Happy Birthday to My Book!!!

That's right, she's 1 year old tomorrow, the 18th of November. This is cause for celebration and $$ discounts!! It's been an amazing year. Top-5 best seller 9 of 12 months on Silver Tree Publishing and top 12% of leadership books on Amazon. Countless speaking gigs. To celebrate I'm offering a FREE Kindle download on the 18th only! But wait, there's more! $5 off the Amazon price from the 18th-24th of November (Black Friday included!) Coming in 2019, the Audio version!

Love your People, not your Position

I took over as the Vice President of an organization once and the first words out of my mouth at my first meeting with them is “I love you.” I genuinely felt that love toward them for all they did for our mission and vision of our company. They were dedicated people, team mates serving a cause of building relationships and bringing happiness to people. I was their leader. This responsibility felt enormous. It humbled me. I felt a great sense of duty to know my people and help them achieve their personal and professional goals. I had to love them and nurture them as if they were my own family. I’d listen intently when they spoke, pause and marvel over their successes and hear stories about their life. I had power but viewed it as the power of love and admiration of my people. They would accomplish amazing things.

Know Yourself

I’m a person first.  Though I adored the Army, I was not one of those officers who came from a long family history of service or always aspired to wear the uniform and serve forever.  I liked that about myself.  I had served with a few of these officers in my career and they seemed a bit narrow-minded and socially inept.  I never held automatic grudges against these types of leaders, some were actually very good.  I just remember many of them and the way they were which did not resonate with me.  I always felt there were bigger things than just wearing the uniform.  Though I was a career officer, I never really considered myself one.  I had other clothes in my closet beside my boots and camouflaged uniform and enjoyed periods where I wouldn’t have to shave every day or where I could sleep in late.  I was never the “chosen one.”  I wasn’t the one selected for early promotions and earmarked for the most prestigious assignments.  I saw myself more as a person than a solider.  I always felt this and shared it with a few people but never really put it on paper until I chose to create my BIO sketch. You can read it for yourself in Chapter 5 of “It’s Personal, Not Personnel, Leadership Lessons for the Battlefield and The Boardroom”

What Elevation are You Operating at as a Leader?

Draw 2 horizontal lines on a piece of paper. The top one representes 30,000 feet, the bottom represents 0 elevation or the “weeds of your organization. Where do you operate? Many leaders are stuck in the weeds and fail to travel to higher elevations to lead their organizations appropriately. I’m talking about being mired by the immediate issues, task, emails and the noise of your fast-paced business. Don’t get me wrong here, you belong in the weeds when there are issues which may pose a risk to your business or its people. However, as leaders we must remove ourselves from the fray if we want to be effective. Placing your self at 30,000 feet allows you to look at your organizaiton from a higher level and see systemic problems. It allows you to look deep, a year down the road, 5 years down the road where you want your organization to be. It allows you to leave your organization and network with executives and other community members to grow your business. Gravity works and like our smart phones, we are drawn into the weeds of our organizations. Reverse the pull of gravity. Remove yourself often from the constant demands of the modern workplace. You as its leader are the only one who can and should do this.

The Desires of People in the Modern Workplace

So what do people really want?  How can we lead organizations which best cater to their needs?  How do we bring the human back into human resources?  If they were machines it would be easy; electricity, oil, or a fresh load of printer paper would suffice.  Machines come with manuals which tell us exactly what they require to operate at peak performance.  People are far more complex.  While it may take only a few moments to read and understand an owner’s manual to see how a machine works our attempt to understand our people is an endeavor requiring more of our personal time and attention.  It’s different for everyone.  Where we miss it is that we too often take the operators manual approach to people or believe that a standard approach will have the same effect on everyone.  In my 27 years in the Army I served in a variety of different environments during peacetime and war.  I encountered people from all corners of our country and the world.  In some environments with some people I nailed it, meaning I got the person and the environment right, in others I failed to understand and I struggled.  My failures boiled down to this very thing: I attempted to see the environment or the person through my own lens instead of theirs.  Over my 27 year journey, I tried to develop a list of desires which I believe transcended each of these environments and cultures.  I tried to find some commonalities which I could apply as a baseline wherever I served.  I like to simplify things.  Not wanting to overthink this I narrowed it down to this short collection of desires outlined below which I could use like I would a vehicle dashboard to examine my own organization to see if I and my leaders were getting it right.  I used my

·         Fulfillment

·         Autonomy

·         Praise & Recognition

·         Safety

·         Discipline

·         Growth


experience from the different environments I served in along with my Army leadership training and education.I reflected on the leaders I had served with and the climates they established, both good and bad.In my tours in Afghanistan I encountered the poorest society I had ever experienced.It was a defining moment for me as a leader. Want more? Pick up a copy of “It’s Personal, Not Personnel, Leadership Lessons for the Battlefield and the Boardroom”

The Important Stuff is Not Stuff... A Reflection from Hurricane Florence

“The important stuff is not stuff,” read the text message from John Fickel or “Fish” as he is called, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and long-time family friend.  I’ve just returned to Topsail Island, North Carolina to find my house and its contents or “stuff” intact and unscathed.  Navigating flooded road closures, driving onto the island which is only open to residents due to its hurricane recovery, I’ve had time to really ponder this simple, common sense yet profound statement.  First and foremost, my heart pours out to numerous people in North and South Carolina who felt the true fury of this intense storm, one to be remembered for decades.  Florence destroyed homes and businesses but, most importantly, took precious lives.  Let the names of the fallen live on as the story and impact of this storm is sure to do.  It is people after all, which are the most important stuff, not buildings and their contents.    

Fish was always the leader in the group to offer a commonsense statement like this to refocus us on the true importance of the moment.  Amidst the chaos of a complex training event, one which would replicate the rigors of combat, he was the calm leader in the storm to help others see through the fog and friction.  Indeed, my wife and I never lost sight of what was important nearly two weeks ago when we made the decision to evacuate our home and island town.  Wresting with what to bring from a home filled with decades of treasured possessions, in our haste to depart the area, we knew it was just stuff.  We had said goodbye to each other and our possessions in a career moving frequently and being separated by training events and three combat tours wondering if we would see our household goods or each other again.  Through all this and again on the cusp of another life crucible, what mattered most was life.  Fish’s text to me, among several from concerned friends and family, was the one which stuck.  It brought me back to that hot, humid night (several in fact) when we had not eaten, slept of showered and the demands of the fictitious battlefield cemented us in place.  Fish would loosen the bonds of friction and, with a simple statement, remind the group of what was truly important. 

Florence took so much from our beloved Carolina coast.  She put our lives on pause, consumed chunks of our beautiful coastline and flooded our neighborhoods.  This we won’t soon forget.  But she did give us something.  A lesson in humanity.  While we cherish our possessions, the comfort of our surroundings and the beauty of our land, it is people which count most.  My wife and I are thankful for so much.  We embraced in our home once we learned it survived the storm, happy, knowing that it prevailed, relieved to be reunited with our possessions.  But the true meaning behind that embrace was that we were alive.  We had survived once again.  So too had our neighbors and friends.  That’s the important stuff.  Thanks Fish.

ZZZ... It does a Leader Good

Naps improve mood, alterness and performance.  Need any more than that for justificaion to slip away after lunch and catch some shut eye?  I for one love a good nap.  I only need about 20-30 minutes, a few REM cycles and I'm back in the game.  I confess as a leader I was too overcome with guilt and pride to take a 20-30 min snooze. My soldiers were working hard so what made me deserving of a break? I’d still feel too guilty if I returned to service today but the science behind the benefit of REM sleep is undeniable. I do know I am far more effective after a nap. Perhaps I could have made wiser decisions for my organization had I overcome my pride and balled up with my Army woobie for a few moments. Some leaders and organizations have cracked this simple yet important code and I’m confident that they reap the benefits.  Are you brave enought to overcome the guilt I felt?  It is hard, I know but forming a culture which embraces this short yet imporant period of recharging can make all the difference!  Consider it in your organization.  

Need to know what your priorities are? Look no further than your calendar

A mentor of mine told me that and it stuck.  Never did I look at my calendar the same again.  When assuming command or being appointed the CEO of a 5,000 person organizaiton, I knew Investing in People was going to be our top organizational priority, never to change.  My calendar needed to reflect that.  Whether you share a calendar or just make your own or even if you do not have a calendar, do some reflection and examine where you have spent most of your time.  Then ask yourself if you have it right.  If what you are doing is not aligned with the guidance you issue to your team or what you believe to be most important then you are off and your organization will suffer.  It is a simple fix if it is out of balance but it will have a positive impact on your people.  Make it Personal!  Watch me!

Introvert? Doesn't make you a bad leader or follower

Introverts get a bad wrap.  There is a lot written about introverts which you should read and study if you are one and or lead one.  Here are a few thoughts.  I knew if I had an introvert on my team and led them appropriately.  I was cautious not to demand an immediate answer.  They needed time to process and think about their response.  I knew their energy was different than mine.  My wife is an introvert, I am an extrovert.  In social settings I gain energy, she loses it.  A day full of social activity can have a negative effect.  Introverts ought to be afforded time to think away from noise, distractions and people.  This alone time can served to refuel them for tasks and events which lie ahead.  This is not a selfish act.  Quite the contrary.  It helps the organizaiton because what you get is a better leader or subordinate following their period of quiet reflection and thinking.  Introverts make great leaders and subordinates.  If ever I form a team, I want a mix of both introverts and exraverts.  Here is the key.  Know who you are and you have then lead appropriately.  Make it Personal!