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Monday, August 27, 2012

There’s a Moose - Leadership & management project update

Busy summer has set me back just a bit. I have had the manuscript out to several editors as of late and waiting on responses has taken some time.

After accomplishing a complete revision of the layout and major premise of the project, I was really ready to learn what the professionals had to say about my work. Seems that the consensus is that I should look toward self-publishing.

The major concern linked to traditional publishing is the dreaded platform. Without a platform, one cannot achieve a platform and those with a platform no longer need meet the requirement of having a platform. It is akin to if you have published before, you can publish again; but if you have not published before, it seems impossible to go the traditional route. Sorta circular logic, don’t ya think?

While I wait on a couple more responses, I will start looking hard at the non-traditional route of self-publishing. 

I’m looking for some ideas and anecdotal experience in this area. Let me hear what you have to say.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Relating Military skills to Civilian – Vets looking for jobs

I again just listened to an interview with LTG William G (Gus) Pagonis, author of “Moving Mountains” and the overall logistical commander during the build-up and conduct of the Gulf War in the early 90’s. He had some interesting points to make that very well parallel my own thoughts.

LTG Pagonis’ comments were directed to former military members who are trying to land jobs or just relate their experience to civilian employers. This has always been a very hard task to accomplishment. It is next to impossible for one that hasn’t served in the military to understand just what a military logistician can do and has done during their tenure. My thoughts as to the prime reason for this disconnect is the lack of a draft. I am not proposing here that we re-institute the draft—that subject is for another forum.

LTG William G (Gus) Pagonis 
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

During my twenty-seven plus years in manufacturing operations at every level of those organizations—junior to very senior management—I never once came close to the level of authority and responsibility I had even as a very junior Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. I worked in facilities from as few employees as eighty to larger organizations with well over six hundred plus—most reporting to larger corporations.

There just isn’t any real correlation to the levels experienced by most military logisticians to that of their supposedly civilian counterparts. The routine scope of civilian operations is just too narrowly focused to begin to compare.

LTG Pagonis stressed that those with military backgrounds should “emphasize their leadership traits and abilities.” This is particularly hard to do and must be thought through very carefully. One must be sure that the degree of aloofness is not so condescending so as to put off the hiring manager in a way that it works against applicant.

Remember that any organization’s most important asset is its people-strength. The hardest obstacle to overcome in the civilian world is the time to train; it hardly exists at all. In the civilian world, they want to buy in the trained and not spend their time training. I believe this to be, in mot cases, a major mistake. The time spent in training and mentoring is much more important than the dollars spent in getting there. The bonding and camaraderie that takes place is of vital importance and pays off for long periods of time. Don’t underestimate it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

There's a Moose in the Guard Shack - he's gonna kill me!

Here is a teaser outlining the chapters of my book and a short description of the chapters involved in the project. Each chapter tackles a specific anecdote and the professional leadership traits and tactics that I took away from the incident. The entire project is designed to be entertaining while still discussing specific troubles and problems that managers and supervisors deal with on a daily basis.

Tommy’s Moose
Attitudes – Beliefs – Values - Truthfulness – Fairness – Consistency – Getting’ Better and Efficient
Tommy’s Moose is an adventure that takes the reader on a trek of terror and the steps taken to abate that terror. There’s an unscheduled late night visitor to a lonely guard post—what excitement that visitor creates. Discussion points include: the attitudes – beliefs – values of those you work with, the role of being truthful – fair & consistent with those you work with, and the goal of always striving to make your organization better and more efficient.

The Doors blew open
Calm vs. Excited - Trust
The Doors Blew Open is adventure that really wasn’t. What happens when there is almost an adventure, a bad situation and the reactions to what might have been? The level of excitement achieved an extremely high point. The discussion points revolve around excitement and what Chicken Little would do given the opportunity.

Nenana – Two shorts and a long
Human Skills - Technical Skills - Interviewing for Technical Skills - Conceptual Skills
- Writing Skills- Interviewing in general - Ability to Lead
Nenana – Two Shorts and a Long relates the when brains are not engaged occurrence involving an experienced petroleum handler//truck driver who makes a small mistake and ends up feeling the brunt of it. I discuss human and technical skills and how one should go about interviewing for those skills. Additionally we look into conceptual skills and writing skills and I hit briefly on the ability to lead.

Coaching the Cosmos
Matching requirements with employees  - Motivating individual employees - Final note on our participation
Coaching the Cosmos is all about putting kids in the game and the part luck can play in that game. Luck with the addition of skill and the results that just might be obtained. The importance of matching requirements with employees and motivating of individual employees is explored.

Walkabout Aggressors
Walkabout Aggressors is a story that has never been told before as far as I know—others might have but I haven’t. The tale takes the reader along on a short trip through the woods, never knowing what might be around the next corner. What happens when others want to be part of the excitement and what levels will they go to accomplishing their involvement. Turning bad times into good times is sometimes much easier than one might think. I discuss counseling, leading a group, the importance of reading the vine—the preverbal grapevine.

Mess Hall Cups - It’s just a flippin’ Coffee Cup
Communication (good & bad) - Meetings: their agenda and conduct - Get it right the first time - Organization and opportunity
Mess Hall Cups is all about how crazy situations can get when communication is less that perfect. The simple becomes next to impossible.  Here is a discussion of communication; both good and bad. Pointers are covered on holding meetings and advice on getting it right the first time.

Hurricane Heaters and Practice in Combat Parking
More on authority, responsibility and accountability
Hurricane Heaters and Practice in Combat Parking is a tale about authority and what happens when that authority is not applied correctly. I address how you correct inaction when it should have been applied and discuss some additional pointers on responsibility.

500 Lb Bomb found – We’re Movin’ Out
Organization structure - Training status - Review (evaluation) process
500 lb Bomb Found – We’re Movin’ Out delves into organizations and their ability to react. The selection of the players is of prime importance just as the selection of every employee within a society: work, social, whatever. Organization structure is explored along with the training status and review and evaluation process

Fitz and His Spare Tire
Think like Fitz - Giving instructions - Stupid questions - Personal skills inventory - Mentoring - Integrity and principles
Fitz and His Spare Tire lays out an adventure that took place because of someone thinking instead of following instructions; people are individuals and almost always want to do well. I tell of one of the best lessons I have ever learned—a real life lesson. Think like Fitz and be sure you giving good instructions. I also discuss how to handle those stupid questions and methods of developing a personal skills inventory of those working with you along with mentoring, integrity and the importance of principles is also discussed.

Let me tell ya ‘bout Cold
Common Sense
Let Me Tell Ya ‘bout Cold asks the question: how tough can you take it? Put yourself in the situation and see what you would do? Just how cold have you ever been? Can you imagine real cold? Victories have to be found wherever you can find them. Can you take it?

They came from outta the sky!
What’s going on? Planning - Organizing – Leading - Controlling – Just Maybe
Great Ping Pong Ball Drop    describes what can happen when the lack of a good plan becomes the problem. How would you act if you had the market cornered? Knowing what’s going on in your organization and how to plan, organize, lead and control are the discussion points.

To Jack’s House - Part I
Responsibility – Accountability - Authority and Power
To Jack’s House and Back is about another short trip, the confrontation involved, the struggle getting back home again and things that shouldn’t go bump but often do. Responsibility, accountability, authority and power; where they come from and how to deal with each are the center of the message here. What precedence is and the New Guy syndrome add to the tale along with the obtaining of authority and what to do in the face of the unexpected.

To Jack’s House - Part II
Who makes the decision? – Precedence - The New Guy

Back from Jack’s House - Part I
Allowing Supervisors to supervise

Back from Jack’s House - Part II
Obtaining authority - The unexpected - Consultants

Up and Back – Part I
People vs. Mission Orientation - Skills and Talent - Tell vs. Not tell – Self recognition
Up and Back and Up Again is an account of people and perseverance under trying circumstances. The adventure takes place on a one day trip (convoy) that ends up requiring two days due to unforeseen complications and the actions of a few bad apples. The leadership discussion concentrates on: are you a people vs. mission orientation manager, skills vs. talent decision, telling vs. not telling employees everything, just what’s important to you, are you having a good time, self recognition, second guessing your subordinate managers or supervisors, cycles – changes – paying attention and addresses the question: think you got it tough?

And Up Again – Part II
Perseverance - Second guessing - Cycles – Change – Attention - What’s important to you? – Turn-over (Got it tough?) - Have a good time!

Huntin’ downhill (Bonus Anecdote)
Fun - Camaraderie
Huntin’ Downhill reminds us that ya just gotta have fun, not at the cost of the mission, but while you are getting there and almost every step along the way. I also discuss what to do if you’re not having fun and why it should be of prime importance in your career. Camaraderie with those you work with is looked into.

Appendix A - Howard’s Law
Howard’s Laws are a set of principles that I have gathered throughout my career and always had posted just inside the door in every office I have inhabited over that time. They are very simple and pretty much apply universally.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting better and organizational direction

As follow-on to a previous discussion, I would like to briefly comment on getting better and how one goes about doing so. Part of the idea of being consistent has to be the effort a leader puts into getting better.

Leading an organization should tend to indicate that the group is going somewhere; not necessarily geographically, but somewhere other than where they are today. That might be somewhere philosophically, somewhere operational wise, somewhere in the direction of new products, somewhere other than nowhere—but never standing still.

Hopefully, the direction the organization is headed is better than where they are today; better always good. Maybe a more efficient operation is the only current goal. That’s lofty enough for anybody at any time. But more efficient at what cost, one might ask. Cost is always a relative term and only applies to the here and now. Costs are constantly changing; technology improves, costs come down, competitors go out of business—whatever the case, costs are always changing.

Leaders must never ever be satisfied with the status quo. The guys in charge must always be looking forward. Sometimes forward is not necessarily straight ahead. It just might a tangent to the current direction.

Change must be the guiding light, somewhere out there in the future. Hopefully, its not accompanied by a train whistle at the other end of the tunnel; but a beacon out there in the stratosphere of the unknown world of better.

Heading down a new course, leaders must consistently be observing and evaluating the process and results. They must be ready to change course if and when the time is right.

You wanta go where?
Constant changes in course are not always good and tend to confuse the followship. The group may begin to believe the plan is not up to snuff and decide to jump ship, at least in believability—this is not good. Continual reinforcement is required. Information becomes king and is deserved by one and all.

Change, for the better, should be one of the organization’s central goals.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What part does truth, fairness and consistency play in leadership?

From my point of view; Truth may just be the number one element. Experience has shown me that when told the truth about the goings-on, those that follow will do so almost unquestionably. When leaders don’t tell the truth and the followship discovers this to be the case; it can take forever to turn the situation around, if ever. And don’t be surprised when I say: When the truth is not the norm; nobody is fooled.

Tell them the truth. If you aren’t able to relate the entire truth, due to confidentiality or some other real hindrance; tell them that you can’t divulge the entire situation. I have found that in these cases, if you have been telling the truth all along, the followship will understand and accept your offering and not press any further. But, if you have a record of not being consistently forthcoming; they will be very wary and this leads to a bad situation that is also hard to overcome.

Can you be fair?

Of course you can. It takes very little to do so and the returns are immeasurable, intangible maybe, but great nonetheless. It is almost always possible to be fair and as you might think, followers expect it. In fact they demand it. The feelings might not be evident on the surface, but its there, you can bet your job on it. When the circumstances limit your ability to be fair; explain it to the followship. In most cases they will understand; that is if you have been truthful all along. There’s that truth sneaking in again. Of course, where the outcome is personal, just an explanation will not work. Your best managerialese will come in real handy here.

How does consistency play a role in leadership?

Consistency is the long term report card of leadership. This wraps up the truth and fairness aspect of leadership into an umbrella trait. If you are consistently the truthful and fair player; followers will always know what to expect from you. This takes a lot of the gamesmanship outta the entire world of management. When you play the role consistently, you inspire others to do so also. Play the role less than consistent and your subordinates will do so also; an unacceptable situation one might add. Consistency can also rub off on peers and other managers, supervisors and leaders in the organization.