Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader


Developing Others

Daily Deliberation: 20 September 2018

This is something I am struggling with a lot lately. As I try to define who I am and what I want my future to look like, I am trying to discover what my “art” is. I know what I am good at and what I like to do, but what are others willing to pay me to do.


Daily Deliberation: 12 September 2018

I have worked for and with so many people who simply could not control their cool. Some of them were scary to be around in high-stress scenarios and others were actually fun to get spun up. I watched wrenches, clipboards, coffee mugs, and many other objects fly across the room or flightline and even a couple people who began to dry heave. All because of stress. Now, everyone else on the plane or team was experiencing the same stress factors, we just had a different response. When you are leading a team and things begin to crumble, it is normal to feel stressed. It is normal to want to throw something, swear or whatever. However, you can’t let your team see this, because they are looking to you to be their rock. I bet the guy in the picture is stressed out; however, he knows he has to remain calm for his team.

5 Leadership Lessons Learned from a Pencil

Too often we allow what others are doing or what they think we should be doing to control our lives. This was evident throughout my career and especially as I was being “groomed” for Senior and Chief. Sometimes this was to develop me and sometimes it was to further their own career. The hard part was always discerning the two.

When I was TSgt and had my first real leadership role in the service, I had learned that many leaders have their own agendas and are just trying to control what is in their sphere. I saw some were very nearsighted and did whatever it took to clear their to-do lists. I saw these same temptations within myself when the pressure was turned up and I made the conscious choice to never become “that” guy.

I just came across the following story/parable/whatever it is classified as and it took me back to the period in my life when I had this revelation:

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box. 

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “Before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget and you will become the best pencil you can be.” 

One : “You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.” 

Two : “You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.” 

Three : “You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.” 

Four : “The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.” 

And Five : “On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.” 

How this advice could be applied:

One: You can’t do anything worthwhile by yourself. We have to be willing to ask for help, allow others to provide input, be willing to follow those on our team if they can move the ball better than us. We need others.

Two: The pencil that never needs to be sharpened is not making a mark. We will fail and we will lose sleep as we are pushing ourselves past our limits. We will become dull and feel overwhelmed. But it is only for a season. You will get through it and better on the backend.

Three: One of my first lessons as a maintainer was, “Don’t be afraid of the plane. If you break it, it can be fixed.” We will make bad decisions and we will let our team down. If we are willing to try and willing to admit our mistakes, they will forgive.

Four: Be yourself. I am most proud that I was able to do my career as me. I didn’t sacrifice who I was for anyone or anything.

Five: What is your legacy? Are you going to be remembered as the person who got everything completed or the person who invested in others. What will be your mark on your team and those who follow after?

Daily Deliberation: 28 August 2018

Whenever I take the time to share something I value with my team it seems to grow exponentially. Sometimes it is a factoid I discovered by accident in some obscure Air Force pub that helps to solve a problem at a later date. I know this has happened to me many times. I was talking to someone and they shared a seemingly random piece of information with me and within just a few days, I was able to use that information. I am not sure what the lesson is, but this quote made me think about it.

Daily Deliberation: 18 August 2018

I just read in a Harvard Business Review article about the power of appreciation. The author said that those who don’t feel appreciated at work have a 30% higher rate of coronary disease than those who do. We are literally killing our teammates by not appreciating their efforts or listening to their concerns. Now, think about all the times you felt valued at work and how much harder you worked for that team. Why not create the same environment where you work?

SNCOs Don’t ‘Need’ Feedback

I am currently working on a book about feedback and here is an excerpt from the rough draft:

Problem: SNCOs Shouldn’t Have to be Told How to do Their Jobs:

Not too long ago, I asked a friend how his new job was going. “I think I am doing well.” He noted with a questioning tone. After further discussion, there were no real expectations or direction laid out for him. This is a typical problem SNCOs have. Most of the time, there are no clear black and white guidelines for what our responsibilities are. This can be a real problem. We have all seen the new Flight Chief who is clearly feeling his new role out until something happens. There is a sudden trend in late training or a missed deadline. Now, he is off and running with a purpose. Basically, the team just gave him the direction he was seeking. When he started that role, it is doubtful he was given a clear path from his boss; however, now, he has something he can fix.

I have asked about situations like this as I saw them in motion. Peers of mine would tell me, “she is a MSgt, do I really need to tell her how to do her job?” I would always respond with, “No. You don’t have to tell her ‘how’ to do her job, but wouldn’t it be nice for her to know how her job aligns with your bigger picture?” We confuse the two quite often. Feedback solves this when we express the intent.

Solution: Deliver Intent

Correct. We do not need to tell SNCOs ‘how’ to manage their teams; however, we need to give them what our intent is.The Army has long used the ideal of “commander’s intent.” This is when the endstate is communicated and the team determines how to accomplish the mission. For example, if the goal is to gain an overwatch position on a building, it could play out like the scenario below. I know most Airmen are not taking buildings, but this was the best way I have ever heard this concept explained:

Option 1) Order was given to take building 7 and set up an overwatch on building 10. The team goes to take building 7 and realizes the vantage point is great, but it will be harder to defend. However, they were told to take building 7 and they expend extra effort and resources to make that happen.

Option 2) Commander’s intent was given to provide overwatch on building 10. Looking at the map, building 7 could be a good option. When the team arrives, they see the problem above and realize building 8 offers the same view and easier to defend. They take building 8 and communicate thier position.

Most of us only offer feedback similar to option 1 if we even do that. We typically are told or tell our teams, “here is your team” and nothing else. Then when our teams are not performing, we offer the option 1 micromanagement feedback.

Once I understood this, I would ask each new boss these three questions:

1) Is there something specific you want developed within my team? This would give me their intent. Sometimes, there was nothing special and that is ok.

2) What decisions do you want me to call you about? This question defined the lanes I was allowed to operate within. I would discuss with them what decisions I was comfortable making on my own and which I still wanted advice on before making the final call. This is also where some leaders delegate authority down when they are able.

3) What issues do I call you in the middle of the night about? This is important to clarify because every boss I have ever had, has had a slightly different list. If I missed a call because I was going off of my gut, it could really set them up for failure and as we all know ‘it’ rolls downhill fast.

In my opinion, these are the only three things that need to be discussed for a SNCO. After that, it is just getting to know each other a bit better. If you start going over the AF Benefits Fact Sheet with me, you will be wasting each other’s time.

Is this on track for a book you would want to read?

Daily Deliberation: 12 August 2018

Over the years, I continually hear great leaders compare being a leader at work to parenthood. We love our children and want them to succeed. We don’t alienate them or label them as losers when they mess up. They always know they have a place on the team even if they mess up. However, we also are willing to correct them and offer growth feedback because we want them to succeed, not because we want a “world’s best parent” coffee mug. We care more about their success than about being a friend. How is this any different than being a leader?

Daily Deliberation: 2 August 2018

It makes me laugh when I hear supervisors talking about the quality of these younger or new teammates. Well, there quality is a direct reflection of your leadership. You were not a peach either when you started out…develop your team.

Read more about this topic here: The Entitled Generation

Daily Deliberation: 29 July 2018

Have you ever thought you weren’t good enough to do something? When you thought that, it probably crippled you with fear to try something new. I know I feel that way all the time, especially with trying to start a media company. “Who am I to think others want to read my posts or listen to my podcast?” Instead we need to stop worrying about all the people who might not like it; rather, worry about adding value to the one who will learn from us. If we can help just one other person get a little further along in life, I think that is pretty amazing.

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