Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader


Career Success

Daily Deliberation: 21 November 2018

I have found that at the most pivotal times in my career, there were two dominant paths laid in front of me. In hindsight, it is easy to see the correct path, but in the moment it is tough. One path had someone telling me that my talents would be used and my abilities developed further. The other path had someone telling me I had too much skill for that path and I needed to go a different direction. I have taken both many times in my career and both have led to immense happiness and enabled me to interact with and learn from amazing Airmen. Is one path better than the other?


Daily Deliberation: 20 November 2018

Ever sit in a meeting and wonder what was so complicated about why you’re there. There is a problem and we have the resources to fix it. Why are we not creating a plan? So often the problem is not the actual issue. The issue is our inability to take ownership of the problem. All of those people sitting around the table are trying to prove the problem was created by someone else and their resources will assist, but not do it all. Step up in these situations and take ownership. Even if no one else gives you credit, there is someone down the line waiting for a solution.

Daily Deliberation: 18 November 2018

Through different PMEs and on-base classes I have taken, a similar statement was made, “Even if you don’t learn much, at least you will meet some new people.” I saw plenty wrong with this advice. First, why go into something close-minded as if there is nothing I can learn? Secondly, why do we wait until a class to meet new people. Sure that is when we are exposed to others, but we are constantly interacting with other agencies every single day. Take advantage of these moments and learn about the other person and what they do. One day what you learned about that person or from them will work to your favor.

Daily Deliberation: 17 November 2018

I am a firm believer in doing the hard work of researching solutions for problems. I read books and articles in the area I am struggling with. I try to boil the problem down to one key thing I can solve and then think through many solutions. Notice, I haven’t done anything yet to actually solve a problem. Some never get past this stage out of fear that they may choose the wrong solution. If you put in the work, you will be able to make an educated decision. Make the choice and work your solution. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you now know one thing that doesn’t work…Go again 🙂

Daily Deliberation: 16 November 2018

To some level we are all seeking the approval of another. It is kind of like treating the symptoms of a disease and not the disease itself. If we focused on making an impact in the lives of those we care about, approval wouldn’t even be a thought in our minds.

Daily Deliberation: 15 November 2018

Ever since the dawn of creation, we have been trying to keep up with the Joneses. We see others excelling in ways we wish we could and get discouraged. What we don’t often realize is they were once beginners too. Instead of trying to BE these people, learn HOW they became who they are.

Daily Deliberation: 14 November 2018

In his book, Originals, Adam Grant makes a great case for this point. Those who make great things that the whole world enjoys and cherishes have a closet full of things that never took off. They have one success and 10,000 failures (like Edison) and we call them geniuses. We might not have the success we want right now, but if we persevere to the finish line, we will.

Daily Deliberation: 13 November 2018

We all have seen those who side step new challenges and stick to what is comfortable. Sometimes it is because they are afraid to fail and sometimes because they are just worn out mentally or physically. I find that I like to gravitate towards what I am good at for both of those reasons. I have even sabotaged myself when faced with a challenge so that I didn’t have to try something new that I might not be good at. However, if we are honest with ourselves, the best things in our lives are born out of times where we were most challenged.

Survive Sink or Swim Situations

“You’re a TSgt, you’re going to be the expeditor.” These are the first words the flight chief said to me as I climbed off of the plane on my first deployment in four years. This is not a big deal at home station where I would have had two other expeditors and 1/3 of the workload. Here was a huge sink or swim moment for me and I was determined to swim.

In 2009, the C-17 ramp in Al Udeid was the busiest cargo hub in the Middle East and only topped in ops tempo by Ramstein. Simply because of my rank, I was thrust into managing 3 times the workload as home station with a team of about 30. I never expedited before other than covering the truck so the “real” expeditor could grab some lunch and I was just managing his/her plan. I was on my own and had very little room for error. If I failed, planes would pile up, people would get burned out, and we would have to push aircraft away as our parking space was limited. If I failed, we all failed. No pressure.

After the initial shock, I realized I already knew most of what I needed to know to succeed. Over the years, the things I had picked up from watching others prepared me for this moment and all of the other sink or swim moments that followed. If you dig deep, you will see the same is true for you when you are thrust into the deep blue waters. Here are a few of my lessons you may have seen too:

The bent hose. Many first time leaders feel the need to succeed and lean on their technical skills and how they used to do the work they are supervising. This pushes them to micromanage the work. They get into the weeds on one task at a time and lose sight of the overall picture. In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, he talked about the challenges we face as a bent hose. Think about a kink in your garden hose. The water does not come out very well. You are faced with two options: turn the water pressure up trying to force more water through the bend to increase overall flow or work to remove the kink.

In this scenario the option is obvious, but not so much when it applies to work. We see a bottleneck at work and think the smartest thing to do is to throw resources at it. We pull people from other jobs and pile them up. There is no more room for these people and there is now work in other areas not being done which will cause tomorrow’s bottleneck. I have seen this play out many times as a technician and carried it with me as a new leader. If I focused on the kink in the hose, the rest would take care of itself.

Take care of the people today and they will get you tomorrow. So often, we are worried about clearing our to-do lists that we forget we have humans working for us. The work is always going to be there and even if we get it all done right now…more will appear. I was blessed to have someone with candor to call me out on this. While I was burning my gears trying to keep everything together, he suggested I cut back a few of the friday guys so they could get some extra time on the phone with their families. My first thought was to see if I had the choking powers that Darth Vader had; however, I thought back to those who took care of me over the years.

When we take the time to remember our team is filled with humans and not robots, making a small sacrifice of not getting one menial task done today paid dividends in the long run. When the team had some extra time to chat with their loved ones or whatever they did, they were in a much better mental state when they came back to work.

Leaders eat last. The person who trained me in my new role told me to never eat lunch until my team had the opportunity. I like to eat and thought he was crazy at first. Then he explained how if we take care of our needs first, we are satisfied and could “forget” our team has needs too. However, if our stomachs are rumbling, we are more motivated to get our teams fed.

This applies to all the needs of our team. If we are only concerned in getting the supplies or equipment we need first, we can easily overlook the needs of our team. When I was asked if I wanted something new at work, I would first walk around the building and see if someone else had a greater need or if it would help them more. Imagine how it would look if I was kicked back and comfy, while those doing the actual work were starving and under-equipped.

These are all things we have seen to some degree in our careers from supervisors we had and from peers. There are several more and if you take the time to look back on the lessons you learned, you will have everything you need to reach the surface and swim to solid ground.

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