As the saying goes, when everything is a priority, nothing is. In a system that heaps requirements and tasks on subordinate units, leaders routinely struggle to reach 100% compliance. Though some try, leaders cannot do it all themselves. They must prioritize tasks and delegate work to subordinates. But what tasks are appropriate to delegate? Which ball drops when there are conflicting priorities? It would be helpful to have a framework to sort it all out.
I am a firm believer in the value of professional reading as a critical part of professional and personal development. Early in my career, I began maintaining a list of titles that leaders and peers recommended, a list that expanded considerably during my time in CGSC and SAMS. But I was seldom able to whittle it down, let alone think critically about what I was reading. Professional responsibilities, family obligations, TDY travel, and deployments continued to pile on and, probably just like you, professional reading was the victim.
Know this…the demands of being a leader put you on a path to break someone’s heart. Meetings and phone calls, requirements and taskings, emails and paperwork. They serve as culturally-legitimized distractions that can divert leaders from seeing and doing the right thing. And if you don’t sort through the sea of busywork to identify the glass balls, soldiers and families can get hurt. It took an ugly failure to teach me that lesson.
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.
Perhaps more than any other professional culture, the military demands that Soldiers perform their duties with a particularly high level of decorum and professionalism. This is manifested in our hierarchical rank structure and our daily interactions with superiors, peers, and subordinates. While the rise of digital technology has the potential to make these relationships stronger and improve the overall performance of individuals and organizations, it also has the potential to significantly damage one’s image.
There are two types of people who will really like this post. First is the content producers (bloggers, website managers, writers), because I’m going to lay out some really geeky blog stuff. The other people who will enjoy this are those who want to peek behind the curtain of The Military Leader blog. This post is an inside look at everything that I invest and every step that I take to make The Military Leader what it is today. If you’re not a content producer, don’t worry. I’m going to give you a few takeaways right up front. Here we go!
In a post from earlier this year, I shared some of the guidance I issued during my company command time nearly ten years ago. In How Do You Spot a Leader?, I suggested the notion that leaders naturally move faster than everyone else.
If you are a leader and you find yourself moving slowly throughout the day, you are probably not doing enough to help out the team. Most of the time, leaders dart from one event to the next, or are focusing to create a new product/presentation that will help the team. They are always looking to identify problems in the organization and tackle them quickly, so that the organization can become better or more effective.
Leaders create and disseminate energy throughout the organization to keep it moving in the right direction and responding appropriately to the environment. There is an inherent risk, however, for naturally driven leaders who move quickly towards success. Today, I want to talk about this risk.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.
One week spent in a military unit will show you that efficiency isn’t its shining characteristic. Not only does information bombard the unit from multiple levels of the chain of command, but within the organization there are hundreds of conversations taking place to prepare for, synchronize, and execute the myriad of events on the calendar. (And I’m sure the same is true for the business world.)
These conversations happen over thousands of emails, in meetings, face to face, and on the phone. And if your experience is like mine, almost everything goes out over email.
But what if there was a way to customize your conversations based on your team’s requirements instead of relying on the single “channel” that is the email inbox? What if you could have your conversations in the right place, instead of all over the place?