In Performance-Based Mentoring for Busy Leaders, I revealed how I selectively divided my time to avoid becoming bogged down by Anchors – non-performing members who display no desire to contribute to the command’s mission. But being busy meant I also needed to divide my time based on paygrade. I did it by viewing my subordinates across these categories: Direct Reports, The Junior Officers, The Chief’s Mess, The First Class Mess, and the Base.
Early in my Navy squadron XO tour, I was distracted at dinner thinking about an upcoming non-judicial punishment case. When I explained to my wife the history of this continual troublemaker, she nearly cried. “I can’t believe this is what you spend so much time doing at work.” She had come to recognize the “10:90” rule – that 10 percent of your people will take up 90 percent of your time. It was then that I decided to adjust the ratio. I was going to take control of my limited mentoring time and focus on engaging in areas with the highest return on investment.
Have you ever had the Lieutenant Colonel who was the best squad leader in the battalion and made sure everyone knew it? Ever seen a team leader trying to lead a fire team from the rear during a live fire? Have you ever had majors worrying about whether soldiers should load ruck sacks or duffel bags into the belly of an aircraft?
The results aren’t always pretty. The organization suffers when leaders forget the level at which they’re supposed to lead. At each rank, officers and NCOs fit into the unit in different ways. Their expanding education and experience means that they should bring different talents to the organization. The unit depends on them for it.
This article is a framework for visualizing and describing the types of leaders a unit will typically see: Action Man, Planning Man, Concept Man, and Decision Man. No rank or role has greater value than the others, only different responsibilities and functions in the formation. If today’s military leader knows where he fits into the team and what role he plays, he’ll be a hero.
I bet that more than once a day, you let out a sigh of frustration at the absentminded staff activity that surrounds you…Your boss asks why you didn’t respond to his “urgent” email. THE NEW OPERATIONS NCO TYPES IN ALL CAPS (incredibly annoying). Someone prints 30 full-page copies of the 53-slide presentation because, “there are 30 people in the meeting, right?” And in that meeting, your unit’s update doesn’t make it to the slides, even though you sent them yesterday.
And those are just the ones you notice! There are probably dozens more inefficiencies, idiosyncrasies, and ineptitudes you aren’t even aware of that impair you and your staff’s productivity.
Having spent a few years in the Army staff machine, I offer these immediate adjustments to reclaim your sanity and reduce the needless, often well-intentioned but inefficient staff practices that keep you from getting more important work done.
What I love about leadership is that it is highly individualized. We may strive to display common-held principles for successful leadership…lead by example, mentor junior leaders, exhibit poise during stress. But the way we describe our leadership styles, the personality traits we employ, the perspectives we adopt, the anecdotes we use…they’re all different, shaped by unique experiences and beliefs. This individualization creates an endless reservoir of leadership insight from which to draw out of others and learn from.
This summer, a mentor of mine virtually introduced me to a successful Air Force Colonel living in the city I was traveling to. We linked up for a beer and not only did the conversation turn to leadership, but he delivered a dose of wisdom so fundamental that it instantly related to everything I do as a leader and revamped my approach to bringing out the best in organizations.
Earlier this week, I was perusing the recently released O6 promotion list and an analogy came to mind about our shrinking Army. I envisioned a WWI scene in which ranks of hopeful O5’s clambered out of the trenches only to be cut down by raking machine gun fire…the next wave of O5’s ready to take their place. A grizzly vision perhaps, but the decline in promotion numbers will continue as the Army draws down in the wake of fifteen years of war.
Since then, several thoughtful and humorous articles have been published describing the role of luck and timing in promotions. As I read these articles considering my own prospects and what I’ve done personally and professionally to prepare myself for promotion consideration, my thoughts kept returning to the role and value of mentorship, personally and professionally, exemplified in three former bosses.
We are all familiar with the warning that “power corrupts.” And if you’re like me, when you hear the phrase the first type of corrupted power you think of is greed. The ruthless Gordon Gekko from Wall Street comes to mind. If you shift the phrase to the military frame of reference, you might think of generals breaking joint ethics regulations on TDY travel and contracting, or perhaps the senior leader with the moral lapse.
The commonality among them is a feeling of invincibility that either distorts judgment or severs behavior from prudent thought. When power is involved, we are all at risk.
Today, I want to let you know about an exciting opportunity and ask for your help in preparing for it. On October 3rd, I’m honored to participate in a 4-person panel at the Association of the US Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting.
The topic is “digital learning in the Army today” and I’ll be flanked by three fellow writers: Nathan Finney of Strategy Bridge, Joe Byerly of From the Green Notebook, and military fiction writer Jessica Scott. During this panel, we will discuss the important role that digital media (online and social) is playing in the Army, as well as what it means for future learning.
In preparing for this panel, I would sincerely appreciate hearing what you have to say about digital learning in our Army. And by “digital learning” I mean developing yourself or your team through blogs, social media, online magazines, chat forums, etc. – not the official digital learning tools that the Army publishes.
Some framing questions would be:
Are you using online content to develop yourself or your team?
Do you use social media to complement your Army leadership?
Is digital media a credible forum to discuss professional topics?
I plan to (anonymously) cite your experience and examples as evidence of digital media’s impact on our profession. I am open to all input on the topic but have settled on two broad questions to start the discussion.
- In what ways are you using online content and social media to enhance your team’s professional development?
- How do you see digital learning affecting the Army profession in the years to come?
Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on digital learning in our Army. If you are interested in reading the latest official guidance regarding Army social media, click here. For the AUSA Annual Meeting site, click here.