Guest Post: Darren Turner

Loyalty For Dummies

Some time ago, I began a thought about how loyalty is the most important factor in the success of an organization. Due to the twin influences of time and – frankly – laziness, that thought died a slow death and was buried. Well, I made a promise, and a promise is a promise.

The aforementioned promise, how to create loyalty, is a very complex subject and entire courses have been dedicated to teaching people how to lead others and engender loyalty. This is not one of those courses. I do not have the talent, time, tools or temperament to teach everything there is to know about how to get people to commit their loyalty to you. What I can do is talk about what I know. In the end, I think that is all we can really do anyways – speak to what we know, based on our experiences.

In my experience, loyalty is something that is the result of a consistent pattern of behavior – something that allows people to be able to rely on you and have faith in your decision making and future decisions. There are three actions that, in my experience, allow people to give you their loyalty.

  1. Do not lie. The act of lying tells someone that they, because of your nature, cannot trust you. Little lies make people question “if he/she lies about something small, can I trust them with big things?” Large lies make people think “If he/she is willing to lie about something this big, they must lie about small things without compunction.” With that said, you are allowed to be wrong. Being wrong is inevitable when making decisions, especially when you do not have complete information. You are allowed to not know. Nobody has all the answers, and if you are forthright with saying “I don’t know”, it will garner you more respect than pretending to know only to be proven wrong later. Finally, do not punish others for the act of being honest (separate the honesty from the act) – by punishing honesty, you only encourage dishonesty. If you practice honesty and allow others the chance to be honest (even allowing them to correct lies, depending on the situation) then it creates an atmosphere where people are unafraid to tell the truth, even if it is unflattering.
  2. Allow people to make mistakes. When people attempt things that are new, unfamiliar, or uncommon, mistakes will be made. If you want people to be loyal and productive, you have to understand this. Demand that they own and correct their mistakes, yes – but do not punish them for making a mistake when they are performing a task or attempting to develop a skill that they are weak in or do not have. If you create an environment that disproportionately punishes mistakes, you will create an environment where people will only perform tasks that they are comfortable with and you will not see innovation, growth, risk-taking, or professional development. By allowing people to make mistakes (and admitting when you make one), it allows people the freedom to try to improve in ways that may seem unconventional or irregular and it gives them the freedom to attempt new approaches to old problems.
  3. Treat people with the respect you would demand for yourself. I saved this for last because I want you to leave with this point. Treat those around you – not just your employees – with the respect you would want others to treat you with. This doesn’t mean that you coddle people or that you are nice to them. It means that you respect them within the bounds of the relationship enough to treat them as you want to be treated by them. If you are a supervisor, you treat your employees as you want to be treated by someone supervising you. If you are being supervised, you obey orders and accept feedback as you want someone to obey your orders and accept your feedback. By treating everyone with respect and demanding others in your organization do it you establish a network of mutually professional relationships.

Overall, these three things will not assure that you can foster loyalty within your ranks, but they can create a stable foundation for you to apply your own leadership style and learn what methods work best for you.

  • Originally published on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/loyalty-dummies-darren-turner
  • Darren is a dedicated public servant with over 10 years of experience in leading Air Force officers and staff in Aerospace and Leadership Education with a focus in training and leading entry / mid-level personnel, curriculum design and implementation, and human resource management. 

Find your mentor

$6C5C365EB06A03D5When I talk to managers I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders I get the feeling that I am important. – Alexander Den Heijer

Where would any of us be without our mentors? The most famous and successful people in the world have individuals standing behind them who propped them up on their shoulders and said, “You can do it” while pointing the way.

I had an enlightening experience yesterday while speaking with one of my mentors. The type of mentor that I look for display attributes that align with my self- leadership/servant-leadership philosophy. That person is typically experienced in my field, empathetic, and willing to invest time in me; they see potential where other see limits.

Get away from these two types of people: the ones who think you can only go as far as the situation you were born into; and the ones who think you can only go as far as the current situation you are in. – Dee Dee M. Scott

I’ve had excellent mentors in the past. During my time as a military officer, I spent a lot of time ‘picking the brains’ of my commanders. It was not always a fruitful endeavor, but when I encountered a strong and willing mentor, I was hooked.

Through others we become ourselves. – Lev Vygotsky

Development of self, of the leader within, has been a passionate pursuit of mine since I was introduced to leadership theory in college. Recognizing, through reflection and feedback, the potential within us and the character traits we need to enhance is an essential aspect of self-leadership.

Seeking the advice of others is a step that many people neglect. Perhaps we are afraid of being rejected, maybe we are shy, or perhaps we don’t really know what we are looking for in a mentor. Whatever the reason, mentors provide that nudge we need, the guidance to become more.

I think it is important to have people in your life who will take an interest in you and your career and help guide you.former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

I’m grateful every day for those few people who have taken the time and invested the effort into mentoring me. I would not be the person, the leader that I am without their example and support. Becoming a mentor to others, either formally or informally, is a constant source of motivation for me.

©2015 Perficitis Consulting Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Why you need a leadership development program.

Leadership Development Training

 

I’ve been asked more than once why we chose this niche market for our consulting company.

Leadership training is one of our core competencies at Perficitis Consulting Group. As Dr. Vadell and I work on our book, developing our unique theory of leadership, we have been inspired to re-define the way that leadership training should be accomplished.

The first question is often tied to ROI for companies large and small: why pay for leadership development?

Starbucks is not an advertiser, people think we are a great marketing company but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising. – Howard Shultz, CEO, Starbucks

The answer seems obvious from our perspective: leaders make things better. They are motivated, have skills to influence change, and are strategic thinkers; leaders drive an organization to success. With the growing popularity of programs like six sigma, LEAN, PMP, etc. there is recognition of the need for training in the “project management” sphere.

Without denying the value that those programs provide an organization, one of the components they have in common is the “leadership” component of the trainings. Whether it is called “stakeholder influence,” “customer expectation management,” or any of the other various euphemisms for leading people, the “soft skills” involved in leadership are invaluable tools if you, as Starbucks and other leading companies, acknowledge that people are your greatest asset.

The ability to lead people, to influence them toward your strategic goals, is a skillset that is not easy to quantify in terms of ROI, whereas trainings that include a nod to leadership, but focus on project management/improvement typically have a lot of relevant literature and hard figures to justify their value.

Imagine you have a business unit:

  • Full of individuals who went through leadership training. They are intrinsically motivated and working to vertically align the company’s vision all the way from the C-Suite to where the rubber hits the road, or
  • A select few individuals with project management-focused training working with willing, but untrained employees to make specific improvements in the department.

Qualitatively speaking, the business unit that has received leadership training will be more likely to develop into a high performing team, working in solidarity, whereas the other will continue on in similar fashion, but will likely save some money along the way.

Food for thought; feel free to check out our offerings here.

You aren’t in the military anymore.

General George S. Patton, Jr.For any transitioning veteran, this is a phrase you have more than likely heard in your new civilian role. There are times when a ‘military-style’ approach is not called for, though it may be ingrained in your leadership style. By ‘military-style,’ I mean a command and control-centric, authoritarian style of leadership that requires compliance and swift action that is directed, rather than arrived at through consensus.

I’m not a military apologist; far from it. I have studied leadership for the last 14 years and found that there are times and places for the leadership styles most commonly taught and exercised in the military (or the perceptions that people may have of military leadership and decision making styles)…

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” – Patton

In the corporate environment, those opportunities are few and far between. That being said, there is a reason that many officers and enlisted soldiers, sailors, and airmen leave the service and take jobs in the corporate world. Chances are, they have prepared, done the research, studied and graduated with degrees in appropriate fields, and are the first to adopt the company’s modus operandi when it comes to corporate culture.

A colleague recently related a scenario that happened in his workplace that involved an ongoing change initiative they had been spearheading. The executive leadership had critiqued his performance in a perfunctory fashion by admonishing him that, “you aren’t in the military anymore, you can’t just tell people what to do.” Naturally, he was hurt. This individual is a high-performer. He’d chosen to separate from the service voluntarily to pursue a civilian career and had embraced the differences in the cultures willingly. After speaking to him to get a better sense of the situation, I had to agree that the criticism was unwarranted; my friend had followed the process outlined by the company for the change effort, held the appropriate meetings, and not made any decisions without molding consensus (please understand that this is not always the case; stereotypes do exist for a reason).

That single off-the-cuff remark is a disheartening and demoralizing judgment call on the part of a person we (separated/transitioning veterans) should be able to look up to for advice and leadership.

Many times, those quick words are a simple reaction; one that the leader does not realize will have a tangible negative effect on the veteran. That executive leader has many concerns; this one project is not on the top of her priority list, so she renders a snap judgment (never a good idea) and harms the veteran’s self-efficacy beliefs in the process.

Advice for the transitioning military or veteran already in the corporate world: don’t immediately fight the stereotype. Allowing yourself to react puts you on the defensive and that is never a good place to attack from. Take the time to understand the perception of your executive leader. What did s/he mean by the statement? What feedback had reached her/him that could have colored her/his perception of your leadership style? Have you been communicating appropriately (managing up)?

By working calmly and intentionally to change the perception of former military, you are helping yourself and the rest of your veteran brothers and sisters by easing an outdated stereotype.

Mentor the ambitious; don’t accept mediocrity

 

07.01.2012 - His Hand

There are strategies to deal with all kinds of employees: the ambitious, the unmotivated, the motivated, the over-sharer, the timid…the list goes on an on. In this scenario, you have two main types of employees, the ambitious and the lazy. For the sake of argument, let’s define ambitious as the type of employee who exerts him/herself every day, taking on extra responsibilities, but will keep an eye out for something better. We will define the lazy employee as the person who does the bare minimum required. S/he may not ever blip on the radar, but don’t expect anything of them.

Your life may be easier with the flies-beneath-the-radar employee, but is that the type of organization you want to have? Mediocrity is the standard in that scenario.

Your life may be complicated by the ambitious employee because s/he will ask you questions, expect mentoring, and push you to make decisions that will make your business better.

I would suggest that a major failing of our larger and more stagnant businesses is that they do not have systems in place to reward high achievers. In point of fact, it has been my experience that it is more likely to have ‘award and recognition’ programs than it is to have effective processes in place to either 1. encourage better performance or 2. discourage mediocre performance.

It is relatively easy to discourage poor performance in most companies. Perhaps based on the difficulty in identifying mediocre performers, perhaps based on the difficulty in time management (spending 90% of your time on 10% of your employees), but the mediocre seem to slip through the cracks.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Regarding those ambitious, high-performers: MENTOR them. Speak to them honestly about their desires. Find meaningful projects for them to accomplish. Don’t just heap responsibilities on them that others could (and likely should) be doing. These are the value-added individuals that will make your organization thrive.

It is up to you, Leader. Decide what kind of organization you would choose to build, then hire, mentor, promote, fire, punish, as appropriate.

 

Don’t neglect your studies

College student studying in ParkI recently read an article that addressed whether leadership can be learned though study. It was a disappointing article to someone writing a book on leadership and one that I regret has gotten quite a bit of alacrity for its author’s praise of practice over study. I would never presume to discount experience, life’s greatest teacher (quotes like this are often attributed to many people including Caesar, Cicero, and Pliny the Elder).

“We can teach from our experience, but we cannot teach experience.”  Sasha Azevedo

I would say, however, that discounting study in favor of practice is a short-sighted strategy. You won’t know if a person is a good leader simply by what books they’ve read. You will know them by their actions.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – 1611 King James Bible, Matthew 7:20

How are we then to continue to improve, without avid study? I would say that improvement through practice alone will yield a poor leadership harvest. Mentorship/modeling are valuable tools. Vygotsky’s theories on scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development and Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theories both show the value there. Consider this: what can a mentor teach but her own learning and experience?

“Is it what the teacher teaches or what the student learns?” -Vergere in “Star Wars, The New Jedi Order, Traitor”

As leadership practitioners, students, and teachers, it is incumbent on us to verify our understanding of the theories that we apply in practice. Only a mindful approach that incorporates robust leadership feedback mechanisms will guard against haphazard application of leadership principles that may easily occur in an organization.

One of the major benefits of study and practice is the intentionality of the act of leadership. We are able to develop as leaders by absorbing best practices through study and contemplation of acknowledged leaders and pioneers in the field and then applying those principles in the practice of our leadership activities. Developing a learning culture ensures that an organization (or a leadership team) will not stagnate, but will continue to thrive and grow.

Servants by example

charleyalchrismissyI met Charley on my first day of high school. Standing outside the door to our Spanish classroom, I was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and he was carrying a Star Wars book (or vise-versa, I really can’t remember anymore). It was nerdy-friendship at first sight. I met Al (Alexis, we all used to call her Al) at church youth group shortly thereafter. We three spent a lot of time together those four years at church events, high school classes, and after school shenanigans; you couldn’t have asked for better friends. Al and Charley got married shortly after Missy and I did back in 2004. They chose to donate a kidney each, first Charley, then Alexis. They are the only married couple in America to have done so.

To my mind, these two epitomize the “servant” portion of “Servant-Leadership” (for more on SL, visit https://greenleaf.org/). Christ led by serving: that is the foundation of the leadership model. While donating a kidney might not directly correlate to workplace activities, I can’t imagine that a comparison can’t be drawn from that selfless act to valuing employees.

Giving of yourself to an anonymous person who desperately needs your help might take the concept of Servant-Leadership to an extreme that many people are unwilling to consider, but I urge you to think on what you are willing to give of yourself to the people who look to you for guidance.

This from Alexis: “Australia has around 300 non-altruistic kidney donors a year and the US around 6,000. So based on populations there are about as many donors in both countries. And that’s not enough but numbers in both countries are on the rise as awareness and education spread. Australia doesn’t have kidney chains, just direct swaps, so Charles being able to explain how it works will hopefully open some doors too.”

Philippians 2: 3-4 (NIV): Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

True to their sense of self-deprecating humor, Alexis also adds this: “…now that we have done a few interviews I think our stage names of twitchy (I never know what to do with my hands or face) and zombie (Charles has the opposite problem) are solidified.”

Please take a moment to watch the video here: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/19565164/the-gift-of-giving/

Coping as a young leader

Business Baby Pointing

I’m sure many of you have experienced it; the feeling that you are being scrutinized and perhaps looked down upon based on your age. I’ve been leading outstanding individual contributors and have managed supervisors for most of my professional career and, more often than not, my subordinates and peers have been older than me.

I love working with experienced individuals. Experience teaches invaluable lessons about your function, your industry, and helps employees mature as people. I also like working with “newbies.” The potential that new employees bring to the table, coupled with their willingness to be molded and their initial optimism is a powerful combination. Working for older people is, by and large, normal. Most bosses are older than their employees. When you are a fast burner, however, you might encounter resistance where a more “experienced” person wouldn’t.

I’ve been fairly lucky, since separating from active duty military service, to supervise some excellent technicians, work with educated and considerate peers, and work for mature, understanding bosses. This has not always been the case.

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example…” -1 Timothy 4:12 (KJV)

When I encountered (what I considered) age-based discrimination, I was not shy about saying something about it. This was often received with surprise and disbelief and was often a mistake. The negative reaction by my peers and supervisors might be at least partially explained by the fact that “the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said federal law prohibiting age discrimination applies only to people age 40 and older” in a statement captured in this article. It is rare for anyone to consider a younger person to be considered in an age-related discriminatory situation.

Though not necessarily easy to capture in statistics, my personal experience has been that when a well-spoken, politically astute, educated younger manager appears on the scene in a workplace, there is a certain level of unease in the “older” and “more experienced” crowd. In more hierarchical organizations, my experience has been that the effect can be amplified.

That begs the question: What is a young, ambitious leader to do? I advocate an approach that emphasizes humility and competence. Getting upset or calling attention to unfairness can lead to the perception of a lack of self-confidence in the person making complaints….whereas…working hard, meeting goals, and treating everyone around you with respect, while holding yourself to high standards of personal and professional conduct allows you to be an example, as Paul points out in 1st Timothy; to earn the acceptance and respect that all people desire (see Maslow’s hierarchy).

photo by: the UMF

Leadership and open blast doors

IMG_8665I don’t usually comment on current events or politics or government; it is a little out of my education-leadership-development role. That being said, I see no reason not to explore some of the underlying psychological and leadership failings that lead to failures in military operations.

For those of you who may not have read about this yet, here is a link to the most recent article about missile crews failing to follow procedure: http://bit.ly/1dgwBdk. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that missile crews and their support entities fail to follow procedure. There is a long list of incidents that have led to various punishments over the years and, with the lack of carefully considered proactive or retroactive steps to curtail events such as these, there will be many events in the future to look out for.

Since I see this post evolving into a lengthy ordeal, I’m going to go ahead and take this piece-by-piece. I apologize for the article-length post. What you shouldn’t expect from me; what I hope not to promote, is a distrust of our military. Rather, I would that citizens and leaders took a moment to look at the institution in a critical light, rather than blindly waving flags and shouting “support our troops” at the top of their patriotic lungs. I consider myself a patriot. I have the Constitution hanging in my office, I’ve served in an overseas conflict, and I am exceedingly proud of my military service. I served under excellent and awful leaders (fodder for coming blog posts).

My first point: officers should not be automatons. I’ve heard many of my friends and read a lot of opinion pieces on the recent spate of procedural issues surrounding launch control center internal blast doors being left open by missile crews despite the fact that it is a violation of written procedure. It is a great discussion and worth having, but so often the comments fail to address underlying issues. I grow tired of hearing:

they should follow the rules

it is a failure of discipline

“I always closed/pumped the blast door

Rather than sanctimoniously declaiming, perhaps these individuals might critically consider what the underlying problems might be.

One would hope that critical thinking is one of the foundational skills our young officers are taught in their degree and commissioning programs. It seems reasonable to presume that an officer who was not able to think critically by the date of their commission would be drummed out of the service. Going forward, assuming that our officers have the ability to think critically, why were they disobeying a written instruction to close blast doors?

I’m not going to sit here and debate the ethics of obeying an order, however silly that order might be (this is not a blog on ethics). What I am going to do is ask you, the reader, to think for a moment about what you would do.

The blast door being opened or closed isn’t the issue. In fact, there isn’t simply one issue. The fact that the military expects its officers to operate as robots, to do as they are told, maintain 100% efficacy on tests and simulations, that they should run error-free operations or face punishment is tantamount to learned helplessness http://bit.ly/924udH and we owe more to our dedicated men and women in the field than that sort of psychological torture.

I’m not sure what is worse than some of the out-of-control punishments that have been meted out to the chain of command in situations like these. Operations group commanders have fired an entire chain of subordinates (ostensibly to correct failures in leadership that led to an issue). Entire squadrons, sometimes hundreds of individuals, forced to take a physical fitness test last minute. Officers and airmen have been forced to report to duty at 5AM, regardless of their work schedule, in full dress uniform to be screamed at by “leadership.” Career-killing Article 15s and Letters of Reprimand have been issued to officers for “violations” that are commonplace occurrences. This breeds a culture of fear, not one of acceptance and camaraderie.

Take a look at the satire that has been built up around missile operations. The blatant mockery alone should clue you in to the farcical nature of many of the rules and behaviors that have become routine and expected in that career field. Check out https://www.facebook.com/MissileerMemes if you want some amusing, but-all-too-true ideas about the morale at missile bases. Passive-aggressive complaints like these are memorialized in “unofficial crew logs” that are kept in the launch control centers and have a certain synchronicity with The Dilbert Index discussed in Freakonomics http://bit.ly/1iee2Ep.

When was the last time a third party L&D or OD professional took a serious look at the missile structure, training, morale issue? I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you from my own experience that no significant OD or LD changes have been made to the wing structure in the last 10 years. There have been upstream changes to the training side, changing a 69-day course to a 100-day course and the creation of Global Strike Command, which conglomerated nuclear operations under a single umbrella. There was even a push to “enhance” the career field by separating the space and missile operations career fields. Surprisingly, though, no real changes were made at the missile wings. Even the changes mentioned served to further isolate the individuals performing one of the most thankless officer jobs in the US military.

There are easy changes that can be made to mitigate situations like these. It is not too late to follow the training that the Air Force delivers from Air University in the various levels of Professional Military Education. Leadership decisions made at the lowest level, empowering leaders to make decisions affecting morale and welfare, offering counseling in lieu of punishment, ensuring that discipline given is rehabilitative, rather than punitive in nature, working to promote individuals who perform as leaders and operators, rather than relying on cronyism for promotion within the ranks.

In short, a critical eye at the LD/OD environment and a carefully considered and implemented change plan starting at the lowest levels, rather than high-handed, knee-jerk reactions, are required to move forward in the nuclear enterprise.

photo by: Clemens Vasters

Change is a constant: be flexible!

Keep Calm

In project management they are referred to as cross-cutting skills; skills that apply to a whole process. A successful business career often involves significant changes in location, position, and duties. The rapidity of those transitions can be staggering if you focus on the changes as discrete events, requiring painful effort each time. The skill to maintain your calm; to remain optimistic in the face of stressful change is a cross-cutting skill.

 

“Change *is* nature, Dad. The part that *we* can influence. And it starts when we decide” –Remy (Ratatouille)

For those lucky enough not to experience this paradigm and still lead a happy “successful” business life or those who are content with stagnant growth, you may stop reading here. For the rest of us, think about your life. All those decisions, the opportunities, the setbacks; rather than focusing on what you would or wouldn’t change, focus on the journey. You’ve done great to get where you are! Regret is poisonous and yet difficult to dismiss as there are often so many paths that could have been taken.

“Always in motion is the future” –Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back)

How do you embrace change? Have faith in yourself. Reflect on your priorities and decisions: make sure they are aligned. Look forward to opportunities with a positive mental attitude (thanks, Jack Welch). Take joy in the moment while living your life in the present (thanks, Yoda). Always keep in mind that there are things we can control and things we can’t, but we always have freedom of choice-how to respond in a given situation (thanks, Viktor Frankl).

photo by: thebarrowboy