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.

The Leaders Playbook: Decision Timing

“Do I need to make a decision on this right now?”

This seemingly simple question is one of the most important ones I ask myself and my team every day.  “When” we choose to make decisions can have as much impact on the decision itself, yet this timing is an often-overlooked element of decision making.

In reality, few decisions, other than those decisions that could impact lives, need to be made immediately. 

Our society has changed.  With the advent of mobile email, text messaging, and the 24/7 news cycle, we are constantly being bombarded with information, and along with that oftentimes comes an expectation that we will make quicker decisions in order to “keep things moving”. 

In my experience, this is not true.  Most times we need to slow down our decision-making timelines and gain as much understanding as possible of the situation before making critical decisions.  Smart evaluation of the pro’s and con’s of a decision and the second and third-order consequences is a big part of sound and accurate decision making – and timing is a critical variable. 

Timely decision making comes with experience and thoughtfulness and frankly just keeping the timing of a decision on your “radar”.  Thinking about the “when”, as well as the “why” is key.  A few considerations on when to make a decision include being able to understand the human or situational dynamics of a potential decision while looking at the level of risk associated with a decision, and who owns or shares that risk with you.  (More on this in a future piece). 

So, be deliberate and thoughtful in the timing of your decisions. 

One last note.  Delaying the timing of a decision to let the situation develop or learn more about the context is very different than refusing to make a decision or avoiding making one.  Be honest with yourself and your team about this and be clear on what you are doing as a leader.

If you want to dig into the academics of decision making, I recommend you check out the work of Dr. Jennifer Lerner up at the Harvard Kennedy School (https://www.hks.harvard.edu/faculty/jennifer-lerner). 

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: The balance between risk and resourcing

For years I’ve kept a small notebook handy all the time.  The ones from my deployments are worn, stained, and full of rich incredibly insightful notes and lessons. 

I spent much of 2018 and 2019 deployed in the Middle East working with some incredible leaders engaged in the fight against ISIS and terrorism.  As I paged through my deployment notebooks this morning, I was reminded how much thinking we did on risk and resources and the tough decisions that came along with these challenges.

Some lessons I learned and re-learned during this past year:

  • Even in combat, there are restrictions on resources.
  • As leaders regardless of our role(s), we must always be very deliberate and thoughtful on what priorities we are going to resource, and equally clear on what we are not going to resource, and why.
  • Resourcing and risk are inextricably linked.  Leaders must have a laser focus on understanding the various elements of risk and how, if at all, we may control that risk level to an acceptable level. 
  • Be as clear as possible on the type and level of risk you are dealing with; risks to strategy, risks to our forces, risks to our mission, risk of inaction, etc.
  • Oftentimes there are disconnects between strategy and the essential resources that underpin them – which drives risk levels.  Seek to identify those disconnects and work to align resources but be mindful that we as leaders may not control all the dynamics at play.

Making smart, informed, and sound resourcing decisions in a risky environment is hard and gritty work.  Sometimes people’s lives, national interests, or business interests are at stake but making these difficult decisions a fundamental component of what leaders get paid to do. 

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©: Planning for, and handling, Contingencies

Premeditatio malorum – The Pre-Meditation of Evils.  A Stoic approach to planning for contingencies.

“No plan survives first contact with the enemy… or Murphy”.

Combat, business, and most certainty life never seem to go the way we want them too.  When things turn for the worse the question is two-fold; how we are going to handle the situation, and what did we do in advance to prepare for it. 

What the American Fighter Pilot and Special Operations Forces do better than anyone else in the world is plan for, and handle contingencies.  Oftentimes multiple contingencies at the same time.

Tragically these lessons have been paid for oftentimes with the blood of our Brothers and Sisters.  A famous example of this was Operation Eagle Claw, the 1979 attempt by the United States to rescue our hostages held in Iran (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Eagle_Claw).

What you do in your planning efforts and how you think about, anticipate, and train for contingencies regardless of what you do in life will go a long way to ensure that Murphy does not ruin your day.

Daily ask yourself and your teams, “What specifically are we doing about the contingencies and how will we be ready for X?”.

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.