If we’re authentically free, we’ll be able to choose to make the sacrifice in order to gain something good.

Rules are Rules

Being free does not mean we don’t have to follow the rules. What it does mean is we voluntary chose to take on those rules for ourselves. It’s not a very difficult concept, really, and we do it each time we get in the car. By obeying the traffic laws and signage, we are free to go anywhere we like and arrive safely. When we flaunt those rules and disobey the law we put ourselves and others in danger. When I was at Texas A&M, we ascribed to the Aggie Code of Honor: An Aggie will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. In accepting the title of Texas Aggie, we bound ourselves to that Code. Living by that Code gave us all kinds of freedom, namely in the trust we could place in our fellow Aggies and confidence in our own academic ability. Do the work, adhere to the Code, gain wisdom and knowledge.

Be Free

Being authentically free is foundational to being the a healthy and successful person. It’s the reason “Be Free” is my favorite “BE.”


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 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 Five Be’. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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

 

Seizing the Opportunity

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Today’s post will be a little different than usual, but it has a tie back to The Five Be’s as well as a really cool story about a hard-working young entrepreneur.

Bella is the Bomb

One of the best parts of moving to a new community is seeing as extraordinary what fades into the background for others. So it was that on our first weekend in our new hometown of New Braunfels, Texas, we came across Erin Christman and her daughter Bella. Erin is a jewelry designer, and at her New Braunfels Farmers’ Market booth we noticed something definitely not-jewelry. Slime. Yep, that squishy stuff you can make with Elmers’ Glue and other ingredients.

When we stopped to ask about the slime, young Bella appeared with smiles and plenty of explanation about how it was made. She mentioned her Etsy store and Instagram account that she’d already sold a bunch to kids around the country. I think that is incredibly cool. Taking the initiative to see an opportunity in the current slime craze shows a lot of foresight and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s rare in adults, and it’s gratifying to see it in young people. I’m sure her parents are very proud of her, and they should be!

Get Out There and Get After It

The underlying message of The Five Be’s is being the successful and happy person God made us to be. Being secure in ourselves, authentically free, and seeking to live a virtuous and balanced life opens doors we might not even know are there. It takes courage, of course, but that courage is easier to find when we are living an authentic life. Every person has something to offer, that’s the shorthand for “Be Proud of Who You Are.” I know it sounds simple, but it’s really true! Once we recognize the worth of others and of ourselves, lots of good things flow from that truth.

Congrats to Bella for her entrepreneurial spirit and for seizing the opportunity, and well-done Erin for raising a great young person!


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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Be Authentically Proud of Who You Are

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Being proud of who you are is really about understanding your self-worth. Consider the following story:

There was a woman who worked for me who suffered from a crisis of confidence in her own worth. She was extremely technically competent in her job, a friend to those around her, and a good leader. Her lack of confidence, however, manifested itself in how she valued her own sense of worth–she defined it by what people thought of her and the “face” she presented to the world. One day I learned that she’d bought a car she couldn’t really afford because she believed someone in “her position should have the right kind of car.” Despite the fact that she couldn’t afford the payments, she was reluctant to return the car to the dealership–until I took her outside and showed her my 10-year old, beat up, unairconditioned, sun-bleached Jeep Cherokee.

“That’s your car?” she asked.

“Yep, do you think any less of me now that you know that?” I replied.

“No,” she said softly.

“Good, then give yourself permission to get a car you can afford and know we respect you for who you are, not what you own.

Authentic Pride vs Counterfeit Pride

All persons have an inherent dignity and infinite value, not because of our looks, wealth, power, accomplishments, or rank, but because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The United States’ Declaration of Independence includes this truth in it’s text. The idea of “all Men are created equal” is likewise central to our system of laws, military and civil. It’s in the sense of fair play required of us in business ethics. We all accept this truth when we’re playing sports or administering the law–the idea that each person has equal standing and that the “rules” should apply to everyone equally. It’s why we get offended when we learn of an athlete using performance enhancing drugs or cheating in some way; it offends our sense of “justice” and attacks the idea that “all Men are created equal.”

Therefore, it follows that just like the woman who measured her own worth in possessions and appearances, there is a difference between Authentic Pride and Counterfeit Pride. Authentic Pride builds up, Counterfeit Pride tears down. Authentic Pride is in achievement or accomplishment after hard work and sacrifice. Counterfeit Pride takes credit for others’ work. Authentic Pride is about who a person is on the inside, Counterfeit Pride is only interested in externals and appearance.

Leaders Cultivate Authentic Pride

High performing teams become that way over the long term because they become mutually supporting and proud of who they are as persons not the accomplishments of others. Many a sports team has become a bit too enamored with their legacy and forgotten to actually do the work necessary to earn it anew for themselves. When leaders cultivate a sense of authentic pride and lead people in doing the work, they cultivate high performance and grow leaders. When people are invested in building up others, they also build up themselves.

Being authentically free also means being able to choose what’s good for ourselves, without being held back by our passions and appetites. Clearly, if I’m giving up sleep to play video games and drink energy drinks all night, I’m no longer free. Substance abuse, inability to manage finances, porn, overeating, etc., all rob us of freedom in some way. We cannot be truly free until we’re able to freely choose what’s good for ourselves, and reject what harms ourselves and others.

Leaders Set The Tone

Just like the woman who looked to me for leadership on how to value her and her work, our people will count on us in some measure to inform their self worth. Remember, leaders are in the people business, and it’s often up to leaders to be sure people understand how valuable they truly are to the team because of who they are.


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 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 Five Be’. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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

 

An American Airman: A Reflection on 30 Years Service

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Announcements

Last Friday, 23 Jun 2017, was the completion of my career as a United States Airman, and the begining of the next chapter in my life. Although it’s usually “farewell,” I know it’s really a hui hou , a Hawaiian phrase that means “until we meet again.” Our circles don’t break because we have a change in uniform; for that I’m grateful. It’s been an incredible 30 years in the Air Force!

For God and Country

I entered military service in 1987 in the waning years of the Cold War. Of course we didn’t know then that our enemy would collapse in four short years. The Soviet war machine very much threatened our security and the security of our allies. We all expected the Cold War to continue indefinitely, and I believed then as I do now that I was both serving God and my country by defending freedom as an Airman. I certainly didn’t foresee the end of that conflict and the beginning of nearly three decades of small wars and big wars. Who would’ve thought our Air Force would’ve gone to war in 1991 and not ceased combat operations since?

I joined for many reasons: to defend my country, to seek adventure and travel, and to grow professionally. It was a calling, and all I wanted to do since I was old enough to think about it. The Air Force has supplied all those opportunities and so much more. I’ve loved being an Airman—being a warrior, building things, solving problems.

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with some amazing people and seen incredible things. These are the people who don’t make headlines, but carry on the business of the Air Force selflessly and courageously. I’ve seen exterior linemen dash under 13,000 volt high power lines in an Arizona monsoon to shut down an arcing substation. An Airman under my command stepped on a mine in Afghanistan and had the presence of mind to fall on the hole as to not endanger his buddies from other mines. There have been civil servants who tirelessly worked to keep ancient infrastructure operational, and put in horrendous hours when the Airmen deployed. Nighttime calls, fatal vehicle accidents, range and forest fires, Christmas snow removal, deployments to the Middle East and travel around Europe and the Pacific Rim. I’ve had the incredible good fortune to see places and meet people I read about in National Geographic growing up. I’m so grateful.

Decades of Transformation

These past few years have been difficult–transformation, budget cuts, and the like. I certainly would never have believed we’d still be flying aircraft designed and built before I was born. In 1987, I would never have guessed that the Airmen I serve with every day would never know anything other than constant deployment and combat. And amid constant combat operations for nearly three decades, we’ve reduced the size of our Air Force, our budgets, and our fleet. It’s tempting to quote Sir Winston Churchill, “Never in the field of human conflict, have so many owed so much to so few.” Not just Airmen deployed of course—our joint teammates have all done their part and should be justifiably proud—but I’m an American Airman and so I speak only about my fellow men and women in Air Force blue today.

There is considerable uncertainty today in many Air Force specialties, and my own Civil Engineer specialty is not immune. I am always optimistic, however. We transformed after WWII when we built what we now call the “Engineering Enterprise” from scratch and found our way in our new blue uniforms. We transformed again after Korea when we learned SCARWAF didn’t work and we needed our own engineering units. We transformed after Lebanon in ’56 when we invented Prime BEEF and deployed them a few years later to Southeast Asia. Then came our own heavy engineering units–RED HORSE–and Viet Nam. The Gulf War was the culmination of our transformation during the Cold War, and the endless rotations to the Middle East began our journey as an expeditionary Air Force.

Today it’s expeditionary ops in Africa, terrorists and rotational deterrence in Europe, and maneuvering for deterrence and counter-insurgency warfare in the Pacific. We need more transformational thinking as we undertake the most fundamental reorganization of the Air Force since we went from “groups to wings”.  We need you, my now-former wingmen. And we need more like you. Grow your replacements, and continue to lead from the front as you have done since the day you took the oath.

Think Below Your Badge

For all Airmen, I challenge you to “think below your badge.” As we transform, duty titles may be different, office symbols change, and the like, but the “U.S. Air Force” tape has never meant more than it does at this moment in history. What you do now is vital to the success of our Republic. Without a strong and capable Air Force we would cede the high ground of air, space, and cyber to those who would do us harm. That we have remained the best Air Force on the planet in spite of decades combat operations and transformation is a testament to your ingenuity and your courage. I continue to have great confidence in you—daily you demonstrate why you are the best Air Force on the planet. Daily you demonstrate your courage, devotion to duty, and unparalleled skill. I the words of a great Air Force leader of the past: “You can go anywhere on the planet and either look at it, feed it, or kill it.” Airmen, you are magnificent!

As I pass the guidon to the next generation, know that serving alongside the men and women of our Air Force has been the greatest honor of my life.

A hui hou!


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 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 Five Be’. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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

 

Book Review: Warrior to Patriot Citizen Transition

Posted Posted in Books

Great guide for transition to civilian lifeAs an author and milblogger, I get the opportunity to review books from time to time. Rarely, however, have I reviewed a book that was so personally timely and beneficial as Warrior to Patriot Citizen by Donna Hoffmeyer and Kevin Cullis. It’s a comprehensive resource for any military servicemember transitioning to civilian life, either as a retiree like me or separating after a single enlistment. There’s a lot of transition guides out there, but this one is truly one of the best I’ve read.

Hoffmeyer and Cullis are both fellow USAF Airmen: she an 18 year veteran nurse of with both active duty and reserve time, and he a veteran, author, and self-described “business geek”.  Both authors combine their considerable experience in and out of the military to produce this great guide to success in transition.

Well Organized

I appreciate the organization of the book a lot. The book has a logical flow, and is divided into relevant chapters addressing the transition both into and out of the military, dealing with injury and wounds suffered on active duty as a veteran, taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and financially, translating military skills into civilian skills, and the art of networking. Twelve chapters in all, including an entire chapter dedicated to web resources organized by topic. At the end of each chapter there’s pages for assembling a personalized action plan, and organizing your thoughts. This enables the veteran to go directly to the chapters most relevant to your own situation.

Different Kind of Guide

What makes this guide different–and I think better than other guides–are the personal notes each author adds to the chapters. In addition, there’s two whole chapters dedicated to “lessons learned” and success stories from other veterans. The advice in Chapter 11 “Veteran’s quips, advice, and letters” is from both officers and enlisted personnel, and from all Services. There’s some very handy tips in there, like these:

“Set goals, do not expect to get what you want overnight, work smart; network, network, network. Get involved in volunteer work and help your fellow veterans, take courses, use online information to your advantage…” – W.G., 21 year USMC vet

“You will have failures; expect them. Know that they are learning experiences. Don’t shy away from trying something for fear of failure. In the military, you are trained better than you will be in the future corporate world…You will sometimes fail but you are not a failure.” -J.B., 4 year USAF vet.

This is a fabulous guide that I’ll have with me throughout my transition back to civilian life, and I recommend it highly to anyone making the change to “permanent civilian status” after a military career.

Buy it Here

Warrior to Patriot Citizen is available on Amazon at this link.

Visit www.wariortopatriotcitizen.com for more resources.


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

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

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

 

Leaders are Readers – Your Summer Reading List

Posted Posted in Books

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. -Harry S. Truman

As a student at both Air Command and Staff College and National Defense University’s  Eisenhower School, I was privileged to hear dozens of accomplished national leaders speak. Generals, Supreme Court justices, Congressional representatives and senators, leaders in industry. We even heard from two sitting presidents. They came from very diverse walks of life and professions but all had a number of things in common: they were all early risers, intellectually agile, often men and women of faith, and committed to their families and to the country. They were also all–to person–voracious readers.

I’m Busy! Why Spend Time Reading?

Noted Victorian era moralist and author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Learn from others’ mistakes, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and it underscores the need to spend time learning from others. For busy military professionals, or leaders in any profession, that means devouring books and publications to gain the benefit of others perspectives. Reading books, blogs, and periodicals are ways to help develop perspective, particularly on current events. Our teams count on us as leaders to have perspective and not act rashly or out of ignorance. I know it seems basic, but spending time with a book gives us the chance to cross space and time to listen to others voices. It allows us to put current events in context, and gives us tools to process things going on around us. 

What Should I Read?

The easy answer to the question, “What should I be reading?” is everything. Leaders, particularly at the executive level, should be versed in history, politics, economics, and science. These subjects are key to understanding the environment as well as the motivations of others. Of course, I’ve written many times that leaders are in the people business. The better we understand people, both individually and as a group, the better we’ll be at motivating and inspiring people to high achievement. Of course, “man does not live by bread alone,” so your leadership reading library should also include fiction, especially literature. These books form the the basis of much of our culture (whether we know it or not), and culture sets the framework for what people value. Popular entertainment has it’s place, of course, but have you ever heard anyone read a book and then say, “the movie was better”?

Military Leaders Reading List

A question I’m asked often, is “what books do you recommend?” The list is always evolving, of course, but here’s a few books that almost always appear on my lists. If you have an add for the list, tell us in the comments below!

The Defense of Hill 781, James R. McDonough.

Army Colonel James McDonough examines leadership through a fantasy allegory of an infantry officer in Purgatory until he leads his mechanized task force to victory over the demons inhabiting the battlefield. Great leadership lessons.

War as I Knew It, General George S. Patton, Jr.

No list is complete without this candid memoir from one of America’s greatest wartime commanders. Filled with historical tidbits and lessons applicable to executive leadership in any large organization, this one is a must read.

Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century, Ivan Musicant.

America’s entry into the world stage at the end of the 19th Century was not a smooth one. Lessons about leading among peers at very senior levels, logistics preparation and management, organizational dynamics, and leading when you’re on your own abound in this interesting read.

The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, Gillian Tett.

In this book, Tett uses the 2008 financial crisis as a case study in organizational culture. She points out that very large and respected international corporations lost trillions of dollars because of their inability to communicate clearly across internal teams or “silos.”  

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal.

In my mind this is the definitive work for working in a globally networked organization. Gen McChrystal talks about his successful campaign against Al Qaeda in Iraq. He created a network of special operators and support forces that rapidly leveraged intelligence and technology, coupled with the expertise of the world’s greatest special operations forces, to crush the insurgency in Iraq.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Written by two former SEAL officers, this book is a “how to” manual on small unit leadership. It’s a candid recounting of battlefield successes and mistakes, and how those leadership lessons apply to both military and civilian environments alike.

The Art of Positive Leadership, John E. Michel.

Written by the General Leadership Foundation’s own Brig Gen (ret) John Michel, The Art of Positive Leadership is a series of essays written mostly during his time in Afghanistan. Michel gives great tips for inspiring high performance even during stressful situations.

And finally, I humbly submit my own flagship leadership book:

Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey Addison

Developed over a 30 year military career and a lifetime of leading, Leading Leaders lays out the foundation for character-based leadership. Illustrated through personal stories and anecdotes, I believe this books is a must read for anyone who wants to improve their productivity and their character.

Happy Reading!

Originally posted on General Leadership

Want to see the full “crowdsourced” reading list? Check out this page!


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

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

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

 

On Civic Virtue, Respect, and Followership

Posted Posted in The Five Be's

Jose Ferrer as Navy Lt Greenwald, “The Caine Mutiny” (Columbia Pictures, 1954)

Ever work for someone or have to be deferential to someone you didn’t respect or didn’t like? Fortunately for me, all the men and women I reported directly to were people I did respect. Civic virtue demands we understand how to respect the office rather than just the office holder.

Respect the Rank and the Office

Of course, and there’s a variety of ways to deal with a situation where the office holder isn’t necessarily someone we can respect personally, some good and some, well, not so good. No matter what, we always respect the rank, or the office, regardless of whether we respect the man or woman wearing it. In truth, there’s really only one way professionals–make that adults–deal with the idea that we respect the “rank” even when we don’t respect the man wearing it. We use the proper titles and terms of address for others, and for Heaven’s sake, capitalize the name of God whether we believe in Him or not. We say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” when speaking to officials, and each other. We don’t use foul language in public. The respect we show isn’t necessarily to the office holder–its to the office itself. Particularly in our American experience, office holders are transitory–but the ideals that hold our country together are not. When we show respect for the rank and the office, we are endorsing the ideals behind them that bind us together.

Civil Virtue Builds Societies

While a lack of respect for others is certainly not a new phenomenon, it has been very disheartening to me how coarse our language has become, and how little respect we show each other both online and in person. I think it’s time to revisit the idea of civic virtue–those virtues and ideals that put the civil peace ahead of our own desire to express ourselves. In fact, these days we talk a lot about “rights.” While everyone has a right to be rude, it’s destructive to the civil peace and ultimately to the person being rude. Being authentically free is not doing whatever we want, it’s being free of shackles so we choose whats good for us. I once heard a protocol officer remind her staff that the purpose of custom and protocol was to ensure everyone knew what to do and therefore everyone felt more comfortable. Civic virtue–civility–does the same thing. When we know the people we are interacting with will treat us with respect, we are much more likely to return that respect. The stress level lowers, the conversation centers on issues rather than personality. Oh, I know, the “yellow dog press” of the past always printed salacious things, and of course people being people we have always had bouts of incivility. But until recently, that was not the norm and it was not accepted in most company. There is a great deal to be said about good manners.

Right On Mr Greenwald

Which brings us to Jose Ferrer’s “Lt Greenwald” and lessons from film, and from a more civil time. Sometimes film is a great way to examine culture and even think out leadership. If you’ve never seen the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny, based on the Herman Wouk novel, then you really should. It’s one of my favorite films. Not only is The Caine Mutiny spectacularly good film making, it also gives some insight into virtues like loyalty, leadership, & followership. (Spoiler Alert)

What I think is a particularly good lesson in this film is the idea of respect for a position or office, even when we might not “like the cut of his suit” as Mr Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) says. While life is not a US Navy destroyer in a life-threatening gale, there is something to be said about respecting the position and being loyal to an institution even when respect for the person is difficult. In this case, the extreme situation of relieving the captain of the ship in order to save it would likely not been necessary if the officers had shown the most modest respect and loyalty to their boss. That respect for the “office” is how professionals act–not out of self-interest or on a personal agenda. In the Air Force we call that virtue “Service Before Self.” As a civic virtue, it’s called “patriotism” or “loyalty,” even “civic duty.” That’s the real lesson of the film. Had the officers of the Caine put their ship and their mission, and yes, even their captain’s welfare, ahead of their own there would not have been a mutiny. No careers destroyed, no ship and crew in peril in a storm.

Those virtues don’t just work in film, they work in the real world, too.

 


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

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

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

 

Leading Teams to Greatness – Part 3 – Executing the Plan

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com, How To Change

riding-the-wave-of-change

Planning is very important, but just like the surfer sitting in the lineup at some point you have to actually drop in and ride the waves. For leaders, this idea means we have to carry out the plans we make. Perfect plans don’t accomplish anything–implementing them does!

That surfing maxim came home to me in the deserts of Kuwait of all places. January 2003 was cold and wet in Kuwait. We’d been planning for months and now it was “go” time. While some projects in our construction program were already underway, we were about to embark on a crash program to complete the remainder of the crucially important projects to get our air base ready. In a few weeks, we’d be receiving 5,000 Airmen and Marines, as well as 200 airplanes. I’ll probably never know for certain, but the word was that when our base was fully operational then we’d begin Operation Iraqi Freedom. In other words: the world was literally waiting on us. We needed to execute the plan we’d made, and we’d need to do it right the first time.

In Part 1, we discussed surveying the environment, and in Part 2 we talked about making a plan. Part 3 is all about execution. After you survey the environment and make a plan, you have to put it into action. When in execution, leaders should keep in mind the following :

  1. Steer the implementation – be a leader and do the job.
  2. Anticipate barriers and plan ahead.
  3. Communicate to everyone constantly.

Keep Your Hand on the Stick

Executing any plan requires a leader to be involved in the execution. We hire leaders to make decisions and inspire others–that means during implementation leaders must understand the plan and steer its implementation. They should be visible and involved. It’s very easy for a leader to spend all his time making the plan then be absent during the actual implementation. We absolutely must resist that urge. Of course the amount of involvement depends on the level of responsibility. First line leaders need to be there all the time, in the middle of the action inspiring and leading, solving problems for the team. Other more senior leaders need to be visible, but shouldn’t “hover”; give the first line leaders space to do their jobs. The mid-level leader should be looking further ahead: clearing barriers and ensuring the team has the resources they need while maintaining contact with the team “on the ground.” Executive leaders should be spending most of their time at the enterprise level, without neglecting the need to be visible to the people actually doing the the job. Regardless of level of responsibility, leaders have to lead through the change: measure progress, keep track of resources, monitor morale.

Heads Up

Another key leadership task during implementation is to anticipate barriers and plan ahead. Just like the surfer riding a wave has to watch out for changing surf conditions and other surfers, leaders must be on the lookout for anything that can go wrong. One of my favorite techniques came from Gen Tommy Franks’ memoir American Soldier where he took time each morning to write down three things that could go right or wrong on a given day. Gen Franks kept those lists on an index card on his desk, and refreshed the lists daily. There are other techniques as well, but the point is leaders must be looking up and out–anticipating things that could affect the current operation and making adjustments. It does no good for leaders to be just as surprised as everyone else when something unexpected happens. Rather, by thinking through the plan and anticipating things that can go wrong, leaders can position their teams to either avoid or minimize damage from barriers when they pop up.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

One often overlooked leadership task is communication. Nothing is done in isolation; no matter what we’re doing others are involved. Everything we do–even those thing “individual” tasks–affect others. We need resources, permissions, advocacy, or buy-in. Community groups, unions, shareholders, boards of directors, and even families all have interest and even stake in what we’re doing. Of course there’s also government officials, customers, and suppliers. All these people and more need to know what’s going on. Believe me, if leaders don’t “feed the beast” and communicate, someone else will fill in the blanks! Public officials need a public affairs plans, businesses need to engage with their customers and advertise, and everyone needs to keep their teammates informed. Clearly, there are as many ways to communicate as there are people, but the key point is this: it’s the leader’s responsibility to ensure everyone who needs to know gets the information. Leaders should spend a great deal of their time communicating, and need to do so deliberately.

Across the Finish Line

Just like a surfer watching the wave and adjusting his course as he goes, leaders have to steer their teams all the way to the finish. By leading visibly, anticipating problems, and communicating appropriately leaders can get their teams to mission accomplishment successfully–while being ready for the next wave!


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!

 

Audio Series Part 4: Teamwork and Little Things Matter

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Podcast

CMlogoIn 2013, I was pleased to be featured in a 4-part series on a radio show called Character Matters! with Bob Vasquez the US Air Force Academy’s KAFA-FM radio. CMSgt (ret) Bob Vasquez was a fabulous host, and we had a great conversation about leadership. You can subscribe to his feed on SoundCloud here.

The Third & Fifth bricks in the Leading Leaders philosophy we discussed were Teamwork and Little Things Matter.

We talked about my Leading Leaders philosophy: Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Leaders Lead, and Little Things Matter. Back then, my Leading Leaders book was still in draft and the working title was “Foundational Leadership,” but the concepts were the same as what appeared in the final copy.

One final bit of business. I’m posting these for the education and entertainment of my readers. KAFA-FM gave me permission to post these, and I want to be clear that by posting this here there is no implied or explicit endorsement by the US Air Force Academy, the Air Force, or the Federal Government. The views expressed in this broadcast and my book are mine and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

 


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!

 

Audio Series: Character Matters! Part 3 All About Leaders

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Podcast

CMlogoIn 2013, I was pleased to be featured in a 4-part series on a radio show called Character Matters! with Bob Vasquez the US Air Force Academy’s KAFA-FM radio. CMSgt (ret) Bob Vasquez was a fabulous host, and we had a great conversation about leadership. You can subscribe to his feed on SoundCloud here.

Today’s post is all about the fourth “brick” in the foundation of leadership: Leaders Lead.  Leaders have to learn when to delegate, to know how follow, and to be able to push authority out and down.

We talked about my Leading Leaders philosophy: Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Leaders Lead, and Little Things Matter. Back then, my Leading Leaders book was still in draft and the working title was “Foundational Leadership,” but the concepts were the same as what appeared in the final copy.

One final bit of business. I’m posting these for the education and entertainment of my readers. KAFA-FM gave me permission to post these, and I want to be clear that by posting this here there is no implied or explicit endorsement by the US Air Force Academy, the Air Force, or the Federal Government. The views expressed in this broadcast and my book are mine and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

 


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!

 

Monday Motivation

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Monday Motivation

 

 


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!

 

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: People Need a Purpose, Not Just a Paycheck

Posted Posted in GeneralLeadership.com, Practical Leadership

S.L.A._Marshall“A man has integrity if his interest in the good of the service is at all times greater than his personal pride, and when he holds himself to the same line of duty when unobserved as he would follow if his superiors were present”
– General S.L.A. Marshall

It was very dark and cold on the flightline at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base where teams of Airmen and a Kuwaiti contractor were working furiously in the desert night to repair a critical fuel line prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The fuel line had been damaged in the 1991 war, and we were racing the calendar to get fuel to the airplanes who would launch the opening of the liberation of Iraq. No one knew the exact date we’d “go north,” but we all knew it was soon. Getting the air base ready for combat was our purpose.

As I made the rounds checking on my engineers and talking with the contractors, I made sure to thank them for the very important work they were doing. The Airmen were in cold and miserable conditions, but all of them were upbeat and positive. “Sir, we know this project is important and we’re proud to be here!” one of them said in the darkness. He knew what was coming and was excited because he was doing his mission. Our Kuwaiti site superintendent gave me the most moving response, however. When I shook his hand and thanked him for his work, in heavily accented English he said simply, “Sir, it is our duty.”

The Myth vs Reality of Military Leadership

Watch almost any military story told on film and you’ll eventually meet the “Colonel Jessup” character–you know, the guy who feels the insignia on his sleeve or collar entitles him to give orders that are followed without question. It’s a popular myth, but it is a myth. While there are certainly occasions for swift and decisive action, good leaders know people aren’t robots and need to know the “why,” especially if there’s danger involved. Further, and more to the point, when leaders give their people a purpose larger than themselves instead of just a paycheck, their relationship transcends the transactional and enters the realm of high performance.

We actually do an exceptional job in the military of giving people a higher purpose to attach to themselves and their work. It’s part of the military leadership model to ensure the team understands and to the maximum extent possible buys into the mission. In war, especially modern war, we expect even the most junior leaders to understand their commander’s purpose and even anticipate that commander’s decisions. The military orders process includes rehearsals and detailed explanations of the plan. We explain how individual tasks fit into the overall plan. Furthermore, military leaders know our work is dangerous and so spend a great deal of energy motivating their teams to understand the risks and why those risks might be necessary.

It’s the same in the day-to-day training environment. Leaders spend energy personally helping the entire team, from the newest “one-striper” the the seasoned veterans understand and appreciate their contribution to the overall mission. It’s common for people to be able to connect even the most mundane tasks to the mission of the larger unit–it’s often the unit motto. “We fuel the warfighter!”, “No comm, no bomb!”–you get the idea. Regardless of whether someone is carrying a rifle, flying a plane, cooking a meal, or repairing an air conditioner, he knows how his particular job contributes to the larger mission.

Private Sector Companies Get It Too

The most successful private sector companies are very good at giving their employees a purpose instead of just a paycheck. There are loads of great examples, but Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) and Space Exploration Technologies, Inc. (SpaceX) are among my favorite examples. REI sells outdoor apparel and equipment, and SpaceX is in the space launch business. Despite being in vastly different industries, they have many things in common. Both companies are innovators, with REI crushing their competitors with record sales and profits, and SpaceX setting a new standard for space launch. They also have something else in common: they are impressively successful at giving their team members as since of higher purpose–a mission. For REI, their mission is to get people outside to enjoy the great outdoors; SpaceX is going to Mars.

To these teams, their purpose is a greater motivation than the bottom line. To be sure, profit and loss statements are the lifeblood of any business—but the heart and soul of that business is the purpose. Leaders who can inspire by connecting individual effort to the overall mission of the organization are the ones who can get high performance from their teams. When that purpose itself is inspirational, so much the better. Case in point is the video below—SpaceX employees cheering the launch and landing of their Falcon 9 rocket like it was the Super Bowl. That sort of excitement doesn’t come from a good compensation package. It comes from visionary leadership energizing the team with the knowledge they’re part of something important. It’s no surprise then, that REI is in an elite category for outdoor equipment and SpaceX is about to launch the same rocket for the second time dramatically lowering the cost of space travel.

Inspire Them, Lead Them

Not everyone is going to Mars or helping people enjoy the great outdoors, but every business leader can help their teams understand their contribution to society and community. Retailers supply the needs and wants of the community, service industry businesses are the fuel for other businesses, city service providers keep the community clean and healthy. All but the most esoteric of luxury businesses contribute directly to the well-being and success of the community. The lesson is this: If you want to lead your organizations to high performance, the inspire them first by giving them a purpose, not just a paycheck.

Originally posted on General Leadership.


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.

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.

Advice that Sticks with Me

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

Bob_Denver_Gilligans_Island_1966I don’t know what it is that I’m doing, but I sure as heck keep doing it! – Gilligan

If you’re a member of a certain “experienced” generation—ahem, mine—then you’ll remember a television show called Gilligan’s Island. It was one of my favorites, and there was often a lesson in the antics of the hapless castaways from the fictional S.S. Minnow, and the title character, Gilligan, was the First Mate. While his bumbling was the comedic center of the show, I think Gilligan probably taught more to his fellow castaways (and the audience) than even the creator Sherwood Schwartz intended. It was advice that sticks, and it “stuck” because the audience and the castaways learned the lessons together. Of course, Gilligan’s Island was comedy, not philosophy.

Like the fictional castaways on that South Pacific island, I’ve also learned a great deal through experience. (You were wondering where I was going with all that Gilligan stuff, weren’t you?) The advice I’ve received has stuck with me because it’s both true and lived. Now it’s yours, too:

“Can’t Never Could Do Anything” (Mickey’s Rule #4) – This originated with my Dad and have been words that motivated me as a skinny 14 year old yearning for gridiron glory AND as a 51 year old colonel! Keep a positive attitude and can-do spirit and you can be mighty!

“Drink Your Water, Eat Your Lunch, and Make New Friends” (Mickey’s Rule #10) – advice from a pre-K kiddo that was wise beyond his years. Live your life in balance and always look for new friends.

“People Are Not Machines” – advice from one of my first squadron commanders to remind me that my Airmen were humans and needed to be treated as such. Leaders can expect a lot from people they treat well–and very little from people they abuse.

“Start Your Day with a Prayer” – a surprising number of senior leaders from all walks of life, both military and civilian, spoke to my Air Command and Staff College and Eisenhower School classes about the need to begin your day with some form of prayer or quiet time. Don’t discount the need to feed your spirit.

“Remember, Thou Art Mortal” – When victorious Roman commanders paraded through the city with their spoils to the cheers of the citizens, there was always someone whispering in his ear, Memor, sis mortalis (Latin: “Remember, thou art mortal”). It’s easy to believe your own press, stay humble.

“Keep Your Head Down and Your Eye On the Ball” – advice from golf and baseball coaches that work for either sport, and in life. Basically, focus on what you’re doing now and avoid distractions.

“Stay In Your Lane” – more sports advice from my high school football coaches. For the kickoff team to be successful, everyone has a job to do–lanes to charge down–and if you’re doing someone else’s job you’re not doing yours!

“Be Kind” – it’s easy to be mean, it takes effort to be kind but it’s worth it. Being kind doesn’t mean you can’t be truthful or even make hard decisions, but it does mean respecting the other person enough to treat them with respect.

Advice that sticks – that’s the best kind!


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 and The Five Be’s. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

Mickey 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, People Development Magazine, and GeneralLeadership.com.

Book Excerpt: Handle Personal Matters Personally

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, Leadership by Experience

I’m pleased to present another excerpt from my book, Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams about the importance for senior leaders to do some things personally:

Paperback Cover - FrontIn my own experience as a leader, I have often been surprised at how much impact little things have on people. Each year former and current students from my alma mater, Texas A&M, gather together on the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto to commemorate fellow Aggies who have died during the year. Aggies have been gathering at Muster ceremonies around the world each year since 1922. When I was a young officer on the Pacific Air Force’s staff in Hawaii, I was the chairman of our local Texas A&M Association of Former Students’ Muster Committee. As it happened, General Pat Gamble, the commanding general, was also a Texas Aggie (’67), so we invited him to attend Muster. He was able to come by for a few minutes before heading off to an official function. Our guest speaker that night was another Aggie, Dr. Don Powell (’56), a famous cartoonist who contributed to the Texas A&M school newspaper for a generation. Dr. Powell was the author of a cartoon entitled “dp” that depicted a lovable cadet and his sidekick. It was a cherished memory of days gone by, especially if you were an Aggie sports fan like me. As souvenirs for the evening, Dr. Powell signed copies of his cartoons, so I asked him to sign a “dp” cartoon for General Gamble. Dr. Powell graciously obliged.

The next day at work, I quickly typed up a short note thanking the general for coming to Aggie Muster, attached the signed cartoon, and delivered it to the general’s secretary. I didn’t expect to hear from the general again; after all, he commanded a vast organization responsible for protecting the airspace across the entire Pacific Ocean with thousands of Airmen and hundreds of airplanes, and I was a mere captain. But sure enough, in a day or two I received a handwritten note card with a thank you from the general. That act of kindness—and good manners—made a big impression on me. That handwritten note probably took General Gamble a couple of minutes to write. He likely forgot about it as soon as he’d done it, but to this day that note is the reason I still don’t sign form “letters of appreciation” prepared by my staff. Countless members of my own units have received handwritten notes all because years ago a very busy man took a couple minutes to write a personal note to me.

I have come to believe in the power of the personal touch when leaders interact with their teams. People may say they don’t care about what their leaders think about them, but my experience tells me the opposite. It matters when a leader takes the time to personally recognize excellence and when the leader shows interest in the team members’ families and personal lives. Certainly there is a line that one shouldn’t cross, like dating subordinates or asking uninvited personal questions about family, faith, or politics, but treating people like people who have their own interests and relationships instead of cogs in the machine means leaders should handle some things personally.


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.

Dynamic Dozen: You Have to Decide

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com

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No! Do or do not. There is no try. -Yoda

I had to decide and there really weren’t any good choices. Balancing security with the “need for speed” completing construction in preparation for the invasion of Iraq. The security officer at our air base in the Kuwaiti desert would not budge on his requirements, and we did not have enough Airmen to do the job. We had to hire more contractors and that meant more Airmen needed to guard them. What’s more, we wouldn’t get any relief from either security or the deadline and the time when we would “go north” into Iraq was approaching. We were simply out of time and ideas.

“OK guys,” I told my assembled team leaders, “our priorities are airfield pavement, water, power, and everything else. What’s left on the project list?” After some discussion, I decided to shift Engineer Airmen from other work to guard duty for the contractors who were working the water projects. It meant we would run the risk of not completing all our work on time, but I had to prioritize the work and make sure the most critical jobs got done. In the end, we launched the jets on time on the 19th of March–literally screwing the last of the taxiway lights into the pavement as the first F-16s were taking off to strike the first targets of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

You’ll Never Have Enough Information

The most common mistake leaders make is trying to make a perfect decision by gathering an immense amount of information. In the Air Force, we call it “Paralysis By Analysis,” and we’ve all suffered a leader who seemingly refused to make a decision without perfect information. Leaders, let me be clear: you will never have enough information. There will always be another “why” to ask, another metric to dissect, and another opinion to seek. As leaders, if we allow ourselves to get caught in an infinite “Do Loop” seeking the perfect decision, then we’re no longer leaders: we’re followers of data. Leaders get paid to make decisions, and for those decisions to mean to any thing they have to be timely and accurate. Remember, we don’t work for the computer.

Don’t Rush It

There was a popular vineyard whose 1980’s slogan was “We’ll sell no wine, before its time.” So it is with making decisions. Timing of decisions is skill every leader must have, and we get better at it when we make decisions. Just as “Paralysis By Analysis” can delay a good decision, rushing into a decision is just as bad. When I worked as a “budgeteer” on the Headquarters Air Force engineer staff, we used the expression, “Speed kills” to remind ourselves not to rush and make mistakes. The SEALS have an even better expression, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” It means, take your time and do it right the first time. A rushed job is a sloppy job. Just as taking too long to make a decision makes the decision irrelevant, a rushed decision almost guarantees a poor one.

Right Time, Right Decision

So where’s the balance? Well, it’s making the best decision you can with the information you have–not too soon and not too late. That comes with practice to be sure, practice making decisions. Understanding when there is enough information and then having the courage to make it is the key. It takes some seasoning to get it right–few do it intuitively–but when you make good decisions you enable your team to max performance. The trick is to understand when getting more information is not going to help you. Most decisions we make in business have a deadline.