47 years of incredible selfless service…

Today I had the honor of serving as the presiding official for a team member who is retiring from the government after 47 years of faithful and dedicated service. 47 years…

This particular teammate started in the business in her very early 20’s. She came to Washington on a whim and stayed for the next five decades.  

She worked and served in the national security space through dating her eventual husband, the birth of her children, America going to war several times, the attacks against the Pentagon on 9/11, and the wars that followed. In the last few years, she served with us as her first Grand Daughter was born.  

This incredible human absolutely loves people and loves serving. She is one of the most caring people one could ever serve with and I could not be more grateful for being able to honor you, even in the middle of COVID.

Congrats CR on your incredible career.  You gave it your all, and you made an incredible impact on everyone who ever had the joy of working with you – especially through the joy that you brought everyone who walked through our door each and every day.

Enjoy that Grand Baby!!

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer.  Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely and expressly my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government, the Department of Defense, or the Department of the Air Force.

The Leaders Playbook: “Be Prepared”, thinking about contingencies ahead of time.

Be Prepared” The Boy Scout of America Motto

Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the Boy Scouts of America

We choose how we respond to contingencies in life and leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing we have seen or handled in many years.  

These are historic and challenging times.  Much of our Nation is self-isolating and our healthcare system and economy are struggling under the weight and pressure.  

We all have a role to play, especially those leading organizations and more important households. 

This is a time for leaders, at work and at home. 

While always remaining frosty and calm, we should encourage our families, friends, and teammates to proactively think about what contingencies they might face and develop deliberate plans on how to handle them – before we have to potentially deal with them.  

A few examples we have been thinking through include: 

  • What are the symptoms of the virus?  Do I have the tools to potentially identify the virus?
  • If someone does get sick, where will I take them?  What is the phone number? Where is the nearest testing facility?
  • If someone does get sick, how will we handle quarantine?  At work? At home?
  • What supplies do we need and when can we get them?

There are many other contingencies that leaders should think about during this challenging time. The key is to sit down and think about what could happen in a calm and deliberate manner striving to “Be Prepared” for any contingency.  Trust me, thinking about contingencies ahead of them always pays off. Always.

Stay healthy my friends.

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: Stoic Virtues… Courage, Justice, Temperance, Wisdom

“If at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage… embrace it without reservation – it must be an extraordinary thing indeed”

                                                            Marcus Aurelius Meditations 3.6

Courage, Justice, Temperance, Wisdom are timeless virtues and thinking about leadership through the lens of these virtues has been a game-changer for me.

Making difficult decisions in the face of adversity (Courage), viewing situations with an honest lens, especially oneself and one’s many failings (Justice), while remembering to see things through other people’s perspectives (Wisdom), all while remembering to do all things moderation (Temperance) are incredible tools to help you through the toughest of times. 

History tells us that Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Cato, President Lincoln, and General Marshall all embraced these virtues and lived them in their day-to-day life.  Every day I deliberately try to lead using these virtues as well.  I hope you will too.

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer.  Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: Clear, concise, correct communications

“Communications: the imparting or exchanging of information or news.”

“It does not matter what you say, it only matters what people hear and see.”

                                                Frank Luntz from “Words that Work

Frank Luntz got this quote mostly right.  I have always inserted the words “and feel” to this quote.

As human beings, we rely on communications to connect with each other.  It comes in many forms but in the end, it’s about connecting at a deep enough level to engender trust and confidence in each other and to align our efforts against an issue, problem, or opportunity.  It is not a one-way flow of information.  That’s transmitting.

In my opinion, perhaps the most important skill a leader must have is the ability to clearly and effectively communicate at multiple levels.  Clear, concise, correct, and meaningful communications is something that is absolutely critical to being able to lead people successfully – and we all need to work at it. 

Sound communication is a perishable skill.  I know I will always strive to improve my verbal communications, my written communications (why I write), my non-verbal communications, and my listening skills. 

Great communicators listen well, and pass information which informs, inspires, and connects people and teams to do incredible things together.  So, commit today to do some thinking about how you are going to improve as a communicator.

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

Perfect Courage… laying your life down for your Brothers

Tonight, I raise a toast and remember.

18 years ago at 04:57 local time on March 4th, 2002 in the mountains of Afghanistan USAF MSgt John Chapman began the longest and most important walk of his life. 

That morning “Chappie” alongside USN SEAL PO1 Neal Roberts and five other heroic Americans gave their lives for our freedom.  Many others were wounded in action.

Never in the history of warfare has a Medal of Honor action been captured on film.  I hope you will watch this and remember our Fallen today and those that gave it all for our Freedom. 

You can learn more about John here.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leader’s Playbook-13: Never miss the opportunity to be quiet and listen.

Being self-aware is something that I work hard on every day. Years ago I realized that I (and everyone else) talks too much and that we need to all be quiet and listen.

I must be an active, patient, and thoughtful listener. I must listen for understanding both with my ears and my eyes.

And, when I do make a decision to open my mouth, I need to think deliberately about what I’m going to say, how I’m going to say it, what the context is, the content of the message, the primary (and sometimes secondary audiences), the tenor and tone I’m going to take and the timing.

And as one of my former bosses once said, “Junior, never miss the opportunity to shut the #$% up”. Great advice.

The Author is currently serving as an active duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leader’s Playbook-12: “You are making a decision”

When I was a kid and was out of line my Mom used to say “You are making a decision to act this way..” Normally I was acting poorly or being a s#$t.

This simple statement, always delivered in a calm and loving voice, shut me down every time. Every time.

Thinking of her reminds me never to forget that we have a vote on how we perceive situations and how we act, or react, to them.

May I choose well.

The Author is currently serving as an active duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leader’s Playbook-11: Start with Why!

Many of you have reached out to me via DM over the last few weeks and asked “why” I am writing and posting more this year.  I really appreciate the questions. 

The “why” is quite simple.  At the end of each year, I purposefully take some quiet time write out what things in my life I want to personally improve over the coming year.  One of my major goals this year is to improve my writing effectiveness, my writing efficiency, and to support that goal, write daily.  Writing daily and hitting “send” allows this to become a habit for me and I am honored so many of you took time to let me know your thoughts.

Simon Sinek is an outstanding author and one book that had a profound impression on me is his “Start with Why.”  I first realized the value of this great book when serving as the COO of a tech startup whose primary employee base was younger professionals.  While it may take an extra minute or two, starting with why, and gaining alignment and support, while explaining the reason for doing something goes a long way with people understanding where you are coming from.

So, thank you for all your messages and kind words and to Simon Sinek, thank you for your inspiration to me and to the incredible support to the Military and the Fighter Pilot community in particular.  You are a great American doing important things to improve leadership across the country with your writing.

The Author is currently serving as an active duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leader’s Playbook-10: Wingmanship

Success in life is so much about essential choices, timing, and good fortune – especially when it comes to the people we surround ourselves with. 

I have been so blessed through these choices, some great timing, and good fortune in my life to have incredible wingmen, friends, and family.  They have made my life so much richer.  I remain so grateful for each of them and I have trusted many of them with my life multiple times. 

I have also made incorrect choices, had to adjust to bad timing and embrace misfortune.  Simply recovering from misjudged situations, motivations, or the intentions of others has contributed equally to my personal growth.

Every time I’ve had a less than optimum experience with a person or a relationship, I’ve learned something from the experience.  I didn’t ask the right questions, didn’t ask enough questions, didn’t check references, trust my gut, or I let emotions get in the way.  In retrospect, the clues were there and while these are frequently deep and painful lessons, I am wiser now and they happen with significantly less frequency.

I now think clearly and deliberately about the “wingmen” in my life.  These are without a doubt some of the most important decisions you will ever make.  Time is your most precious gift in life and choosing wisely with whom you will spend that time will make all the difference in your life.  It absolutely has for me.

Most importantly, do not ever forget that “wingmanship” is a two-way street. Deliver on your end every time – and if you don’t, own it and fix it.

The Author is currently serving as an active duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leader’s Playbook-9: “Stay Frosty…”

I spend a lot of time with the teams I get to be a part of talking about the various ways to both approach, and solve, complex and wicked problems. Remaining focused on the issue at hand versus the emotions that can surround an issue is a lot of our focus.

As a teenager I remember first reading a book about Apollo 13. Apollo 13, Commanded by legendary Astronaut Jim Lovell, was the supposed to be the second moon landing. Not long after beginning the long journey to the Moon, Apollo 13 had a major in-flight emergency which immediately put the crews lives at risk. At that time, this was the most significant challenge NASA had ever faced during a flight.

Mission Control in Houston was instantly thrown into a confusing and chaotic situation which required immediate, and precise decisions, in order to save the crew. In what became a seminal learning point for me, legendary Flight Director Gene Kranz, while leading his team through the chaos of the initial reactions, paused, thought, and told his team… “work the problem people… work the problem.” And they did… and over the next few days managed to make thousands of correct decisions which resulted in Apollo 13 safely looping around the back side of the Moon and returning safely to Earth with all three crew members aboard.

I’ve adapted the concept that Flight Director Kranz took, as well as many other famous leaders in our history, and boiled it down to two simple words.. “Stay Frosty”. When it gets crazy… keep your calm about you… and “stay frosty.”

I hope this approach helps you as much as it has helped me and others in our business.

Also check out Mr. Kranz’s book “Failure is not an option”. It is a great read.

The Author is currently serving as an active duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.