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Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader

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Developing Others

Daily Deliberation: 23 June 2017

The greatest success in our lives is when those around us succeed. Investing in myself has been extremely beneficial in many areas of my life for many different reasons. However, investing what I have learned into others, has always been the most rewarding to me. Nothing beats seeing one of our teammates achieving a hard-fought goal knowing we helped.

Daily Deliberation: 17 June 2017

I have noticed this throughout my career. Once I learn my job, I grow to complacency as I go through the motions of my day. I build controls into my day to prevent me from getting too comfortable. To do this, we could take on a challenge we know will push us harder. We can ask someone on the team to hold us accountable by looking over our work. Take a look at your daily routine and see if there are ways to stretch your abilities. If you don’t seek ways to progress, those on your team won’t either.

Daily Deliberation: 15 June 2017

Service Before Self. We are taught that this core value is about sacrificing our wants for the betterment of the mission. In reality, service is about enriching the lives of others by helping them achieve their goals. I serve my subordinates and peers by offering what I have learned and seeking ways to enrich their lives. I serve my superiors by making sure I take of what they entrusted me with. I serve my nation by pouring my heart into making my team the best they can be so they can impact those in their sphere too. Service is about what we give up, it is about what we offer up. (Here is a longer post about this: Service Before Self)

Daily Deliberation: 2 June 2017


The hardest thing to do sometimes is realize that we are not equipped to help everyone. Sometimes our personalities clash, sometimes we have mutual histories that are difficult to overcome. It is in these moments that we need to find someone else who can add value to them and mentor them. We should never write anyone off; rather, seek others they can connect with.

Daily Deliberation: 30 May 2017

I have been fascinated with this ripple notion ever since I heard Bruce Lee talk about dropping a stone in the water. The visual is one that enables to see how our actions impact others. If we are too aggressive, we create waves that can destroy another. However, when we are deliberate in how we impact others, the ripple can gently nudge another to grow. Eventually, our ripple will inspire another to drop their stone in the water. Will their stone be aggressive or growth-minded based on our impact?

Is Rank a Requirement to Lead?

I have had this debate 100’s of times throughout my career. ‘We should put the highest ranking person in that position and let them succeed or fail on their own.’ This is the best argument I have heard and think it has merit, but I still disagree. I have always felt the best person should be doing the job, not necessarily the highest ranking.

There is some bias to this article as I have been in leadership positions for most of my career and there were those on my team who were older and outranked me. However, we always made it work…every time. In fact, until making SMSgt I was never the ranking person on a single team I led. This taught me that I needed to listen to everyone on my team and that rank was not a measure of leadership ability.

It still amazes me that we decide that someone’s opinion or talents do not matter until they become a Chief. There is a very active Facebook group out there seeking the opinion of Chiefs. Most of the info given is not real mentoring; rather, interpretation of AFIs. In fact, it is hard believe that there have only been three Chief in my almost 19-year career who have stood out to me in a meaningful way. However, I can name 100’s of NCOs and Amn who have made real impacts on the mission and those around them.

It scares me knowing we have some of the smartest and most innovative thinkers ever entering our ranks and just because they are E-2’s we write them off. What is even funnier is that agendas I was pushing as an E-6 are all of a sudden great ideas now. If people would have pulled their heads from their glutes 10 years ago, we could already be on the version 2.0 or even  5.0 of my original ideas.

I know I am almost never the smartest person in the room. I just wish we all could listen to the inputs of everyone and not look at their sleeves first. If we continue down this path, these smart Airmen are going to continue evacuating the ranks and find the company who will listen. We are placed in leadership positions to take care of our people, not to have them worship our statues.

I have always believed leadership comes down to the people and the task. It is our job to take care of and grow the people on our team so they can accomplish the mission even better than those who came before. If we are not setting them up for success, we need to step down and let the next person have a turn.

Daily Deliberation: 6 May 2017

When I see this I first wonder if those who worked with Einstein would agree. Then I think about whether or not I am treating everyone in the same way. More importantly, how am I treating others? Am I adding value to their lives or subtracting it?

Importance of SNCOs Mentoring Officers

“Why are you putting this LT with me?” is a question I have heard in various forms from fellow SNCOs. To be honest, I have asked this question before too. It took some time at the SNCOA to truly appreciate the importance of my time with officers.

We have all read in the little brown book (AFI 36-2618) and have seen the excerpt about working with and developing officers by sharing our knowledge and experience. However, what does this really mean? I used to think it meant we were to be “advisers” for job related questions and to offer insight into the complex inner workings of the enlisted mind. This somewhat confused me, because I always thought the best way to get the most relevant job-related info or to get a true pulse for the Airmen was to talk to the SSgts and TSgts. But the little brown book doesn’t mention officer development until the SNCO tier (par 5.1.8.). Why?

While at the SNCOA it finally clicked. The entire class of SNCOs gets bused to the officer’s first PME known as SOS. This is a school filled with captains from all over the AF. Every SNCOA class goes there to discuss whatever topics they choose. We were tasked with enlisted development and broken up into small groups. I learned from them that they do not receive much education or training in this area at all from their superiors. Most of what they learn is from their peers or us.

This quickly caused me to flashback to all those times I had a new LT shadowing me and I was more concerned with finding something shiny for him to go play with rather than taking the time to teach. If you think about it, young CGOs are always paired with a SNCO. This is because they are thrust into positions where they have similar or even more authority than a SNCO, but without the experience.

Think about most MSgts you know. On average it took him or her at least 12 years to earn that stripe and even longer for SMSgts and Chiefs. That is 12 plus years of learning their trade, cultural norms, what it takes to be successful in the career field and they have had some trials and errors in how to lead those rising through the ranks. Now, imagine being brand new off of the street and trying to run a shop without any of that knowledge or experience. It would be a nightmare!

That is exactly what our young officers are thrust into and then those who can actually help them learn are focusing on how to ditch them. Rather, we need to be taking advantage of the opportunity being provided to us and set them up for success. They are the ones who will be creating the policies our teams will be bound by in the future.

Almost every time I speak with a senior officer, I ask them how I can be a better mentor to the CGOs in my organization. I have spoken to countless Colonels and even a couple of 1- and 2-star Generals on the topic. All have given the same advice: help them learn their trade and don’t make decisions in a bubble.

Help them learn their trade: Are they an intel, maintenance, personnel, finance, etc? Teach them how what the role of each person on the team is. Show them how the process works and show them how to find the pulse of the organization. Have them go to nightshift and do some dirty work for awhile so they can see what the Airmen are going through. What are the things you look for on a daily/weekly basis that determine how the team is functioning and morale is intact? Show them.

Don’t make decisions in a bubble: This is as simple as sharing the thought process you are using to solve a problem. Instead of doing all the leg-work and creating a plan in your head on your own, think out loud. We place a lot of thought into our decisions, but it appears to be voodoo to young officers when it seems like we make our choice, especially on tough decisions that require some navigation through the grey. There is a lot of value in sharing why we don’t jump on the obvious solution that would solve the problem, but impact those with boots on the ground and that is why you chose X instead of Z.

When we take the time to teach our officer corps the lessons we have learned, we are investing in the future of our teams.

Secret to Success: Train Up, Train Down

Here is a concept I adopted a long time ago: Train Up, Train Down. I really wish I could remember where the idea came from, although I am certain I simplified it into this phrase as a teen while training in martial arts. The concept is really quite simple in practice; you train to learn what those above you know and you pass down what you know to those below you.

In the martial arts world, wisdom and techniques have lived on for thousands of years utilizing this principle. There are very clear lines of delineation in terms of rank that make it easy to see who the higher ranking and more advanced practitioners are. You know what belt you are and the belt you want to be and then you learn what is required to attain the belt and train until you know it. Then you take what you have been taught to get your current belt and teach it to those behind you. Very simple and effective construct.

This works in most areas of life still today. The difference is that is not always clear who is ahead or behind. Sure, there is the boss and those in command at the top but they are not necessarily the functional experts in the area you are trying to grow. The boss should be the expert at helping the team work together towards a goal. He or she does not need to know how to do your job to make this happen; they just need to know how to set you up to succeed.

So then, how do you find the person above you? The student-teacher relationship is not defined in the real world. Once we are effective in our jobs, we rarely have a trainer take us through tasks. It is now up to us to do this. If you want to be better at something, it is up to you to grow in that area. We have to accept responsibility for our own paths and take the initiative to become better in our craft.

The way we do this is taking an honest assessment of our own abilities. Then we need to look at those who are more successful than us in that area. For me, time management has been a constant revolving door. It is an area I have been striving to improve upon for many years now and I am always on the lookout for someone or some product that could aid me in this endeavor. When I see an opportunity to grow into a better time manager, I ask the person how they do certain tasks, I read reviews about the product, etc.

It is usually very easy for us to spot those doing something better than us. It is not always as easy to spot those who are trailing behind. However, when we take a step back we can see those in our organization who are making or are about to make the same mistake we have made at one point. Pull him aside and ask if you can offer a piece of advice. I find most of the time people are all ears especially when they are trying to dust themselves off after taking a tumble.

We get better by aspiring to be like those who are better than us in certain areas. We become better by humbling ourselves to learn and practice their teachings. We continue a legacy when we teach others the lessons we have learned. Train Up and Train Down.

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