Be Free – Part II

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

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

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

– Moby, musician-songwriter

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

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

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

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

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

Be Free – Part I

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

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

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

– Nelson Mandela

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

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

Of Surfing, Leading, and Be’s

Posted Leave a commentPosted in How To Change, Podcast, Practical Leadership, The Five Be's

TCEP Ep19

Aloha everyone! I am privileged to appear on The Civil Engineering podcast with leader, career coach, and former Air Force engineer Christian Knudson.  Episode 19: Riding The Wave of Change As a Civil Engineer Leader – goes live today Wednesday Nov. 25 on iTunes at 6am EST.

This weeks Civil Engineer podcast features Mickey Addison, career military officer, civil engineer, author and senior leader about developing effective leadership in your civil engineering career.  Listen in to his three steps for civil engineering leaders navigating and implementing organizational change.  Plus learn about his new book, “The 5 Be’s”, available now!

For the New Graduates

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Pure Inspiration

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

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


Aloha Graduates!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join Me at JETC 2015! – UPDATED

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements, Conferences, Speaking

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I’m excited to be presenting at the Society of American Military Engineers’ JETC 2015 next week in Houston, Texas!

As a Life Member, it’s a privilege to serve my Society by leading a Speed Mentoring session, moderating a panel on Theater Security Engagement World-Wide in the Contingency Engineering Track, and presenting “The Five Be’s” in the Leadership and Business Development Track.  Please join me if you can!

Mentoring Program for Young Members, NCOs and Fellows: Tues, 19 May, 2:45-5:15 pm

Theater Security Engagement Worldwide: Wed, 20 May, 10:30-11:30 am

The Five Be’s: Thurs, 21 May, 9:30-10:30 am

Download the full JETC agenda here.

Register here.

UPDATES

5/19: THANKS to all the SAME Fellows, members, and Young Members who participated in the Mentoring workshop yesterday!

From SAMEblog.org:

10 hours of education and training sessions filled up the afternoon of Day 1 at JETC, along with a Speed Mentoring event led by Col. Mickey Addison, USAF, who also is an accomplished author and speaker. The mentoring event brought together SAME Fellows and Young Members for a discussion of what mentoring really is, then it mixed the audience up throughout the room for candid discussion and networking.

5/20: We had a super panel for Theater Security Engagement Worldwide on Wednesday. Thanks to our reps from PACAF, SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM, Bridges To Prosperity, & CENTCOM.

5/21: Concluded with an engaging conversation about leadership and values during The Five Be’s session. I was super impressed with the level of discussion by the attendees!

Commanders Lead Culture

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading Leaders, Practical Leadership

We have a saying in the Air Force: “Commanders Lead Culture.” What this means is commanders have the ability to lead others in a way that lifts both individuals and the unit up, and to create a culture within the unit for mission success. It also means leaders have the responsibility to lead change when the culture needs adjusting. The Air Force, like many large organizations, expects its leaders to be engaged in creating the right climate within their organization, and to be engaged in the business of bettering their community.

Air Force Instruction 1-2 Air Force Culture directly quotes Title 10 of the United States Code when discussing the Air Force commander’s role in leading the culture of his/her unit and the Air Force in general:

All commanding officers and others in authority in the Air Force are required: (1) to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; (2) to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; (3) to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices, and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Air force, all persons who are guilty of them; and (4) to take all necessary and proper measures, under the laws, regulations, and customs of the Air Force, to promote and safeguard the morale, the physical well-being, and the general welfare of the persons under their command or charge. – Title 10 USC § 8583

Fortune Magazine’s John Kell makes the point that CEOs can do the same; not only internal to their own organizations, but also in their communities as well. In a time of increased (and virtually instantaneous) communication, informal power and authority have real impact on civil society.

No matter where they operate, leaders have responsibilities to many (often competing) groups: their boss, their company, their team, and community. Leaders must balance the needs of those stakeholders and be focused on the goal without losing sight of their connection to their community and their team. Additionally, internal culture is just as important. If people don’t believe in their leaders and don’t feel at home in their workplace, any shared sense of mission is lost and work becomes “every man for himself.” Setting the right tone that a company is not merely a “paycheck provider”, but also a responsible member of the community and an organization that values their employees is central to doing business in the 21st century. In truth, those values aren’t new: you only have to read A Christmas Carol and the Gospel story of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) to see that people have always valued what we now know as “corporate responsibility.” Here’s the takeaway: when an organization’s culture is right, people flourish and so does business.

Read on and share your thoughts below: can and should companies and their leaders engage in the marketplace of ideas, or should they just work to improve their companies? How should leaders establish and maintain the right culture in their organizations?

From the Blogs: What the Team Needs

Posted 1 CommentPosted in From the Blogs

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

“What the Team Needs” -Lora Schafer

 

and it closely resembles my own:

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

 

 

Says Ms Shafer:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Leadership: So Say We All

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leadership by Experience

Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama, Photo Courtesy of NBC UniversalIn my latest over a GeneralLeadership.com, I talk about leading change while channeling my inner Commander Adama from SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica.

“It won’t be an easy journey. It’ll be long, and arduous. But I promise you one thing: on the memory of those lying here before you, we shall find it, and Earth shall become our new home. So say we all!”
Commander Bill Adama, Battlestar Galactica

Studying fictional leaders is sometimes as profitable as studying actual ones. For example, Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) in the SyFy TV series Battlestar Galactica is a great character study in leadership during crisis. I’m a big BSG fan, and consider it one of the best sci-fi TV series ever made. The quote above is from the end of the pilot, after the Cylons have destroyed the entire human race except for 50,000 survivors. The last Colonial warship, the Battlestar Galactica now leads a ragtag fleet of survivors, and the fleet’s leaders must find a way to keep humanity’s last remnants alive and moving toward a goal. That goal is the “Thirteenth Tribe of Man” located on the legendary planet of “Earth.” As a sci-fi nerd and a movie fan, I often see parallels between the storylines of my favorite movies and real life. So it was that as our Air Force embarked on a very significant re-organization I find myself reflecting on Commander Adama as I lead a group of people to a (figurative) new “land” and leave behind much of “the old ways” to learn new ones. Not to be melodramatic, surely no Cylons are chasing us through space, but we are now leading our Airmen through some very significant change.

Read the rest here.

Be A Good Wingman

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

Leading Leaders know followership means being a good wingman!In military aviation, the “wingman” is responsible for protecting the lead in a two-ship formation. As the “Lead” prosecutes the target, the “Wingman” watches his back and calls out threats. In this “two-ship” formation, there’s a leader and a follower, but they work together to accomplish the mission and get everyone back home. Put another way, the wingman is a good follower.

Followership is a key component to leadership, both in the team being led and in the leader herself.

In the military, we indoctrinate our new recruits into followership first and while we’re teaching them leadership. The reason we do that is because good followership is a prerequisite to good leadership. Contrary to what some may believe, good followership is not merely doing what one is told. That’s certainly not true in the American military where we follow the Prussian military tradition of placing our moral obligations above the orders of our superiors.  Put another way, good followership is not blind obedience, but rather it is the active participation by the follower in the leadership of the team.

Good followership is as essential as good leadership in the success of the team. If the leader is the only one thinking, the team will be mired in mediocrity. Good followership is an important part of the Leaders Lead principle…when the top leader empowers and supports teams in developing their own leadership the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. People will begin thinking ahead, anticipating problems, and being good wingmen to each other as well as to the boss. When everyone focuses on serving others, the result can be very powerful.

“Lead” has to model the “wingman” behavior as well, and in my book, Leading Leaders, I discuss the importance of leaders’ modeling good followership:

As a leader, you can build good followers by modeling the behavior yourself. For example, when given direction from your boss, pass it on with the same enthusiasm as if it were your own idea. That might take a little acting at times, but if you hold your boss up to ridicule, you’ll be opening the door to your subordinates to ridicule you. Loyalty is contagious; demonstrate loyalty and you’ll engender loyalty in return.

So be a good wingman, and you’ll get good wingmen in return. With a solid “two-ship” flying in a tight formation, you’ll hit your target and bring the birds home safely!

Move the Chains

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

wpid-ap-first-down-line-football-4_3.jpgThe phrase “Hail Mary” to describe a desperate long pass down the field entered the NFL lexicon after a Dallas Cowboys vs Minnesota Vikings playoff game in 1975 when Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach connected with receiver Drew Pearson in what turned out to be the game-winning play.

Despite the glamour of the Steve Sabol narrated NFL films, few games are won with last second heroics. In fact, most NFL games are won with solid defense and relentless offense. In order to score, you have to “move the chains” (make first downs). Put more simply, games are won when you score more points and gain more yards than the other team, and that’s only done when you make first downs and “move the chains.”  “Move the chains” is football lingo for playing for the next first down, advancing down the field purposefully and continuously until you cross the goal. It’s a way of thinking about the game that’s directly transferable to organizational change because it speaks to continuous disciplined progress rather than just sprinting for the finish and hoping for a miracle.

When a team marches steadily down the field each time they have the ball, they demonstrate discipline and gain confidence. That discipline and confidence is what wins ball games, and it’s the same discipline and confidence needed to make organizational change successful. Like football, moving an organization through change seldom comes from “Hail Mary” plays.  Interim goals and steady progress are the keys to success. Just like moving ten yards to the next first down sets up the offense for the next ten yards, so do interim goals plot the way toward the ultimate goal. Furthermore, in NFL the head coach has to have a game plan and then train the players to execute it consistently. So it is with organizational change: the leader has to have a plan and a disciplined team with the ability to execute it.  No plan or an undisciplined team is a recipe for disaster.  Furthermore, a leader who can’t communicate the vision and the plan to get there is headed for a fall no matter how good is his team.

Organizational change, especially revolutionary change, is hard on the people in the organization if all leaders are doing is flinging the ball down the field and hoping for a miracle. Even Peter Drucker thought so. People will very quickly surmise the leader doesn’t have a way ahead, which will in turn manifest itself in workplace discord, a drop in productivity, and eventually a hemorrhage of talent. For the visionary leader, it’s very tempting to want to move an organization quickly: “revolutionary change” versus “evolutionary change,”  but organizations and people are rarely that nimble without a lot of practice. In the NFL coaches will sometimes rely on trick plays, all out defensive blitzes, and long passes when they’re out of ideas. Those coaches don’t usually last very long. People can become disillusioned with their leaders quickly when faced with too many “Hail Mary’s” and not enough “first downs.” This is not to say teams can’t “do” revolutionary change…but like the ’75 Cowboys people can’t make the big plays unless they can make the small ones.

On the other hand, if leaders are focused on the next first down while continuing to point the way down the field…that is the interim goals pointed at the final goal…then the team will continue to work together to get into the end zone. Revolutionary change is possible so long as leaders prepare their teams with solid leadership and clear cut interim goals, and most importantly, a clear destination everyone can buy into. Achieving interim goals on the way to the end zone gives the team confidence. Repeated and consistent “first downs” reinforce discipline in the team, discipline the team will need to score again and again.

The confidence gained by high performance then directly contributes to a team agile enough to make those “Hail Mary’s” when they have to take the long shot. They will develop confidence in themselves and their leaders.

They will become a championship team.

GL.com: Finding the Sweet Spot and Leading Teams to Acheivement

Posted Leave a commentPosted in GeneralLeadership.com
The Sweet Spot
Which Way Are You Going?

I’m very proud to announce my first contribution to General Leadership, “Leadership Advice from America’s Most Trusted Leaders”!

In military parlance, a Common Operating Picture (or “COP”) is a single presentation of the battlespace to a wide and distributed audience.  The purpose is to provide common understanding and situational awareness for all involved. I’ve adapted this idea to graphically display the “battlespace” a leader has to understand so the team can achieve success. Leaders must harmonize the needs of their organization, their task, and individual team members to prevail. It’s a complex and people-focused job. If a leader can find the sweet spot in the “Leadership COP”, then they’re truly leading teams to high performance.

Read the rest here.

Leaders Expect High Standards

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, Practical Leadership

Each organization in an institution or company has a job to do: Leaders exist to execute their jobs in support of their company’s objectives. That means, internal to an organization, leaders should support their bosses and their institutional goals. My experience is that people rise to the leaders’ expectations. Set high standards and hold people to them, and people will meet them almost every time (conversely, if you set low standards…). Standards must be uniform; everyone knows how counter-productive “teacher’s pets” can be. Everyone wants to be successful and wants to feel that sense of accomplishment.

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Photo credit: Washington Post

Expecting high standards is more than merely setting high sales goals or demanding perfection in quality. It means that leaders expect and demonstrate high personal and professional standards in the conduct of their lives and business. I don’t mean we create a “Stepford company” of robotic overachievers, but we do expect that ethical behavior at work means that we have ethical behavior in our private lives. We serve our cause, or institution, and each other best when this is the case. Entrepreneur and co-founder of Medical Imaging Company, combat veteran, and former A-10 pilot David Specht once shared his theory about why people fail that I think is very astute: “If someone fails, they usually fail for one of three reasons: either they weren’t trained, they weren’t resourced, or they weren’t led.” Dave’s view is one I agree with, and it illustrates the responsibility for the leader to lead his team by investing himself in the team’s success. If there is failure, the leader usually has himself to blame, at least initially.

Apart from George Bailey’s uncle in the film It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s a rare case indeed where the failure of an employee is solely responsible for an organization’s failure. However, even if it’s the sole employee’s fault for a failure, it’s the leader’s responsibility to get the task accomplished. An effective leader accepts responsibility for the failure of the task and diverts praise for success to their teammates and subordinates. It’s very unseemly for a leader to try to blame others for the failure of the team, just as it’s a morale killer for the team when the leader tries to take the glory for the success. The leader in those cases isn’t fooling anyone; everyone knows success is a team effort, and the leader is ultimately accountable for failure. Trying to divert attention only lowers the leader in the esteem of others.