Friday, January 21, 2011

Will you just make a decision?

Major General George B. McClellan (National Archives)
"Indecision and delays are the parents of failure" ~ George Canning

You have checked all the facts, figures, and opinions of your management team, you then re-checked them, your ready to launch your new campaign. Right before you push the button you start to doubt yourself and all the information that you've used to come to this decision. The "What if's" start to bombard you, you are doubting that you are in the right position to launch.

There are many of Leaders and managers out there that have this all to common problem. Indecision, the inability to make a decision. Meet Major General George B. McClellan, he is here today to show us why indecision is a quick way to failure.

General McClellan was a graduate of West Point and had been involved in the Mexican-American war as a engineer. He had even went back to be an instructor at West Point prior to resigning his commission and working for the Illinois central railroad. In 1861 at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Ohio Governor William Dennison appointed George McClellan to Major General of the Ohio Volunteers. Based on his previous history in the military and Governor Dennison pressure, President Lincoln appointed George McClellan to the rank of Major General in the regular army. Major General McClellan had two quick victories, so to speak. One, he prevented Kentucky from seceding from the Union. Secondly, he fought a series of engagements in what is now, West Virginia, that kept the south from taking control of that part of Virginia. The importance of these two victories combined with General McDowell's defeat at the Battle of First Bull Run, had Major General McClellan as the Commander of the Army of the Potomac and by November of 1861 he was the General-in-Chief of all federal armies.

Major General McClellan went from leading volunteers to leading the entire Union Army in 7 months! Granted, the union was looking for anyone to bring them some victories and save some face after the initial wins by the south. Still, it was pretty impressive. Let's look at some of his good traits:

  • Great organizer: Upon taking over the Army of the Potomac he provided them with training and re-organized them into a more efficient fighting unit.
  • Great Motivator: The union army was down and out, low self-esteem, he instilled in them an esprit de corps. By all accounts from that time, his men loved him.
  • Great planner: He could plan all day long, consistently taking everything into account.
Now the bad:
  • Terrible execution: He had the great plan, motivated men and commanders, yet he would not pull the trigger. He always was convinced that the southern armies opposing him had greater numbers. He even felt this way when he had credible facts and information that he had the superior force.
  • Poor communication with superiors: There where many times that Major General McClellan would blow off President Lincoln and other politicians of the time. Therefore, he quickly lost support in Washington,D.C. 
  • Overcautious This guy had every excuse in the book why right now wasn't a good time to attack or carry out his plan. He was so afraid to fail, that he choose to do nothing. Thereby failing. 

“There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision” ~ William James

Despite being a good organizer and motivator Major General McClellan could not execute his own plans. His overcautious nature and inability to make a decisive decision was his ultimate downfall. How can we avoid these mistakes?
  • The hardest thing about making a decision is, making the decision. You will find that there are times when you wish you had more information. Understanding that you can only go with what you know right now, you do not have the luxury of hind sight or what information may be available a month from now. Trust in your experience and the knowledge that you have on hand now. Pull the trigger, make the decision, fear of failure will keep you locked up in a perceptual state of doing nothing.
  • Understand that each time you fail to act, the competition just got a reprieve. Just like in a heavy weight fight, the first one to throw and land the big punch has the best chance at winning. The competition is no different, if your delaying your action, it gives them the opportunity to attack the market and gain a larger share of it. Likewise, when you go on the offense first, they must now be reacting to you vice you reacting to them. With the speed of information nowadays, your customers are watching this unfold. No one wants to be rooting for the loser, take the initiative and attack.
"Indecision is the seedling of fear" ~ Napolean Hill
  • Fear of failure will get you faster to failure then anything else. There are times to play it safe, but generally it is much more effective to make the decision and go for it. You will make bad decisions, as long as that's not your track record and you learn from it, you will maintain support. If you are continually showing that you cannot make a decision, no one, including your boss is going to stay in your corner long. More importantly, the people that you lead will not stay in your corner. When you are indecisive they have no clue what you want on a regular basis and this will cause delays. Therefore, causing stress to skyrocket in your department or company. When you have a track record of making decisions, people have a much better idea of what to expect and what you are expecting of them and are able to act much quicker.
I hope that this history lesson has been helpful to you. I know that many times people want to do the right thing and make the right call. Too many times, people hold on and don't pull the trigger. A decision is nothing more then making a decision. Yes, some decisions have greater consequences then others, rely on your training, education and experience and you will be fine. Just make a decision! Your bosses, you and more importantly the people that you lead will be thankful. Trust me.

What are some other ways being indecisive can be counter productive?
Have you worked for a indecisive leader? What was it like?

reference for George B. McClellan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't ask, just do

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.  ~Mother Teresa

9 yr old Issac Saldana, of Tucson, AZ, get's it (Story here). He saw an opportunity to help and did by raising $2.35 for Senator Gifford while she lay in a hospital bed fighting for her life. Issac sold some of his toys and a bracelet that his father, a U.S. Marine, had given him. Wow, you might say, he raised a whole $2.35. You are right, it's not even close to what we would drop on a trip to our favorite fast food joint. To a 9 year old, his belongings are worth a lot more. Issac saw an opportunity to help and he did't ask permission, he acted. The next time that you see a worthy cause, don't think about why you can't help, look for every reason to help. It's not the size of the gift, it's the size of your heart that matters. Imagine if all of us gave $2.35, multiply that by millions, that would be truly remarkable. The next time you see an opportunity to help, don't ask permission, just act.

The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.  ~Leo Rosten

Here's another story of someone who saw an need and acted. Meet Mrs. Amy Stokes (Story here), she was recently honored as a CNN Hero for her work at the non-profit she started, Infinite Family. She started this non-profit to help mentor south african children due to many of them not have parents due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in that area of the world. Through her non-profit she matches up these children with adults who mentor them via the internet and video chatting. Once again, Mrs. Stokes saw a need and didn't change the channel or flip the page, she went out and made a difference. 

There are many more stories like this happening everyday. Normal everyday people who are stepping up and making a difference in this world. These people are true leaders, they are setting the example for all of us to follow. They are making the true difference in this world and it has nothing to do with the financial bottom line. It has to do with something much more important, the bottom line of people's lives. 

If you wold like to become a mentor or make a donation to Infinite Family go here

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.  ~Anne Frank

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leadership, How is your communication and vision?

Vision Statement: Aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serves as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action. See also mission statementsource
Leadership, Communication and Vision
When in a leadership role it is vital that you have a clear, concise vision of where you are leading your people and your communication of it, is understandable. There are many ways to communicate this vision. Are you providing the vision and the proper communication to them or are your communications directing them to kayak to Japan?

Think about that for a moment. Let's say you where in California and needed to give your people directions on how to get to Tokyo for a very important meeting. Here is one way that you could communicate that to them:

Los Angeles to Tokyo

View Larger Map

1.Head northwest on W 1st St toward S Spring St0.1 mi
2.Turn right at the 2nd cross street onto N Broadway0.4 mi
3.Turn right to merge onto US-101 N toward I-110 N10.4 mi
4.Slight left at CA-170 N/Hollywood Fwy (signs for Sacramento)6.0 mi
5.Take exit 11B on the left to merge onto I-5 N toward Sacramento Passing through Oregon Entering Washington1,122 mi
6.Take exit 169 for NE 45th St0.3 mi
7.Slight left at 7th Ave NE262 ft
8.Take the 1st left onto NE 45th St0.7 mi
9.Turn left at Wallingford Ave N0.9 mi
10.Turn right at N 34th St292 ft
11.Take the 1st left onto Densmore Ave N436 ft
12.Turn right at N Northlake Way282 ft
13.Kayak across the Pacific Ocean Entering Hawaii2,756 mi
14.Continue straight0.1 mi
15.Turn left at Kuilima Dr0.5 mi
16.Take the 3rd right onto HI-83 W12.4 mi
17.Continue straight onto HI-99 S/Kamehameha Hwy6.5 mi
18.Slight left at HI-80 S/Kamehameha Hwy Continue to follow Kamehameha Hwy2.1 mi
19.Take the ramp onto I-H-2 S8.1 mi
20.Merge onto I-H-1 E4.7 mi
21.Take exit 13B toward Halawa Hts. Stadium0.3 mi
22.Merge onto I-H-201 E4.1 mi
23.Merge onto I-H-1 E4.1 mi
24.Take exit 23 for Punahou St toward Waikiki/Manoa0.2 mi
25.Turn right at Punahou St0.1 mi
26.Take the 1st right onto S Beretania St0.1 mi
27.Take the 1st left onto Kalakaua Ave1.9 mi
28.Kayak across the Pacific Ocean Entering Japan3,879 
Now, as you can see you can communicate to your people that you want them to kayak (#13 & 28) across the Pacific ocean for a total of 6, 635 miles! (According to this site it's safe to calculate going 20 miles per day in the ocean, in a kayak.) Some quick math tells us that it would take you 332 days to make this trip, that's almost a year!

Is this really the best and most efficient way to carry out the vision or communicate it to them? The point is that if you don't give your people a clear and concise vision/"road map" to where you are leading them and communicate it well, they might end up kayaking vice taking a plane. Think about it. 

What are the results when we don't communicate or define our vision appropriately?  Please share, you'll be helping others. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Would you take your mugger out to dinner?

My daughter posted this article on her Facebook page. So, being her Dad, I went to check it out. Wow, is all I could say after reading the article. I think there are few good examples we could all follow in this story. I'll give you a couple of minutes to go read it. Please come back though.

I know, it's a couple of years old. I still think that it is relevant to being a servant leader.

  • When Julio Diaz was approached by the knife welding teenager. He could have responded differently, he could have responded with defiance or violence. Instead, he answered with genuine concern and care for the boy. I'd like to say I could have done the same, but out of principal, I would have probably been stabbed. When your confronted with a difficult situation whether it be at your work or on a train platform, how you respond initially to the situation will dictate a lot of times how it will go for you. If you allow your emotions to get the best of you, you could end up making a really bad decision. Keep your emotions in check, use facts, relevant data or your training to make your decisions, make your decision from a, "What can I do for them" vice a, "What can I do for me" thought pattern.
  • After giving the teen his money, Julio then made the attempt to connect with the teenager by offering him his coat. As leaders we are often in a situation where we first need to listen then act, vice act then listen. If Julio would have tried to talk to the teen before giving up his wallet. I believe that this would have turned out really bad for all involved. Thankfully, he swallowed his pride and then attempted to communicate his message to the teen.
  • At the diner, the teen noticed that everyone was talking to Julio. The teen was amazed that Julio would talk to anyone and everyone. We need to take this attitude with others, connect and communicate with anybody and everyone. The custodian, the doorman, the lot attendant, or even our mailman. The more we are open to communicate and networking with people, the more we will be exposed to new ideas and cultures. Which will in-turn make us more well rounded, in a non weight watchers kind of way.
  • At the end of their dinner, Julio once again turned things around. When the bill came, he simply stated that if he had his wallet he would have payed for the meal. Instead, the teen was going to have to pay the bill. Julio got his wallet back and the teens knife as well. Often times we need to show people that the current path  is not going to work or is going to wind up with them ruining their life, by letting them see the errors of their plan in a non-threating way. Often times we want to jump into peoples faces and tell them strongly that they are dead wrong. When that happens we turn people off and make them want to continue down the current path with that much more determination. Remember, you get more with sugar then vinegar. 
I hope that the article and some of the points that I got from it are helpful to you and make you pause the next time you are in a confrontational situation. Sometimes, almost always, peace and cool heads prevail and you will accomplish what you were trying to achieve. Sometimes, it's a good idea to take your mugger to dinner.

What would you have done differently, if you were approached by a knife welding teen?

Monday, January 17, 2011

There's knowing the right thing to do and doing the right thing.

I know I usually only post once a day, I needed to share this story of Leadership with you now. Some of you may have heard about the pilot that held his plane for an extra 12 minutes past it's departure time. I'm not sure most of you know why. Please read this story and see if you can get through it without shedding a tear. I didn't.

Heartwarming travel story

Big shout out to Elliott's blog for breaking this story to the national media. By the way, there is more to this story there, so please go and read it. Thanks.

Content of your Character

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, was the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace prize at the age 35. A year before he won it, he gave a speech in Washington,D.C., which became his famous "I have a dream" speech. In it he stated, 

"I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." 

Obviously Dr. King was speaking out against the racial inequality of  that time and rightfully so. The last part of that quote struck a cord with me though. I thought, "Isn't that a good standard to judge everyone by?"

The content of your character is something that you should hold on to hard and fast. It's more then just "Your Name" or what you have stood for. I believe that in context, Dr. King was talking about your intrinsic value. Your very nature, what makes you tick, what you stand for, your moral fiber if you will. These are the things that you should stay true to. You should not be swayed by winds of change or out of fear. Dr. King lived these principles, he showed by example how to lead and ultimately gave his life for the very principles and values he stood for. 

When Dr. King's house was bombed on January 30, 1956, with his wife and daughter in the house. Many expected that this would be the event that would cause him to act out against his very message of non-violent protest. He didn't, he came out of his bombed out home to address the angry mob of people who had came in outrage to the bombing and spoke to them. 

"We are not advocating violence," he said. "We want to love our enemies...If I am stopped, our work will not stop, for what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just and God is with us."

Now keep in mind, his family could have been killed. He could have been killed, had it not been for the fact that he was at a rally that day when the bombing occurred. I have to be honest here, if my house would have been bombed with my family inside of it. I'm not sure that I would have been able to step out and speak of peace and love. I'm pretty sure that I would have been wanting to retaliate against those that had tried to harm my family and I. 

Dr. King stayed true to who he was and the message of what he was trying to accomplish. I believe that he knew that there where those that didn't agree with his message and where trying to goad him into making a rash decision based on emotion. The content of Dr. King's character wouldn't allow it though. Dr. King gives us an exceptional example here to follow, always stay true to who you are and the message or vision that you are leading, regardless of the circumstances or actions of others. 

There will be many times as a leader that the winds of change and fear will attempt to blow you off of course. You must stay true to your moral compass and the content of your character, which will allow you to lead by example and further empower you, your people and the vision of where you are going. 

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” ~ Jim Rohn

Has there every been a time when you had to adjust your sails due to changing winds?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The man in the mirror

I've been asked about what has made me successful. That can be a daunting question at times. I usually answer with something short and sweet. Today, I want to bear my soul to you and give you some of the story. It all starts with the man in the mirror I see everyday and the fact that he is my worst critic. I believe that their are others out there that suffer from the same critic, if so, please read on.

If you read my post last month, "Impact a life" You will know that I stated there, that I had not shown much ambition or success in my early years. If you recall, I stated that my parents had told my recruiter at the time that I would never make it in the Navy. The truth is, I didn't have too many people cheering for me as a youth. I'm not stating that I didn't want their approval or praise, just stating that I didn't get it. The one person, on the planet, that I wanted more then anyone else to recognize and affirm me was my father.

A little background, my father was a workaholic. He worked his day job and then would come home to work on his 240 acre farm. So, needless to say when he finally arrived at his home, he wasn't much for conversation or  interaction with his family. I never went hungry, homeless or without clothes while under his care. I would also like to say that I would have rather been homeless and hungry if that meant my father would have noticed, encouraged and loved me growing up.

I grew up always looking for ways to elicit his praise or acceptance. Unfortunately, that usually ended up with me making poor decisions or getting into trouble. He seemed to be able to acknowledge that behavior whenever it was warranted. I got the talks about how I needed to do better in school or make better choices.  To be honest, I think that I did poor in school just to get him to talk to me.

The first time I heard my father tell me he was proud of me, was in a letter I received right before I graduated, in the top of my company, from Boot camp in August of 1990. I savored that moment for quite awhile, it spurred me on to graduate with distinction from the Naval Enlisted Submarine school as well. These achievements gave my father something to brag about with his friends and family back in our small community. It was nice, to finally feel like I had made my father  proud of me. His encouragement though, through my adult years, often sounded like this, "That's good, but keep going, you can do better" Needless to say, the feeling of, "He's proud of me" quickly diminished and I was off in pursuit of another award or accolade to garner his approval.

In 2004 I was tested, selected and initiated as a Chief Petty Officer. This was the moment that I would finally realize that I had arrived. Not just for my father, but for me as well. When I asked my father to come to my pinning ceremony he stated that could not. I can't even remember why now, I believe it was something to do with work. I spoke with a family member about it and how mad I was that he wasn't coming. Cause to be honest with you, of all the people that I wanted there, him being there was very important to me. I thought that him seeing my anchors being pinned on my uniform would let him see that I had achieved something that not everyone in the Navy achieves. Especially since he had spent four years in the Navy himself. He would know what it meant for me to be called, "Chief"  The family member I had spoken to called my father and gave him some "Inspiration" to be there. When he arrived unannounced, since he didn't tell anyone he was coming,  I was not happy that he came. It felt as if he had been forced to be there, which I found out later that's exactly what happened.

A year later, my father stopped talking to me and told me I was out of his life. It would remain this way until I agreed with his opinion about a close family member that he had also excommunicated. We haven't spoken since.

Fast forward. (A lot of other crazy stuff to be included in future posts)

It was only recently while I was having a discussion with a close friend about this very subject and they pointed out something that I never really realized. I will never feel successful or good enough due to the fact that I always hear that small voice in my head, "This isn't good enough, you can do more" The golden carrot, if you will. The sad part is, that I continually kept raising the carrot higher causing me to fall deeper into the rabbit hole.  

I realized last year that I have accomplished a lot in my life. I am happily married to the most awesome woman a man could ever ask for and I have four amazing children, all of which make me proud on a daily basis. As if that wasn't enough, I have had a very successful career in the Navy.

Considering my past, it would have been easy for me to give up and quit. I didn't. I turned around a negative thing and now I utilize it properly in the context of truth. I am not the most successful man in the world. But, I am successful to those that matter most to me. Thats all that really matters. When I have to fight the demons inside me, I fight them with the truth of who I am in the eyes of my family and a loving God who has never turned his back on me.

I hope that this bearing of my soul has given you the hope and inspiration to know that you can make a difference in your life and how to deal with your worst critic. When you have times of doubt, look to your successes and relive those moments. Understand, that you do no one any good if you are not willing to be who you were meant to be. Live your life for those that you love and love you in return. Do your best and leave the rest for others to debate.
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