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Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader

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Leadership

Daily Deliberation: 14 July 2018

I always used to laugh when people would say the smartest person in the room is the one who asks the most questions. I would instantly think of all the commander calls where the wing commander would be asked about why the eggs were “tepid” at the chow hall. I thought, “no, the one who asks the most questions is the most annoying one.” It is about those who ask questions that further the conversation and clarify something others may want to know. Ask questions that matter and be willing to look the fool.

 

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Daily Deliberation: 13 July 2018

We are horrible managers of our own time. Case and point, we have no problem staying up just five or ten minutes longer to do something seemingly useless like scroll our phones or watch a fidget spinner infomercial. Then we fight the alarm clock the next morning because we are too tired to wake up. And that is how we start our day. If we look at the other areas of our lives, we will find a similar pattern. A time waste here prevents something else there. Look for those lost minutes in your day and spend them on something that matters to you.

Daily Deliberation: 10 July 2018

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was from a martial arts instructor. This man was very talented, a proven champion, high-ranking and the owner of the school. However, he never referred to any of the students as “students.” We were fellow martial artists, workout partners, teammates, etc. He was clearly the leader of the school, but he viewed those on his team as equals; he just held the leadership role. It was such a powerful lesson in humility.

Daily Deliberation: 8 July 2018

“I can’t do that right now.” How many times a day do we say this to our team or to our families? It saddens me to think about all the times I put off time with my kids for something that doesn’t matter in the long run. “After I reorganize this sock drawer, I will play catch with you.” My sock drawer isn’t going anywhere, but my boy will eventually leave home. We do the same thing to those we work with. That mountain of emails will be there tomorrow and even if we clean out our tasker list, it will come back. Take the time to invest in your team first and then alphabetize your socks.

Daily Deliberation: 7 July 2018

When I took over my current role, I noticed my team was afraid to make mistakes. They would strive for compliance and rarely attempted to innovate anything. They were afraid of failing and the kick-back from leadership. It took me about 5 months to earn their trust and show them I would not fatten their PIF if they tried something and failed. Don’t be afraid to fail or to let your team fail when it comes to them trying to make things better for the next generation.

Daily Deliberation: 4 July 2018

Happy 242nd Birthday America!

Entitled Generation or Underserved Generation?

It amuses me when I hear leaders talk about the younger generation of Airmen and NCOs as entitled. Although, there is some truth to most younger generations being seen and acting as entitled; the Millennials really are viewed this way to the extreme that they are known as the ME Generation. The bad news: we created this entitlement mentality. The good news: we can fix it.

“…there is, as never before, an attitude on the part of young folk which is best described as grossly thoughtless, rude, and utterly selfish.” This sounds like something we have heard said in regards to new Airmen. However, this was written in a 1925 Hull Daily Mail article about our great-grandparents generation who became the “Greatest Generation.” Similar text can be found for all generations going back to Aristotle in the 4th century BC when he said, “They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.” There are hundreds of more sources you can find to further solidify the point this is not a new issue. All youth have been seen as entitled.

With that out of the way, why does this generation get pummeled even more? A 2014 Reason-Rupe Poll revealed 71% of American adults see millennials as selfish and 65% see them as entitled. My belief is this lopsided view is due to us being a part of the end of the industrial age where factory workers were replaceable cogs in a wheel who were expected to just do what they’re told. Now, we are part of the new Information Age where every laptop (or smartphone) with Internet connectivity can offer a worker an entire factory as Seth Godin says in his book Linchpin. Every industry’s status quo is being challenged by those like Amazon, UBER, Airbnb, and many more. The old models are proving less effective and this new generation knows it. They have great ideas and expect to be heard, but we are ignoring them.

Sure, there are suggestion boxes in every squadron and open door policies inviting innovation; however, we have all seen ideas squashed before they ever took root. As an Airman, I was told that I was not paid to think. A few ideas I had were completely ignored until a decade later when I became a SNCO. Same ideas were suddenly good. How does this create entitlement?

The old RHIP motto aids this mindset. The idea that Rank Has Its Privileges tells those coming up that their ideas are simply “cute” until they get real rank and that once they get that rank, they can live the life of privilege. In fact, I would be willing to argue that many supervisors feel entitled to get the perks that come with rank. I remember hearing someone asking a SNCO why he didn’t go and help an under-manned shop by doing the job of a SSgt or TSgt. His stated he wanted to, but if he did it would send the message that working to get promoted meant nothing because you’d still have to do the remedial work.

Another contributing factor to the “entitled” generation are helicopter parents. Many have complained about the participation medal concept and the helicopter parenting, but we have once again perpetuated this in our Air Force culture. We argue that most deserve more than a “promote” and still mark them to the far right offering our “participation medals” in the form of an EPR. In truth, most NCOs and Airmen want real-time feedback. This is our chance to reflect on what just happened and discuss the good and the bad of the situation. Most of us fail here. We either just say “good job” or we pass blame on their failure if we say anything at all.

“Helicopter parenting is not happening in my unit!” Really? Most NCOs are stating they want more responsibility and to get ownership of things that matter. However, SNCOs are notorious for clinging to the things that matter the most because we fear they will mess it all up and we we will have to do it over again. Sounds like a helicopter parent to me. This is the equivalent of telling my son to make his bed in the morning and then when he does it wrong, I just tell him he can’t handle it and I fix it for him. Rather, we need to offer the feedback of what is wrong and how to fix it.

Now, I am not going to blame everything on SNCOs, but wanted to offer a dose of reality. Especially, since most of us have experienced the same things as we were coming up and know we were not as prepared as we could be. It is up to us to kill this old model and challenge the status quo. It is up to us to offer meaningful feedback and opportunities to our teams so they can develop into the leaders we know they can become. It is up to us to right the wrongs of the past.

Are the youth of today of the entitled mindset? Bottom line: our teams are a reflection of us, so lead by example and project what you want modeled.

Sources:
1925 article and Aristotle quote: https://generationalinsights.com/entitled-generation-if-so-millennials-arent-the-first/

Reason-Rupe Poll: http://reason.com/assets/db/14084333327480.pdf

Linchpin by Seth Godin: https://amzn.to/2KvTfp5

Parenting: https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/this-is-why-millennials-are-entitled.html

Daily Deliberation: 1 July 2018

I wonder how many of my “goals” became wishes. As a young Airman I had big goals that were changed as I grew due to reality and shifting priorities. I am ok with not accomplishing these; however, some died because I was lazy. To reach our goals, we need to find a way to hold ourselves accountable to achieving them. When I have a friend or mentor checking in on my progress, I am motivated to not waste their time and to conquer this goal. What goal can you be working on today?

Daily Deliberation: 28 June 2018

I wish more people followed this advice. How many times has someone promised you something and then couldn’t deliver? How many times do you see people offering advice of pushing an opinion who is not battle-proven? There is a reason I don’t offer medical advice; I am not versed in that world. What are your strengths? Develop them and when you are one step further down the path than others, offer advice.

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