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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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meeting Attractions & Attentions

Do you ever find it a problem to get the correct attendees to show up for scheduled meetings on time?

Lack of proper attendance and attention from the very start of meetings can drastically reduce the importance, quality and impact of meetings held for the intended purpose of instilling that very intention.

So what’s the answer?

Here’s a couple of methods I have used over the years:

The first method I would recommend you utilize to garner attention was humor. Humor is easy to find; it’s laying around everywhere you look.

You have to be careful with humor and insure it fits the situation and the group. Having crossed that hurdle, get with it.

I had been brought in to facilitate the installation of a manufacturing software package—migrating from a home-grown (with so many patches, you never knew from one day to the next that everything was working as intended) to an off-the-shelf system with all the bells and whistles available at the time. There were various levels of support for the upgrade at every level of management in the organization; making the task even harder. This fact alone permeated the organization and made scheduling and conducting the planning and training meetings a real chore.

I had to find a way around the lack of attendance, attraction and attention. I chose humor.

Each morning after arrival at the plant, I would scour the paper for the best cartoon or funny paper tri-toon and alter the captions to fit a situation of plant interest—always humorous and never harmful. It didn’t take long for the word to get around and soon attendance began to pick up. Initially, I added the toon at the rear of the meeting subject matter being discussed and initially the attendees waited to the appropriate point in time to flip over to that last page to obtain their comic relief. I later found that the members of management were sharing the toon with their department and section personnel—the following began to grow. The Fareside was my favorite toon to modify at the time but Hagar the Horrible, Dilbert, Peanuts and Beetle Bailey work very well also. For copy write infringement reasons I will avoid putting one up here.

I realized that trouble was afoot when everybody, just as soon as the meeting agenda and subject matter was passed out, began flipping to the back page to get their jolly just as soon as they received their paper. I had to shift the toon somehow.

The guys in my department that assisted with the assembling of the training material helped my interleaf the toon into different places within the different handouts. This worked for awhile—I had asked up front in the meeting that they not search for the toon, but wait and come upon it as it eventually showed up. This worked for short period of time.

After maybe three days, just as soon as the handouts were sent down each side of the conference table, there began the loudest shuffling of paper one can imagine—everybody searching for the toon. I should have known this was the next evolution of where we were headed. I had actually picked the exact wrong subject to humorize for the last several days—the proposition that the entire factory would soon be required to wear smocks both on the work floor and in the office areas—although an idea promulgated by the Group VP; it was not well received at any level of the organization. The sole supporter was the laundry service that supplied smocks to those uniform renters that had previously selected to wear them.

The humor idea had run it’s course and I found another method quickly. The smock idea, by-the-way, was never implemented.

The second method I have used successfully is to employ tactics that encourages early arrival. Those arriving early are rewarded in some small way with a reward befitting the situation. The reward can range from candy to the latest company T-shirt. Keep in mind here that those arriving too early should be eliminated from the competition—too early may indicate another problem that management needs to address; why else would they be there?

One method to insure that everybody is on time that I have always liked is some sort of trivia contest. I really like the gathering of short—often obscure—quotations and having the early arrivers venture guesses who the author is. The more thought provoking and the older the quotation the better in my opinion—especially when the author is mostly know for logic 180º in the opposite direction.

Here’s an example of two I used before a meeting about six years back:

(1) “What is the most rigorous law of our being? Growth. No smallest atom of our moral, mental, or physical structure can stand still a year. It grows—it must grow; nothing can prevent it. It must grow downward or upward; it must grow smaller or larger, better or worse—it cannot stand still. In other words, we change—and must change, constantly, and keep on changing as long as we live. Who is the really constant man? The man who changes. Since change is the law of his being, he cannot be consistent if he stick in a rut.”

(2) “Technological progress is not merely an accomplishment of capitalism, but a vital ingredient. Business must innovate, invent, and experiment if it is to survive; the business that rests content on its past achievements is not long for this enterprising world.”

The prime idea to keep in mind is to move into the meeting agenda as soon as it is appropriate to do so. Remember my rules on meetings: (1) never longer than one hour and (2) always provide an agenda in advance.

The additional attractors and attention-getters are for one reason and one reason only: Getting attentive players to the meeting on time. Never let the extras lag on into the meeting time.

Oh yah. Just who were the two authors involved in the quotes (opinions) stated above? Both opinions were first seen by the public way over 100 years ago just as applicable today as they were when first uttered. Most of the guesses I would receive from those early-attendees were never in the correct century and all early-attendees were routinely amazed at the windage adjustment required to even hit close.

(1) Mark Twain, “Consistency”, a paper read at the Hartford Monday Evening Club, following the Blaine-Cleveland campaign, 1884, The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, Da Capo Press, 1963, p. 577

(2) Taken from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital published first in 1865 excerpted from Robert L. Heilbroner, “The Worldly Philosophers – The Lives, Times & Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers”, Simon and Schuster, Inc. 1953, p 138.

Give either of these two approaches a try if you experience an attendance or attention problem. Remember to stay between the lines and appropriate!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Leadership Maturity

How do you, as a leader, recognize when your leadership has matured?

Are you making better decisions? Can you react quicker and better than you did yesterday, a month ago, a year ago? How do you know?

An self-evaluation of your record is called for and most of the time it is only you that can provide the appropriate answers to the questions. Oh, you might be lucky enough to have a mentor that keeps you posted on your development; but most do not. They have to rely on the old routine yearly evaluation by a supervisor or manager who hasn’t kept track nor has just too many evals to do at the same time to put the appropriate effort into each one.

Here, let me point out, that I am fully behind hire-date evals or anything approaching a schedule that does not call for all evaluations to take place at the same time of year. If management is going use evals for a purpose, then they should make them worthwhile and well worth the effort.

But back to you: Take time to routinely evaluate your own actions. I have mentioned before the use of logs or self supporting records maintained for historical purposes. This is an especially good area where a log comes in handy. Routinely jot down some notes of the who-shot-John variety and be especially critical of yourself when doing so. Often, the notes will come in handy later on when there is a need to fill in some details of the goings-on. You just never know. If you don’t have the notes, you just may be SOL. I have always found logs to be beneficial.

Logs may also be handy to use as weekly//monthly activity report feeders. Recording actions and the who did best//worse can often document subordinate evals also.

I believe it was Mark Twain that once said something like: “Experience is what allows me to recognize a mistake when I make it again!” This is often credited to Twain and a few others; but it really doesn’t matter who said it first—it still bears consideration. Evaluate your leadership routinely and see where you stand.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Evaluating your Plan for the future

Continuing our discussion that we started a few days back:

Are you into a career that you find is not living up to your expectations? Have you made choice(s) that have not worked out like you thought they should?

This is a difficult position to be in; but let’s try to get the most from a less than suitable situation. At least, let’s hope what you are doing is at least putting the bread on the table.

Ask yourself a few more in-depth questions.

How long can you survive in the position you currently hold? The current economy can not last forever. The ramp-up could be just around the corner. Plan you next move(s) now and be well positioned for the future. It will come; just like tomorrow morning. Be ready to execute.

I’m not sure I believe the situation, but are you burning out—to use an all to frequently used cliché, in a career path that initially challenged you, but no longer does?

Is this a real problem or a matter of interpretation? Might it just possibly be some sort of mid-career slump?

How would you go about rejuvenating the ole career if this is the situation?

Consider discussing this with your management. They might just have the answer you are looking for. Maybe the direction is a tangent to your current duties and responsibilities. Maybe there is room for additional responsibilities that can be added to your existing load that would tend to breathe new life into the somewhat routine day you find yourself facing. Sometimes what is needed is some sort of refresher training or just some cutting edge approaches to the current routine.

If there aren’t other avenues open due to size or maturity of the organization; your situation could be a hard nut to swallow.

Tough decisions might have to be made. Pulling up the stakes, dislodging the roots and moving elsewhere at mid-career is a real tough decision; especially in the market we are currently in.

If this avenue is not an option at the present; look at taking up a new outside interest. Search for one that requires somewhat great effort and considerable attention to detail. The burn has to be stroked no matter where the fire source comes from.

Evaluating your Plan for the future

Continuing our discussion that we started a few days back:

Are you into a career that you find is not living up to your expectations? Have you made choice(s) that have not worked out like you thought they should?

This is a difficult position to be in; but let’s try to get the most from a less than suitable situation. At least, let’s hope what you are doing is at least putting the bread on the table.

Ask yourself a few more in-depth questions.

How long can you survive in the position you currently hold? The current economy can not last forever. The ramp-up could be just around the corner. Plan you next move(s) now and be well positioned for the future. It will come; just like tomorrow morning. Be ready to execute.

I’m not sure I believe the situation, but are you burning out—to use an all to frequently used cliché, in a career path that initially challenged you, but no longer does?

Is this a real problem or a matter of interpretation? Might it just possibly be some sort of mid-career slump?

How would you go about rejuvenating the ole career if this is the situation?

Consider discussing this with your management. They might just have the answer you are looking for. Maybe the direction is a tangent to your current duties and responsibilities. Maybe there is room for additional responsibilities that can be added to your existing load that would tend to breathe new life into the somewhat routine day you find yourself facing. Sometimes what is needed is some sort of refresher training or just some cutting edge approaches to the current routine.

If there aren’t other avenues open due to size or maturity of the organization; your situation could be a hard nut to swallow.

Tough decisions might have to be made. Pulling up the stakes, dislodging the roots and moving elsewhere at mid-career is a real tough decision; especially in the market we are currently in.

If this avenue is not an option at the present; look at taking up a new outside interest. Search for one that requires somewhat great effort and considerable attention to detail. The burn has to be stroked no matter where the fire source comes from.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What’s Important to You?

How long have you been doing what you do?

Are you enjoying yourself; not necessarily every day and every little bit of the day. But, in general; do you like what it is that you do?

Do you get up every morning with a burn that can’t wait until you get to work because there is something you just gotta get at? This may not be your routine, but ask yourself if it should be.

Here’s another question you might ask yourself: Are you doing what you really want to do? I don’t mean “are you on permanent vacation?” Of course, we all would like to be in that rare air that allows us to get up every day and fish a different hole; but no, that’s not what I’m getting’ at.

Good catch!

 Proper fishin' technique

Does what you do allow you to do what you want to do when you are not at work? There is just so much leisure time available to any of us. You have to bank it and spend it wisely. They will not let you buy anymore than your scheduled allotment.

While you are at it; here’s just one more question you need to consider: Is what you do going to get you wherever it is that you want to go professionally? If the answer to this is no; buddy, you need to start thinking and planning right now. There isn’t enough time on this earth to spend any of it where you don’t really want to be. Oh, I know this may not be the time to walk away from a paying gig; but it is always the time to think and plan to be able to walk away from a paying gig that isn’t getting you where you want to go.

Get started now!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Integrity is Integrity

Several time here lately I heard someone refer to an individual’s level of integrity. I have recently seen this on resumes and have heard politicians spout off about their level of integrity.

Integrity, as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, the second college edition, on pages 667 & 668, published by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston in 1985 is (1) the rigid adherence to a code or a standard of values, (2) the state of being unimpaired, soundness; (3) the quality or condition of being whole or undivided, completeness. OK, so the dictionary is a little old; but I’m here to tell you: integrity is integrity.

Look back up there at the definition. Tell me now; just where do you see any line of demarcation that allows one to have a degree of integrity? Right! There isn’t any degree of integrity; it just doesn’t exist. See the words: rigid, unimpaired, soundness, whole, undivided and completeness. You can’t get there without going all the way. There is no path to integrity that takes you half way; it’s all or none.

Look around and see if you can find integrity. I bet you have a hard time locating what might even be considered something close to integrity.

To borrow from Henry Ford, “integrity is not just doing the right thing when others are looking. It’s doing the right thing all the time.”

Let us also borrow from Mark Twain while we are at it: “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” (from “Mark Twain in Eruption).

I would also venture a guess that a politician can not possibly possess integrity as they have to hard a time with the truth—I’m not sure the two can be exclusive of each other.

Oh, I guess one might make allowances for politicians. To my knowledge, these days no one expects a politician’s integrity to measure the whole nine yards. I don’t understand or know why that isn’t true anymore; but that’s the way it seems.

But, back to the meat of the subject, when you hear someone refer to their level of integrity; ask them to be more specific: “Just how did you obtain your level of integrity?”

Maybe there’s a school out there that presents classes in integrity and gives out grades at the end of the instruction based on the attendee’s level of understanding. It’s probably one of those internet diplomas from the University of Integrity headed by the Prime Minister of Nairobi and you can complete the instruction in three easy emails; but first you must send them your first born and six fifths of you Social Security check for the next twenty-three and a half years. There’s just a chance that you might be able to qualify through a FBI website; that scam is running around the net again or should I say continually.

But before you apply, make sure you understand the fine print. Be sure to get the entire program. Don’t get short changed and obtain less than the entire integrity certification. You owe it to yourself.

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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Who might you meet in my Book?

Are you wondering if you are going to be in my business management project when it gets published? Well. Maybe! Volume #1 is complete and ready for an agent and//or publisher. There are many characters in volume #1 and most likely there will be many more added in volume #2. Those anecdotes are in progress—not as I type here (still with only two fingers, but two more at rest just waiting to take the first two’s place should the need arise).

Here is a short run down of several of the characters you might meet, remember or know very well (entries in no particular order):

Tommy Wilson and his moose (Platoon clerk and chocked full of excitement)
David Fitzsimmons (Fitz) (2nd Platoon clerk and the hardest at working to impress)
Frank Lefevers (Best 2nd right hand anybody could ever have)
Alan Grant (Platoon sergeant and professional)
Donald Jenkins (Pillsbury Dough Boy – enough said)
Joseph Guarino (trouble from day one)
Martin Snyder (Best ration sergeant in the United States Army)
John Workman (The other best ration sergeant in the United States Army)
Marvin Craighead (Always looking for the next challenge and never afraid to take on a problem)
Ron Acuff (My platoon’s 3rd Class II & VII Section Leader and good at it)
Larry Wilson (My platoon’s 2nd Class II & VII Section Leader and 2nd POL Officer – a great guy and a good friend)
Dave Elberfeld
Vince Festa
Ted Kuchta (My platoon’s 4th POL Officer)
Doug Brown (My platoon’s 3rd POL Officer and a former NCO with a good head on his shoulders)
Pat Phillips (A tragic loss that came way too soon)
Vince Fuentes
Roger Issacson
Stan Pearson
Peter Burbules (My Battalion Commander during some hard times with great struggle)
William Krukemeyer
Phil Rivard (My boss during a challenging time of change)
Ed Armatoski (The guy that pushed me toward Alaska in the first place)
Denys Danley
Pat Crumbliss
Howard Kerr (Important mission on the coldest night of the year)
James Maggard
Chief Maynes
Sgt Stone (Never knew his first name – probably was sergeant for all I know)
Thomas Steel (One of my most trusted NCOs during the years I spent at Fort Bragg)
SFC Torric (The source of some hard lessons – both taught & learned)
Warren Sanford (Another one of those 2nd right hands that made my job easier)

These and many more will be revealed during the course of my story telling and advice rendering. The title as it currently stands is “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack – He’s gonna kill me!

Look for it soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What is Leader’s effect on Attitudes, Beliefs and Values?

Can you as the leader of an organization have any effect on the attitudes, beliefs and values of those that report to you?

It all depends. Right, you knew that, didn’t you? A quality leader heading the organization in the right direction with a specific goal in mind can definitely have an impact on the thinking of his//her subordinates and, to some degree, those laterally and vertically in the organization.

Everybody knows that managing people is not easy; but when you also have to deal with attitudes that are a little different, beliefs that are not your own, and values that don’t come near matching yours; it becomes a real chore. Most experts will tell you that you can change these three areas of individual viewpoint only the slightest. While this is generally true, it doesn’t always have to be.

Supposing that you can’t change the thinking. If this is so; where does that leave the leader in today’s “split down the middle” workplace? I repeat; it’s a chore.

People come into the workforce with a whole bundle of preconceived attitudes, beliefs and values. Their choices have been developed over long periods of time and passed on by those that they have most likely have held dear to them. There is no room for these outside influences in your workplace; but because they are there and exist no matter how hard you might try to ignore them, they can not be set aside. You must face them straight on.

What you can do is weaken those influences by setting an example that can not be competed with. The strength of the outside influence is the only thing appropriate to challenge.

I have always found that the best attack is to establish skill sets within the workforce that encourage the individual to be just that; an individual. This step is only the beginning. Time is not on your side; but the longer you have their attention, the better progress you will be able to achieve.

Comparatively speaking, attitude is probably the easiest of the three to influence. A positive attitude is contagious and takes very little work to propagate. Just project that attitude everyday. The spreading effect is on your side. The example you set here is extremely important. Don’t ever let down. The slightest setback can undo a world of progress.

When set backs do raise their ugly heads, make the most of each setback by turning it into a learning experience and expand the knowledge of those affected by the happening. Never miss an opportunity for the group to learn.

Don’t forget: slipping backwards is a lot easier than going forward; its just human nature to do so. People have to be removed from an undesirable environment for a long period of time for real change to take place and hold on.

Beliefs can only be changed by success and it has to be continued success at that. Short term success will have very little impact on beliefs. Beliefs that come over time will be set in stone; that’s the same way they developed their preconceived beliefs. Don’t look for miracles and be especially pleased with minor advances.

Stress is the biggest deterrent to allowing progress to be maintained. Look for ways to release stress as it builds. One of the best ways to combat this that I have used over the years is the group lunch. People tend to open up more over food mixed with camaraderie than any other situation I have found. Try it.