Why You Need a Coach

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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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Leadership Foundations

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading Leaders

I use sports metaphors a lot in my books and in my talks because I’m a firm believer in the power of sports to teach life and leadership lessons. I’m not alone in that view. Gen Douglas MacArthur famously said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.” The quote means that the things we learn on the field of play are applicable to life: dealing with adversity, motivating others, perseverance, humility in victory, dignity in defeat.

Football, and Spring Football

Sports is very big in Texas. In Texas, we only have two sports, football and spring football. Ok, that’s a tad bit over the top, but football is probably the most popular sport in Texas. Growing up in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Dallas Cowboys were my hometown team and the men on the team were boyhood heroes. I never missed a game on TV, knew all the names of all the players and most of the coaches, and wore Roger Staubach’s and Drew Pearson’s numbers on my jerseys.

Head Coach Tom Landry remains one of the men I most admire. If you haven’t read his story, I highly encourage it. His book is hard to find, but worth the read. He was a B-17 pilot in World War II, a US Air Force captain who flew combat missions, and then like a lot of veterans came back and resumed his life. He played the New York Giants, and then later as a coach. When the Cowboys franchise began he became the first head coach for nearly 30 years.

Coach Landry on Leadership

A Tom Landry quote I like a lot mirrors my approach to leadership as well. Landry said, “The art of leadership is getting people to do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they want to achieve.” To me, that is the essence of what leadership is about. Many things we’re asked to do as leaders involve things that we don’t want to do. Some things are uncomfortable. We have to work hard, or we have to work late, or they’re tasks that are unpleasant. The art of leadership is to motivate people, and motivate yourself as a leader to inspire people to greatness, despite maybe the unpleasantness of those tasks. Character is built suffering through two-a-day football practice in August in Texas with the knowledge that the sweat and sore muscles now mean success on the field in November.

Mapping Leading Leaders Tenets to Goals of Leadership

In my books Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, I map out the the goals leaders have for understanding their environment with five tenets of leadership. These tenets form the foundation of any leadership approach. It’s these goals and tenets I first learned on the sports field, and honed over three decades in the US Air Force.

TenetsLeadership Goal
IntegrityLittle Things MatterUnderstand that ethics and character contribute to high performing teams
RespectLeaders LeadUnderstand the relationship between the leader and the follower
TeamworkAppreciate the “teams within teams” concept of organizational leadership

When you take those five tenets of leadership, and then you marry those things up with our goals as leaders, as relationship builders, as task doers, that’s where they map out. The first is understanding the ethics and character. This really is the foundation of leadership, right? Because if we don’t have good character, if we don’t start with the foundation of integrity, then we’re going to make decisions later that are going to let other people down, and compromise ourselves.

Respect” and “Leaders Lead,” that’s understanding the relationship between the leader and the follower. It’s that understanding that leading people is about motivating and inspiring people, not merely  accomplishing a task. Sometimes we’re a bit too in love with our spreadsheets. We love to be able to plug numbers in and do math, and get an answer. But we sometimes forget as that our purpose in life is to do things for human beings. That’s what leaders do, leaders take the task that we’re doing, and make it applicable to the human beings that we work and serve, and work for.

The last goal of Teamwork is understanding the idea of “teams within teams”. We had a great chief of staff in General John Jumper a few years ago, and he used to talk about teams within teams, and that’s where I borrowed that phrase. There is room for individual achievement, and we should celebrate that, but we should never forget that we have teammates, and sometimes we have teammates that we don’t realize we have.

On the Fields of Friendly Strife

We can do a lot of leadership and character growth on the sports field – take advantage of the chance to learn those lessons in a benign environment.

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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!

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Keeping Up with Engel Jones

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Podcast, The Five Be's, Video

Back in November, I had the pleasure to appear on 12 Minute Convos with Engel Jones podcast. It was great fun, and today Engel came by to reconnect on Facebook Live with me. We had a conversation that was way too short, but incredibly fun.

What I like most about Engel is his genuineness – he truly enjoys meeting all kinds of people and engages fully when he does. It’s the kind of authenticity I write about in The Five Be’s, and the kind of person I’m always trying to be.

If you enjoyed this conversation, check our Engel’s podcast and go support his GoFundMe to help him finish his “conversation tour” of the United States and conversations with interesting people!


Get your copy of The Five Be's on Amazon or the Lulu store!

____________________________________________________________________________

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

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And the First Day it Rained

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs, Outbound Collective, Practical Leadership
This week I’m pleased to bring you my guest post on The Outbound Collective. Be sure to click the link and show them some love!

My mom was a prolific writer and tried mightily to get her short story published about the vacations she used to take with her 4 siblings and her mom and dad all crammed into a 1955 station wagon. The title of her story was, And the First Day It Rained…

I thought of Mom as we loaded the canoes near Ponca, Arkansas in the drizzle and prepared to launch into the icy water of the Buffalo River. It was April, and a late spring rain had drenched the Ozarks around us over the past two days, making our drive through the narrow mountain roads, ahem, “sporty.” Nonetheless, we managed to make it from South Texas to the Buffalo National River with all our gear and with most of our wits. After a bit of really outstanding barbeque and homemade fried pies at T’s BBQ in Harrison (thank you Yelpers) and last minute provisioning at the Harrison Walmart, we were finally here. Weeks of planning and thinking about the trip were about to be consummated. After a brief checkout at Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, we caravan-ed down to the launch point to meet up with our canoes.

You Had One Job

I spent a lot of time in the water growing up in the lakes of North Texas, and more recently eight years in the ocean daily off the Windward shores of O’ahu, but this was to be my first multi-day canoe trip. I was concerned that my ocean and lake experience wouldn’t translate to the swift water, but I wasn’t a novice in the water.

My one goal for the day was to stay in the canoe. I’d rafted Class IV rapids in Idaho, surfed double overhead waves on Oahu, paddled outriggers, and regularly paddle boarded and kayaked in strong trades and chest high surf. Surely, I thought, someone with my experience in the water could manage to stay upright in a river.

We finished loading in the 55-degree drizzle, stopped for a couple of photos, and launched into the grey, fast moving Buffalo, determined not to be “that guy” who ends up in the water with wet gear and an embarrassed smile.

Water is Water, Right?

I figured that despite my lack of recent swift water experience, I was likely the one with the most time in the water and the most time with a paddle. I tried to gently maneuver myself to the back of my canoe so I could steer, but didn’t want to strong arm my buddy and ended up in the front. We tried to switch ends just after launching—which didn’t work—and so after a little bit of wrangling the canoe we managed to get ourselves into a good rhythm for the rest of the morning. Our plan was to stop at Horseshoe Bend, about 4.5 miles downriver, and hike up to a place called Hidden Falls.

We almost made it.

Surfing the Buffalo

My canoe partner, Stan, and I were learning each other, and I was learning what it was like to be along for the ride. Like me, Stan was no stranger to the water either, spending time sailing the ocean and motoring around the lake near Corsicana, Texas. Canoes are a different matter altogether, however, and two-man canoes require the crew to be in sync. In a two-man crew, the guy in front is just the motor—the guy in back is the one who steers—and the crew works together to move the canoe through swift water and around obstacles. Stan and I were not yet a crew and that was about to become painfully apparent.

I was navigating with the National Park map so I knew Horseshoe Bend was around the next corner, but since neither Stan nor I had paddled that stretch of the river before, we really had no idea what to expect or which line to take. Our lack of synchronicity as a crew, a slightly off-center load in the canoe, and a bad read of the river had us going wide on the turn once we entered Horseshoe Bend. At the top of the bend a large tree overhung the river. We’d successfully ducked tree limbs all morning, but this one was to be our undoing.

Even as I write this, it’s hard to remember exactly what happened.

Cold Dunking Achievement Unlocked

What I think happened, was, as we got wide on the turn the big limb came right at me at nose height. I put up my paddle to shield my face and probably got knocked to the right gunwale. Stan, I think, must’ve leaned right or dug in his paddle to try to turn, and suddenly we were overloaded on the right side—tumbling into the 60-degree water. All that happened in about 1 second, because all I really remember is a loud crash from the plastic paddle hitting the tree, followed by the crash of leaves, followed by bone chilling cold.

I’d like pause my story for a moment here to thank three persons: God, the BOC guy at the put in, and Eddie Bauer.

Clearly, God sent an extra angel or two to watch over us because despite being canoe-rookies and Stan getting tangled in some gear, we both ended up in coming out of the water alive and with all of our gear except one water bottle. If He hadn’t been watching over us a potentially deadly situation could’ve been tragic. Instead, we just came out wet and cold.

Second, I usually paddle on the very mild Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country. The shallow river is popular for “toobers” and rarely approaches swift water with any rating at all. Because of the mild current and shallow conditions, I usually stow my PFD and paddle without it. The BOC guide suggested rather strongly we wear our PFDs if for no other reason than it would keep us warm. I’m not certain we’d have had quite such a happy ending without a PFD.

Third, I could’ve been doing a commercial for Eddie Bauer—pants, socks, web belt, fleece, and shell were all right out of Eddie’s closet. Because I had on good clothes, I dried out quickly and stayed warm even when soaked through in 55 degree air. If I hadn’t been a fan before, then I’d have become an Eddie Bauer fan for life after I dried out in minutes after my dunking!

Back to the action.

The water was so cold I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs to make myself heard above the roar of the water. I mouthed and pointed, “get to the beach over there” and we managed to steer our now overturned canoe dragging gear to the outside rocky beach at the apex of the Bend. After disentangling Stan from our tie down rope, began to gather up our gear. I had to go back into the water after a paddle and a couple of items that had come untied in the mayhem, but we managed to recover our gear and get dried out while eating our lunch. Amazingly, the sandwiches in paper bags in my Eddie Bauer daypack stayed dry. The first aid kit was soaked—but the food stayed dry. Small miracles.

It’s All Down River from Here

Hiking up to the falls was now off the agenda, we needed time to gather up our gear, dry out a little, and repack the canoe. After a breather and some food, I managed to shake my frustration at falling short of my only goal (stay dry) and get back in the canoe. Stan and I had planned to swap positions in the canoe at lunch each day, and now in the steering position and feeling in control of my own fate a little more, we launched back into the river.

Better loaded than our first try, and with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, we made our way the last 6 miles through gorgeous canyons and a few more areas of swift water. Providence smiled on us again, and about 3pm that afternoon we pulled into a sweet camp on the edge of another horseshoe bend with a sandy beach and firewood already stacked up from the previous occupants. Dry clothes, a good fire, some hot food, and my spirits began to improve. By the firelight we relived college memories and shared things that’d happened since our last time together. A good night’s sleep would complete my rehabilitation after my involuntary swim in the frigid river.

Floating Down the Buffalo, Driving Southbound on I-35

The second and third days were much warmer than the first, and it didn’t take long for us to shed all our cold weather clothes and slather on the sunscreen to prevent bad burns. As we traveled further down the river, we started running into floaters who were on day trips. The silence of the first two days was broken by loud music and beer-fueled conversations with others on the river on the third. Our 34 miles ended sooner than we expected as we reached our take out at Carver Landing early afternoon on the third day. Tired, happy, and a little sunburned, we packed our gear, put on the dry clothes we’d left in the car, and headed south. It would be a long eight-hour drive back to Corsicana for an overnighter, then home to New Braunfels the next day.

It had been a great adventure with my old friends, and we parted with plans to return to the river again.


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 seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’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!

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The Stories in Stacks of Business Cards

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Conferences, Practical Leadership
This week I’m pleased to bring you my guest post on the Society of American Military Engineer’s Bricks & Clicks Blog. Be sure to click the link and show them some love!

Photo courtesy of SAME

Every time I come back from the Society of American Military Engineers Joint Engineer Training Conference (“JETC”), I find myself sorting through a stack of business cards. Each one of those cards tells a story: a new person I’ve met or a colleague I’ve reconnected with after not seeing for a while. In those stacks of business cards, there’s the thread of my story that’s connected with others in the Society.

That connection with others in the community is the thing I love most about coming to what I humbly believe is the best annual conference of any professional organization. There are lots of great conferences out there, but I think JETC is special.

What Makes Us Special

“We are establishing at this time a Society of American Military Engineers. This society will serve no selfish purpose. It is dedicated to patriotism and national security. Its objects are, in brief, to promote solidarity and co-operation between engineers in civil and military life, to disseminate technical knowledge bearing upon progress in the art of war and the application of engineering science thereto, and to preserve and maintain the best standards and traditions of the profession, all in the interests of patriotism and national security.” –The Military Engineer magazine, January 1920

Like many professionals, I belong to several professional societies and service organizations. They all have their virtues of course, but the chief virtue of SAME is its enduring purpose: dedicated to patriotism and national security. Most professional associations exist for the primary benefit of the members. Professional growth, networking, and of course community service are all worthy goals. The thing about SAME is that both those in government and in industry are committed first to national service in the defense of our country.

It’s the calling of engineers whose credo is to first serve the public good. It’s that common sense of mission and purpose that creates a community of some of the best people I know. It’s what makes us special.

Always Learning

Another thread revealed in that stack of business cards is the memories of the talks I heard, and conversations had over those three days at the 2018 JETC in Kansas City. It’s interesting how the subject matter and education tracks have evolved over time.

This year, there were more and more sessions about the implementation of digital and disruptive technology that gives our government colleagues and industry teammates a competitive edge in an increasingly complex global defense environment. It’s always fun to see a card and reflect on the conversations we had during JETC, and see the continuous evolution of our profession and our Society is energizing to watch.

Rewards, Friendships, Heroes

A member of the SAME National Office staff once referred to JETC as a “SAME love fest.” When I smiled and asked what she meant, she explained that because of the social events, the Post awards, and the Society Ball, it was a chance for the members to reconnect and show their affection and appreciation for each other.

She is right: the mood of the conference reflects that sense of community and collegiality. It’s fun to see people recognized for their tremendous work to further the profession and grow the Society’s reach. I particularly enjoy seeing people I know who have worked without fanfare or seeking recognition heralded publicly for their contributions.

Looking Forward to Next Year

Of course, it goes without saying the keynotes are always inspiring, this year particularly so. As a “Greyshirt” myself, meeting Team Rubicon founder Jake Wood and hearing his story of continued service was motivating. It’s experiences like that, along with the opportunity to renew old friendships as well as make new ones, that speak to me from those stacks of business cards.

The call for presentations for the 2018 Small Business Conference is already out, and there’s a lot of business that gets done at that one, so don’t miss it. Of course, the 2019 JETC in Tampa, Fla., is just around the corner as well: less than 350 days and counting!

I should have worked my way through all those cards by then.


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 seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’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!

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I Want to be Like Andy Taylor

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, NC

The Andy Griffith Show has some of the most beloved characters in television, even to this day. Mayberry, the fictional town where Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) worked, is the synonymous with the America “back when” that probably never really ever existed anywhere but in our hearts. Reality television has replaced the idyllic version of American life. Our entertainment now is replete with the warts and frailties of real human beings enhanced by screenwriters and producers that seem to find new ways daily to appeal to the worst in us. It’s not their fault, really: it’s ours; if we didn’t buy the stuff they wouldn’t sell it.

What I Really Mean is…

This is not a culture-bashing post–it’s an appeal for us all to try harder to be better. You see, it’s those characters in Mayberry that I think I love the most, rather than the fiction of white picket fences and simple times. The inhabitants of Mayberry are human, of course, in a corny and even simple way. It is art after all, and for art to appeal to a broad audience we have to take some artistic license. Shakespeare did it, Homer did it, Jane Austen, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Mary Shelly, Andy Weir, W.E.B. Griffin–all authors simplify and symbolize things to tell the story. You see, it’s the message delivered by the author in the story and it’s characters that’s important. Mayberry is therefore more symbolic than it is reflective. As it should be with art.

Why I Like Andy

I like Andy Taylor because of the qualities he embodies. In Andy we see a genuinely honest man who does his best to do his duty and raise his son. He values virtue, he works hard, he is tough when he needs to be and merciful when he should be. Andy is a friend to everyone, but nobody’s fool. He’s always looking out for others even when they don’t deserve it. He upholds the law, but not blindly. He has faults, and makes mistakes, but he forgives and forgets readily and never holds a grudge. When he does something to injure someone else, he does his best to make amends. He avoids cross words, and rarely raises his voice. He doesn’t allow indecency or vice into his life, but he doesn’t judge those who do. Andy Taylor is a good man.

No matter how symbolic, Mayberry was not isolated from the America of the day. Even in that small fictional town in North Carolina sometimes an ill wind blew in danger and vice. Sheriff Taylor dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, sexism, snobbery by the rich toward the poor, theft, and of course the ordinary human vices of avarice, greed, lust, pride, etc. The difference between other shows then and now is how Andy handled those issues, and how he rose above his own personal frailties to serve others. Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) in Blue Bloods probably comes closest to Andy’s approach than any other modern character.

Why it Matters

Modern politics, be it in the public sphere or in the office, is honestly not terribly different than it ever has been. People are people, and always have been. If you don’t believe me, Google “political cartoons from ____” and fill in the year. During the founding of our Republic, there was no shortage of harsh and even disgraceful words between those who wanted a confederation of independent states, and those who wanted a republic. When debating issues of the day during the 19th century, men often settled disputes with pistols at 10 paces. In the 20th century it got now better–name calling, fear mongering, racism–all part of the public life of the country. In the 21st century, we’re about the same I suppose.

Sometimes, though, we forget that during the same time that men did terrible things to each other, men also did great and beautiful things as well. The same world where tyrants and criminals live is the same world inhabited by people who create art, industry, innovation, care for the earth and people around them, and yes, even characters like Andy Taylor.

Who I Want to Be

Andy Taylor is a fictional character, of course, but he’s the literary embodiment of the kind of man I’d like to be. In this troubled time, we need more men of character like Andy. We need to be the kind of person who seeks to serve others, who avoids the “glamour of evil” and is deliberate about what goes into their minds and hearts. For me, well, I want to be more like Andy.


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 seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’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.

Resiliency is a Team Sport

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

This past week I’ve had the great privilege to be a volunteer at the Air Force Trials for the DoD Warrior Games. The Warrior Games are a paralympic-style competition for military athletes who were wounded in battle, seriously ill, or injured while on active duty. My firm is a sponsor of the Games, and so I was honored to spend 4 days at the Air Force Trials as a volunteer. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me to be in the company of more than 120 athletes from three countries, their caregivers, and the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) staff. As you might expect, I got far more than I gave.

I wrote on my Instagram page an abbreviated “take-away” from that week:

Baby gear, mobility aids, dog kennels… reminders that our #AFW2 athletes are members of families and communities. Husbands, wives, sweethearts, fathers, mothers. Things that come easily for most are daily challenges to conquer for these athletes.

I rarely see the struggle in their eyes. What I see is determination, courage, and even joy — determination to continue to live out their lives with purpose, courage to conquer adversity, and the joy of another sunrise with the ones dear to them in the country they love.  

“Don’t Go to the Dark Place”

“Don’t go to the Dark Place” is the warning caregivers and mentors give to their loved ones. The words are mine, of course, but the message is the same. It’s a plea and a shot of strength at the same time. I think many people live with a door that leads to the “Dark Place.” It’s the place in their lives where all their failures are on display, where the light and warmth of the love of family and friends is absent, where the Evil One shouts accusations in the cold darkness. The door to the Dark Place opens when we have trauma in our lives, and sometimes it becomes the path of least resistance.

For most people, it becomes impossible to leave the Dark Place on their own. That’s where AFW2 comes in.

Many of the AFW2 athletes and their caregivers have been to that Dark Place, or at least to the threshold. They know the darkness of a flash and waking up in a hospital half a world away from their last memory and missing limbs. Or perhaps the darkness of hearing the word “cancer” through the buzzing rush of blood in their ears. For some, it was the unspeakable trauma of sexual assault by someone who should’ve been a brother and not a threat.

When those terrible events occur in our lives, that door to the Dark Place opens. The Dark Place even looks comforting to some at first. But in short order, the Dark Place becomes a cold and binding vice sucking joy away from you like a frigid night. For most people, it becomes impossible to leave the Dark Place on their own. That’s where AFW2 comes in.

Resiliency is a Team Sport

To fight the Dark Place, you need a store of personal resiliency and a team around you to support you. There are physical battles to overcome, but the real battle is in the soul. Military people learn early on to endure physical challenges. Pain is a familiar battleground, and we know that terrain. A team around you helps with the physical battle, of course, but at some level, we all learn to compartmentalize discomfort and pain and get the mission done. The soul is new terrain–and to battle there you need help. The AFW2 program is the team to help their fellow Airmen stay in the light.

…through sport and the camaraderie of the Games, they learn to focus on a new purpose.

When we talk about “personal resiliency,” we tend to focus on skills the individual can employ to keep themselves moving forward when everything in their lives seems to be pushing them into “the dark place.” Each of the Warriors who tried out for the Games this week has a team around them to encourage them and help them stay in the light of recovery. For most of them, their “normal” will never be what it was before they were injured.

However, through sport and the camaraderie of the Games, they learn to focus on a new purpose. Severe trauma drains a person’s battery of personal resiliency quickly, and those batteries have to be recharged by others. Enter AFW2 and the caregivers. Everyone learns skills to cope and strength to stay in the light.

The Daily Battle and Daily Victory

Each of the AFW2 athletes fights a new battle every day. For some, they will return to a semblance of normal, but others will have to redefine themselves and pursue the Light every day. They’ll get tired, they’ll be inspired, they’ll get discouraged, they’ll win small victories. Each day will bring unexpected challenges and sometimes defeats. There will also be unexpected wins and light that will buoy them for another day or more. A few will even return to active duty and continue to serve in uniform.

These are not people who choose the easy way, and they’ve decided not to give up.

It’s not the victories nor the defeats that define these men and women. What defines them is their resilient spirit and their courage in the face of obstacles that seem insurmountable. Giving up is the easiest thing to do. These are not people who choose the easy way, and they’ve decided not to give up.

To be sure, none of them would choose to go through what they’ve endured. What they have chosen, however, is to close the door to the Dark Place and seek out the light. I was inspired by these Airmen and the awesome team of caregivers and supporters around them. They’re all heroes and athletes in my book.

Edited 3/5 to embed the Instagram post and make minor edits.


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 seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’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!

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The Human Connection is the Foundation of Respect

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

(Photo: James Cridland)

One of the games I play to keep myself amused during trips is to make up stories in my head about the people I see walking by in airports or other public places. I give them names, try to guess at their destinations, and the reasons for their travel.

That’s Gladys Simpson. She’s a 48 year old traveling photographer, mother of two boys (Delwin and Delbert), on her way to an assignment to shoot the elusive Andean Snow Turtle. Her husband, Roland, is an HVAC technician and worked overtime so she could afford the new photo rig in her bag. It’s her first assignment after raising her family and now she’s pursuing her passion in a second career.

Sometimes the stories are a little silly like that, and sometimes the faces I see inspire a much more somber story.

He’s forgotten his real name because no one calls him by it anymore. Everyone just calls him “Buddy” as he pushes his shopping cart full of odds and ends around. “Buddy” mumbles to himself as he walks down the street looking for a place to rest before he’s forced to move again. In between random thoughts about a Parcheesi game he played as a kid, and trying to remember the color of his socks, he thinks to himself that he hopes that nice policeman comes by tonight. He feels safer when the policeman stands nearby. The street bullies don’t bother him when the cops are there and he can relax. Blue! His socks are blue!

Humans Need Each Other

Why did I take you down this little side trip? Because, humanity. We need a lot more of it.

The theme of this month’s posts is “Respect”, but a collision of religious, societal, and current events caused me to shift a bit this week. First, there’s the once in several decades overlap of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Valentine’s Day is an invitation to erotic love and the second is a call to filial love and repentance. Then there’s the shooting in Florida that happened today. “Tragedy” seems to small a word to encompass the hell that dozens of families are experiencing tonight. There ought to be stronger words.

What in the world do all these thing have to do with each other? The answer is human connection and love for one another. The beauty of erotic love can be twisted when we objectify others. Religion becomes a social club if we don’t connect with the Divine and our faith community. Disturbed people harm others when they’re left on their own to fester. Teams, companies, and families fall apart when the members don’t invest in the people around them.

Be Deliberate, Give Them a Chance

We pass by others every day and don’t look at their faces. Each one of them is just like you and me: they have their own stories complete with triumph and tragedy. Some need more help than others, some are more successful than others, but each one is a singularly unique creation worthy of respect and yes, love. We use our words on social media to bludgeon and wound rather than to seek understanding. There is a way out, though.

When I was in the Air Force, I always accepted the people that no one else wanted. Most of the time all those people needed was someone to believe in them and give them a chance to succeed. Of course not everyone succeeded–people have different skills and sometimes their vices overwhelm their virtues–but I had about an 80% success rate with the “misfits” others didn’t want. The core truth, though, is that regardless of ability or success, each person deserves to be respected.

Don’t Walk By

Malcolm Forbes once said that he could judge the character of a man by the way he treated those who could do nothing for him, or to him. A well-known CEO always interviews potential hires at a restaurant to see how they treat the waitstaff. Human connection matters. If we walk by other people heedless of their humanity as if they’re objects to be navigated around, we surrender a little bit of what makes us human. We certainly don’t have to engage with everyone around us, but we should notice and respect their humanity.

After a tragedy like what happened in Florida today, people often make “I knew something wasn’t right” comments. Right now, a lot of people are asking, “why?” How many of us notice the homeless people we pass on the street to get our coffee? When was the last time we asked our co-workers about their families, or showed genuine concern when it was obvious they weren’t feeling well or were distraught about something? It’s a question we need to ask ourselves daily. We don’t have to be saints, but we ought to try.


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 seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’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!

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Respect for Persons

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

The national conversation about how men and women should treat each other is a valuable conversation for leaders and high achievers to have. It’s everyone’s responsibility to create and sustain a culture of respect, and for leaders it’s particularly important. We have learned a great deal about ourselves and our culture of late. I’ve always thought of history as a bit like eating a watermelon: eat the good stuff and spit out the seeds. Time to take a bite and see what we can discern.

No Person is an Object

In our hypersexualized culture, it’s easy to simply get accustomed to the objectification of others. We should resist that. People are not things; each person is a unique creation worthy of basic human dignity and respect. As I write in Leading Leaders,

Beyond mere adherence to the law, respect is recognizing that another human being has the same value as I do because they are [they exist], not because of what they do, how much money they make, or what clothes they wear. Now, I can certainly perform rote behaviors and parrot legal scripts when dealing with others, but to truly show respect, that has to come from the heart. Again, I don’t have to condone behavior or agree with beliefs that don’t match my own; but the skilled leader, the effective leader, separates behavior from personhood and can show respect to anyone regardless of differences.

When we allow ourselves to view another human being, not as a person with their own agency but as an object to be manipulated or used, we are violating the basic tenet of “Respect.” People are of course responsible for their own actions, but we have a parallel responsibility to treat others with respect and to protect the vulnerable persons from harm. This means sticking up for people who can’t stick up for themselves, and it also means supporting others when they do stick up for themselves.

I believe men have a special responsibility here to be protectors. That is not to say that women cannot be protectors as well, of course that’s true, but since most sexual assault and harassment happens because men do it to women, men have a special responsibility to act to stop other men. We men also have a special responsibility to set a good example to other men about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Crimes are Not Mistakes

I’m sure everyone can immediately think of a case where someone has crossed the line criminally when it comes to sexual assault or harassment. Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar’s names are now synonymous with “sexual assault.” Columnists and bloggers have written pages and pages; victims have voiced their stories. There has been “collateral damage” in the reputations of some men and a few women, who didn’t cross the line into a “crime” but were nonetheless boorish at best and objectified others at worst. These stories are painful and gut-wrenching for anyone to hear, and they all point to two common themes being abundantly clear. Abusers invariably:

  1. Objectified another person, usually a woman, for the purpose of sexual gratification.
  2. Allowed by others to continue to do their dirty work without correction or being reported to the authorities because of their power, influence, or connections.

Often people tried to “handle things” quietly, or even turned a blind eye to “protect an institution” or company. These people treated these crimes as mere mistakes; crimes are not mistakes.

What It All Means

It’s tempting to reflect on the “Good Old Days,” but that’s a fool’s errand for two reasons. First the “Good Old Days” weren’t always good for everyone, and second, what’s past is past–what we do in the future is what matters. We’ve learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t in our culture in the past 30 years, we need to be mature enough men and women to apply those lessons.

Regardless of how you feel about the Sexual Revolution, I think many of us could agree that we’re not happier people today than we were before the Sexual Revolution. There’s even a case to be made that the Weinstiens of the world were emboldened when we made sex a recreational activity rather than a powerful connection between people. We ought to be brave enough as a society to learn from our mistakes and make adjustments–not out of fear of reprisal, but because it’s the right way to treat each other and ourselves. We can have our own opinions about the relationship between sex, marriage, and family, but I think we can also agree to respect the power of those things in the human mind and heart. Mature persons respect that power and don’t risk their own well being in a cost-benefit analysis that has a poor margin.

It’s good that women have taken their rightful place in society as full participants. It’ll be better if all people, and especially women, can assume they’ll be treated with respect for who they are as persons without qualification. I think it’s time we take the good lessons of the past 30 years and spit out the seeds, don’t you?


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 seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Leaders Create a Culture of Respect

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leadership by Experience

The second brick in the foundation of leadership that’s necessary when leading leaders is respect. The leader must model respect and demand it of their teams.

Respect must go both ways, up as well as down, and most of the burden falls on the leader’s shoulders. Respect is both inherent, and it is earned.  It is earned by the way we do our jobs, the way we treat others, and how we carry ourselves. Just as important, respect for the organization is a necessary component.  Respect is also inherent in each person as a matter of simple human dignity.

Leaders Set the Tone

It is very important for a leader to explicitly outline his or her expectations in this regard. Everyone should expect their co-workers and their leaders to follow the law, that’s a given. Our attitudes about the people we work with should convey that our hearts as well as our heads demonstrate our respect. The leader must also pledge that they will show respect to their team. A person who shows respect to others will create a “bubble of trust” around them. People will want to work with them and for them. Customers will want to do business with them. The more people in an organization that have built their reputations on mutual respect, the bigger that “bubble of trust” grows. When people know they’re respected by their teammates and leaders, they feel safe to perform, to take risks, and to be themselves.

A person who shows respect to others will create a “bubble of trust” around them.

Whenever I took command of a new unit, I made it very clear that we were to respect each other as Airmen and as persons. For us, that meant we used proper military customs and courtesies, we didn’t use foul language, and we respected each others’ dignity whether or not we agreed with our teammates’ choices or beliefs. Each person has a multitude of ways to describe them: sex, race, eye color, religion or no religion, national origin, etc. We are required by law to treat people equally in all things and not to treat someone differently because they are different from us. It’s not necessary for me to agree with everything another person thinks or believes, but it is necessary for me to treat them with the respect they deserve as a fellow human being.

Beyond mere adherence to the law, respect is recognizing that another human being has the same value as I do because they are.

Not Just for the Military

In the private sector, this is no different. Like the public sector, there are institutional policies and public law that require certain personal and institutional behaviors, but respect is not a legal requirement. Respect is much more than that. Beyond mere adherence to the law, respect is recognizing that another human being has the same value as I do because they are, not because of what they do, how much money they make, or what clothes they wear. Now, I can certainly perform rote behaviors and parrot legal scripts when dealing with others, but to truly show respect, that has to come from the heart. Again, I don’t have to condone behavior or agree with beliefs that don’t match my own; but the skilled leader, the effective leader, separates behavior from personhood and can show respect to anyone regardless of differences. This type of respect engenders respect in return.

Over the course of my career, I’ve led and worked with a number of people who were very different from me. Because we lived and worked in an environment where respect was the expected behavior, teams and friendships usually form quickly, even among very dissimilar people. We became friends with people we might never have even met, let alone socialized with, because the climate our leaders created and maintained required that we respect each other. When you start with respect for another person, most times the differences don’t really matter all that much.

Crimes are not Mistakes – Know the Difference

Of course, there are some things in the “just don’t do it” category, for example: sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, racism, etc. These are inherently self-destructive behaviors that leaders cannot tolerate under any circumstances and go well beyond mere “philosophical differences.” In professions like heavy industry, construction, the military, police, or fire service, these sorts of self-destructive behaviors can have life or death consequences. In business, it can end careers and destroy companies.

…there are some things in the “just don’t do it” category, for example: sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, racism, etc. These are inherently self-destructive behaviors that leaders cannot tolerate under any circumstances…

Leaders have to act quickly to prevent someone’s illegal choices from costing someone else their life or livelihood. In industrial settings, the consequences for the “just don’t do it” behaviors are similarly severe. However, not all of us work in a life and death profession. So while leaders in an office or small business may not have to deal with an industrial accident, business and personal consequences can be very severe. Moreover, an incidence of sexual harassment damages the victim and could expose the firm to legal action for not addressing the illegal behavior.

Leaders have to do the hard work of holding to personal, professional, and legal standards. To do otherwise doesn’t merely endanger personal reputation of the offender; it endangers the entire enterprise.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams. It’s available in the Lulu Bookstore and on Amazon, also on Kindle.


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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The Thumper Rule – If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

I heard my father’s voice in my head: “Be nice,” so I choked out a strained “thank you” through a fake smile. What I really wanted to say was, “Are you KIDDING me?!!” 

The young Airman standing in front of me had very proudly secured an all black Toyota Forerunner from the motor pool that he thought was, “a cool color.” In a place where the summer temperatures reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I had a black car without tinted windows. And I had to say “thank you.” In fact, if I’d said anything else, I’m sure I’d have crushed him because he thought he was doing me a favor. Not everyone has a black car in Kuwait. In fact, in the year I was there I never saw another black car! It was unheard of in the desert country of Kuwait because the Kuwaitis knew better.

As I tore my stunned gaze away from the solar oven that was about to be my command vehicle, I searched for something to say.  Heck, I’d have left there and had a beer to drown my sorrows–except General Order No 1 prohibited the consumption of alcohol in the Central Command Area of Responsibility. So, I smiled, thanked the young man, and left before I said something I knew I’d regret.

What Thumper Said–Sometimes

In the classic Disney film, Bambi, there is a scene when Bambi’s cottontail companion Thumper is corrected by his mother after he makes a rude comment about Bambi. In reply to his mother’s, “Thumper, what did your father tell you?”, he replies sweetly, “If you don’t have somethin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” It’s good advice that seems more difficult to abide by in the digital age.

It’s easy in the heat of the moment and particularly online to be more direct and verbally aggressive than we would’ve been otherwise. It’s particularly easy when the interface between you and another person is a computer screen that you take with you everywhere (like your phone or tablet). It’s gotten so bad for some that a few friends of mine have abandoned all social media completely. I think a great many people, fearful of others’ harsh words or perhaps their own, have simply ceded the public square to the trolls.

Light a Candle

The truth is very, very few of us enjoy being mean or nasty. There are a few people out there who seem to thrive on the pain and embarrassment of others, but most people really don’t like confrontation or meanness. But just like the old saying, “Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle,” we can actually do something about it.

It starts with living out what you believe, and doing so in a positive and constructive way. As my own father wisely told me, “Taking the coat off someone else’s back doesn’t make mine any warmer.” He means, tearing others down doesn’t build us up–it actually brings all of us down together. If we truly believe that other humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “in the image and likeness of God,” shouldn’t we treat our fellow humans as if that were true? If we actually believe in the ideal that “all men are brothers”, shouldn’t our words and actions reflect that belief?

I think it should, and that’s our way to light a candle. When the conversation gets bad, we can find a way to show love to one another and bring a little peace with our words, or even silence. If you are human and mess up, then apologize as best you can and try to be better next time. Even if we need to correct something or defend ourselves or others, we can do that peacefully and with love.

That’s lighting a candle, too. And it’s also what Thumper would’ve done.

 


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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Back in the Saddle and How Can I Serve Better in 2018?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements

It’s been a couple of months with no posts here and I know some have wondered about the hiatus (Dad, thanks for asking!). Well, I’ll tell you!

As I’ve transitioned to a new role in my new hometown, the blog had to take a back seat. But now that I’ve re-established myself in my new life, it’s time to return to the keyboard. So, “I’mmmm baaaack!”

Where I’ve Been

The end of the summer saw me officially leave active duty and begin a new job in the private sector. I learned quite a few things about that transition–or as I called it, “graduation”–that I’ll be sharing in upcoming blog posts. My network of friends and mentors was extremely supportive and I’m so very grateful for everyone’s support!

Of course, making that transition is time and energy-consuming–hence the hiatus. Still a lot going on but after 2 months I’ve finally found some daily rhythm. Leaving the military, Hawaii, and re-establishing your entire life in a new city is daunting! Thankfully, we received such a warm welcome here in New Braunfels that it’s already feeling like home. We really miss Hawaii, especially now as the temperatures are dropping! However, we’re feeling good to be close to family and are enjoying exploring the Texas Hill Country.

Looking Ahead

Being almost December, I’m also planning for the next year. It’s important for me to be responsive to the needs of my readers. What topics do you want covered? What questions do you have about leadership or character? Read any good books you’d like to share and have me review? I really want to know!

I’ll be returning to my usual weekly Wednesday post, and potentially more as I get cracking on some projects I’ve been working on over the last year that also took a back seat to my transition to civilian life. I’m excited to share them with you!

If you’re not a subscriber to the newsletter, I’d encourage you to do that as my subscribers get first dibs at specials and new stuff coming down the pike.

For readers who’ve stuck with me since September, thank you! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and I’m looking forward to sharing Advent and Christmas with you all as we journey to the new year!

 


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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What I Saw in Houston

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leadership by Experience, The Five Be's, Veterans

Team Rubicon “Greyshirts” of FOB FRIENDSWOOD prepare to move out for the day.

Last week I deployed with Team Rubicon on my first ever disaster response operation: Operation Hard Hustle.  I can tell you I got more out of the experience than I gave—serving others and doing important work in the company of other military veterans and first responders is soul-cleansing. This post is my reflection on that week.

Doing good work and serving others is my primary reason for volunteering, but there is a secondary benefit as well. The experience also provides a place for veterans to be among other veterans, and to reconnect with the “brotherhood.” Having spent my entire adult life in uniform, I relish that connection.  WW II soldier and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin called it the “Benevolent And Protective Brotherhood Of Them What Has Been Shot At”, and that’s a discription I’ve thought about many times over the course of my career.

My Air Force specialty was civil engineering and installation management, which means when bad things happened I went to work. Being retired from the Air Force, I was now on the sidelines of a disaster happening just a few hours by car away from me. I felt the need to be there, and so enter Team Rubicon. I’ve written about Team Rubicon before, but in a nutshell it’s a veteran-led organization who respond to disasters. When we were in the military, we received a lot of training on handling chaos and trauma—some of us were medics, rescue personnel, infantry, engineers, etc. Team Rubicon allows us to put our military experience and training to work as well as continue to serve.

I can tell you I got more out of the experience than I gave—serving others and doing important work in the company of other military veterans and first responders is soul-cleansing.

Pack Your Stuff

My “Go Bag” is packed.

When Hurricane Harvey headed for the Texas coast gaining strength, I felt I just couldn’t sit idle while people were about to have their lives shattered when I had the skills to help. On Thursday with Harvey’s rain pounding and wind howling outside, I filled out the forms, did the training, and submitted my background check. And waited.

I didn’t have to wait long.

On Sunday afternoon I received the coveted “green dot” on my TR Profile meaning I was cleared, and an email with deployment orders to join the first wave of volunteers at Forward Operating Base (FOB) FRIENDSWOOD in Friendswood, Texas.  Most of my field gear and camping equipment is still in storage in Colorado, so I was off to Academy and Walmart to get a few things, then on Tuesday morning I drove the three hours down to our FOB for operations in the area. Our Area of Operations (AO) would include Friendswood, Dickinson, League City, Alvin, and Hitchcock. The Incident Command team of four seasoned TR volunteers was there a few days ahead of us, and we began operations as soon as we got signed in.

Professionals Talk Logistics

Warm welcome from Friendswood!

The first order of business for the handful of new arrivals was to set the logistics for the remainder of the deployment. We re-positioned vehicles, drew tools and equipment, and set up two dozen cots in the gym that would be our living quarters. I must say that the good people who hosted and supported us at Friendswood United Methodist were amazing. The fed us three meals a day, washed our clothes, and provided small comforts like toiletries, home baked goodies, and pillows. Can’t say enough about them and their servants’ hearts!

On Day 2 while a most of our team headed out to do Damage Assessments and work at a house (“Strike Team”), three of us headed to a warehouse down at the airport that would be our Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) center for Greyshirts (TR volunteers) arriving in the next week. We spend the morning cleaning it and getting the RSOI center ready, then back to the FOB after repositioning more vehicles, picking up others, and drawing more equipment for our teams.

“It’s Too Dangerous for My Children”

More Greyshirts arrive on Saturday!

On Days 3-5, I was finally able to get into the field and begin working with the people affected by the flooding. We went house to house in a Dickinson and Friendswood meeting with residents trying to cope with the wreckage that had been their homes. Whether a house got 4 inches or 4 feet of water, the damage was largely the same. Imagine taking everything you own and piling it in a wet, moldy heap in the front yard. That’s what the flooded areas look like.

One woman took the moment with us away from her family to shed a few tears with my teammate, afraid to be anything other than positive and strong in front of her husband and her kids. Another calmly told us the story of getting out of his house as the water went from ankle-deep to waist deep to chest deep so quickly they got out with the clothes on their backs in the boat they had in the driveway. He told us sadly about that during the evacuation, one of the family dogs was swept under the boat and drowned.

Another family in Dickinson told of a harrowing story of getting out as the flood waters rose. A woman in her 60’s walked her disabled brother and elderly neighbor through waist deep water following the yellow line on the road—none of them could swim. When she arrived at her 92-year-old mother’s house, she evacuated all of them by boat with the clothes on their backs.

Another woman flagged us down and told us she needed help. She spoke English slightly better than I speak Spanish, and we communicated in a blend of the two languages. While her young daughter slept in the car seat, she told us with tears welling in her eyes that she discovered only after the flood that she’d been renting her house, rather than paying a mortgage. With two little ones with her, and her son in the Navy in California, she was unsure what to do next because she couldn’t go home (“demasiado peligroso para mis niños –it’s too dangerous for my children”).

There are thousands of stories like that.

I completed the last two days of my tour in the command post as Deputy Ops, and it was gratifying to see the work we gathered getting scheduled and teams dispatched. At the end of seven amazing days, I said good-bye to the team and returned home.

Everyone we met had an unshakable faith in God. Through the flood waters and devastation of their homes, their faith in God and in each other had remained unvanquished.

Houston Strong

Despite the occasional tears, two things struck me: the resilience of the people and the amazing example of who we are as Texans and Americans these people provided.

First, Houstonians specifically and Texans in general are incredibly resilient. Many of the houses we visited had already had a volunteer group come through and provide initial demolition assistance. It’s imperative to get the wet stuff out of the house quickly to avoid dangerous mold growth. Neighbors shared food by having cookouts and checked on each other.  One man we met assembled a trailer with a grill and coolers, worked a deal with the local Walmart manager to buy food, and then circulated around neighborhoods feeding people. Even those we met who opened their hearts and cried a little always took a big breath and let resolve to go forward settle on them before we left. Everyone we met had an unshakable faith in God. Through the flood waters and devastation of their homes, their faith in God and in each other had remained unvanquished.

Second, spending a week with volunteers and Houstonians reinforced to me that America is still who we thought she is. America remains the City on a Hill. Men and women from all over the country came to help Houstonians recover. Groups of volunteers from countless churches, neighborhoods, and civic organizations went house to house to help strangers. We saw perhaps a dozen other volunteer groups working in each neighborhood.

While as a Texan I believe there’s something special about Texas, I’ve traveled enough and lived enough other places to know that if Texans indeed did anything truly extraordinary it was only to remind our fellow Americans who we are as a country.

Our team visited with men and women of every color, creed, and background. Time and again I heard them tell me, “All that division is crap. We’re Americans, we’re Texans.” We honestly believe All Men Are Created Equal and in the “image and likeness of God”; it’s not a slogan here. I’m not naive, I know there are problems and people sometimes do bad, even evil, things to each other. But I also know the vast majority of people around us are good and decent, and will be there for you when things get bad. While as a Texan I believe there’s something special about Texas, I’ve traveled enough and lived enough other places to know that if Texans indeed did anything truly extraordinary it was only to remind our fellow Americans who we are as a country.

Move to the Sound of the Guns

Napoleon’s standing order for units out of communication with his headquarters was to “move to the sound of the guns.” It is an imperative to act and not wait for someone to tell you what to do. There was no gunfire on the Texas Gulf Coast, but there was a battle to be waged against Nature and it was good men and women who moved to the metaphorical “sound of the guns” when things went bad. Napoleon’s order is something military people and first responders do instinctively, and I believe there’s something in the Texan and American character that drives that instinct. We saw that play out on TV countless times when men and women “moved to the sound of the guns” to help their neighbors. Federal, State, local authorities, and volunteers didn’t wait for someone to give them orders; they acted and worked together to save lives and now to rebuild them.

My Team Rubicon teammates were there doing swift water rescues, and we’ll be there to help Houston rebuild. It’s TR men and women: veterans, first responders, medical professionals, and a few civilians in the mix who represent what’s right about America.

The City on a Hill may have a few potholes and broken windows, but she remains a shining example of who America truly is as a country. We really are who we say we are, and I believe that now more than ever.


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.

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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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