Three Parts of Your Leadership Point of View

As you move up in your organization, your point of view changes. The higher you go, the further you can see. Use your point of view to inspire others to be better and improve your organization.
– Photo by author

As a leader, it is important to create an inspiring vision for the future. Doing so encourages others to follow you; join your organization; and become the people you see that they can become. In order to develop an effective and inspiring vision for the future, you must start with a personal leadership point of view. Your personal leadership point of view establishes the key events in your life that shaped you, those things you value and why, and expectations you have for your personal growth and the professional growth of the organization.

Simon Sinek believes all leaders should understand the why of their organization before determining what and how. “Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it.” (Sinek et al, 2017). One has to understand why one does what one does before they determine what comes next and how to achieve that goal.

A person’s why comes from a combination of his or her values, desires in life, skills, and experiences. Many high school graduates struggle with what they want to do in life because they do not understand these things. Their values are not fully formed. They really do not know what they want from life. They are still developing their skills. They have few experiences to shape them as people. As a result, many choose to take time away from education to gain experience, understand what things interest them, what skills they possess or wish to gain, and how different values affect their choices.

Effective leaders have experienced life. They have been challenged in ways that test their mettle. They stand out from the crowd based on their experiences and the character developed in the forge of life. As you begin to examine your leadership point of view, take time to reflect on those experiences in your life that brought you great meaning. Those stories are not necessary your greatest achievements or defeats. The stories of everyday life are probably more important than those from the extremes. Those are the stories that establish your character and demonstrate things of interest and problems solved through your unique skills. Use these stories to learn what you really value. Remember, your values are the foundation of your leadership (St. Cyr, 2018).

If you exercise regularly, people know you value fitness. Your character is determined by those things you do regularly.
– Photo by Andres Ayrton on Pexels.com

How you live your values establishes your character. You might say you value family, but if you always put work first, do you really value your family life? A long time friend often challenged me when I stated how important I felt exercise was. He would invite me to workout with him and I frequently had an excuse to not workout with him. “You can always tell what is important to someone based on the way they use their time.” he would say, or something like that. He would follow up with something like, “If working out was really important, you would find a way.” He would also pull the same lines when he invited me to go fishing and I had other plans! People know your values from the way you live whether or not you profess them publicly. However, professing your values, and your organization’s values are important communication points for all leaders.

Each of us has meaningful experiences in life. Ask me anytime how I am and you will likely receive a positive response, even on a day I spill my morning coffee, the car will not start, and my computer crashes. I will likely tell you it is a great, or at least a good day. Based on the life experience of being shot at and being blown up, I decided any day you can get vertical and someone is not trying to kill you is a good day. That does not mean I ignore problems that come along in life. I just put them in perspective; it sucks, but no one is shooting at me so it is not THAT bad!

When I joined the Army, my Godmother told me not to let the Army change me. I promised I would not. At the time, I lacked the experience necessary to know that my Army experiences would change me but that it was my choice about whether I allowed those experiences to make be a better or worse person. No matter what, life experiences change all of us. In my case, I like to think my Army experiences made me a better person and a good leader. Our life experiences mold us. They cause us to reexamine our values. They help us decide what we really want from life. That is why those experiences are so important to our leadership point of view.

Face it, we all had bad bosses and good bosses. Some of us have even had the opportunity to work for great bosses. Each affected how we view leadership. As my children grew, I told them it was important for them to learn how to be good parents by not doing the bad things they experienced from their mother and I as parents. Many a protege has received similar advise from me as they moved on to new leadership opportunities, “Don’t do the things you hated me doing as your boss and leader.” Those who paid attention went on to accomplish some pretty good things. Those who did not, did not last long in their new leadership roles. Every experience is important in shaping us, but only if we take time to reflect on the meaning of each experience.

Our expectations are based on what we learn as being truly possible. The United States first landed men on the moon because we believed it was possible. President Kennedy stated in his inspirational speech that it would be a hard task and that was exactly why he challenged the country to do it before the end of the 1960s. Norman Vincent Peale challenge all of us to, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you still land among the stars.” (I think I remember reading this quote in his book The Power of Positive Thinking which I no longer possess to verify.) We only grow as people by accepting challenges that push us to be better than we are now. We only grow as leaders by inspiring our followers to achieve more than they believe they can accomplish. People more often than not will live up to the expectations we set for them. They will accomplish amazing things if we tell them convincingly they can.

Everyone needs inspiration to help them achieve great things. Leaders provide that inspiration by helping their followers see what the leader sees is possible. That new point of view helps them do more than they thought they could do.
– Photo by author.

Developing a personal leadership point of view helps leaders create inspirational visions for the future. A leader’s vision inspires others to follow them. As more people adopt your vision and work to achieve more than they thought possible, they grow as people and the organization becomes better. To create a leadership point of view, one needs to identify important events in their lives that shaped them, understand what they value, and know what their expectations are of their followers and the future of their organization. Only when all three of these legs are in place can a leader create a truly inspirational vision for others. Take time to reflect on those experiences that shaped you. Understand how they influenced your values. Know how your values create your expectations.

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References

Peale, N.V. (1952). The power of positive thinking. Prentice Hall. Hoboken, NJ

St. Cyr, C. (2018, October 29). Character — The foundation of character [Web log post]. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://saintcyrtraining.com/2018/10/29/character-the-foundation-of-leadership

Sinek, S., Mead, D., and Docker, P. (2017). Find your why. Portfolio/Penguin. New York, NY

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(c) 2021 by Christopher St. Cyr

Leading with Gratitude

First, thanks to all of you who have visited and subscribed to my blog. You keep coming back so I keep writing. I reached 100 posts on February 18th because of your encouragement. I had other posts already so I waited until now to mention and celebrate that accomplishment. I also want to thank you for your patience with this post as it may ramble a bit. Gratitude is an important leader quality. Here are two ways you can show gratitude and humility.

Photo by Marcus Wu00f6ckel on Pexels.com

My mother taught me about the importance of being humble and grateful. Throughout life, I learned there are many things I do not know and cannot do well. I make mistakes just like everyone else. Frequently people apologize seeking forgiveness without really think about what they are asking.

For example, if you promise to arrive someplace by a certain time and encounter an accident. It causes you to be late. You could apologize for being tardy, or you could express gratitude to those you were going to meet for their patience and understanding. When you express gratitude in such situations, you acknowledge your error and you also acknowledge the other person was inconvenienced by your express of gratitude. By thanking the others, you apologize from a position of strength. There is something different about thanking someone for their understanding rather than seeking their forgiveness. It shows you are repentant and grateful.

I used this tactic in my opening paragraph. My life has been very busy the last two weeks. I lacked time to reflect on leadership lessons and write about what I learned. As a result, I have a much shorter post than normal and fail to delve deeply into a topic or lesson. I could apologize for failing to create a quality post, or I can take my best swing and write a shorter, quality post about an important leadership trait and use the post as an example of how to execute the practice. In doing so, I have less reason to seek forgiveness and more reason to express gratitude.

A further example happened recently. I had engaged in a conversation with a person about an issue I found upsetting. I reflected on the problem before the conversation to avoid saying stupid things. I succeeded in that respect but the conversation clearly communicated I was upset. I learned that things were not what I was led to believe. At the end of the conversation, I thanked the person for taking time to explain the situation and remaining a trusted teammate. Had I ended the conversation with an apology, it would have appeared I made the mistake. I lacked all the information required to understand the situation. I only received the missing information by talking to this person. I was grateful for their time. I was grateful for their honesty. I was grateful to learn what I was led to believe was not true. That means I should say, “Thanks,” not “Sorry”.

Gratitude is also important to recognize the good work and efforts of others. Continuing my example of business in the last two weeks, others had to fill in some gaps created because my attention was required else where. That required staff to do some extra work. Like many places of employment, our job descriptions include the phase, “and such other work as may be required.” That catch all phrase is not a bye for leaders to fail to acknowledge the extra work others perform when they are absent. As a leader, my attention was required outside my regular circle. It allowed me to move the organization forward in ways I could not had I not stepped outside my daily activities. Failing to recognize the efforts of those who filled the gaps in my absence is just bad leadership.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Upon my return, I expressed appreciation to the staff that filled the voids created by my absence. They ensured the lights stayed on and the bills were paid as I prepared for the future. Challenging your people to step up in times of need allows them to develop while also allowing you as a leader to grow. You could not move forward personally, professionally, or with the organization if you did not have those people you count on to run the organization when you are gone. You should be grateful they are willing to do those extra things in your absence. I think it was Napoleon who said something like, “Men accomplish amazing feats of courage for a little patch of cloth.” By that he was referring to the little pieces of ribbon Soldiers wear on their uniforms instead of the medals hung by those ribbons. Medals and ribbons cost the organization little. It is not like giving someone a raise requiring a continued cost. Those little tokens of appreciation, the pats on the back, the recognition at staff meetings for a job well done encourage people to continue to put forth extra effort.

Gratitude is an important leadership trait. Reflect on all the things your people do everyday, often without your supervision. Think of the times others suffered, even just a little, because of a mistake you made. Be thankful they put up with you. Instead of apologizing, thank people for their patience and understanding. Take time to notice the amazing things people in your organization do everyday without prompting. What does it really cost to say, “Thank you” in front of their peers, or to recognize their good work with your peers? Nothing. While the investment is small, the dividends of showing gratitude are large. Remember to thank those who make your life as a leader easier.

Leadership Reflection: 3 Ways to Increase your Influence

Another Friday arrives and ends. As you clear your desk, you think back to the week. You wonder, “Where did the time go?”. Even great time managers find themselves at the end of a busy week thinking about missed opportunities to help someone grow, provide a word of encouragement, or recognize someone’s good work. Developing a daily habit of leadership reflection helps leaders identify and learn from mistakes, make course adjustments, and anticipate threats and opportunities. Learn three simple ways to develop the habit of leadership reflection.

Taking time to reflect is a habit used by many successful leaders.
Photo by Kilian M on Pexels.com

I first learned about the importance of reflecting as a leader during an executive development class provided by my employer. We were introduced to Aristotle’s idea that an unexamined life was not worth living. The instructor provided an exercise for each of us to create and use a daily leadership journal at the end of the work day. Several years later at the US Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA), I was introduced to the book, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. USASMA use the results of this program to demonstrate how hard it is for people to change habits. I read the book over a vacation and learned about meditation as a way to reduce stress and as a reflective habit for leaders. A third habit I learned was to take time daily and just sit in a quiet space doing nothing. Just think. You can seed these sessions with a short prompt like a poem or a short reading from a book like Patton’s One-Minute Lessons. As you begin practicing one or more of these reflective habits, you will find you are more mindful of sharing words of encouragement, using some time to recognize good work, and develop others into good leaders.

An important facet of reflective leadership is setting aside time each day to reflect. Try to make it the same time every day. Many successful people have a morning habit of reflecting shortly after waking but before the frenzy of the day begins (no single citation for this factual statement. After listening to many Tim Ferriss podcasts in which he interviews successful people with a standing question about their morning routines, reflecting, meditating, and journaling were cited by many as a ‘must-do’ activities). Others schedule it at the beginning of the work day or just before bed. The one constant is that successful leaders set aside and protect time to reflect.

Journaling

There are many ways leaders can use a journal to reflect. Typically my time is used to memorialize some event that seemed important in my life, reflect on a topic, and express gratitude. This practice is my version of what I learned from others. Reflection takes time so set a realistic amount of time to be effective in your reflection. We write much slower than we think. That requires us to slow our thinking so we can write. The quiet mind is like a quiet information network, it works faster and better.

When you start to journal, you may find your mind is blank. There are a number of questions you may ask yourself to use as writing prompts. Examples include:

  • What did I learn that makes me a better leader?
  • What must I do achieve my goals or the goals of my organization?
  • Who did I develop to become a better performer or future?
  • What strengths did I use to make my relationships better?
  • What am I feeling and why?
  • What is going well and why?

These prompts are just examples. With practice, you will develop your own questions to answer as you write. You may find that some days you just want to open your journal and write what ever comes to mind without using prompts. Do what works so that you reflect on your leadership effects on others. The point of the activity is to help you develop as a leader. No one will be grading or critiquing your writing.

Meditation

There are a variety of ways to learn to meditate. I am by no means an expert although I have practiced meditation for several years. Dr. Ornish introduces mediation in Chapter 9 of his book. Dan Harris has two good books and a smart phone app to learn to meditate. Two apps I regularly turn to are MyLife and Oak (I receive nothing except a feeling of satisfaction of helping others if you try either app).

Meditation helps leaders reflect by teaching them how to settle their mind currents, learning the practice of mindfulness, identifying emotions and how to detach from them, and by becoming mindful of the present moment. Leaders frequently deal with many problems. Only one of them can be a priority. Meditation helps leaders sort out thoughts like currents that run through rapids in a river. Your boat can only follow one path. Meditation helps leaders focus on one thing at a time making it easier to establish what is important now so they can communicate that to others. When others understand what the leader considers important, they can go forth and make decentralized decisions to support the leader’s intended direction.

Writing in a journal, meditating, and thinking quietly are all reflective practices leaders use to better understand themselves, others, and problems they face.
Photo by Kelvin Valerio on Pexels.com

A simple practice involves setting a timer and focusing on your breathing. Even 60 seconds is beneficial. Close your eyes and breath. Notice the position of your body; where the weight rests. Identify where you feel your breath the most. While breathing, relax each part of your body from head to toe. When a thought, sound, or sensation arises, acknowledge it, let it go, and return your attention to your breathing. It is okay if you realize during the exercise you have followed a thought rather than letting it go. Simply begin again. Two additions to this practice to help you focus are counting your breaths to 10 then starting over, or saying to yourself, “In” as your breath in and, “Out” as you breath out. You may do this with your eyes open. Practice before a meeting to develop focus.

Quiet Thinking

Similar to meditation is quiet thinking. Instead of letting thoughts come and go, you focus on a thought and analyze it. You may sit quietly and wait for a thought to enter conscientiousness or start with an issue of concern. The issue may be something you have done and wish to evaluate your performance, or something about to happen and war-game options. As you reflect on the issue, you may find your mind wanders. Like meditation, simply let the extraneous thoughts go and simply return to your issue and begin again.

There is no right or wrong way to think about an issue. A formula you may use might be to start by identifying the problem. Look at the situation from the perspectives of others. This is not as easy as it sounds because we often project how we think others would view the problem, not how they actually do view the problem. Figure out if others have used possible solutions for similar problems. Remember, you are not your thoughts. Not all thoughts are good thoughts.

Remember that even as you try to view situations from the points of view of others, your point of view still influences what you thing other people see.
Photo by C Technical on Pexels.com

A little story on perspective. James Comey, former Director of the FBI, tells a story about how he once addressed a community group about crime. He said he wanted to help the community cultivate their neighborhood by weeding out the bad actors and planting seeds for growth. Word reached the President about his statements from angry community members. The President asked Comey if he realized that the bad actors he referenced in his chat were family members and neighbors of the group he addressed. The President asked Comey how he would feel if someone from the government came into his community and said he wanted to weed out his family members and friends. Weeding and seeding seems like a good idea but it does depend on who is weeding and who is being weeded. Comey said he carefully reflected on the words he wanted to use when addressing this group. He admits he failed to connect with his audience despite his best effort because he failed to truly see the other person’s perspective. Reflective leadership doesn’t guarantee 100% success (Comey, 2018).

Good leaders set time aside to reflect daily. Reflection allows them to process the lessons they learned, consider courses of actions for problems, how they are feeling, and identify important issues requiring their attention. There are a number of ways leaders can practice reflection. Three common and effective methods of reflection include journaling, mediating, and quiet thinking. Each allows leaders important alone time to learn and process. Block out time on your calendar to reflect and become a better leader.

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References

Brown, J. (2008) A leader’s guide to reflective practice. Trafford Publishing. Bloomington, ID.

Comey, J. (2018) A higher loyalty. Flatiron Books, New York, NY.

Horton-Deutsch, S. (2013). Thinking it through: The path to reflective leadership. https://www.myamericannurse.com/thinking-it-through-the-path-to-reflective-leadership/. Retrieved 3/12/21

Inam, H (2017). To be an effective leader keep a leadership journal. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hennainam/2017/04/02/to-be-an-effective-leader-keep-a-leadership-journal/?sh=7dc64dfc3b4d. Retrieved 3/14/21

Swaffield, S. & Warwick, P. (2004) Re-conceptualising reflective teaching in the 21st. Century: How do ‘Fast Track’ trainee teachers begin to link ideas about reflection and ideas about leadership?. British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester.

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(c) 2021 Christopher St. Cyr

The Three Legs of Managing Leadership; Be, Know, Do

Leading from the front builds character and trust. To be up front, leaders must know the way. Their example shows they know where to go and what to do. Photo by form PxHere

This is the final topic in my series on managing as a leader. While it might seem odd to discuss leadership in this series, there are some basic leadership principals all managers must possess. Successful manager lead even if they lack direct reports. Possessing leadership skills ensures your ability to influence others to accomplish what needs to be done. An example of someone without direct reports is a project manager. You lead teams that may be working on other projects. None may report to directly to you. Project managers still influence team leaders to complete projects appropriately.

With all that said, regular readers know this post could never cover all the details of leading. Scores of books, articles, and classes are done every year on leadership. I have been a leader for a long time and I still read books, articles, take classes, and practice.

At my first leadership class in the Army, I learned the three legs of the leadership stool are Be, Know, Do. Decades later, Be, Know, Do remain the core of Army leadership doctrine. These three principles apply whether you are an Army leader, CEO of General Motors, or president of the local Lions Club.

The foundation of leadership is character. It is the Be in Be, Know, Do. The cornerstone of that foundation is trust. Every action you take determines your character. If you are always late to meetings you become known as a tardy person. If you yell at others anytime you are stressed, others think of you as an angry person. If you effectively use resources to achieve quality results, people judge you as reliable.

Trust is the cornerstone of character because every other character trait rests on trust. Using the examples above, setting a meeting time means that you trust others to show up at that time and place. In order to avoid stress and become angry, you trust others to complete tasks as promised. When you trust others to use resources effectively they do. Every other character trait relies on trust.

When your actions are aligned with your values, it is like turning any gear in a series of synchronized gears. When one turns, they all turn. Aligned actions and character create the synchronization required to accomplish quality work and lead others.
Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Aligning your actions with your professed values creates a state of virtue. That becomes your character. When you say one thing and continually do something else, others view you as untrustworthy and a hypocrite. The hard part for everyone in this daily struggle is living up to the values you profess requires examination and reflection of your actions. People justify when their actions run contrary to their values. Find someone you trust to hold your mirror as you reflect on your actions. That second person provides perspective to your reflective observations.

My friend Gerry Berry used to say you could tell what was important to someone not by what he said, rather by what he did. He used that line with me every time I feed him an excused to not work out or go fishing with him. Gerry is gone now, so working out with him and joining him on the lake are no longer possible. When acting, recognize what really is important. Gerry held my mirror for many years which helped me see how my actions were often contrary to my values.

Some people say leaders are born and not made. I disagree. Leadership is like any other activity. Some people are born with natural talents. Talented people who work hard improve their skills becoming excellent. Others with less talent but a great desire to learn coupled with discipline outperform those talented people who choose not to improve their natural talent.

Think about someone you knew in high school who had a natural athletic ability but only played JV and the person who had less talent but always made varsity. The difference was work. It is the same with leadership. Some people are born with a natural charisma, yet they cannot lead a group in the Pledge of Allegiance. Others never have many friends yet lead important organizations. People choose to follow that person because the leader knows how to use power to ethically influence others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. Together they can accomplish great things and make organizations better. Those unnatural leaders learn the process through education and practice.

Good leaders understand the process of leadership. It starts with a clear idea of what needs to be done and why it is important. That is the purpose. They clearly, continually, and consistently communicate that message to group members. They motivate. They assign each team member a role explaining why what they do is important to the greater good. That is direction. Leaders focus on building their followers skills and abilities in order to provide the best product of service possible with the available resources. As a result, the organization becomes better as they strive to accomplish their mission.

Leadership is a process that can be learned.
Chart by author

Leadership is a process. People can learn processes. Teaching people the leadership process provides the opportunity for them to adapt behaviors and become better leaders. Leaders use processes and people to produce results. Leaders DO things like teach, inspire, motivate, and learn.

To become a good leader, one has to have some knowledge and desire to learn. Leaders need to know about people, what motivates them, how they work together, understand how personality affects their perspective, and how to use the strengths of each individual well. Leaders know something of the work to be done or how to hire knowledgeable people to supervise the work. Leaders learn about the people they lead. Leaders combine prior knowledge and current learning to create new ideas and better ways of accomplishing things. Leaders learn about their strengths and weaknesses, biases, and habits. That learning allows leaders to grow and create change in themselves and others. Leaders never stop learning.

The process of leadership requires people to possess character; creating action through the efforts of others; to learn and know about the job, leading, and people. Character is developed every day with every action you take. You become known by your actions, not your words. Ensure what you say is what you do. Learn more about your job, people, and leadership. Learning helps you think better because you have more information to create effective solutions to problems. Develop and work processes that inspire others to achieve. Motivate them to create the world envisioned in your organization’s mission statement. Your actions improve your organization and create a better world by influencing others to make a difference. Manage your leadership actions using the three legs of the leadership stool. Become a leader others choose to follow; BE, KNOW, DO.


Post Script

Little Leadership Lessons provides ideas and insights to become a better person and by extension, a better leader. You may notice at the top of each page there is a link to a training page. Little Leadership Lessons is published by Saint Cyr Training. We provide virtual, in-house, and off-site training opportunities for progressive organizations that understand the need for high-quality, well-rained leaders. Click here if you want to learn more.


References

  • Kinicki, A. & Williams, B. (2008). Management: A practical introduction (3d Ed.). McGraw-Hill Irwin. New York, NY
  • Sinek, W. (2014) Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. Portfolio/Penguin. New York, NY
  • Wickham, J. (1983). Military Leadership: FM 22-100. U.S. Army Adjutant General Publications Center. Baltimore, MD.
  • Willink, J. & Babin, L. (2015). Extreme ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS lead and win. St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY

A Plan without Execution is a Novel: Five Principals to Begin Action

What is a plan? Simply a fictional story about a possible future. Execution is the action required to create a new reality. Every year around January first lots of people plan to change their lives. Some actually achieve their desired result while most start strong, hit a roadblock and quit. Successful execution requires a workable, organized plan; a clear vision with supporting goals; understanding of key indicators and how to measure them; leaders trained at every level to execute; and relentless, persistent action.

The difference between a masterpiece and blank canvas is execution by the artist. The worse painter will sell more than the one with talent who creates nothing. Execution is the difference.
-Photo by form PxHere

The first step in the planning process requires a leader to figure out where s/he is and where s/he wants to be. If they are different, then the leader develops a plan to create change. Identifying the difference between what is and what you want it to be is the vision. Leaders need to describe their vision in a compelling, detailed way, so it comes to life for the leader and others. When you create a vision for the future that is so clear it attracts people that want to join the journey.

In order to reach your vision, you need to develop goals as part of your plan. Work with your team to develop written SMART goals. State what you want to achieve, include basic directions to complete the goal, and provide measures of success in performance and effectiveness. Effectiveness is measured best by how close your achievement matches your desired end state. See this blog for more on setting goals.

In January 1994, William Bratton was appointed Police Commissioner of New York City. At the time, crime was out of control. Bratton adopted the broken windows philosophy of James Wilson and George Kelly which said that if there is a broken window in a building, others will break more windows and the disorder of that building spreads to other nearby buildings. The best way to fight crime was to fix disorder. Take care of the small things and they never become big things. Bratton’s vision for NYC’s future and was to make sure every police employee focused on little disorders.

Planning and organizing may occur simultaneously. These parallel activities ensure support for your plan. In your planning, you learn what processes to complete and how long it takes to complete them. In organizing you identify the best ways to complete tasks and formalize those processes.

Every part of execution is linked to the other parts. As a result, if you cannot ignore weak links that will result in failure. A leader cannot be strong in all areas so s/he needs to rely on the strengths of others to create a strong chain of executed tasks.
-Photo by form PxHere edited by the author.

The next step links your planning and organizing with operational execution. When you connect the right people with the right process you create an execution framework. The framework supports the tasks required to meet goals and arrive at your desired end-state. The best way to match people to process is hiring the right people in the first place.

If you hire people with some basic work skills, values aligned with the organization, and a track record of achieving results you will consistently execute better. Too often organizations seek people with the skills necessary for the job to reduce training. It is easier to teach someone with aligned values and proven ability to do a task, than to try and force someone to adopt your organization’s principals and values even if they are highly skilled in the task.

I lead a small non-profit. Employees often work unsupervised due to the nature of the work. It is important the people working for me value trust, and balance working independently and as part of a team. There are requirements for data entry, writing, and general office work. I could hire someone who has office skills and hope to teach them how to be trusted to work as an independent team member, or I could hire someone who has demonstrated the ability to be trusted working as an independent team member and teach them how to answer the phone, file papers, and enter data. My organization’s filing system is unique. It looks like no other. I teach new people our filing system.

When driving a car, watching the road is important. However keeping track of what is behind you is also important. That is why cars have rear facing mirrors. Measuring systems serve as review mirrors. They let us look back to see what happened while keeping our eyes on the destination.

Think of performance data like navigating with your GPS. When you first start, it may not be oriented correctly. After you travel a short distance it provides feedback about your direction and route. In turn, you adjust if you find you heading the wrong way. Having measures of success in processes and effectiveness provide feedback so you know people are doing the right things, the right way, and moving closer to your goal.

In a recent conversation with a peer leader we discussed execution. She stated one of her goals for the coming year was to improve her execution because it was clunky. I replied that clunky execution is better than no execution. If you start something, even if it is not polished, you have a greater chance of accomplishing the goal than the leader who talks about great things but never moves forward.

Clunky execution is the result of lack of experience. It is better to learn how you to do something better than sitting in your office doing nothing perfectly! Your execution improves as you accomplish goals because accumulate data as you measure improving future decisions and course corrections. You cannot adjust your course from the starting line.

You have to start before you can make adjustments. It is unlikely the race will go as planned. You are sure to lose if you do not start so move forward and make adjustments along the way.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Action is at the heart of execution. After all your planning and organizing it is easy to wonder what you should do first. Think of your drive to work. Does it really matter whether you start the car right after inserting the keys in the ignition or buckle your seat belt? Probably not. You do have to unlock and open the door before you can make that choice. There are some actions that must be completed in order. The order of other actions matters little.

The US Army uses a process called Troop Leading Procedures to prioritize work. The first few steps parallel the steps discussed in planning and organizing. The next step is the most important for effective execution, Start Necessary Movement. The procedure does not specify what movement is necessary. The leader still needs to decide what to move first. Start moving something. As things start to move, you revise your plan and tell people about the revisions.

Military commanders issue to begin execution. They live by the maxim, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy. ” (Farlex). The enemy always has a vote. Your competition, vendors, customers, boards of directors, and employees all have votes. The military compensates for these changes by issuing a fragmentary order or FRAGO for short. Common practice is to issue a FRAGO daily. Depending on events they may be issued more or less frequently. Likewise, you need to evaluate the progress of your plan, adjust, and tell people about the adjustment.

Execution is the step that makes plans reality. Without executing plans, people and organizations fail to complete anything becoming stagnant and irrelevant. Execution is the discipline of action. Execution is movement. Execution is taking the first tentative step in any direction. After the first few steps, you can always adjust your course. You created a plan. You have organized your people and processes. Your organized plan is a fictional story without action. Make your story non fiction by initiating action, taking those first steps, moving forward, adjusting as you go. Execute!

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References

Bossidy, L. & Charan, R. (2002) Execution: The discipline of getting things done. Crown Business. New York, NY

Bratton, W. & Knobler, P. (1998) Turnaround. Random House. New York, NY.

Farlex. (2021) no plan survives contact with the enemy. The Free Dictionary. Retreived from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/no+plan+survives+contact+with+the+enemy on 2/13/2021

Henry, V. (2003) The COMPSTAT paradigm: Management accountability in policing, business and the public sector. Looseleaf Law Publications. Flushing, NY

Shinseki, E. & Tilley, J. (2002) The Army noncommissioned officer guide, FM 7-22.7. HQ Department of the Army. Washington, D.C.

Willink, J. And Babin, L. (2015) Extreme ownership: how U.S. navy SEALs lead and win. St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY.

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(c) 2021 – Christopher St. Cyr

It’s All About Resources

We the willing, led by the unqualified are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We accomplished so much for so long and so little that we are capable of doing anything with nothing.”

I first heard the above sentiment decades ago. An older co-worker lamented how easy it would be to mop the floor if the boss would only buy a new mop head for the mop and detergent to add to the bucket. I found myself in the boss’s shoes not so long ago after taking over a nonprofit operation in it’s sixth year. My predecessor did a great job of finding funds to provide adequate technology to start operations. Like much technology, it had a useful life of four to six years. In my first year, everything started breaking. There were no plans or funds for replacements. I found myself buying lots of bubble gum, duct tape, and bailing twine to hold the place together. I developed a plan to replace technology and other high end resources on a staggered and regular basis.

Resources were limited on both sides in the Battle of the Bulge. The allies stronger supply lines allowed them to over-power the German offensive. Without an infusion of those resources the battle may have ended differently.
-U.S.G. Photo

In the movie “Battle of the Bulge” a junior officer presents a crumbly cake to his superior officer. He tells they officer the cake is evidence that Germany will lose the war. The senior officer protests. The junior remarks that if the allies have lift capacity to deliver baked goods to the front lines from their homes in America there is no way Germany can provide enough resources to fight them. Read any commander’s account of war. You will notice they rarely worry about whether or not their troops will be able to successfully close with and destroy the enemy. They worry about whether or not they can maintain open lines of communication and supply to continue the fight.

Ensuring people have necessary resources is a critical management function. Leaders learn early that when they ensure people have what they need to do a job, they will do it well with the right guidance. In those times resources are scarce, they will continue to work knowing that the leader is fighting to find and provide the necessary resources. Only when workers feel their leaders do not care enough provision their work will they quit. Good leaders provide the physical, human, intellectual, and financial resources necessary for the job. Identify and provide resources by analyzing the needs, obtaining the required resources, mange them appropriately, and ensure controls are followed.

Types of Resources

There are four broad categories of resources; places and things, people, skills and knowledge, and money. Physical resources are easy to understand. They include things. They are the buildings or land where the work is conducted, the tools required for the work, materials to create and manufacture, and the less tangible things like power, water, and internet. It is hard to take a picture without a camera. It is hard to write without paper and pencil or a word processor on a computer. Physical resources are all those things.

Most people know about human resources. That is the office where all the people gather that have nothing to do with the mission of the company. They are the people that bug you about the overdue evaluations and ride you when your payroll is late. If you really that think about your Human Resource department, give up your leadership position now. With the right people, doing the right jobs, the right way, your life as a leader is easy. HR ensures you have those people. They are supposed to be people experts. Their knowledge about labor law, health insurance and everything else is a bonus. Without people to follow you, you are not a leader even if you are the CEO. CEOs without people are called solopreneurs. If you want to be a leader, you must have people who want to follow you.

Knowledge and skills are important resources. Today’s computers are smaller, faster, and easier to use but training people to use YOUR system is as necessary now as it was then. -By Unknown author – U.S. Army Photo, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55124

You might have great people and wonderful tools located in a state-of-the art facility. People without skills and knowledge have little value. Organizations should seek out qualified people. It is unlikely that most of the people hired will have all the skills and knowledge necessary to do their jobs. Most require additional training. An example is using databases. The concepts of databases are pretty universal. However NCATrak, Spillman, Catylist, Hubspot, and Spire are all databases that track stuff different ways. The interface for each is different. Workers require training to use them. I know some of you are thinking, “What happens if we spend a bunch of money on training and people leave?” The best answer to that worry is, “What happens if we do not train them and they stay?” Provide your followers with the skills and knowledge they need to do well.

Financial resources are an easy metric to track. Without money, your organization will not operate at its full potential. However, even the largest companies rarely have enough money to execute every idea that comes along. Using your available finances well determines the quality of outcomes. Spending money on the right things at the right time in the correct amount makes the difference between success and failure. The story at the beginning about things breaking at the same time is an example. Use your money well.

Resource Planning

Planning resources is an important management skill. The first step in planning is analyze. Find the answers to questions like:

Planning for resources ensures people have what they need when the need it to complete work. Planning to have the right people in place means other resources will be used as expeced. Leaders must provide necessary resources to succeed.
-Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com
  • What do we want to do?
  • What materials are required to do it?
  • Where are those resources available?
  • What will they cost?
  • How will we store them until needed?
  • What skills and knowledge do we lack?
  • Where can we find people with those skills and knowledge to either hire or train us?
  • What tools do we need?
  • How can we get them?
  • How can we protect our resources to ensure they are available when needed?

Do not over analyze. Ask some simple questions and find the answers. Seek out others who have done the work before you. There is a post in this series on planning. You can find it here.

Obtain the resources required for the project. You do not need everything at once. Plan arrivals to reduce the cost of storage. Obtain it when you need it. Space is not free and drains your finances. Learn how to have what you need when you need it to reduce storage and handling.

Now that you have stuff, learn to manage it. In an earlier article, I discussed organizing. Part of that section deals with identifying processes for work. When we talk about managing resources, they are useless unless the people that need them have access to them at the right time. Figure out a process to make sure that happens.

Controls are simply the rules used to manage resources. Controls are another important management function that they are also covered in another post. Click here. Some controls are pretty straight forward like balancing accounts. Controls should be written and communicated so people know, understand, and follow them. Effectiveness is important. If a control is in place but it does not prevent the loss of a resource it is time to find and implement another control.

Managing resources is an important leadership skill. Leaders who fail to plan for resources set their teams up for failure. No matter how skilled, well trained, and motivated people are, without stuff there is little they can do to accomplish the mission of the organization. There are four types of resources and four steps leaders use so people have what they need when they need it to do their job. People need access to physical resources, other people, knowledge and skills, and money to accomplish work. Leaders plan for those resources by analyzing needs, obtaining stuff, and developing processes to manage and control resources. Resourcing is not necessarily the most glamorous part of leading. Without resources there is nothing to be done so there is no one to lead. Learn to provide appropriate resources and people will follow you.

References

BCcampus (ND) 11. Resource planning. Project Management. https://opentextbc.ca/projectmanagement/chapter/chapter-11-resource-planning-project-management/. Retrieved January 25, 2021

ProjectManager.com (2021) What is a resource plan? https://www.projectmanager.com/resource-management. Retrieved January 25, 2021

NCATrak, Spillman, Catylist, HubSpot, and Spire are all brands controlled by their owners. Inclusion does not serve as an endorsement.

(c) 2021 Christopher St. Cyr

Organizing: the Art of Systematic Functionality

Organizing can be a daunting task. We all know people who are so organized that if one thing is out of place they are unable to function. You know the types, the left shoulder of every shirt in their closet is closest to the door, any papers related to money are placed in green folders, or that on any given Saturday night at 8:15 they will be doing laundry. These habits help people become organized. Organization is an important management and leadership task. Leaders take habits like these and use them to create organization in the groups they lead.

Like an organized closet makes finding what you want to wear in the morning makes life easier, organizing your team makes operating easier.
-Photo by form PxHere

There is a reason softball teams, boy scouts, companies, religious groups and similar blocks of people grouped together for a common cause are called organizations; they have some level of, well, organization. All have common traits or organization. Sometimes the organization occurred accidentally, sometimes by virtue of the way the work to be accomplished, or because there was a law requiring a specific process. Responsible leaders ensure current the current organization of the organization best meets of required functionality to accomplish the group’s mission. There are three basic areas leaders organize, teams, structure, and processes.

Before we dig into those areas, let us start with a common understanding of the art of organizing. Organize means to arrange parts in a systematic fashion to create functionality to accomplish a desired outcome. You may notice I do not cite a dictionary resource for my definition. That is because I read lots of definitions preparing for this article and found none that really described organize for leaders.

Hasbro makes a game called Mousetrap. It comes with lots of parts. When assembled correctly, players can catch the mouse token of other players and eliminate them from the game. Assemble the parts incorrectly and the mouse trap fails to work. The game is like the organizing function of leadership. Like the game, organizations have many moving parts. If you organize them well, you will catch the mouse.

Teams

Teams are the most important part of the organizational mouse trap. In his book, Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus and then putting them in the right seats. Early in my leadership studies I read or was told that it is better to hire people with the right attitudes, values, and potential than the right skill and experience. The training indicated that if you hired someone whose values aligned with the organizations, had some demonstrated potential to master the required task either through work, volunteering, or learning experience, and had a can-do attitude, that person would be more successful in the long run and make the organization more successful than a person with knowledge and experience.

After a few times of going through hiring processes I found this to be true the hard way. As a young leader, I supported candidates that had skill and experience. Not all have values aligned with my organization and they did not last long. One time I recommended a young person right out of school who lack experience but seem to have the right attitude, values, and desire to learn. That person worked out very well. We were able to mold the person into the kind of employee the more senior people in our organization wanted working with clients. After that, I always recommended the person who had desired values, attitude, and demonstrated potential.

Structure

Another important aspect of organizing teams is determining how to structure them. The most important aspect is span of control. Every team has a captain who provides the vision, establishes priorities of works, and sets standards. Depending on the complexity of the task, the captain may only be able to adequately supervise two or three people or a dozen people. Complex, and highly skilled tasks require a smaller span of control. Tasks that are simpler and require less skill allow the captain the ability to supervise more people. In the work place, the captain might be called a supervisor or manager.

Structural organization determines spans of control, who belongs to which group, and who reports to whom.
-Chart by author.

Likewise, the person overseeing the team captains has a limited span of control. During the 1980s there was a trend to flatten organizational pyramids. Not all attempts worked. Much of this has to do with the span of control and the complexity of the work to be done.

Geography is another limitation. If parts of the organization are spread over a large area, the senior leaders may find it necessary to create geographic regions to improve planning, resourcing, controlling, and leading. Leaders who have the ability to stand in one spot and observe everyone they lead have an advantage over those who may have to go from one place to another to observe. As that distance grows, so does the time required to provide adequate supervision and leadership.

I use both supervision and leadership when discussing spans of control. Both activities are important management skills but they are different. Supervision is a process of observing the work of a subordinate and providing reinforcing and corrective feedback to performance. Leadership is the process of influencing others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish something even in the leader’s absence. All supervisors are managers and leaders. Not all leaders are supervisors or managers. The differences between the three will be examined closer in the leadership post.

Processes

Processes are the repeated actions required to achieve a predictable, repeated result. Ideally they should be simple and easy to understand. Of course that means simple to understand for the intended audience. For example, the process to start up the particle accelerator at CERN would be completely impossible for most people. However, to the people who work at CERN, the process is simple. Many of you have had fun purchasing something with the phrase on the box, “Some Assembly Required.” Some of you tossed the directions. Others called tech support because you could not figure out why tab A did not fit into slot B! That is why it is important to provide simple, easy to understand directions in processes.

Processes need to be thought out and though through so each step makes sense. I heard a yoga teacher trainer suggest that teaching a new yoga teacher required teaching them to think about telling someone how to walk. Because wannbe yoga teachers have been doing yoga for so long they no longer think about how to do yoga any more than most people think about how they walk.

Creating well organized processes helps people figure out how to put together the puzzle. Each piece has a place. The process provides the guidance to take a bunch of stuff and make it a whole picture.
-Photo by author.

As you work through your processes, periodically stop and test. Have people who are not familiar with the work follow the directions provided in your video, slide deck, or written instructions. If they produce an acceptable product it probably means you created a good process.

At various times in life, I found many tasks I needed to repeat for work that were sometimes only needed to be done occasionally like creating an annual budget, or completing annual tax forms. I found that by creating checklists for myself to follow on these types of tasks, I was able to complete such tasks faster and more accurately. When it came time to teach someone else how to do that task I had the beginning of a process to share with them. With a little work, I could take my checklist and create instructions about how to do each task. As a result, rarely have I been indispensable which means I was always able to accept a new role. My successor was set up for success. I could spend minimal time with them which allowed me to focus on learning.

Organizing is an art. Leaders figure out how to take all the parts required for a job and arrange them into a functioning system that achieves repeatable, predicable results that achieve the mission. Organizations rarely think about the organization of their organization. As leaders it is important that the teams, structure, and processes we supervise are arraigned to create a system of functionality. Ensure you have the right people on the team. The right person will learn the skills they need to do the job if their values are aligned with the team’s. See that the structure allows supervisors the ability to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to followers by developing reasonable spans of control. Create processes that are easy to understand by the intended users. Seek ways to improve your organization. Groups of people who share a common vision of the future and are part of well organized teams, that are well leadership, and execute appropriate processes will eventually succeed. Be the leader your team deserves by organizing well.

References and Additional Reading

CERN (2021) Seeking answers to questions about the universe. https://home.cern/about/what-we-do/our-research Retrieved 1/18/21

Collins, J. (2001) Good to great. Harper Collins. New York, NY www.jimcollins.com

Hilgert, R. Leonard, E. & Haimann, T. (1995) Supervision: Concepts and practices of management.(6th ed.) South-Western College Publishing. Cincinnati, OH (Particularly Part 3, Organizing)

Kinicki, A. & Williams, B. (2008). Management: A practical introduction. (3rd ed.) McGraw-Hill Irwin. New York, NY. www.mhhe.com

Raghunath. (2020) Men’s 30 day yoga challenge. DoYouYoga. https://www.doyou.com/creators/raghunath/programs/ (not able to find the particular video he made the comment)

(c) 2021. Christopher St. Cyr

Planning Is Everything; It is How Men Walked on the Moon

Author’s Note: For the last several years I have posted about setting goals and teaching people how to set goals as a leader. My current series about the importance of good management happens to include the pillar of planning. Given that the planning process establishes the directions to achieve goals, personal and organizational, it seems like this week is the ideal time to issue this post. For those who have read my blog for a few years, you will recognize familiar content on developing goals and steps for execution. That should come as not surprise. A word about this post’s length…like the post that started this series, planning is a very detailed process. Planning could take several posts to cover in great detail. This post is about twice as long as my goal of 1,000 words. It could easily be longer and perhaps that will be the next series. Leadership is a verb, so after reading this, plan a project for the New Year.

Planning is an important leadership action. While the finished plan may not survive the first step of execution, the process of planning is essential in order to allow others to solve problems with less leadership involvement to improve responsiveness and outcomes.
D. D. Eisenhower, Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In war, combat leaders know regardless of how well they plan the battle, the enemy always has a vote about how the battle will be fought. As a result, many people find it easy to ignore planning given the completed plan will not likely be executed as originally envisioned. However, executing without a plan is like going on vacation with no idea where you are going, who is going with you, the mode of transportation you will use, or what activities (laying on the beach is an activity if not an active activity) you want to do. You may end up someplace, somehow, doing something with someone, but it may not be what you wanted. You may plan a cross-country trip by air only to find your flight is canceled because of weather but because you have a basic plan, you can adjust it and still arrive at your destination. Plans allow leaders to see the future and develop courses of action for potential eventualities. The process of planning allows leaders to think through ideas and identify potential problems before execution begins which allows the leader the opportunity to develop controls to mitigate those risks and ensure resources are available to take advantage of opportunities; no, to recognize a first that a situation is an opportunity. A good plan includes the following elements:

  • A vision of the finished state or product
  • Thought out task steps to complete the plan
  • Metrics to measure performance and effectiveness
  • Periodic check-ins to assess progress
  • Acquisition of resources
  • Timeline for completion of each step and the total project
  • Ensures people required to complete the work are present, trained and have the tools necessary to execute their work.

The Vision

Vision is one of those things that separates leaders from managers. Leaders see the future. They identify the difference between what is and what could be. They possess the ability to communicate their vision with others in a way that inspires them to complete the work and join the journey. The vision provides people with a specific description of what the end state looks like, provides general measures of success, creates the impression that the vision is attainable, shows how the change is relevant to the organization and others, and the time it will be completed.

In the last year, both SpaceX and Virgin Galactic made large strides to make private space travel a reality. This vision was not something Elon Musk nor Richard Branson embarked on lightly. Each developed a vision just after the turn of the century to reach for the moon and the stars. Each has experienced progress and also set backs. Elon Musk admitted he missed his 2018 goal to send a private mission to the Moon. However, he did not quit. Rather he adjusted his plan and pressed forward after evaluating the lessons he and his team learned along the way. His updated plan is to send a private mission to the moon in 2023.

Creating a vision allows the whole organization to see where it is going and to engage in behaviors to move closer to the end. Establishing that vision is one task a leader cannot delegate.
Photo from pxhere.com – CC0 license

Both Branson and Musk understand an important vision principal. Like a bucket of water, it needs to be refilled from time-to-time or it will evaporate. The more people who understand the vision the more help the leader has to help keep the bucket full. People like Beth Moses and Michael Colglazier share Branson’s vision of private space tourism and travel. While selling your vision is important, often you make more progress with the support of others. People like to hear the music of the band rather than a continuous solo concert.

Task Steps

As with any journey, one needs directions. Task steps are a set of directions to complete the plan. They are the leader’s best guess of what needs to be done to complete the task. Not all task steps are created equal. The first few task steps provide details later task steps lack. The reason is that the organization, situation, and people change during the history of the project. As a result the later task step details may need to change to meeting the current operating environment.

Ensure the details of the task steps provide the doers with the details they need to provide completed products to continue the project. However, do not provide so much detail in how to do something that you strangle the creativity of those doing the work. Many times people will provide a superior product given a little direction and a firm understanding of the overall vision. The leader needs to provide the vision and a few details and let the experts do the work.

Metrics

In this step, the leader specifies measurements of performance and effectiveness. Performance measurements measure how well the team is sticking to processes identified in the task steps. It does not matter if the process is developed at the team level or higher. Measuring performance is important because it allows leaders to know whether successes and failures in the effectiveness measurement are because the plan was not right, or if it was because of how well people followed the process.

Developing performance measures are easy. They provide answer to questions like,

  • How many widgets were produced?
  • How long does it take to type three pages of text?
  • How much did it cost to complete a task step with that process?

Effectiveness measurements are harder to develop. Measures of effectiveness tell the story about how well the plan is solving the problem and meeting the vision. Effectiveness is a strategic issue. Effectiveness measures tell leaders if they are creating the actual change the intended and creating the future they envisioned at the start of the planning process. These metrics are generally developed at the leadership level.

Effectiveness measures require leaders to have that clear vision of the future. They tell the story of that progress. Effectiveness measures provide answers to questions like,

  • As a result of this plan how are people’s lives better?
  • Has this plan resulted in an improved working environment?
  • Are the parts of the plan creating a product that looks like what the leader envisioned?

To compare and contrast the differences in measures of performance and effectiveness lets look at a real project. In 1501, the Florence Cathedral commissioned Michelangelo to complete a statue of David for their buttress. They hired two artists before Michelangelo but neither had the skill required to finish the statue. Of course Michelangelo did and is credited with creating a true masterpiece during the Renaissance.

If we look at the performance measures, the other artists chips away stone and started to create important features of a person depicted in the sculpture. They were executing the correct processes to make a great figure in stone but not achieving the desired outcomes. Michelangelo understood what was necessary to create the statue desired by the Florence Cathedral. He had developed the skill and ability to carve stone, combined it with his artistic vision and created an object still viewed six centuries later as a masterpiece. That is a measure of effectiveness.

Periodic Reviews

It is important to periodically check progress to insure the plan is moving in the desired direction. Turning back to the David Statue, notice that Michelangelo started with an in-progress work. Those who wanted the statue were not pleased with the progress of others who had been hired to work on the project. They evaluated the situation and adjusted processes by hiring new people to complete the work. Things change over the course of a project. Leaders need to periodically check progress to ensure the project is still relevant, moving along as expecting, and still promises to effectively fulfill the leader’s vision and effectively solve their problem.

Resourcing

Resourcing is an important leadership and management function. While there will be a paper later dedicated to greater details of resourcing, discussing resources while developing a plan is necessary here. If you have read any biography of any great or even good military commander you will notice that they rarely worry about whether their troops will successfully maneuver to close with and destroy their enemies. Smart military leaders worry about whether they can sustain their soldiers ability to fight by continuing to provide the fuel, water, ammunition, and food to keep men, women, and machines moving. Planning to ensure you have the necessary resources on hand to begin a project and a viable supply chain to account for resupply needs is required for teams to successfully implement the overall plan.

Timelines

Creating timelines for task steps ensures tasks are completed in time to support follow-on actions.
– Photo from pxhere.com CC0

Timelines are necessary to keep people focused. Timelines are not always set in stone and frequently can be changed. However, some projects lose relevance if not completed by a particular time. These are some of the things that need to be evaluated during periodic reviews. Timelines establish goals for completion of required steps. Timelines should be synchronized to ensure parallel tasks are completed as necessary to move on to the next steps.

I was a leader in a military school house. Course managers had checklists to complete tasks by certain times to ensure that instructors were qualified to teach, had resources available, and students in seats for every course. Course managers had to advertise the course in the military education system to ensure they would have students. They trained instructors to ensure they were qualified to teach others. They ordered educational material, meals, and housing based on the projected student body. If the course manager missed a step, the school would have problems executing the course to military standards and waste food, money, time, and other resources. Having a time based checklist ensured course managers succeeded.

People

All but the smallest of organizations have some sort of human resource program. If people are resources, why not cover this topic in the resources section? I have a separate section because people are a special kind of resource. Unlike standardized repair parts for machines, and toner cartridges for printers, people are not standardized. It is not easy to sway Betty and Bill. Leaders need to make sure they have qualified people in place to execute their plan. Sometimes that means outsourcing some work especially if the project is a one-time thing. It is important to ensure you pay your people well for what they do. More than half of people in a recent survey stated they felt they needed to change employers to receive a pay increase because they would not likely receive it from their current employer. Likewise, it is necessary to train your people well. You do not deserve to expect quality results unless you train your people. There is an old saying to the effect, “What happens if we train people and they leave? What happens if we don’t train people and they stay?” Leaders are measured by the number of leaders they make. Train your people and pay them well.

Planning is an important leadership function. It requires thoughtfulness to ensure the organization achieves the leader’s vision. Man did not walk on the moon for the first time just because President Kennedy said he would. Kennedy’s dream of a man walking on the moon before 1970 was his vision, the first step in planning. Leaders at NASA and other organizations put together detailed plans to ensure that men went to the moon, landed, and returned safely. Those leaders took the President’s vision and created task steps and metrics to succeed. They assessed their progress and adjusted course. They acquired necessary resources and developed timelines. Finally they ensured they had well paid, well trained people to build and fly the machines that allowed man to walk on the moon. Little progressed in NASA’s original plan for the first moonshot so it is easy to say they should just wing it. However, it was because of the plan they were able to assess their mistakes, make corrections, and finally allow people to walk on the moon. The plan itself may have little importance in the success of a project but having good people who know how to plan ensures leader visions will be fulfilled.

References

Academia.org (n.d.) Michelangelo’s David, https://www.accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-david/. Retrieved 12/30/20

Davies, P. Hofrichter, F. Jacobs, J. Roberts, A. & Simon D. (2009). Janson’s basic history of western art. 8th Ed. Pearson Prentice Hill, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Eisenhower, D.D. (n.d.) Dwight D. Eisenhower quotes. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/dwight_d_eisenhower_149111. Retrieved 12/31/29

McFarland, M. (May 2, 2019). Elon Musk sets bold goals. But has he delivered?. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/02/tech/elon-musk-predictions/index.html. Retrieved 12/28/20

Ryan, L. (December 29, 2020). Unnamed survey. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/lizryan_this-is-a-sad-commentary-but-one-we-all-activity-6749735513466531840-wwVe. Retrieved 12/31/20

Wattles, J (November 6, 2020). Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson wants to be the first ‘space billionaire’ to actually travel to space. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/06/tech/richard-branson-virgin-galactic-space-scn/index.html. Retrieved 12/28/20

The Skill and Art of Controlling

Note

As I neared the 1,200 word mark in my last post I realized I was not going to completely cover each of my main point about the importance of managing as a leader. I kept the post shorter than required to introduce each main point with an eye toward following up with a separate post for each topic in future posts. This is the first of those follow-ups.

Developing and implementing controls allows leaders to track important operational aspects while maintaining the ability to continue looking forward in order to identify threats and opportunities.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Frequently controls are those rules, laws, and regulations people only think about when something goes wrong. Controls are important and should be considered early in the planning process of any project. People do not like to talk about, develop, and implement controls because they feel they limit creativity and individuality. However controls unleash creativity by taking the away the need to make little decisions allowing more time to dedicate to bigger and more important work. Appropriate controls also permit decentralized supervision which allows organizations to respond to change and opportunities quicker, operate more effectively, and with originality. There are three types of controls leaders need to consider, laws, regulations, and local rules or procedures. Of the three, leaders only control the third local rules and procedures, and even then, your control may be limited on some based on your authority in the organization

Laws and regulations for the purpose of this discussion are controls imposed on all or sets of organizations by federal, state, or local governments or certain professional associations. Leaders rarely have the ability to have much influence on these controls. Rather leaders have the important task implementing ways to comply with laws and regulations that apply to their organizations. If leaders fail to ensure their organization follow these controls the penalties may result in the end of the organization.

Often we view laws and regulations as limiting factors like how many hours employees may work before they are paid overtime or what kinds of protections must be provided when using hazardous materials. Laws and regulations also specify what things organizations may do. Study and learn the permissions granted so you and your organization take advantage of every opportunity afforded by them.

Consider professional standards. Professional standards state acceptable behaviors, educational requirements for various jobs within the profession, and continuing educational minimums. Professional standards spell out behavior to be recognized as a professional. These standards are controls and serve as a road map for success. Following them serves as a basis for local rules, policies, and procedures. As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop helpful controls for your team.

I deployed as platoon sergeant in Iraq. The Army and my unit provided lots of rules and regulations about how we were expected to execute our missions. We had a unique mission that allowed us to live and work with Iraqi Security Forces. There was a requirement for us to provide protection for our post. We were given rules to use force. We conducted vehicle and foot patrols in our area of influence. We taught and mentored Iraqi Police Officers and Leaders. Much of what we were doing was new so we had to make up the rules as we went along.

Simple control procedures like how to load vehicles allows leaders to focus on the particularities of the current situation.
Photo by author

We developed simple, basic procedures about how we set up vehicles, how we set up our radios, and what gear we would bring with us before we left our tiny compound. This enable us to respond quickly during any emergency that occurred in the city. The Soldiers bucked the strict structure. The speed of our response increased as did the success of our responses. The Soldier began to understand the importance of our platoon practices. We took thinking out of the preparation and replaced it with rapid leader checks before every mission. Leaders focused on how to apply specified responses and communicate their plan with their team.

As a leader, developing local procedures is an expected but implied task. Few job descriptions specify that managers, especially front line supervisors, are allowed or expected to develop those local rules. However in the absence of those processes, front line leaders have no way to ensure those they supervise complete quality work.

Front line leaders do not need to develop the same type of in-depth procedures as their larger organization. They need to analyze what they did to achieve success in order to teach their proteges their secrets. Front line leaders are best positioned to break down complex tasks and make them understandable and possible for others. Breakdown complex tasks so others can complete them with competence. Effective controls require leaders to begin with the end in mind. In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R Covey states this is a critical principal of successful people. Beginning with the end in mind requires leaders to understand tasks so they can teach others and understand the risks associated with those tasks. Understanding risks results in effective controls to ensure the task is done a particular way to achieve the desired outcome.

Controls include processes to record time on jobs, meetings to gauge progress, and inspections to ensure employees use appropriate protective gear to keep them safe.
Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

So what things do leaders do to develop and implement controls? Examples of regulatory controls include things like maintaining time sheets, providing hazard communication training to employees, use of protective equipment, and anti-discrimination rules. Examples of professional standards include the quantity and type of education required to do a job, prohibiting certain conduct, and requiring documentation of peer consultations. Organization controls spell out how employees record time, whether by manually writing down hours on a form, using a time clock, or scanning a card as you enter or leave the work area; what kinds of reports employees need to complete and when; and what holidays employees may take off with pay. Examples of team controls may include a weekly meeting to report progress on a project, periodic one-on-one coaching sessions between employees and leaders, and how the leader selects team members for rewards such as out-of-town training events.

Controls are an important management function. They do not ensure everything will always go as planned or as expected. They are neither well liked nor glamorous. Having guidelines allow leaders to evaluate and analyze processes to figure out what things work and do not work. They identify shortcomings in the skills of others, their organization, and potential risk for loses. Leaders work within a series of controls which they are responsible to enforce and develop. Not all controls can be selected by the leader; the government and organization provide many. That does not remove the burden from leaders to develop processes, procedures, and limitations to execute work. The controls leaders develop must allow others to do work that creates results the leader envisioned in the beginning without crushing creativity. Effective controls allow organizations to execute quickly to changing situations by allowing decisions to be made at an appropriate level, allow people and organizations to take pride in the work they create, and establish important protections to mitigate risk. Leaders understand the importance of controls. Embrace the freedom controls provide to focus on more important things that make a difference. Use of proper controls ensure others become the best they can be.

Additional Reading

Bratton, W & Knobler, P. (1998). Turnaround. Random House. New York, NY

Covey, S.R. (2004) The 7 habits of highly effective people (25th Anniversary Ed.).Simon & Shuster, New York, NY. https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/

Willink, J., Babin, L. (2015). Extreme ownership: How U.S. navy SEALs lead and win. St. Martin’s Publishing Group. New York, NY. https://echelonfront.com/

Good Leaders are Good Managers

Not every good manager is a good leader but every good leader needs to be a good manager. Frequently leadership students look down on management studies based on the axiom that anyone can be a manager based on position but not everyone can be a leader. However a leader that does not also establish and enforce controls; organize people, processes, and material; plan how to accomplish this mission; execute within established controls with existing resources; and provide necessary resources will fail. The reason many good manager manage to succeed even though they are not good leaders is that leadership is only one element of management. Those good managers find other people to compensate for the less than great leadership which in turn means the organization has good leadership. Likewise leaders who lack other management skills find people who are at least good and look for those who are great to compensate for those weaknesses in the leader. Whole textbooks are written on each of these areas, so dear reader, please understand these thousand or so words only provide you with a starting point in your understanding of becoming a good leader who is also a good manager.

Controlling

Establishing controls early ensures leaders can measure performance and effectiveness.
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In the beginning of a team or organization, when the group is comprised of two or ten, controls are easy. Simple, informal rules established and enforced by the team. These early controls include things like the 10:00 meeting means that everyone is in the conference room getting coffee and danish but don’t have to be in their seats until 10:15, or if you make a mess in the microwave clean your mess, or how expenses will be reimburse, and every other such thing. As an organization grows, it needs to formalize rules so new employees understand the time they are expected to show up, understand how to receive reimbursement for the sales trip they took last week, and everyone understands the process to approve expenditures.

When people think about controls, they focus on those created by the organization to help things run smoothly. There are other controls we may not think about until they are violated. For example labor laws establish minimum wages, safety standards, and rules for paying taxes. Various government regulations require businesses to comply with environmental rules, advertising, and interactions regarding doing business in other countries. One of the least thought about controls are imposed by insurance companies. Those controls require organization engage or refrain from engaging in certain practices in order for coverage to be in effect. If the organization violates the terms of coverage, their insurance company will not cover loses.

Generally control are those rules, laws and regulations that ensure resources are conserved for use as long as possible. They are created by the organization and establish norms for behavior, the government in forms of laws and regulations, insurance companies, and other sources that limit individual and organization behaviors. There are certainly more sources of controls. These few paragraphs are just a sample of common sources of controls.

Organizing

Organizing involves more than establishing a quality filing system. It means developing processes to accomplish things; groups, teams, divisions, and other such operating groups; establishing priorities of work; organizational hierarchy, and things like that. Organizing includes establishing spans of control, supervisory authority, and developing operating principals. Additionally, there is also the responsibility to establish a process to file important documents, track orders and sales, ensure employees and bills are paid, and establishing means to track contact information for everyone working for and with the organization. Spans of control and authority relationships determine the structure of the organization by how the branches of the organization interact and who answers to whom. Various controls may impact how organizations are organized.

Organizing is important because the established reporting chain, controls, principals, and groups know how to operate. The organizational organization is like a computer’s operating system. It tells those who interact with the organization what to do, how to do it, when to do it, who is responsible for it, and who pays for it. It also establishes standards for success. Without organization, your organization is only a mob!

Planning

Planning, organizing, and resourcing are an important leadership skill regardless of the size of your operation.
The National Guard Collection – Unattributed military photographer

Dwight D. Eisenhower is quoted as saying, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (azquotes.com). The reason plans them selves have little value is that even the best plan rare work as planned. So one has to if plans are worthless why is planning so important? A good planning process allows leaders to learn things and think their way through problems to find good solutions. Normally more than one person creates an organizational plan. As a result leaders in different parts of the organization come together and work to identify a wide variety of solutions to a perceived future problem. More people mean more ideas and points of view. That means the big leader has more options to chose.

The planning process also helps develop cross function relationships. All to often logistics guys hang with logistics guys, the people in HR only hang with other HR professionals, and the folks executing the work are separated from those who plan the work. These cross function relationships help organizations respond faster in crisis so even on short notice they develop responses to crises faster and better than organizations that lack cross functional relationships.

Another benefit of planning is that more people know about the expected reactions when the plan is triggered by an event. None of the people know all the details about the whole plan but enough people know enough details of the plan they start action sooner which provides time to take stock of the situation as it develops. Instead of trying to figure out how to react, junior leaders take the first steps detailed in the plan which allows senior leaders time to evaluate the situation. The evaluation period serves as a buffer for the planners to determine if what they planned is effective, if they need to make little tweaks and course corrections, or scrape the plan because it does not match the facts on the ground and this is where those previous planning sessions come in handy. An earlier rejected idea might be the solution to the event as it unfolds. Because the planning team spent some time evaluating that solution it is faster and easier to flush out the details on the fly.

Execution

Execution is an often overlooked aspect of management. In my management studies over many years I do not recall it appearing in a single textbook. You can do all the planning, controlling, resourcing, and organizing you want but if no one does anything it is worthless. People come together to develop teams and organizations to accomplish something. The operations process is how those things happen. Execution is the actual implementation of all those other management skills under the watchful eye of a skilled leader who understands how to tweak here and there to make things happen.

If you go to YouTube and search for Aikido you will find more videos than you could watch in a lifetime about the martial art. After you watch a few you may be able to execute a few of the techniques. You may experiment with some of your friends and find that sometimes a tactic works on one but not another. This is the operating process minus the qualified leader.

When I was learning Aikido I frequently was in situations where something seemed to work on one person but not another. Sense would walk by and move my thumb ½ an inch on ukie’s arm or kick one of my feet a couple inches forward and unkie would crumble. Sense is a qualified leader who understands the deeper principals of the process. She understands how those small adjustments affect the technique in more situations than the novice. Sense doesn’t just stand at the front of the mat and challenge students. Sense walks among the students providing guidance in their practice which in turn allows them to operate more effectively.

Even though execution is overlooked in the business world, it is studied in military circles. It is true that textbooks do not cover this important aspect of management, but the military has written many manuals over the years on executing. They describe processes for selecting leaders, training troops and leaders, gathering required resources, planning for contingencies, and accomplishing missions. Execution is where thing happen. Without execution there is no need for the other management functions.

Resourcing

There is an old saying to the effect of, “We the willing, led by the unqualified are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We accomplished so much for so long and so little that we are capable of doing anything with nothing.” Too often in too many workplaces this cute quote is reality. If you do not plan for and provide resources as a leader and you hire qualified people, they will find ways to make things happen, but eventually they will leave.

Resources are important to accomplish things in the same way plants need water to thrive.
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

Several years ago a group of community leaders came together and established a small nonprofit to fill a need. They developed a plan to create a safe place for crime victims to meet with investigators. In the beginning there was a need for lots of stuff and the Board of Directors worked with the staff for find lots of funding. After the first couple of years, the Board started cutting budgets not because they no longer thought the program was important, rather because all the BIG stuff was purchased. They survived on grants that provided enough resources to operate the program but did no additional fundraising. The leaders of this organization missed an important resourcing requirement, planned replacement of the big stuff. After about five years, the CEO retired. The Board hired a new CEO who found in his first two years that many of the big ticket items the program relied upon to deliver services were reaching the end of their usable life. As a result, the new CEO developed a plan to not only replace the aging equipment, but also a plan to diversify funding streams to ensure the organization had a cash cushion for future emergencies. Part of the replacement plan included a schedule to replace expensive equipment just before its projected end-of-life. As a result, on those occasion when something did die early, the organization had funds set aside to make an early replacement. However, as the replacement schedule matured, premature equipment failures lessened and allowed the program to better serve its clients.

Resourcing involves more than just the big stuff. It includes annual budget, staff, systems of communication, work space, all the way down to staples and paperclips. You can tell the real values of an organization by the way it budgets and spends money. Compare the one that sends all its C-level people to an annual event and another that sends at least 50% of it workforce to off-site trainings annually. Which one values people more? Amazon is good example of this as they built their delivery services over the last few years. They wanted better control of how and when products were delivered to ensure customers returned to Amazon for future needs. That action shows they value rapid delivery of products. If Amazon just talked about quick delivery but never put any money behind developing a reliable delivery network, people who value quick delivery would look for a company that does deliver quickly. That is why resourcing is important.

Have the courage to stand up front and lead. Understand that also means you have to manage.
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Being a good leader means one also needs to learn to manage. There are many aspects to leadership beyond standing up in front of your group and giving them a pep speech. As a leader you do need to develop the skills necessary to influence people to accomplish your organization’s mission. You cannot do that however with out a clear idea about what needs to happen, how to measure performance and effectiveness ensuring progress, what the next steps are to move forward, execute plans, and ensure you and your people have the things they need to do their work. Simple words to help remember all these things are Controlling, Organizing, Leading, Planning, Executing, and Planning (COLPER). Hannibal would never have successfully invaded Rome, Vanderbilt would have laid much less rail, and we would still think Apples are something to eat had Jobs, and the others, not understood how to manage things while leading their people. It is not necessary for every leader to be skill in each of these areas. Those just mentioned surrounded themselves with smart people in each of these areas. Like it or not, leaders also manage the talent of their people as part of their leading ability. Take a look at each of these areas in your leadership practice. Identify those things you can build upon and find others to fill in your voids. It is important for you to be a good leader to also be a good manager.

References

AZ Quotes (ND). Dwight D. Eisenhower quotes about planning.https://www.azquotes.com/author/4403-Dwight_D_Eisenhower/tag/planning Retrieved 11/15/20

Hilgert R, Leonard Jr E, Haimann T, (1995) Supervision concepts and practices of management. South-Western College Publishing. Cincinnati, OH.

Kinicki A, Williams B, (3rd ED, 2008) Management a practical introduction. McGraw-Hill Irwin. Boston, MA.

Of Veterans and Veterans Day

Military color guard honoring veterans in a Veterans Day Ceremony.
-USAF Photo by Josh Plueger

Veterans Day is the day the United States recognizes all its military veterans. Many people often wonder what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. That probably is the fault of Veterans. Memorial Day is the day we remember service members who died in our nation’s conflicts. It originated from any of a number of communities who claim to have created the holiday to commemorate those who died during the American Civil War in the years after that conflict. Traditionally it was celebrated on May 30th. While many communities still celebrate Memorial Day on the 30th, the recognized federal holiday is the last Monday in May. As the name suggests, Memorial Day is about remembering those who died serving our nation.

The Soldiers depicted in the National Korean War Memorial serve as silent sentinels reminding everyone about the service and sacrifice of military veterans. The Korean War is often called the forgotten war because it was limited to Korean territory. Sandwiched between the large mobilization of WWII and the turmoil created by the long war in Vietnam, these veterans are often neglected by the public and history.
-Photo by the author.

Veterans Day is a more recent holiday devoted to recognizing all military veterans regardless of time of service, whether they served during wartime or in peace, from all branches, and is dedicated to living veterans and those who have died whether during conflict. This last part is where the confusion rests. Most military veterans do not consider themselves heroes. Some are happy to regal others with their feats of daring in peace and war. Some not so much. In most cases, military veterans claim the real heroes who died in battles long ago or more recently. Every service member signs a check when they sign their enlistment papers payable to the people of the United States for everything up to and including their very lives. Only a small fraction of service members are asked to cash those checks at that level. Almost all military members sacrifice something of value during their time of service. For some it results in broken relationships. For others the sacrifice is missing important family events. Many suffer some sort of injury, even in peacetime, that follows them through the rest of their lives. Training for war is dangerous and does sometimes results in loss of life in spite of strong risk reduction measures taken by leaders. That is why one day each year we honor those who voluntarily and involuntarily served our nation’s military.

Veterans Day was not an official US holiday until 1954. There was a holiday before 1954 that recognized the service, accomplishments, and sacrifice of the veterans of “The Great War”, what we now call World War One. It was celebrated on November 11th because that is the anniversary of the day the shooting stopped based on a cease fire agreement between the Allies and the German Empire. Veterans Day ceremonies begin in many communities at 11:00 AM because that as the hour appointed for all shooting and maneuver by both sides to stop.

By 1954, the world had engaged in another great conflict which made the war waged between 1914 and 1918 look like a long battle. There was pressure to recognize the contributions of the veterans of the Second World War, the conflict in Korea, and those still serving. It was becoming increasingly apparent that not only was WWI not the war to end all wars but neither was WWII. Since that time, the United States has engaged in military conflicts and operations in Vietnam, Kuwait, Panama, Haiti, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and others.

Veterans from Vietnam were vilified by the American public as the symbols of the government action in Southeast Asia to which they objected. Many service members who fought in that conflict were conscripted. They honored their duty as a citizen and reported when called recognizing one does not always have the luxury of choosing which conflict to fight. In more recently, Americans have changed their opinions about Vietnam Veteran but the scars remain from those emotional wounds inflicted by their countrymen decades ago.
-Photo by the author

Today, military veterans enjoy a great deal of prestige. That has not always been the case in our nation’s history. Many Soldiers and Sailors who served during the War of Independence never received pay they were promised when they signed up with either their State militias or as regulars in the Continental Army. Additionally, the Continental Congress authorized pensions for Soldiers from our first war. However, the promise was not readily fulfilled. Many veterans lacked documented proof of their service. In many cases, because Soldiers served with militias their States, not the national government, the newly formed States were responsible for their pay and any benefits. In the postwar — pre-constitution period there were many citizens who believed those veterans were trying to scam the government to give them something they neither earned nor deserved. Those who were paid received cash notes that were virtually worthless allowing those veterans to only purchase goods at extreme exchange rates from the face value. Their cash was nearly worthless.

After the Great War, many WWI veterans fell into poverty. Homeless they took up residence in abandoned buildings in our nation’s capital and in many of the parks around the city. Soldiers, under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur attacked the unarmed veterans with swords and tear gas killing one and injuring 69. Soldiers returning from Vietnam were discouraged from wearing their uniforms when returning to the States. It was common for service members to be spat upon or assaulted by members of the peace movement.

America has a long love/hate history with those who protect her. Veterans Day is the one day the nation thanks and acknowledges the suffering, sacrifice, and selfless service of those veterans who defend liberty 24/7/365 for the last 245 years (I realize the Declaration of Independence was signed 244 years ago but the U.S. Army was established by Congress in 1775, a little more than 12 months earlier). That service continues today. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coasties are standing guard all over the world today protecting liberty, training hard, and fighting our nation’s enemies. When you next thank a vet ask them why they serve. Remember, less than one percent of our population protects the United States. Take a few minutes this Veterans Day to attend a local ceremony and chat with a Vet.

Most service members spend more time engaged in training and other peace-time duties than they do engaged in combat. Even in combat zones, most service members are engaged is maintenance, training, and support activities. Only a fraction of the total force is tasked to close with and engage our nation’s enemies in close combat. However, every service member deployed in a combat zone, stationed in a foreign land, or at sea is in jeopardy.
-Photo by New Hampshire National Guard-195th Regiment in which the author later served as the Command Sergeant Major.

References

Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.) History of veterans day. https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp. Retrieved 11/10/20

Llewellyn, J. & Thompson, S. (Feb 21, 2015) Shay’s rebellion. Alpha History.https://alphahistory.com/americanrevolution/shays-rebellion/. Retrieved 11/10/20

McArdle, T. (Jul 28, 2017) The veterans were desperate. Gen. McArthur ordered U.S. troops to attack them. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/07/28/the-veterans-were-desperate-gen-macarthur-ordered-u-s-troops-to-attack-them/ Retrieved 11/10/20

Create Inspiring Presentations

As the hour draws to a close the speaker comments on what a great bunch your group has been. She was so concerned things would not go well because she was not sure what she had to offer would meet the needs of the of the team. She asks of there are any questions; there are none, and thanks you all for coming. You stand up hoping to sneak out of the room before your boss has an opportunity to corner you about the poor performance of your direct report during the monthly senior staff training. Too late. He yells across the room to meet him in his office in five minutes. What went wrong?

Leaders often make presentations. Use a presentation objective to stay on target and inspire your audience.
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Making presentations in the workplace is a common function of those in leadership potions. We all suffered though those that miss the mark time wise running so much longer than necessary, were totally boring, or left us wondering what the the point of the presentation was. These presentations are intended to keep fellow workers up-to-date on hot topics from a subject matter expert. Powerful presentations are not guaranteed just because the presenter possesses expert knowledge. Their lack of understanding how to create and deliver quality presentations deny the members of the organization the inspiration to do great things with what they learned. Even when the person makes a great presentation, they may end up talking about everything except the one or two areas of concern for your organization. Taking the time to identify objectives of what you want participants to learn helps you and the presenter focus on material that will enlighten, educate, and inspire. Steven Covey calls it beginning with the end in mind.

It may seem too simple to write out a comprehensive presentation objective. Doing so focuses the efforts of the presenter on the information which helps the audience achieve the final goal of the event. The end result is a focused presentation meeting the needs of the audience.

There are three important parts of every presentation objective, whether it is the capstone objective, or a smaller piece of the puzzle. The parts are action, condition and standard. The action is what you want the student to learn how to accomplish when they complete the training. An example might be something like, “The clerk will complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.” The conditions for the task or action to be completed should include the environment and any tools or resources available while completing the action. Finally spell out how someone will know when the staff achieved success by stating the standard. This can be performance steps, standards for a finished product, a score on an examination or any other means of measuring performance. Often in a staff development event this may be as simple as, “The employee responds correctly to questions during discussion.”

This is a sample of an objective for a staff meeting presentation where there will be no formal testing.

Action: Complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.

Conditions: During a staff development event and random questions from the instructor.

Standard: Correctly answer questions related to taking a customer order on the phone and entering the data into the computer.

Ideally action statements start with a verb. Conditions describe resources available to complete the action. Standards should be measurable and attainable, very much like setting SMART goals.

As a leader, it is important to talk with your people about your expectations before they present to a group. Teach them to create an appropriate objective.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Establishing learning objectives when assigning someone to conduct training improves communication and enables the trainer to understand the perceived needs of organization. Given an objective such as the one above instead of some generic statement like, “Hey Smith, I need you to give a class on that new software at the next staff training conference next week.” With the first, employees should walk out of the training understanding how to take customer orders using the new software. Who knows what you will get with the second. When you are tasked to provide training, have an understanding of the process. It allows you to develop an appropriate objective so you can run it by the person who assigned it. The objective helps you focus your attention on what is necessary to meet expectations.

Developing objectives for your presentation helps you focus on sharing important information in the time allowed for staff to achieve a given task. When assigned, both the leader and the presenter create a shared expectation of the finished product. Quality learning objectives contain three parts, the action, the conditions, and the standards. When assigned by your leader to present to others, using a presentation objective ensures you and he understand what is expected. Do not let your next presentation flop. Take the time to develop an objective for the time you are given to teach others.

References

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. electronic edition. New York, NY: Rosetta Books, 2012.

http://www.grayharriman.com/ADDIE_Writing_Learning_Objectives.htm