Dynamic Dozen: Step Up and Step Out

Posted Posted in GeneralLeadership.com

Maj Dick Winters sought out and accepted responsibility

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

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

Look for Opportunities to Lead

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

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

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

Work Your Boss’ Boss’ Priorities

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

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

Success Means Responsibility

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

Originally posted at GeneralLeadership.com


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

Dad’s Sage Advice for Sophomores

Posted Posted in Advice Column

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

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

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

Set a Good Example.

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

Help a Freshman.

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

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

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

Build and Maintain a Network of Friends.

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

Commit to Your Faith.

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

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

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

Don’t Worry, You Can Do It.

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


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

Dad’s Sage Advice for the Class of ’20

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Advice Column

A&M Students 1894The Class of 2020 is arriving at college this month, and so keeping with August’s “Advice That Sticks” theme, here’s the latest version of Dad’s Sage Advice for College – 2016 Edition

1. Keep Yourself Healthy

You can’t run at full throttle all the time-be sure to maintain your mental, spiritual, and physical health. Don’t be a cave dweller. It’s easy to remain locked away in your dorm room for four years making excellent grades and few friends-resist the urge. Eat right, exercise, and attend to your spiritual health. Beer and Xbox is not a hobby, and just because Mom isn’t there to get you out of bed on Sunday morning doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to church.

2. Remain Authentically Free

There’s plenty of things “out there” that will steal your freedom-never let your or someone else’s appetites prevent you from choosing what’s good for you. There are all sorts of “freedom stealers” from the benign (video gaming) to the downright dangerous (drugs, alcohol, porn). Don’t let the “freedom stealers” prevent you from being the amazing person you were born to be.

3. Guard Your Chastity

I know this sounds very old fashioned, but remember you’re there to get an education, not find a mate or a date. Believe me, with all the other drama involved in getting through college, you can do without relationship drama. Regardless whether or not you’re a virgin, respect the power of sex and leave it for later–there will be plenty of time.

4. Make Friends 

Find a group of people who share your values, and with whom you can be yourself. Additionally, it’s good to make friends with people who aren’t like you. You need both kinds. You don’t have to agree on everything or be the same in order to develop a friendship. Everyone needs friends who can build us up, and challenge us to be better people.

5. Be Adventurous but Not Stupid

Don’t compromise your values or your safety, but don’t be afraid of new experiences either. Join a club, go to a rally, see a play, go to a football game, take a road trip, enter a contest. Challenge the college experience to make you a better person.

6. Never Quit

Success usually goes to the one who is prepared and has asked the question, “what can go wrong here?” Plan for and expect success, but don’t be crushed by failure. The only real failure is quitting; never quit. No matter what happens, good or bad, be able to say you’ve done your best.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. – G. K. Chesterton

7. Go to Class, Do the Work

I know this seems basic, but it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and get behind. You do have to do the work. In the game of football, all you have to do is travel 10 yards and you get to keep going. Make enough first downs and you score a touchdown. Remember why you wanted a college education in the first place, and keep making first downs until you get to the end zone.

8. Remember, You’re Never Alone

Ask for help when you need it, talk to people, share the load with others and allow others to do the same. You have to take tests and do some work on your own, but that doesn’t mean you have to be by yourself. Include your profs in that as well–they’re there to help you learn. College is a team sport.

9. Remember, We Love You.

Keep your loved ones in the loop and stay connected. As a Dad, I want you to know your family wants you to succeed and be your own person–but we want to remain part of your life, too.


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.

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.

How to Build Shared Purpose in Your Team

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading Leaders

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

When Leaders Serve, Teams Connect

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

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

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

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

Inspire and Connect

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

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


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating TeamsMickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Dynamic Dozen: Build Networks of Leaders

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com

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

~ Abraham Lincoln

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

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

The Principle of “Leaders Lead”

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

Networks Are More Agile Than Hierarchies

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

Grow Your Own and Be Agile

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

Originally posted at GeneralLeadership.com


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

June Newsletter Sneak Peak- Is Your Summer in Balance?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements, Practical Leadership

This week, I’m offering a “sneak peek” at the some of the original content my newsletter subscribers receive every month! New subscribers also receive a free electronic copy of Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, my simple guide to leading any team effectively! Sign up by clicking this link or on form in the sidebar at right!

MInd

Welcome to Summer Everyone! It’s finally June–watermelon by the lake, baseball, and vacation time. One of the “Be’s” in my book, The 5 Be’s for Starting Out, is “Be Balanced.” “Be Balanced” is all about Life Balance–and that’s way more than “work-life”–it means nurturing the three aspects of ourselves. What’s that have to do with summer, you ask? Just this: the changing of the seasons is a great reminder to us to ensure our life is in balance.

When thinking about “Life Balance,” I use a three-part model of Mind-Body-Spirit to describe the aspects of a human person. For many,whether you’re in school or just have kids who are, the school year is all about developing the Mind. Summer offers us an opportunity to exercise the other two aspects of our person: our Body and our Spirit.

Didn’t have time to exercise regularly? We have extra hours of sunlight to get outside and do something physical. You don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy the outdoors–just a walk in the neighborhood will do!

What about that Spirit? As Yoda once said, “Luminous beings are we, not just this crude matter.” What Yoda knows is humans are complex creatures–much more than the mere sum of our parts. That means we need to dedicate time to cultivating our Spirit by seeking things that elevate us and feed us–things like Beauty and Truth.

There’s practical reasons for leaders to pay attention to their own and their teammates “Balance” as well. Consider this excerpt from The 5 Be’s for Starting Out.

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

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

Summer is here: now is a perfect time to make a plan for you, your family, and your teammates to “Be Balanced.” Absolutely, work hard and play hard in these warm summer months–but don’t forget to stop and smell the sunflowers before summer gets away from you!


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.

Capt Rickenbacher had courage. Read more about courage in The 5 Be's for Starting Out

Be Courageous

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Capt Rickenbacher had courage. Read more about courage in The 5 Be's for Starting Out“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage without fear.”– Eddie Richenbacker, World War I flying ace

There are as many definitions of the word “courage” as there are people. Courage can take many forms, but we generally think of courage in two main categories: physical courage and moral courage.

When we think about “courage,” the first example that comes to mind, is the soldier or the first responder. We envision them facing danger in order to save the life of an innocent or defend their country from an unrelenting enemy. Perhaps we think about the terrible attacks of September 11, and the brave first responders racing up the stairs of the World Trade Center to rescue people trapped in the flames. Other cases include the spectacular heroism of the passengers of United Flight 93, regaining control of their aircraft from the terrorists, but were unable to prevent its tragic destruction.

There are also other forms of physical courage in the field of sports and adventure. Picture the big wave surfer riding the 40 foot face of a monster wave at Jaws off the Maui coast, or the climber conquering his own fear in order to scale the sheer cliff face. When we think of courage we might picture something more comical, such as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, where we can laugh at the vaudeville humor while rooting for the Lion to find his courage.

Over the next two weeks I’ll explore the idea of courage–in all its forms–and see what it takes to Be Courageous. What we have to decide for ourselves, however, is how to find our own courage. We may never have to face down a terrorist or charge into a burning building, but we will have to find a way to Be Courageous in our own way in our own lives.

Most of the post above is taken from the my book The 5 Be’s for Starting Out, available at Lulu, Amazon, and other online retailers.


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world.  He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

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

Dynamic Dozen – Keep Your Team Informed

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com

Nothing is as strong as the heart of a volunteer.
-Jimmy Doolittle

doolittle0512784There may be situations in military leadership where the leader must keep the team in the dark–but in 27 years service and commanding five units I’ve never found one. On the contrary, the question asked most often by military leaders and those they lead is, “Did you coordinate that?” You see, military operations are a team sport and our patience with people who act without considering the team is thin. We have to trust each other, and trust is built on mutual respect and transparency.

Military Teams Work In A Collective Environment

Keeping the team informed removes the leader as a single point of failure and takes advantage of the collective intelligence of the team. Leaders can’t be the only one who has the whole picture–the goals of any military operation have to be shared as widely as possible. If everyone understands where the commander is taking them, they’re much more likely to make better decisions on their own. That’s why senior military leaders spend a great deal of time before any major operation establishing clear lines of authority and command. They also put significant brainpower into writing a “Commander’s Intent” statement describing the goals and decision parameters for subordinate commands. By understanding command relationships and the commander’s intent, then “teams of teams” can function across space and time as a single unit, making thousands of independent decisions all focused on a single goal.

In combat, military teams don’t have the luxury of perfect communication or knowledge of each others’ movements. Furthermore, the enemy and Mother Nature each get a “vote” on how well the operation will go. If people rely solely on the leader to make all the decisions then chaos close at hand. The best military leaders set the conditions for success and make sure to pass along as much information as possible. The point is to help others make good decisions, not have “the” leader make them all.

“Team” Isn’t Just a Military Term

The military isn’t the only “team sport” however; so is business. Keeping your employees informed of decisions big and small, and making sure they all understand the goals, boundaries, and limitations of a particular task or enterprise. Doing so enables them to make the same decisions you’d make if you were there. Nordstrom is famous for their customer service focus, and employees are empowered to make decisions on behalf of their leaders to live up to that reputation. Keeping the team informed works in small companies, too. If everyone has the “big picture” then anyone on the team can make the right decision all the time.

Keeping the team informed effectively makes the leader “present” at every decision. Likewise, the same is true for suppliers and customers. An effective relationship with both should feel like a partnership rather than a transaction. That’s a major reason successful companies elicit and take seriously customer feedback, and it’s the reason inviting suppliers into the “circle of trust” makes for successful partnerships. One of my favorite TV shows is HGTV’s Fixer Upper, in part because I’m inspired by hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines’ entrepreneurial spirit. As the interior designer, Joanna maintains a close working relationship with her suppliers–who seem to feel more like family than business associates. The result of working hard at maintaining those relationships is a collaboration where each team member adds value. Sometimes those teammates surprise Joanna with something she didn’t even know she wanted until she saw it!

Building trust and helping the team members make sound decisions are two good reasons for keeping everyone informed. Successful leaders know how to communicate internally as well as to their customers, and when they do they get a big voice indeed!

Originally posted on GeneralLeadership.com


cropped-20141026_102425.jpgMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world.  He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

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

Be Balanced

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

– Zig Ziglar

 

 

When my son was very young, he would give me the same advice as I left for work each day: “Goodbye, Daddy, have a good day at work. Be sure to drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.” Without realizing it, my son was encouraging me to live a balanced life. I always thought his farewell each day was far more insightful than just a small boy’s simple advice. In fact, it’s a great way to think about life balance.

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

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

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

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

Living life balance is challenging. There are a lot of demands on a person’s time: work, family, friends, hobbies, etc., and finding time to feed all aspects of the body and soul is key to any successful life. Anyone can put their head down and power through life, however, it takes a mature person to understand that how you live is equally important as what you accomplish. Keeping our lives in balance and living an integrated life is important to everyone. The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, stop for a minute and remember the words of my then four year old son: “drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.”

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

 

Dynamic Dozen: Know Your People and Look After Their Welfare

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com

james-jabara-standing-on-a-f-86-sabre-in-an-air-force-photo-from-april-1953Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.
 Harold S. Geneen

During the 1950-1953 Korean War, American fighter pilots dominated the skies, even though the Soviet-made MiG-15 jets were faster and more nimble than the American F-80 and F-86s. The difference wasn’t the technology—it was the battle-tested American veterans flying the aircraft that made the difference. In the military, we often speak of our people as a “human weapon system” as a way to understand the central role of humans in war. Put more simply: military leaders are in the people business. Knowing the people we lead and taking care of their welfare is therefore integral to military leadership. It isn’t just military leaders, but all leaders who are in the people business.

Know Your People

The fundamental difference between leadership and management is “people.” We manage things, programs, and processes–we lead people. Spreadsheets don’t respond to charisma, and no one cares if the bench stock is feeling “off” that day. A manager can maintain control over stuff and processes without caring or even knowing much about what they’re actually managing. Not so with leadership. Successful leaders understand their mission depends on knowing who their people are and what they’re capable of doing. Clearly, there’s some practical reasons for knowing your people on a personal level. Everyone has their own quirks and talents, and being able to assign work commensurate with your team members’ skills is vital to performance. An effective leader will not hesitate to push people to be their best, but will never push people beyond their limits. Those limits are impossible to know if leaders don’t connect on a personal level with the people they lead.

There is a deeper reason to know your people, however, and one tied even more closely to organizational performance and your team members’ welfare. If you know your people and understand them, you will take your team to the next level in performance, they’ll be more engaged, and the workplace will be a better place to work. People respond to other people they know actually care for their welfare. In fact, when people understand they’re valued as persons first by their boss they’re much more engaged and loyal in return. Each year, Fortune Magazine puts out the 100 Best Companies to Work For. In order to make the list, Fortune partners with Great Place to Work to conduct random surveys of employees in nominated companies. Two-thirds of the final score came from employee evaluations of things like management credibility and camaraderie. Good scores on surveys like that come from companies where leaders are connected and employees feel like they have a mission, not just a paycheck.

Look Out For Their Welfare

Inspiring people to engage and perform is only half the job; the rest of the job is taking care of the teams’ welfare. In the military, it means providing for people’s needs, and as well preparing them for their mission. Leaders have a responsibility to put their teammates welfare above their own. The shorthand for all of that is Leaders Eat Last. If the troops are cold, so are you. If they’re eating meals out of a bag, so are you. If they’re in danger, then you’re leading them from the front. Leaders make sure the troops are fed and bedded down before taking a single comfort for themselves. In this way, military leaders demonstrate their commitment to never treat the troops’ welfare casually, and that breeds trust in the leader’s decisions.

The same concept easily applies to civilian life. Be sure the work area is safe, pay a fair wage, make sure you’re willing to share their hardships. If they have to stay late, you stay with them. The occasional pizza for that late night doesn’t hurt either. Leaders have to put their teams ahead of themselves–eating last–or else risk losing credibility with those they lead. On top of that, celebrate your teammates’ success and cry with them during tragedy. Remember birthdays and learn about what your teams do for fun, and about their families. Doing that, being authentic, will ensure your team understands you care about their welfare.

There is an enormous difference between the person who sees leadership as a means of controlling others, and the leader who sees leadership as a responsibility to serve others. Leaders who know their people and look after their welfare are able to get their mission done and help others be the best they can be.

Originally posted on GeneralLeadership.com

 

Temperance: Not Just for Carrie Nation

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Turkey Trot 5K USAFA 2103Temperance is the practice of self-control, moderation and abstinence.

Whenever we think of the word “Temperance,” many probably think of Carrie Nation and Prohibition. While moderation or even abstention from alcohol can be Temperance, it is actually a narrow view of it as a virtue. Temperance applies to keeping competing appetites in balance, similar to the way high achieving athletes and scholars train their minds and bodies. In a few words, Temperance means governing your natural human appetites in a way that preserves freedom and prevents harm.

Researchers found that children with who practice good self-control, (i.e., typically better at paying attention, persist with difficult tasks, and suppress inappropriate or impulsive behaviors), are much more likely to find and retain employment as adults, spending 40% less time unemployed than those with a lower capacity for self-control.

“All things in moderation” is a common phrase to describe Temperance, and it works in general, For example, an occasional glass of wine with dinner is fine and even thought to be healthy by some researchers. However, habitual excessive drinking is destructive to the body and relationships. Food is necessary for life, and good food is a pleasure – overindulging or eating unhealthy food intentionally is destructive. Even the internet and video games can be transformed from a fun activity or useful tool into soul crushing addictions if we allow it.

Temperance is the exercise of the will, to enjoy what’s good without letting it become an addiction. It does not need to be one of the “common” vices, simple unhealthy attachment to things can become personally destructive.

For example, take the attachment to “things”. Moving as often as I have during my military career, my family has had the unique opportunity to eliminate a lot of ‘stuff’. We have been fairly successful at paring our belongings down to a necessary minimum, mostly voluntarily but sometimes involuntarily, when things are lost or broken during shipment. Consequently, there are very few things that are truly precious to any of us, and the items that are precious to us have sentimental rather than monetary value. Each time movers (strangers) have come to my home to box up our household and then load everything onto a truck, we have to come to grips with what is really important. We hold our breath and entrust those same strangers to deliver everything we possess to a new house, a new assignment. When the house is empty and the papers are signed, watching the truck drive away forces me to remember that “it’s only stuff”. Each time in this situation, my family is offered the opportunity to practice a little Temperance.

The polar opposite example of Temperance with our “stuff” is hoarding. You might be familiar with the television show that is similarly named.  The people the cast and producers are trying to help, have let “stuff” completely take over their lives. By allowing their homes to overflow with possessions (and debris), they often forfeited relationships with family and friends, and frequently endangered their own health. Without Temperance and the ability to prioritize appropriately, competing appetites will control us until we are no longer free. Without Temperance, our own appetites and passions can enslave us and cause us harm.

Athletes understand this virtue very well, as they discipline their minds and bodies in order to achieve success in their sport. They may take on a special or restrictive diet, they may trade sleep for workouts, and they eschew certain celebrations, or even common comforts, in order to be their best. This sort of mental, physical, and spiritual preparation is a commonly proven way for athletes to succeed. We applaud that sort of self-control in them, but is it really out of reach for us?

Of course not. We all have practice applying Temperance, at a variety of levels. I believe the virtue of Temperance, applied in a sensible way that respects Universal Human Goods, is a necessary component to living a healthy adult life. Whenever we delay gratification or order our priorities toward a specific end, we are practicing Temperance. So, when we stay late to finish the presentation that is due tomorrow, we are subsuming our own personal comfort because others are counting on us. When we make sure to leave on time to meet our spouse for dinner, we are balancing our time for the spouse we vowed to “love, honor, and cherish”. When we decline dessert so we can stick to our diet, when we turn off Call of Duty to help our kids with their homework, and when we delay our lunch to comfort a coworker having a bad day –  those are demonstrations of te Temperance.

Let Carrie Nation bury the hatchet, those of us with a balanced sense of Temperance will continue to grow and become “more free” by gaining an ability to control our own appetites.

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

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The Sweet Spot
Which Way Are You Going?

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Your Friends All Jumped Off A Cliff…

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Cliff-Jumping-in-Lago-Vista-TexasPrudence is the ability for one to determine what is appropriate at any given time.

In the virtue of Prudence, we find the ability to make sound choices in the real world – choices that either expose us and others to danger or shield us from it.

 

A personal story might be helpful here, as it illustrates a lack of prudence that could have cost me my life, and how the common choices we make sometimes have profound consequences. My college friends and I were inner-tubing down the Guadalupe River near San Antonio, Texas and came upon the spot known as the “Blue Hole.” It was a very deep spot in the river, and is probably connected to a subterranean aquifer. It was a local tradition for people to leap from an overhanging rock face into the Blue Hole. My initial answer to the invitation was, “No, thank you”. However, once the boys swam away, leaving me alone with all the girls, my testosterone got the better of me and I raced to join them. I had a couple of chances to back out, including looking over the 20-foot drop-off, down to the water below. I didn’t use the proper judgment – I wasn’t prudent enough to back out even though I really did not want to jump.

My companions counted to three and we all stepped off the precipice – I instantly regretted my decision. “This was a dumb idea,” I thought as I plummeted to the water below, along with six other boys, all within an arms’ reach of each other. We hit the water so hard, and I went so deep that I nearly ran out of air before I made it back to the surface. There were a hundred things that could have gone wrong, and we were very lucky that no one was hurt. That experience was a great lesson in Prudence for me – that I should listen to my inner voice when it is shouting at me to pay attention

There are other ways to demonstrate Prudence besides deciding not to jump off 20-foot high rocks. The virtue of Prudence is also helpful when making ordinary decisions, such as what to eat for dinner, or whether to accelerate through a yellow traffic light (or not). In fact, it’s the daily small choices that define us far more than the big ones.

Champions Don’t Take Shortcuts

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nfl_lombardi_01The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.
Vince Lombardi

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. From Little League, soccer, and football growing up in Texas to intramurals of all sorts in college and the military, athletic competition is a big part of my life. Sports are a great metaphor for life and I’ve gleaned countless leadership lessons from it. In fact, it’s one of the reasons the military uses athletic competition as a training opportunity from entry level (Basic Military Training) to senior executive level (e.g. Air War College). It was the quotable General Douglas MacArthur who shrewdly observed, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

A lesson every successful athlete learns quickly is champions don’t take shortcuts. Sure, an athlete can take performance enhancing drugs or try quick fixes, but those short term wins are usually overshadowed by long term defeats. The true champion, the one who everyone aspires to emulate and sports magazines profile, is the one who did the hard work even when it would’ve been easy not to do it. It’s the one rising before dawn to work out before starting a full day at work or school, then repeating it day after day until they reach their goal. In Texas, many championship high school football programs start their first practice at midnight on the first day the league allows teams to work out. Those coaches know the players who start out with a “do the work” mentality develop into teams who’ll give their all when the time comes.

In short, champions earn their titles long before the title contest in November. They earned their championship at midnight in August under stadium lights.

The same is true in the military. We “sweat in peacetime” so our skills are second nature to us and we can respond quickly under stress. The drills are sometimes fun, but training can be boring if one has to repeat similar tasks over and over. However, everyone is grateful to their trainers for being demanding and requiring them to learn procedures by heart when the stress level is high, because being well trained makes a person confident. To paraphrase the old military maxim: No one rises to the occasion in stressful situations, they sink to the level of their training. That sense of confidence usually carries into high performance.

In the busy and highly competitive world we live in, it’s very tempting for leaders to cut corners to save time or money. I’m here to encourage leaders to resist the urge. Speed in business is essential, but your team is unlikely to have the ability to hit the mark if leaders don’t train, resource, and lead them. Spend the time ensuring your team has the skills they need to get the job you’ve assigned them done. Believe me, time spent in the training room doing quality training will pay off enormously when there’s a crisis or short deadline. A team that’s raised on shortcuts, however, will dissolve into chaos when the pressure is on. In a high-pressure job I had at the Pentagon once, we had a saying: “Speed kills.” It was our way of reminding ourselves to be precise, but taking shortcuts would lead to mistakes we couldn’t afford to make.

Just like Airmen honing their skills or athletes doing conditioning, well-led teams put in the work required to get the job done when the pressure is low. They do that because they know that when they do the preparatory work and training when they need to, they won’t have to try to rely on shortcuts later. Rather, they’ll perform at the same high level they did in practice.

Originally posted on Generalleadership.com