Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader

Read More Books Starting Today

bookMy whole life I have valued the benefits of reading. Although, I am such a slow reader, I never really wanted to invest the time it took me to read a book. I would read maybe a book a year into adulthood and this is something I always “wanted” to overcome, but never placed any energy into it. Thankfully, I have finally kicked myself in the butt and stopped making excuses.

I have never met anyone who has stated they wish they read less or there is no value in reading. All of the complaints have always been the time constraint and how there is never enough time to enjoy a book or the other big one is finding a book that is “worth” the time commitment it takes to read. I can sympathize with both complaints and still hear those voices within my own mind. There are a couple of solutions.

The easiest solution to solving this is to take advantage of your current schedule. Maybe you have a 15 minute or longer commute each day. Audiobooks are a great way to consume books. You can get them for free at a library (they do still exist…so I am told) or download them onto your phone. I have recently learned that Amazon has an unlimited source for audiobooks and ebooks for a small monthly fee called KindleUnlimited and it looks very promising. Audiobooks also help to pass the time while going on a run. I would rather listen to a book than think about how much I hate running. A lot of people love audiobooks and just as many hate them. Regardless, they are worth looking into.

I still occasionally enjoy an audiobook, but I have recently taken a more studious approach to reading and prefer ebooks or hardcopy products. Finding time to sit down and read is not as easy, but you will be surprised when you really look at the time you have each day. For instance, I discovered I was reading a lot of news articles or random posts others shared on Facebook or some other source. It didn’t take long to realize a lot of the big news companies and info blogs were allowing anyone post stuff and if you really dig into the person or source they were clearly biased and many were peddling a product or service. When I replaced this time with an ebook break, I was able to get through several pages in the same amount of time and actually learn something interesting.

Another habit my family adopted is to instill healthy reading habits in our children. Every night, we spend 20-30 minutes reading on our own before bedtime. What started off as me trying to lead by example became something we all look forward to each night. This can work for you too. Pick a time out of the day you can control and make it a time to read. You will be amazed at how much ground you can cover dedicating a few moments each day.

The other complaint is about finding a good book. This is a little bit tougher, because we all have our own personal preferences. Some people prefer fiction over non-fiction and vice versa. Some like short stories, some like bios, some like novels and on and on and on. Walking into a book store like Barnes and Noble is somewhat daunting because there are too many choices and unless you know exactly what you want, it is tough. And if you know exactly what you want, the book is probably a lot cheaper on Amazon. So, what do you do?

What types of articles tend to grab your attention? Is there an author or website you gravitate towards? The reason why I am asking is because most websites or authors share books they like. For example here on Deliberate Development, I have listed several I enjoy. If someone who we like to hear from likes a certain book, the odds are we will too. If they don’t have a list posted, email them and ask. Then take their suggestion and preview a few pages at a bookstore or online to see if the tone and message are right for you.

The benefits of reading on our mind are the same as that of fitness on our body. When we do it often, we can really notice the results. Mark Twain is credited as saying, “Those who don’t read good books have no advantage over those who can’t read.”

Have a favorite book? Share it in the comments, in our Facebook group or email me directly and I will add it to our list.

What Should be on a TSgt’s EPR?

One of the most frequent questions I get as the senior enlisted leader in my unit is how an EPR should read. I love getting this question because it means people are looking out for their subordinate or doing their best to improve themselves. For this article I will go into how I think a TSgt EPR should read.

First of all, I don’t think most people ask this in order to game the system and fabricate bullets that do not exist. Rather, they are often trying to find the result from the task that would best set their teammate up for success.

Now, an EPR should not be written to meet the suspense. It should be written all year long and then tweaked to perfection to meet the suspense. If we wait to capture our accomplishments until then, it shows.

Most of what I say is based off of the Little Brown Book (AFI 36-2618, par 4.2.2.) but is often overlooked. Let’s face it, the brown book is a great resource for showing us what to expect as we progress. In the paragraph referenced, it says Technical Sergeants are often the technical experts who are growing as technicians, supervisors, and resource managers. So, we need to actualize this on their EPRs.

Technicians: Look for ways to showcase their expertise. Show how they solved a problem no one else could. Did they re-invent the wheel and remove wasteful steps from the guidance. Their impacts should not be basic and read as if they are simply doing what is expected.

Supervisors: Are they leading people? How many and to what extent? NCOIC of 10-person team who made 300 more widgets than all other teams on base, etc. Show effective leadership and then how are they taking care of their team. Are they submitting awards packages? Did 3 Airmen make BTZ under their watch? Leadership is more than just kicking down walls, it is taking care of the team. The board wants to see those who are ready to be SNCOs and taking care of the team is a great way to showcase this.

Resource Managers: TSgts are often program leaders or managing some side project in the unit. On our team, all of our members have additional duties and a program they manage. What I look for are those who are making the program better for the next person when the torch is passed. Are they improving the process and making the unit better? Anyone can ensure compliance and create a crappy tracker showing how we are “on-track”. However, it takes someone who really wants to own their program to streamline it for the next person.

I know this is not spelling out specific bullets, but the intent is to show how we should be mentoring our TSgts and how they should be looking at their EPR. When they paint themselves in the ways listed above, they will stand out among their peers to the board and to their commanders.

After Reading this, You Might Want to Unfollow Me

Over the past year, we have all seen a post on social media that starts off like this or with a “I am ready to clean up my friends list soon.” I see statements like this as pure buffoonery. Nothing more than the childhood version of ‘play my game or I am going home.’

I knew kids like this when I was 7. We had to play their game or they would go home. Even then, I thought this was the stupidest thing ever. “Well that sucks, because I am sure we could find something we all want to play.” I would advise them and then the other kids would discuss options. Usually the “un-friender” would end up joining the conversation and we would work out some compromise and play something we could all get behind. We found common ground.

It was a ridiculous tactic then and even more so now. We have somehow forgotten how to seek common ground with others. We have abandoned the ideal that it is OK to have different opinions from another. For some reason, this is a foreign concept to us now as we have grown into keyboard ninjas on social media. Stuff we would not say in person spews onto our posts or the comments of others. It is rather insane to me.

The latest thing that has me scratching my head is Uber CEO’s, Travis Kalanick, decision to leave the President’s business advisory council. People were campaigning to delete Uber because his presence on the council insinuated he supported the POTUS. He became afraid and left. It is hard for me to judge him too harshly because I don’t have all the details and his responsibility is to protect his employees. I am judging those who put the pressure on him and the collective mindset of the masses and, ultimately, the long-term impact.

He feared the backlash and apologized to his team and customers. Then he distanced himself from the Trump administration. Personally, I would rather have a boss who had a voice in the future of business in our nation. If some regulation was about to impact Uber, he could have a voice, but now it is gone. This would be like a state saying they are no longer having their senators go to the Hill and vote on matters affecting the country. But this is somehow an acceptable mindset this day and age.

We post our opinions and feelings on social media and they are polarizing from the opening line. “If you believe Trump is good, you’re a moron.” or “If you think Trump is bad, you’re a snowflake.” Then we spread these posts like wild-fire. I am not sure why though. No one has ever read one of these articles and said, “Wow, I really am a moron. Maybe I should change my ways.” Instead, we jump into the comment section and blast the poster and continue spitting venom.

First off, we need to take the advice that has been around for ages to not discuss politics or religion in an open forum. This is age-old advice. Mark Twain (who lived in the 1800’s) once said, “in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.” Bottom-line, your post about x-y-z is not going to change anyone’s thoughts or opinions. They are ingrained within.

Then there is the matter of the image you are portraying. Many employers admit they are stalking you on social media before they consider you employing you. Would you want to work with someone who spreads negativity?

My next point is more of a request. Please, stop spreading junk. Instead of calling the other side dumb, seek to understand why they feel that way if you really must discuss politics. I know that there are very smart, kind, and humble people on both sides of the aisle. If I am going to talk politics, I would prefer to hear their reasoning and not just recycled hate from news outlets that are biased.

Lastly, we are all in this together, wouldn’t it be better to seek a common ground?



Metrics Don’t Motivate

I was recently standing in a formation when the speaker said, “We met several of our key metrics…”.  Things trailed off after that because my mind wandered to other matters of the day.  While that may have motivated others in the formation of probably a few hundred people that day, I suspect it had the same effect on many others that it did on me.

Metrics, numbers, and graphs do not motivate most people, especially when they do not know what those numbers entail or what they even mean.  What matters more than a regression analysis on a batch of data with a trend line going upward is the tactile, real impacts that people can see at ground level.  Metrics are abstract and aren’t tangible things in many people’s minds.

Impacts are key.  Months ago I spoke with my subordinates at a roll call—while I was still new in my position.  One thing I noted was the environment—I recognized that my subordinates, NCOs, were in an absolutely critical position—they teach young Airmen.  I made the natural connection—their job was to interact and instruct and I noted several instances where a young Airman was left behind in the hustle and bustle of mission generation to fend for themselves.  “Mentor your students where you can,” I told them, “because when they start working on the flightline, they won’t receive such guidance.”  To this day I am uncertain as to whether my words evoked some inspiration, but I was staggered later on by the amount of initiative they took in taking their students under their wings—it continues to this day.  They take ownership and pride in the classes they teach.  It has bred innovation.

What motivates them to take such measures?  Passion.  They recognize that their involvement with the Airmen not only as technicians but as young adults and military members is critical.  They understand their impact at their level.  It’s a matter of building a relationship with a group of new military members.  They don’t just churn out 1,700 students per year through the doors of the schoolhouse; it’s more to them than that.

Don’t motivate people by showing them a slew of numbers—there is no reference point for them with metrics.  Motivate them by emotion because ultimately, that’s what motivation is.  Keep the numbers in the conference room to manage processes, not people.

Are Leaders Puppets?

The recent inauguration of our 45th President, Donald Trump, has brought about a mixture of opinions of what type of a leader he should be or the type he will be. Many say our elected officials are just puppets who should be toeing the company line and doing what the majority of the population wants. This got me thinking about the leadership culture I have seen in just about every area of our lives and I disagree 100% that a leader should be a puppet and do what the masses desire.

If we were to lead our units this way, every Friday would be a half-day. We would not do any of the menial tasks no one likes to do. And morale would sky-rocket…for a period of time. Until nothing got accomplished, the mission would falter, the need for our workcenter would be null and void and we would be living in a van down by the river. If we as a nation got everything we wanted, it would be like the scene from the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ where everyone won the lottery and the city fell to chaos.

Routinely, I will ask my kids what they want for dinner as I am making my shopping list for the week. They are both smart, health-minded kids and neither of them has ever not included pizza or a dessert. We don’t lead our homes like this, why should we lead any team like that? If I were to simply lead by giving in to the demands of the masses, my area of responsibility would fail. Leaders are put in place through appointment or democratically because they are seen as someone who has the best interest of the people and mission in mind. We need to advance the mission and, at the same time, fulfill the legitimate ‘needs’ of the team, not just provide items on their wishlists.

We do need to listen to the masses and get a pulse for the organization. There is never a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership and we have to dig into what the constraints and needs of our team are. This involves getting into the weeds a bit to learn their struggles and what is needed to enable them to succeed. This is how leaders see the whole picture of their AOR and can make decisions for the betterment of all.

I have been part of many teams where I thought I knew what was best. I would petition to my leaders to bend to my will. I would even leverage the productivity of our team to sway their opinion as if to insinuate that we had it all figured out. Almost on every occasion, I was humbled when shown the big picture and the effects my “plan” would have on the whole organization. I am not suggesting for leaders to not question their chain-of-command, because it is important for us to let them know our concerns and things they may not have considered. I am suggesting that we strive to see the big picture and not assume the masses have the best answer.

As for President Trump, I hope he fulfills his promises of not giving in to the status quo and that he is able to listen to the masses and make decisions based on what is best for our country. I will not agree with all of his decisions and that is okay; however, no matter what he does, we all have some control over our own AORs and need to make the right (not the popular or easy) decisions to move our team forward.

Servant Leadership

Today our nation honors a great man: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was able to open the eyes of our country to the ways other Americans were being treated. He challenged the cultural norms that had been in place and forever changed the face of civil rights for millions of people. He did all of this by influencing others with a message of love and peace.

I remember reading about how blacks were forced to use different facilities and not even permitted into other facilities back in those days and I felt angry and ashamed. How could we beat our chest as a great super power and not have the strength to reverse an archaic mindset. I tried to imagine how I would feel if my family was treated that way. I certainly do not think “peace” or “love” would be in my vocabulary.

Dr. King displayed what leadership and integrity truly are. He knew people were the same regardless of the color of their skin and wanted everyone to share his dream of one nation. He knew the nation needed to be united even though they may not have wanted to be. To accomplish something of this scale requires a servant leader. This is a foreign concept to many people and this style of leadership is not discussed in the PDG or even the Leadership Doctrine of the Air Force.

Servant leadership does not sound sexy; however, those who serve their teams are the most influential leaders. This style of leadership calls leaders to serve their team’s needs not their wants. Many confuse this style of leadership as being soft pushovers. In reality, it takes more strength than other styles. Servant leaders have to be humble enough to listen to others and seek out their legitimate needs in order to fulfill them.

When leaders lead by flexing their power over others, they are commanding the bodies of their teams. Their people are with them because they are following orders. We have all worked for the boss with the “shut up and color” mantra when suggestions were made. Their ego could not allow for another to have a suggestion or offer an opinion or state a need.

“Call them in from their day off,” was the direction I was given when our manpower was low one particular weekend. I used my imagination and found another way to get things done and never made the call. When I briefed my plan I was questioned about if I was afraid to be a NCO and make the tough calls. My reply was a question to them about how they liked giving up their time off. This leader was more concerned with flexing his power rather than taking care of his team’s need for rest.

When a leader is willing to go the extra mile to protect your needs and to remove obstacles from your path, you can focus on the mission at hand and not be afraid of the consequences of challenging a power hungry boss who has forgotten the mission is not about them. Dr. King knew this and inspired the nation as he represented the need for unity. Groups like the Black Panthers who were trying to make power plays were being answered with power. However, when Dr. King led with humble strength, he could not be ignored. In fact, even attacks against someone like this were looked at with disgust by the masses.

The result of servant leadership?  In the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, he was able to change the course of human history by influencing the hearts and minds of those who were in power. He was able to affect more change in a few short years than we saw in the 100 years after the ending of the Civil War where slavery had officially ended. Using power over another might produce short term victories; however, to create a following that will never let you fail takes leadership with a heart of a servant.

Don’t Miss The Moment

I’ve always been a fan of a good story; that is probably why I’ve always loved to watch and collect movies. A movie with a good story creates a sense of nostalgia in us that makes us turn to our own lives and begin to look introspectively at our life’s course. What makes the story of a movie is not the beginning and the end, but the parts in-between, but I think often those are the times that we like to forget about our own stories.

I often have a tendency to think about the time at my first duty station of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which is in New Jersey. I often look back on my time there and begin to have all theses warm and loving memories, but that picture has a slight distortion because while I was going through that time of “warmth” and “nostalgia” I despised it and complained about it more than I didn’t. It wasn’t until now when I have the advantage of perspective that I can look back and see the good in the moment(s).

That made me consider how many moments I have missed by not appreciating and valuing my time there. How many times have we missed the moment(s) in our life wishing for something better? It is interesting how often we look back at our past with the lens of nostalgia, but often when our past was our present we despised it. If only we enjoyed the moment of the present, then maybe we would have emptied ourselves and gave our all to that moment, creating a present where we don’t have to look back and wonder what if. How many times have you said, if I had it to do over again, I would do it differently?

The greatest challenge is that we so often miss our moments to do it right the first time because we are either living in the past hoping for a do over, or looking forward to a future that may or may not come. As leaders we are supposed to have a vision of the future, but we can’t have a vision that neglects the present. We must be the vision carrier, but also be able to preserve the present. If I could pass one thing down as a leader, it would be to those that follow me to never be so anxious for something better that you lose perspective of the good in your present moment.

There is no time like the present: enjoy it, take advantage of it and live a life that when you look back through the lens of nostalgia you will say I’m glad I didn’t miss the moment.

Gain a Space Within a 1206 or EPR Bullet

1206Sometimes, when working on an awards package or evaluation, you just need one more space to fit a word that will make a bullet come together…well my awesome admin taught me there is a way to make this happen that feels like magic. In fact, one of my friends asked me if this was some “Swordfish hacker voodoo”.

Missing an 's' on the last word, but out of room
Missing an ‘s’ on the last word, but out of room

Typically, this calls for an overhaul of the bullet to try and get that extra space. However, there is an easy fix.

1.  Open Microsoft Word or a new email in Outlook.

2.  Type “2009”1206-2

3.  Highlight “2009”, and press “Alt” and “X” key at the same time.  2009 will disappear and a blank space will be left. This appears to be half of a typical blank space.1206-3

4.  Next, press “Ctrl” and “C” at the same time.

5.  Open the awards package or evaluation, and highlight a blank space and press “Ctrl” and “V” at the same time and watch the space shrink.1206-46.  Repeat this for each blank space until to reach your desired effect is reached.


I was able to work in my ‘s’ and realized I forgot the ‘r’ in “instr” needed to meet the requirements of my wing writing guide. Most of the time it will free enough space for two lowercase letters. I just learned this trick before the TSgt SCOD and it has saved the day on almost every EPR I have reviewed/written.

Will Course 15 Make You a Better Leader?

I will start this article with the short answer to avoid the “click-bait” criticism: no, it will not.

Recently, I sat on a mentorship panel with a room full of eager NCOs and this topic came up amongst the masses. It should come as no surprise, but not a single person in the room thought this course would make them a better leader. In fact, I am curious if there is anyone out there who thinks it does make you a better leader. Bottom-line is no book or class will make you a better leader; only you can do that.

I have read hundreds of books on leadership, listened to thousands of podcast episodes and sought mentorship very feverishly over the years. My goal was to consume everything I could on the topic because it is a topic that truly interests me. My conclusion after 25 years of purposeful study is others can only give me a different perspective on a theory, a topic, a situation, another person and, most importantly, myself; however, none of them have the power to change who I am. Only I can make that change based on the perspectives I choose to adopt from the experiences I have.

So, what does any of this have to do with Course 15? Everything. I think the material that makes up this course and the material within Course 14 is very good. It is a great collection of subjects and theories appropriate for the NCO and SNCO. It is material taken from countless years of experience and research from very smart leaders and it is packaged in a way for us to understand. The problem is it is just like any other course or book; we only get out of it what we want to.

None of us want to be forced to do anything and this is being forced down our throats…I get it. Because of this, most of us approach the course with the purpose to get it out of our lives. I know that is how I tackled Course 14v5 and 14v6. To be honest that is also how I approached ALS, NCOA, SNCOA and lots of my college classes. I wanted to complete them and hopefully learn something. I admit, none of them made me an outright better leader. They did help me with my introversion and desire to avoid group work, but a better leader I was not.

It never really hit me until talking with this group of NCOs and one said, “at least with CDCs, there is OJT.” This young SSgt helped me understand this from a different perspective. We can easily measure and even quantify tasks required to earn a new skill level. How can you quantify OJT for leadership skills? Do we set up training tasks to deliver paperwork, counsel others, make tough decisions and then measure them? With making these PME courses mandatory at certain year marks, we can kind of measure this a bit now.

The question still lingers…will THIS make us better leaders? Still the answer is no. We need to understand this and realize leaders are forged from their journeys and experiences. Books are not a substitute, but they are a springboard. I love reading chunks from a book and then having discussions with others about what they think. I am ALWAYS surprised by what comes out of this discussion. Still we are not better leaders, but we have a different perspective. Having all of our peers receive the same material at the same point in our careers should help facilitate these discussions.

Do the course. Try to learn from this material that has been collected. Look at the different perspectives and try to learn who you are as a leader. Then reach out to others and ask them how they got to a particular decision or share something you did and ask for feedback. Trial and error are great teachers if you can be open to learning from the results. Finally, you continue to seek learning opportunities and repeat the trial and error process while seeking feedback and repeat, repeat, repeat.

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