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Friday, December 21, 2012

How do you defeat the "Not my job, Man!" mindset?

Employee mindsets can be an organization and company culture problem. Oh, you say: “there’s always some bad apples!” Well, maybe that’s true. If you practice the concept of management by walking around (MBWA); you might find that the problem is bigger than a few bad apples.

The solution to the problem starts at the top and drives itself all the way to the lowest rung on the management and supervision totem pole (organizational chart). If top management does not outwardly hold to the principle of it’s everybody’s job, nobody will. The practice has to be an integral part of the fiber that holds the organization together. If the practice is not everybody’s job; it just maybe nobody’s job!

Everybody has to be responsible to everyone else in the organization and open communications should be part of your answer. This is not to say that the CEO’s door has to be constantly swinging. It has to start there; but real results are experienced through empowerment and action at the lowest level of supervision—the guy on the shop floor that is tightly involved with the real problems. He//she is the best source and consistently the best answer. Spend time training, reviewing evaluating and empowering—you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leadership gurus on the web

Recently I commented on a well followed lady’s leadership blog primarily because she had said something that I wholeheartedly agreed with. I don’t often agree with the guys//gals expounding leadership theory on these sites, but this time I did. Most, in my humble opinion, have no idea about what they speak and more often they don’t really say anything close to the edge—maybe it’s a fear of being challenged if they do say something definite or more likely, they don’t really have the background, experience or knowledge to be discussing the topic they have just regurgitated mumble-jumble throughout the internet.

In any event, after checking back a day or so later, I found that the self-professed leadership expert (her website’s claim—not mine) had misunderstood my point completely. Of course, there’s the outside chance that I didn’t make myself clear. She had even gone so far as to re-speak my point for me (incorrectly, mind you) and then tell me where she differed with me in this area. If she had understood my point, it would be one thing, but to not have understood and then correct me, that’s another thing entirely.

I have a huge problem with these wanta-be-leadership-gurus. Most, I find, have never worked a day in real leadership positions, but have taught numerous seminars here and there, maybe took a class and some even received a degree that allows them to squawk on leadership—but generally, they know not. The particular guru I communicated with claims to have “personally coached over 100 senior leaders” and has a background that allows “her to provide valuable insights about individuals and organizational systems.”

I consider these people to be dangerous, especially if their followers believe strongly in them. The followship is primarily provided with only the very basic understanding of the subject as the gurus are never really clear and never answer any specific questions that would lead to better understanding of the role of a leader. My fear is that some will try to put these half-baked truths into practice and pay the penalty for the shallowness of their guru. A real misfortune in any event. Nobody is gonna learn LEADERSHIP over the internet—NOBODY!

Be careful who you follow, subscribe to, and put your faith in. There’s a lot of shallowness involved in the guru level of expounders on leadership.

As I peck this into my computer, another thought came to mind concerning these short answer//short idea//short advice websites: They just may be dumbing down their information and advice for the generation they see as their audience—the short attention spanners of today’s world.

Let’s hope the situation improves over time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Short Introduction to my project—Adventures in Leadership

Over the last few years I have been recalling and documenting my professional career, including the strife, trouble and opportunities that presented themselves to me and just how I handled each of these. I will not say just how many years it has taken me so far as in reality, it has taken much longer than I ever imagined it would take. All things considered, I have thoroughly enjoyed this task. It has brought back some great memories as I recalled the exacts of what actually took place during each of these moments.

Some of the events were not that hard to recall as I had found opportunities to use the stories over and over all during both my military and civilian career. These stories were tagged about one third of the way through my tenure in manufacturing as Moose Stories by a young man who worked for me in multiple capacities at several different organizations. I had discovered Warren Sanford as he jumped up and down and hollered at me from behind a packaging line during my time at Tandy in their Personal Computer Division in Ft Worth, TX. Warren was just the guy I needed for a come-in-late and stay-later printer and PC specialist during a software implementation project converting Tandy from a homegrown system to a standard MRP system. Warren also worked for me as my Network Administrator during the time we spent at Sun Engine, a remanufacturer of automobile engines in Dallas, TX.

During the twenty-eight years I spent working in numerous manufacturing assignments, I found even more opportunities to use what I had learned from the people and situations I had previously been associated with. Many of the teaching//learning points were associated with my experiences during my time in the Army. While they were military in nature, the situations were still all about people. These adventures with people resulted in a much more basic understanding of those people and their thought processes. As most of those I was associated with in the manufacturing arena had little if any military experience they seemed to relate to the characters and the predicaments in the stories—everybody plays army at some point in their life and the attraction never goes away.

The people lessons that I took away from these stories helped in making both me and those around me understand better what we could do to improve our lot in life. After all, people, their actions and the results of their actions are the major time consumers that take up the majority of most manager’s and supervisor’s time— both good and bad people are the real players in the continuing story of our daily endeavors.

When a particular situation presented itself that I thought the relating of a previous experience with a core theme aligned with the current situation might be appropriate I would gather those on my staff and do just that. I told them a story. Then we discussed the predicament that I had just related to them and through our discussion I pulled from them the desired outcomes. They worked out their trouble and routinely were better off as a result. As it seemed to work each time I tried it, I continued to use this tactic more and more as time went on.

Usually after working with an organization for some time and recognizing the need to relate one of these adventures, I might start in and then be interrupted by one of those that had been there for some time asking: “Is this gonna be another moose story Howard?”

I should digress a bit here and give the reader some background.

During the earliest years of my career, I was serving in the United States Army and stationed at Fort Richardson (Fort Rich), just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. Initially I was assigned to B Company (Maintenance & Supply) in the 172nd Support Battalion of the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate & Light). In an attempt to improve operations the platoon I was assigned to was detached from B Co. and attached to the 54th Transportation Company just three weeks after my arrival. This action formed a Supply & Transportation unit and provided my initial stint in a provisional//test unit—this remained a central theme throughout my entire military career. I started as the Section Leader of an element in the Supply Platoon. Having the dubious luck to follow two First Lieutenants who were relieved as platoon leader and petroleum officer—I being the only Lieutenant remaining who had not yet wandered into tragedy and trouble, found myself as the Supply Platoon Leader with the additional responsibility of being designated the Accountable Officer for all supplies coming into and going out of the Brigade.



The platoon’s mission was to provide supply and service support in the areas of rations (food), petroleum (POL), ammunition, clothing, general supplies (tents and the like), construction and barrier material (building material, concertina wire and other like material), and major item re-supply (weapons, vehicles, helicopters, etc). The only classes of supply not provided by my platoon were repair parts and medical items; these came from two sister units within the Support Battalion. After almost three years of testing the organization the unit was eventually designated as Delta Company (Supply and Transportation) and assigned to the Support Battalion. Change didn’t always come in a timely manner in the Army of the early ‘70s—that far eastern conflict was taking away a lot of the attention.

Support operations conducted while in Alaska

Oh yes, the Moose connection. During the four years I spent in Alaska, I experienced more than several sightings, encounters, confrontations, happenings, run-ins, arguments, disagreements, quarrels, rows, conflicts, clashes, and skirmishes with moose—many more with moose than any other animal in Alaska.

An animal that takes up as much room as your run-of-the-mill Bull Moose and weighs in at as much as twelve to fourteen hundred pounds demands attention and most of the time, the right-of-way. In the far, far woods, as my son would come to call the area adjacent to our quarters, I would frequently find myself during the deepest part of the winter playing tag with a bull or cow moose in and around Ship Creek which passed just one hundred yards or so behind the home the US Army was so grateful to allow us to utilize during our stay.. These encounters would routinely make my wife furious at me—as you might imagine—but not not the moose. Tapping a moose on the nose and dodging behind a tree was akin to the same game we would play with a bull or mean white-eyed momma cow back in Texas during my teen years.


Moose out our back door

These encounters might also involve a run-in with a moose in the morning formation just outside the Battalion’s barracks area. Or maybe the incident might take the moose through the glass doors into the building itself. Once observing a confrontation between a moose and a VW Bug on the highway into Anchorage gave me a real healthy appreciation for these antlered obstructions. We even experienced a hungry bull that crawled on his knees under our back porch in order to get to the only grass available that winter—the grass outside the dryer vent coming from the basement of our quarters was always green.

Well, not everything revolves around a moose experience, it’s the people who work with and for you that step into, instigate, or cause a problem that makes up a manager’s day. During the forty years I spent in the management, supervision and consultation of operations, both in manufacturing and the military; I continually found myself in the study of these people who caused the situations to happen to and around me. While a good deal of the stories are somewhat military in nature, largely due to the fact that I spent time at more than sixty posts, camps and stations; they are primarily just stories of people, the situations they find themselves in, what got them there and how we//they sometimes resolved the dilemma(s) that we found ourselves in.


Ft Greely Alaska, Feb 1974 -98°F

Ft Greely Buffalo herd in area later the same day Feb 1974

Eventually I realized that often I really had to watch out for that guy, Warren, knowing that I enjoyed telling the stories maybe even more than they enjoyed listening and learning from them. During routine meetings he might say something like: “Tell us another moose story Howard.” This was sure to lengthen the meeting’s duration and kept managers and supervisors away from their intended responsibilities.

2LT Brown & Sgt Garcia standing on top of 10,000 of Jet Fuel

The adventures I have documented are all true. I know that for a fact. I was there when they took place and often was the one that they took place to. Usually they all had reasonable endings—some more reasonable than others. The situations I intend to relate in my book (should it ever become such) taught me more than I could have ever learned in a management or supervision class tucked away somewhere on a college campus or a one-two-or-three day seminar taught by the very successful presenters of that type material. Just like many of you out there; the lessons of life are much more real than the case studies that professors will ever cause you to study. Most likely you have been involved in just as many situations as I have and through this volume of work I will endeavor to spur just the slightest amount of memory and realization that you may know more about what leadership, management and supervision is all about than you previously thought you did.

I had this same jeep the entire 4 years in the command

I hope you find the stories and information to be enlightening, helpful, sometime even humorous, and at least interesting—the original cast and their actions were just that. Some of the names will have to be changed, but please remain assured that the stories are true and the dubious names may be factious only to save embarrassment; a point readers will subsequently understand. This understanding of people and their reasoning is what I took away from some very interesting, sometimes stressful or physical demanding but always memorable people experiences.