Wait, did I just accuse you of being afraid? After all, we are leaders who face grave danger in training and combat aren’t we? If it is not fear, then how do we explain why our people are not being counseled? Some might see it differently, but I argue that too many of us have either never experienced counseling or been counseled only a few times in our careers. In a career spanning 27 years, I could count on one hand the number of times I was counseled effectively, meaning my boss invested time working with me to identify the obstacles standing in the way of my growth and advancement.
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.
This weekend I was happy to discover that I had received my copy of What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn). Seth Godin has an understated, grassroots following in the marketing and social media world because he can convey keen insight in concise doses.
What’s impressive, too, is Seth’s understanding of the human psyche as it relates to interacting with the congested world of today. He sorts through the noise to deliver both the motivation and the reality needed for success. Here are a few Godin quotes worth writing down:
“If failure is not an option, then neither is success.”
“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.”
“If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position.”
“If you’re brilliant and undiscovered and underappreciated
then you’re being too generous about your definition of brilliant.”
“I can tell you this: Leaders have nothing in common.”
And in his new book, this passage hit home with me…
For the last year, friends and colleagues have recommended that I listen to Dan Carlin’s podcast, Hardcore History. People from separate circles and professions brought it up as a “must-listen-to.” I even subscribed a few months ago but never got around to beginning any of the multi-hour episodes.
I finally succumbed to the pressure last week and skeptically began the five-part series, The Wrath of the Khans…and I’ve listened to nothing else since. I admit it…I’ve officially converted and am now a staunch, overt, unapologetic Dan Carlin fan.
Bringing History to Life
I’ll concede that I often forget how important history is to personal and professional development. Sometimes I focus too much of my reading on topics that break new ground or dive into lofty concepts. I’m interested in history, but I get pulled away from it. History, however, is the never-ending repository of real-life lessons that we should repeatedly visit.
Dan Carlin brings those lessons into vivid clarity through detailed retelling, thorough research, and heartfelt enthusiasm. He’ll admit that he’s not an historian, but instead coalesces the prominent historical writing and assess its validity and logic. He explores the details that typically get left out and in doing so, transports history into the present day perspective.
Whether you’re studying history or just looking to get lost in a story, Hardcore History is a fantastic option. And if my word isn’t good enough, Hardcore History is the #1 ranked History podcast and the #6 podcast across all categories in iTunes.
Dan Carlin has over 56 podcast episodes to choose from, with 14 of them free on iTunes and his website. The two big series are Wrath of the Khans, a year by year account of the conquest of Genghis Khan and the generations that followed him…and Blueprint for Armageddon, a retelling of the colossal tragedy that was World War I. He also has series for sale that cover the fall of the Roman republic, the Punic Wars, the German-Russian fight in World War II, and many others.
I recommend starting with Wrath of the Khans. It’ll grab you right away and give you a good sense of what Dan Carlin brings to history.
Recently, a West Point Cadet asked me what I, as a Troop Commander, expected from a Platoon Leader. I provided four traits that I believe define successful lieutenants: unquestionable integrity, an aggressively proactive attitude, a willingness to engage in open and candid communication, and a commitment to self-study.
I want to highlight the second trait, maintaining a proactive mindset, which in my mind separates mediocre and outstanding junior leaders. Being proactive, especially in the face of potential obstacles and failure, is a key determinant of one’s level of success.
Lieutenants share four common situations that can lead to failure:
- You don’t know how to accomplish a given task.
- You know how to accomplish a given task, but (you think that) you can’t.
- You know how to accomplish a given task, but choose not to.
- You know how to accomplish a given task, but make mistakes or errors that cause you to fail.
For each cause of failure, there is a proactive response that leads to success. Let’s explore each of the reasons for failure and corresponding reactive and proactive responses.