Monday, December 21, 2009

Why? I Say Why Not?

As more people stumble across this forum, I am increasingly asked "Why are you doing this?" Those of you who know me personally likely understand I am not one to self promote and though I do not lobby for the spotlight, I am not necessarily one to hide from it. Additionally, I give consideration to how my actions are perceived, acknowledging the resulting perceptions are not always aligned to the intended projections. It is that mindset that had me waffling for quite some time on whether or not a public blog was a worthy investment of my time and energy. I offer the following insight to address idle curiosity and more specifically those wondering, "Who does this character think he is?"

Reciprocity - Life is about sharing, caring and growing. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have mentors both sharing their wisdom and caring about my personal and professional development. To both demonstrate my gratitude to them and formally embrace my role as a mentor (a role each and everyone has, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it), I decided to MAKE the time to be a part of the conversation.

Therapy - Living a life of go, go, go both at work and at home, makes it challenging for some of us to "live in the moment." I have been continually reminded (by my wife) that life has been passing me by. As I continually planned for tomorrow in favor of enjoying today, I have now made it a point to Make time to reflect and keep a journal. This has been very therapeutic for me and serves as a tool to help me acknowledge and appreciate the continually passing todays.

Parental Legacy - Life is all too short and unfortunately each passing holiday season is a painful reminder of that fact as our fond memories of Christmases past include loved ones who are no longer here to share Christmases present. My son is six, which makes it much too early to share proper perspective and give meaningful context to many of the lessons I continue to learn and the observations made during this journey. If something unfortunate were to happen before my privilege of nurturing his personal development to adulthood was complete, I would want him to have a resource that might prove valuable when I am gone. I have clearly benefited from both of my parents sharing their unique perspectives and would be remiss if I did not do my best to ensure my son had the benefit of the same.

So rather than wonder why I am doing this, I ask you to think about why you are not. We all have wisdom to impart on others and a unique perspective on the journey of life, both of which are worthy and deserving of documentation and sharing. I am amazed by the insights I gain and the lessons I learn through the eyes of others who choose to be a part of the virtual conversations surrounding us. Please consider contributing to the discussion, imparting your wisdom and actively sharing yourself. There is much to be learned from our peers, juniors and seniors, friends, family and strangers. I look forward to adding your blog to my ever growing RSS subscription and learning from as many of you who are willing to share.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Salaries, Value and Welfare

There are many types of employees, but for the sake of argument let's bin all of us into three categories...hourly, salaried and commission. Without question, those of us who fall into the hourly employee category recognize that in the most simplistic of terms, we are compensated for our time irrespective of the value we provide. Clearly, we must add some potential value, otherwise our employer would not have asked us to come to work and agreed to pay us for our time. Regardless of how many customers we serve, items we sell or widgets we build, we are compensated for our time. Those of us working for pure commission are motivated a bit differently because we are compensated based solely on the results we deliver. It matters not how much time we spend or the means we use, we are paid for results. Two very different, but easy to understand models, where the metric is either our time or our result, but not necessarily a combination of both. The challenge comes in putting a value on the salaried employee.

As salaried employees, we are usually expected to spend 40 hours of our week "working", but may exceed twice that. Most tend to pour our heart and soul into the job, while others coast until supervisors are looking. In the military, we all earn the same base wage with our peer group. Sure there are special pays that subsidize the base salaries of those with a specific skill set (language proficiency pay, flight pay, retention bonus, etc) or those asked to make additional sacrifices (sea pay, hazardous duty pay, family separation pay, etc), but again no direct assessment of value. We use these monetary levers to incentivize behavior and grow/sustain capabilities of perceived importance, but again no true measurement of value.

I am currently serving as a staff officer where I work with a team of professionals writing point papers, building PowerPoint briefs and analyzing spreadsheets all to inform strategic decisions that will not be measurable for 5-15 years. It is sometimes challenging to generate "The Good Idea Machine" and feel good about the effort and time investment at the end of a given day, knowing meaningful feedback will not come for years. In the absence of tangible evidence of contributions, I often times ask myself if I am being compensated merely for my time.

Whether we are an hourly employee, work for commission or are salaried, we must all heed Jim Rohn's words...“You don't get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” In some cases, it may be up to us to define the measure of value for ourselves, but it is always up to us to define the measurement of value for those under our charge. Likewise, we all need to understand that we are compensated for the value we provide in many different ways. Most believe wages serve as the sole compensation and motivation for our time invested, level of effort and/or personal contributions. Some are motivated by promotions, some are motivated by helping others and still others are motivated by the expressions of gratitude they enjoy throughout the journey from customers and coworkers. For those of us in the military, I hope we can all agree that being promoted or achieving a certain rank in no way validates us as people (many deserving people are not promoted, while more than a few lesser contributors are promoted in their place each year), and neither does the number of ribbons we wear on our chest. The value we provide is measured in the person we become, the help we give others and the legacy we leave after each phase of the journey. Being monetarily compensated without providing value is nothing more than a form of welfare. I don't know about you, but I know more than a few people who are cashing their welfare check after a week of "work" and it is painful to watch (especially when it is our tax dollars enabling such behavior).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Walking the Walk...

As a college football fan and a Notre Dame supporter (I remain a sucker for tradition), today is a sad day. It is a sad day because a college football program that once stood for so much has become just like the rest of them. Until today, Notre Dame had been an institution that prided itself on high standards on and off the field. They prided themselves on ensuring their student-athletes met the same entry standards required of the rest of the student body and enjoyed great success in ensuring these same student-athletes met the same graduation requirements at the end of the South Bend experience.

At a press conference today (transcript), Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced Notre Dame had fired their coach, Charlie Weiss, and in doing so, showed the world that Notre Dame no longer values the very standards that once separated them from the rest of the field. After clearly stating that it was time to "move the program into another direction," he went out of his way to point out "...Charlie did win a National Championship; he won a National Championship when his football program finished first in graduation success rate this year, and that is an important contribution and one which we value very highly." Most thought the firing was a foregone conclusion due solely to the record on the field, which was 6-6 this year and included two losses in the last three years to the US Naval Academy. Other fools, like myself, held out hope that Notre Dame would continue to stand for something more.

I must admit, I am not a Charlie Weis fan, but liking the man is not relevant to the discussion. The unique challenge (the fact it remains unique is of concern) at Notre Dame is they have not lowered their student-athlete standards in order to compete at the highest level. Instead, standards are continually lowered by those with whom they are expected to compete. Many college football fans will tell you Notre Dame has not been relevant since 1993 when they finished 11-1 and won the Cotton Bowl. I would argue that it is there adherence to meaningful academic and conduct standards that has made them irrelevant in the minds of the same people. It is the same reason the service academies are not expected to compete in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and likely never will. What is often lost on too many is that college (a term to denote a degree-awarding tertiary educational institution) is not about athletics. Yes, college sports can generate a great deal of money, they are a great deal of fun for both the participant and the spectator and yes, many life lessons are learned on the athletic field, but college is about so much more and the measure of success is the degree that documents the journey.

While Mr. Swarbrick thought enough of the fact Notre Dame is graduating football players at a 96 percent rate (tied with Duke and slightly ahead of Navy (93%)), he still recommended the University "move the program into another direction." Suffice it to say that those schools at the top of the BCS rankings are nowhere near that percentage. Where Duke, Navy and the other schools at the top of the graduation list get it right is that they acknowledge they are playing in a different league. They play college football, while the others play minor league football. They produce college graduates, while the others produce a few professional athletes and exploit the rest of their rosters. They schedule games against like minded institutions with a few "stretch games" each year (Navy played Ohio State this year) to push the boundaries of the possible. I am not saying a school and a coach cannot work together to maintain high entrance standards, high graduation rates and enjoy success on the field of play (Coach K at Duke proves that point each year), but more often than not, there is an inverse relationship between meeting even minimal academic entry requirements (let alone graduation standards) and competing at the highest levels on the field.

Notre Dame wants to "move the program into another direction," rather than celebrate the reason their days of dominance on the gridiron are behind them is a direct result of the high character of their leadership and commitment to the prime directive of a learning institution...preparing students (in partnership with their parents) for the next phase of their personal growth journey and ultimately delivering contributing members to society.

Though most of us are far from the gridiron, the dichotomy between what we claim as values and what our actions demonstrate is not always as small as we would like to think. Where do we place more value in our lives?

Educators/Students: The grade on the report card or what one learned?
Employers/Employees: The time spent at work or the value created while there?
Parents: The fact our "husky" child cleaned their dinner plate or the reality it was a McDonald's Happy Meal, again?

Are we walking the walk, merely talking the talk, or completely ambivalent? Appears Notre Dame is no longer walking the walk. Welcome to the rest of the NCAA, Irish...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trail of Gratitude (1 of ...)

There are many things in life for which I am extremely grateful. When I consider each and every blessing, I see a trail of gratitude lined by others who continue to contribute to my good fortune whether they know it or not. Because my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary on the 25th of November (14 years yesterday), my list of "Turkey Day" thanksgivings will forever have her at the top. Though I'd like to take credit for capturing her heart, the below trail of gratitude is more responsible than anything I did myself. With that, I am grateful for:

My friend Heather who introduced us...

The Detailer who banished me to Adak, Alaska where we met (though admittedly, I was not happy with him at the time)...

The then Cryptologic (now Information Warfare) Community for welcoming me to the wardroom...

The mentors who helped convince the then Cryptologic Officer Community Manager (the position to which I am honored to be currently assigned) to take a chance on an economics major from the Naval Academy (USNA) with little to offer...

The strength to quit flight school (not as passionate about flying as I had originally thought)...

The friends who helped me graduate from USNA (graduation required much teamwork)...

My parents who helped me make the informed decision to give USNA a shot (for me it was not a childhood dream, but something that "just happened")...

The USNA Soccer Coach (Dr. Greg Meyer) for helping with the admission process...

My congressman (Pete Stark) for nominating me for both the Naval and Air Force Academy...

My guidance counselor (Ms. Linda Ellis) for encouraging me to seek a congressional nomination...

My parents for nurturing me into a young adult that others saw as worthy of attending a service academy...

My parents for signing me up for soccer at the age of six and giving me every opportunity to fully develop that passion (admittedly, the ability to kick a ball opened many doors that would not have been open otherwise)...

Clearly, that is the Cliffs Notes version and but one trail of many in my life. If any one thing on the list did not happen, I would not enjoy the life I do today. Thanks to all who contributed to my ultimate introduction to Marianne. As I "connect the dots," it started as a six year old boy signing up for soccer. It is absolutely crazy when we step back and consider how connected and dependent our decisions, opportunities and challenges truly are.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Choosing Happiness

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to participate in the retirement ceremony of a friend, mentor and shipmate by the name of Commander Scott Fields. Scott is a wonderful man who is generous, sincere and caring among many other positive attributes (though yesterday he demonstrated his eloquence, humility and love). There is much I will remember about my time sharing an office with Scott, but the one thing I will never forget is the enthusiasm with which he continues to embrace life. Each morning he would ask those he encountered in the passageway on the way to his cubicle, "Do you know what I did this morning?" to which the trained response is "You woke up and chose to be happy." This was and continues to be one of Scott's trademarks. If you were to ask anyone who has had the privilege of serving with Scott throughout his 31 year naval career, they would know of this daily dialogue.

At an early age, Scott realized happiness is a choice, as are so many other things in life. Some of us have to work harder than others to convince ourselves to choose to be happy with the cards we have been dealt, while others don't have to give it any thought, it's a reflexive action. Like many, I know more than a few people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses of late. If there ever is a test of one's ability to make happiness their choice, receiving such news is that test. Recently, a child hood friend, Erik Lemoine, passed away from Malignant Metastatic Melanoma. He kept a journal of his battle (which is still maintained by his phenomenal wife) and in doing so helped so many to see the brighter side of life and embrace the moment. Prior to his death, he wrote his final message (shared below) which was used to notify those who loved him of his passing. Truly a remarkable man...

"Let us remember
the smiling,
the laughing,
the talking,
the sharing,
the caring,
and the loving.

Let us remember the good times -- always.

- Erik Jon Lemoine (13 JAN 1973 - 01 NOV 2009)

As we go through life, let us "choose to be happy" and let us smile, laugh, talk, share, care and love so we can follow Erik's lead and remember the good times as we near the end of our journey or witness a loved one do the same. Thank you both Scott and Erik for helping to keep everything in perspective.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Well Liked and Average...Really?

It's Parent-Teacher Conference time again, which mean both parties get to share positive and constructive feedback (neither of which is mutually exclusive, mind you). After such a conference earlier today, a friend of mine lauded her friend for telling the 2nd Grade Teacher, "Oh, I just don't care if she (her child) is smart...I just want her to be well liked and average academically."

I do not know the mother, the teacher nor the child, but I am all too familiar with that mindset, as it has become overly prevalent in our society. Replace "well liked and average academically" with "well mannered and challenged academically" and I agree 100%. Don't get me wrong, I would rather be "well liked" than the alternative and there are many things at which I would rather be average than my current proficiency level. However, a 7 year old who is taught that the ultimate goal is being "well liked" and not the result of following "the golden rule," or who is encouraged to be average may never be either well liked or average. In many circles, I would prefer my child not be well liked since being well liked is normally a product of demonstrating certain behavior deemed enviable by the target audience. I am not an advocate for making enemies, but should we care if bullies, burnouts, or slackers particularly like our children?

Well liked, average business owners often times go out of business; well liked, average athletes often times find themselves on the bench; well liked, average students often times find getting into their college of choice overly challenging. We have little choice but to accept mediocrity in many aspects of our life, but we need not encourage, nor embrace it. I think we would all agree that as parents and teachers we should collectively build a nurturing environment that demands well mannered behavior and continually challenges our children. A truly nurturing environment helps our children to reach their potential (which may very well be average and that is OK) and produces a person that cannot be anything but well liked by contributing members of society.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Making the Time or Taking the Time...It's Our Call

After a recent meeting, I was thanked for "taking the time" to participate. This was not the first time I have heard someone use that phrase to express such gratitude, though each time I hear it, I leave the conversation a bit confused. The verb "Take" is defined as "To get into one's possession by force, skill, or artifice." I would argue that my presence and contribution was a result of a purposeful decision made by me. To me, time is something we are given, something we share, and something we try hard to create. It is not something we take. Rather, time is finite and something we choose to allocate among our personal priorities and in accordance with our personal philosophy.

When it comes to discussing time, I refrain from any use of the word "take." Instead, I migrated long ago to the verb "make", which is often defined as "To create, construct or produce." A subtle change, and pure semantics to many, but we must admit that when we spend time with a person or on a task we are not "taking" time from someone or something else more deserving of our time and attention. If we are, we might want to rethink our choices. Through time management and personal decisions, we MAKE the time to help our children with their homework, we MAKE the time to complete a task at work, and we MAKE the time to share with our spouse. If we are not MAKING the time to do these things, we are allowing others to TAKE the time away from us.

With that, thank you for MAKING the time to read this post, and congratulations to those of you who MAKE the time to do the things most important to you. Life is too short to spend doing things we do not enjoy. Remember, our place of employment is a choice, the length of our commute is a choice, our personal qualifications are a choice, our relationships with others are a choice. In short, our life is a result of our decisions and a result of what it is for which we MAKE time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All Stop or Full Speed Ahead?

As an avid reader of blogs (so much to learn from so many), there are a dozen that I monitor regularly. Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agents, had a recent post on his blog that really struck a chord with me. In it, he uses the metaphor of the intersection as that of a decision point. Although I am not one to "accelerate at crossroads" in a literal sense, I would say that I continue to do so when it comes to important personal and professional decisions (though I have not always been that way). One thing I do not suffer from is "analysis paralysis" which brings with it a fair share of mistakes. Rather than let sitting on the sidelines be my mistake, I make my mistakes on the field (and sometimes just taking the field proves to be a mistake). I have found that more often than not, the mistakes I make on the field are more gratifying. If nothing else, they provide a learning point, and give me a life lesson that I will not likely choose to experience again.

- How do you react when you find yourself at a decision point?
- If you do brake, does your caution result in missed opportunities?
- If you accelerate, do you find yourself avoiding or creating collisions? If you create them, are they collisions of opportunity?

As I pointed out, Chris Brogan is the author of the book Trust Agents, which is one of the reasons I started this blog. The premise of the book is to guide people into leveraging social media to facilitate their evolution into that of a "Trust Agent". The authors' definition of "Trust Agent" being people who "aren't necessarily marketers or salespeople; they're the digitally savvy people who use the Web to humanize businesses using transparency, honesty, and genuine relationships", was enough to get my attention.

I encourage anyone who sees themselves as a "Trust Agent", sees value in becoming one or would like to help others evolve into the same, to read the book and follow through with the ideas brought to the surface.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Wait Till Your Father Gets Home"

As a child, I rarely heard my mother make the statement, "Wait till your father gets home." When she did, it was a request for us to demonstrate some patience before doing something we were eager to do. It was not used as the warning or threat to which it had evolved in other homes. While on my most recent business trip, I had three experiences that brought the theme song from the 1970s cartoon which shared it's name with the aforementioned statement.

The first instance occurred when I heard a fellow officer state that he personally took no issue with a given situation, but "The Boss" was not going to be happy! In that context, he told those who heard him one of three things:

1. "The Boss" is irrational and will be angry when made aware of a situation that was not deemed all that inflammatory by his juniors.

2. I am a great guy who "gets it" where my senior just won't understand.

3. I am not going to spend the time to help "The Boss" understand that this is really no big deal.

The second time my mind made reference to the theme song was when a different officer told a group that we needed to further investigate a few issues and come up with a couple more solid recommendations before "The Boss" gets back in town. In this context, he was stating:

- I know "The Boss" and he has conditioned me to be concerned about certain issues, so let's go out of our way to explore them to the point we are comfortable and not wait for him to ask us to do the same.

- If I were the "Decision Maker", I would want to address these specific concerns before making a decision. We better be 100% comfortable with the recommendations we are making before we present them.

In the first example, an individual was hiding behind "The Boss" (at best) and being disloyal by misrepresenting him (at worst.) The latter shows an individual taking a proactive stance and acknowledging that we need not wait until "The Boss" gets here to do our due diligence.

The third instance was while waiting at the airport for my flight back to Memphis. My bride and son called me via speaker phone excited to know I would soon be home. A completely different point of reference, but this father couldn't wait to get home.

In short, represent our seniors well; do not wait to take the very action our seniors would otherwise direct; and make our Boss's/Mom's/Dad's return something that is celebrated and not dreaded.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Firefighters

As a native of California, fires were a constant on the evening news during the summer season. I remember on many occasions local firefighters traveling long distances to help the cause in other "jurisdictions." Though neither lives, nor property were at risk in the following instance, a small group of "firefighters" from distant lands were assembled to temper heated discussion on the latest strategic initiative. Though the topic du jour was the creation of the Navy's newest designator, "Cyber Warfare Engineer", the method of response and the lessons learned are the real take-aways.

Though there were several "firefighters", there were three who truly subdued the flames. Not surprisingly, given the topic, those three were the three most junior people in the room and only one had ever played such a role before. The rest of us were merely providing context, facilitating the discussion and playing devil's advocate.

For those who did not connect the dots of that poorly painted picture, we conducted a working group of subject matter experts from varied locations across the country. As is the norm, the slide deck was beautiful and the recommended way ahead was thorough. After we briefed the senior officer who called the group together, I left with a few observations (though not the first time witnessed):

- Any future success in the Computer Network Operations arena is directly related to our willingness to embrace the good ideas from our LTs and below...they truly have a vision, see the potential and understand the level of investment required to be relevant.

- We have very few Officers with the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities in this important arena, which though a niche today, is sure to be our core competency tomorrow.

- We are at risk of losing the majority of those Officers if we don't change our culture.

Because those three subject matter experts ensured I left with extremely relevant data points, I wanted to attempt to return the favor. Therefore, I shared the following in hopes of creating a mentorship moment since I continue to enjoy when others make the time to do the same for me:

- We are "They"...There is much discussion about how "They" don't have a strategy, or "They" are heading down the wrong path, or "They" have no idea what is happening on the deckplates. By participating in this working group, we needed to understand that we are "They" and the more of us who think in such terms, the better off we all will be.

- Pretty Slides Do Not Equate to Implementation...The fingerprints of all working group participants are now all over the Cyber Warfare Engineer initiative and we all should be proud of the product we delivered. That said, and as a frequent working group participant, we all needed to understand that success will be measured by assessing implementation and not head nods during an outbrief.

- Share Your Unique Vantage Point...All too often we assume that if we are not hearing the discussion, it must not be happening (especially in the information age). Participating in working groups gives us a unique vantage point and access to information. It is critical that we share what we can about our experiences and provide context to those who didn't have the benefit of hearing the discussion first hand. Transparency is desirable, but without clarity it may very well do more harm than good.

- Frame the Discussion or be Shaped by the Outcome...It is much easier to frame the discussion to inform a desired outcome than it is to change the outcome after high level decisions have gained significant momentum. As mentioned in a previous post, we need not wait until the wildfire is right outside our door before we take action. We needed to understand that a working group is optimally used as a proactive tool for identifying opportunities vice a short-fused response to imminent deadlines.

Though the fire has been significantly tempered it is not yet out, but the three experts rolled into town, helped to contain it and left the remaining smoldering ashes to the locals. We would be remiss if we hadn't ensured the junior officers left knowing how valued their ideas, opinions and recommendations are to the strategic direction of our core business lines. Never before has "Leading Up" been so important. Likewise, never before could seniors learn more from seeking input from juniors (Generation Y). Regardless of our relative seniority, we need not be shy. It is our responsibility to offer unsolicited recommendations to seniors and seek counsel from juniors. Thanks again you three, you know who you are...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Leadership Versus Power

Regardless of our current employment status (executive, individual contributor, stay at home spouse, etc), each of us is presented with opportunities in both our personal and professional lives to lead on a daily basis. Those of us who take such responsibility seriously create opportunities to lead vice waiting for them to be presented to us (i.e. Teaching our child, volunteering at charitable organization, leading a working group of peers to address strategic issues, etc). Those of us who strive to enjoy a degree of success in our leadership endeavors lean towards demonstrating leadership, while others focused on control are ore comfortable exerting power.

Leadership is influencing others with or without the benefit of a formal platform or charter, while power is getting others to do things because of one's formal platform or charter. Clearly, a position of power facilitates the demonstration of leadership, but it is not required. Likewise, a position of leadership is undermined when exertion of power is the tool of choice.

For those of us living the nomadic lifestyle of service member, we see Shipmates come and go each executing the same exact charter but employing different philosophies and achieving varied levels of success. We have the benefit of learning through the successes and failures of others and the opportunity to emulate those who we admire most. Though, we need not rely on the workplace to see examples...

Yesterday, as I checked on for my flight to Norfolk, the gentleman in front of me took issue with the extra fee he was being asked to pay for his "excessively heavy" bag. The airline employee notifying him of the news did so in a manner that was reminiscent of playground taunting. Clearly, she enjoyed her position of relative power and yet was unable to "influence" her customer. Just as it appeared a real scene was unfolding, the gentleman's wife assumed the leadership role. She offered her lighter bag and had her husband move a portion of his belongings into it.

End Result: No scene, no baggage fees and an example to the power hungry airline employee of how a leader might handle the same situation.

Every day, each of us has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and/or exert power. Done properly, the means enables the desired end. Done forcibly, the means may prevent the very end we desire. If one is able to achieve the objective solely through the exertion of power, negative second and third order effects are a given. Choose wisely.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Building Legos"

When I came home from work today, my six year old son had a friend over and they were making planes out of Legos, or as he calls it "Building Legos." By the look on my son's face, it was clear that something was up and he was not having the best of times. When his friend excused himself to go to the restroom, my wife asked our son if he wanted his friend to go home. The response made perfect sense to all three of us, "Mom, I don't really like him but I don't want him to go home...I don't want to play by myself and he is pretty good at Legos." I was pleased with the response, as over the years I have come to understand that position all too well.

In the workplace, how many times do we find ourselves working with people we don't necessarily like being around. We put up with certain people because we need some help in general or because they provide specific expertise that we might not have. I know I am not alone when I admit to having been in such a situation, whether it was a lab partner in high school, a friend who was more mechanically inclined, or someone who was willing to provide a ride to a destination of choice. We have all been there at one point or another...it is part of being a friend, Shipmate or just co-existing on this planet. We make the most of the interaction, complete the task at hand and move on. And yes, I will admit there is a good chance I have been "That Guy" and not just put up with "That Guy."

A much more challenging situation to deal with is that of "Building Legos" with someone whom you truly like but who unintentionally and repeatedly disassembles the creations you made by yourself or with other teammates. How do you let that person know that their actions are setting the team back or resulting in creations that are not all that useful (I know, how is any Lego creation useful? It's an analogy, stay with me)? I see people react to such situations in different ways...

1) Some choose to continually fix the creation after the friend (coworker) leaves...
2) Some choose to talk about the personal shortfalls with other friends (coworkers) as a means of amusement...
3) Some choose to assist that friend (coworker) address their shortcomings and by helping them to overcome whatever issues are causing the destructive "contributions"...

I must admit that I have reacted in all three of these manners in both my personal and professional lives and though I have ultimately connected the dots and migrated towards #3, I still am guilty of #1 more than I should be. If my hope is for those to address my many shortcomings through constructive mentorship, why shouldn't all be given the same courtesy.

Are we helping our teammates to increase their contributions?
Are we receptive to others providing us with constructive feedback?
Is there ever a place for poking fun at someone for their shortcomings?

With that, let's start "Building Legos" and helping others to hone their skills as we work together to create value.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fourth Quarter

Another week of the football season is behind us, and as always there was plenty of drama in the fourth quarter of more than a couple of games. As a football fan, I enjoy the the last minute comeback as much as the next guy. However, dramatic fourth quarters are usually a byproduct of less than satisfactory performance leading up to that point. Odds are, if a team performs optimally from the first kick-off on, the game is all but won prior to the commencement of the fourth quarter. Though I recognize well matched teams clicking on all cylinders makes the fourth quarter the only period that truly matters, that rarely happens (but when it does, it is a beautiful sight).

In the work place (at least the ones to which I have been privileged to be a part), fourth quarter heroics or failures have no place. I have personally witnessed, done my best to prevent, and maybe even unknowingly created situations where unnecessary stress and unintentional drama was experienced by valued teammates. I have never been one to procrastinate and I am chronically early to meetings and social engagements. Truth is being late tells those around us that they are not as important as the other things we are juggling (i.e. If we are late, the focus of our attention that made us late ought to be defensible).

Over the past couple of months, there have been more than a few frustrating initiatives at work that required fourth quarter heroics due to poor execution leading up to that point. What they were is not important, the fact that we "won" on each account is of interest, but the fact that those who created the need for a last minute comeback may not take note is vital. We need not wait until the wildfire is right outside our door, the night before an important test, or our car is completely out of gas before we take action. Preventive measures are always at our disposal, though with each passing moment the number of tools we have is diminished.

We live in an asynchronous world and many of us are playing multiple "games" at the same time. For the games you are playing by yourself, start playing early. For the games your juniors are playing on your behalf, frame the ground rules, listen to their feedback and give them time in the first three quarters to address game plan changes. Under no circumstances should any of us wait until the fourth quarter to begin playing with all of our heart. If we happen to be in a position to pull out a victory in the final minutes, we should only celebrate if such heroics were not forced because we backed the team into a corner due to a lack of focus/interest. If that was the case, we should merely wipe our brow, thank the hero of the day, offer our apologies to those for whom we made life unnecessarily difficult and vow to improve our process.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Authenticity

The word "authentic" is an adjective used to describe someone or something that is "not false or copied; genuine; real." There are many people in my life who can be described in such a way. Unfortunately, there are more than a couple who are on the other end of the spectrum and are more accurately categorized as fake or counterfeit. I choose to associate myself with as many authentic people as possible and do my best to steer clear of the frauds. Authentic people are sincere, proud of who they are, and usually have a horrible poker face. Given a choice, who wouldn't want to surround themselves with authenticity.

I distinctly remember my in-brief at COMNAVSECGRU during my transition from SIXTH FLEET to my Executive Officer (XO) tour at Naval Security Group Activity Naples, Italy. Though I enjoyed two weeks of leadership training and one week of legal school in Newport, Rhode Island, it was the 30 minutes one Captain Scott Witt invested in an eager LT that resonates with me to this day. The Deputy, with whom I had a scheduled appointment, was otherwise occupied and like any good officer who embraces opportunities to mentor junior officers, Captain Witt invited me into his office. We spoke of the great leaders with whom I served at SIXTH Fleet (among them is now Admiral Mike Rogers) the incredible things I learned while supporting Operation ALLIED FORCE and the great ports a Sailor experiences while sailing the Mediterranean. Though reminiscing was enjoyable, it was his advice to a young man about taking on the challenge of XO and the way he delivered it, as well as his personal example that I continue to remember. Though the XO is traditionally a role of "Bad Cop" to the Commanding Officer's "Good Cop", he simply recommended I be genuine and not play a role. In other words, he advocated that I, true to his personal example, be authentic. This was simple advice for me to grasp. As flawed as I am, I find it very difficult to play a role that is inconsistent with who I am (My wife and parents can vouch for my lack of ability to lie even in good fun). Do not get me wrong, there were more than a few times that I was the "Bad Cop", but when doing so I did it in my own way and it was never an act.

It appears the trait of authenticity is a result of both nurture and nature and the Heritage's I know all share such a trait. We wear our heart on our sleeve, we have no secrets and have little patience for those who portray themselves as something they are not.

Be who you are...Be authentic (and surround yourself with people who choose to do the same)!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Collaborate, Integrate and Educate...

Disclaimer: This is a slight rework to a post I made on www.informationwarriors.net and our Community Facebook page.

As one who takes the role of mentor (and mentee for that matter) very seriously, I consider myself privileged to be sought out by juniors for career advice. Recently, I was approached by a fellow Officer who was fortunate enough to be preparing for his upcoming tour as a Carrier Strike Group Cryptologic Resource Coordinator (CRC), which is our most coveted career milestone for our sharpest Lieutenant Commanders. Like those of us with enough humility to admit we may not be optimally prepared for the next growth opportunity in our personal and professional development continuum, he asked for a bit of advice that might help him better prepare himself for the challenge ahead. When he asked, I was immediately transported back six years when I was asking a mentor for similar insight on my way to the very same operational milestone. To this day, I remember and covet the advice given to me which has helped me to minimize (though not eliminate) the many lessons I continue to learn the hard way. Fact is, as daunting as it is for most of us to step into the next stretch assignment, whether it be afloat or ashore, the same advice applies. In fact, the same advice applies to every job any of us have as Naval Professionals, officer or enlisted (or civilians for that matter). If we simply collaborate, integrate and educate, we will enjoy great success. Likewise, if we find ourselves less than proud of our contribution level on the back end of a tour, we clearly did not do one or more of those things well during our tenure. Though the advice uses CRC as the example, it could just as easily been Executive Officer, Department Head, Leading Chief Petty Officer Officer Community Manager, OPNAV Action Officer, COCOM Operational Planner, or civilian equivalent.

Collaborate - None of us show up fully prepared for our next job. As a new CRC, I distinctly remember leaning on the other CRCs on the San Diego (and even FDNF) waterfront who were anywhere from three months to 23 months ahead of me in the training cycle. My first waterfront conference took on a similar tone to that of an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting..."Hi, I am (insert name), I am a CRC and I don't know what I am doing." After we all admitted we had much to learn and nothing to hide, the tone on the waterfront quickly changed to one that was reminiscent of some classes at USNA..."Cooperate to Graduate" (though in this case it was not about graduation, but about contribution). OPTASKs, SOPs, message shells and training plans were being cross-decked, refined and tailored with the ultimate goal of standardization. The point is, the sooner we acknowledge we arrive with much to learn, and feel comfortable leaning on our peers, juniors and seniors (and respond to the needs of others who lean on us), the more quickly we grow, contribute and ultimately further our profession.

Integrate - As a CRC our job is to support each and every Warfare Commander across the Carrier Strike Group (and sometimes beyond) as a part of the intelligence team. Each Strike Group and Warfare Commander arrives with a preconceived notion of what happens “Behind the Green Door." And just as in our world the "Green Door" is more than a metaphor, the notion of our personal integration being critical to our ability to lead the cryptologic team under our charge is more than a mandate. If we are to contribute operationally, add value as staff officers and truly lead our Sailors, we must first demonstrate strong personal initiative and seek every opportunity to be seen as the "Go To" Officer on the staff. This is done only by getting involved and demonstrating great confidence (not arrogance) in our abilities (and of those who make up our team), by creating opportunities to integrate, thereby creating our place within the larger organization.

Educate - Our most demanding jobs (CRC is clearly one of them) and therefore our greatest growth opportunities are often times “1 of 1” (e.g. our performance is not overtly measured against our peer group), and as such, it is incumbent upon us to educate the rest of the staff on the contributions of the IW/SIGINT team afloat and the extended reachback capabilities (national, theater and organic) we are able to leverage on behalf of the Operational Commander. Some of us get lucky and our Strike Group Commander, Warfare Commanders or Staff Leadership are already believers in the value Information Warfare and Cryptologic Professionals provide. If not, it's time to initiate a public affairs campaign and educate them on capabilities you and your team have at your disposal, both locally and through the extended enterprise.

What attracted many of us to the Navy is the same thing that separates our service from the others. It is our sense of community, our individual commitment to continual improvement and the interest each of us takes in the development of our Shipmates. Each time a fellow Naval Professional asks us for advice, we should be appreciative. Not because it validates our roles as mentors (which we all are), but for the opportunity it provides each of us to reflect on and share the many things we have experienced and learned over time. Regardless of our current paygrade, there remains much to be learned from our Shipmates, past and present, senior and junior; all we need to do is ask. And for those of us who recognize we have something to offer, we need not wait to be asked, we simply share...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Basketball Season is Here...so what?

Though it is a sport I never really enjoyed playing and only watch in March, I see goodness is any team sport, whether it be football, basketball, or military service. In honor of the fact that the NBA season kicked off last night, I dusted off the only basketball related book I own, “Leading with the Heart” by Coach K. For those of you that are not familiar, that is Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (and a West Point graduate). Using his experiences as a basketball coach, he makes many great points about leadership in general. Most are not new to students of leadership and management, but he does a good job of illustrating the importance of deliberately creating a desirable culture in a locker room, wardroom, or living room. Though I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates sports as an analogy to the workplace, the points that struck me most given my current job include:

- Recruit great individuals who are willing to be a part of a team…reach out to Enlisted Sailors, fellow Officers, civilians and midshipmen that you would like to make part of our team. As you know, we rely a great deal on OCS, STA-21, and lateral transfers to grow our wardroom. By each of us embracing our role as recruiter, we’ll posture our team for greater success.

- Use plural pronouns vice the first person (none more powerful than we)…We are a community of leaders and need to find ways to lead through teamwork and collaboration. Using the first person is inconsistent with the collaborative philosophy we share and unintentionally compartments our team.

- All assistant coaches should have the vision of being a top leader…we need to encourage our peers and subordinates to seek out growth opportunities. I am proud of the high number of individuals on our team who want to grow, desire to contribute in meaningful ways and are not overly focused merely on maintaining promotability. At the same time, I am disappointed in the relatively few who are contrary to any of the aforementioned attributes. Our coaches (seniors) must continue to focus on the development of our respective assistant coaches (mentees) and help them grow into and earn head coaching positions (i.e. be our reliefs), while helping the others pursue interests outside our lifelines. One of the ways coaches can be measured is by looking at their coaching tree (i.e. the number of assistant coaches who went on to other positions of influence). Though Coach K's Tree is not as full of branches as others, it is definitely impressive. What does your coaching tree look like? Are you deliberately building branches? Are you purposefully creating a relationship with a senior from whom you'd like to grow your branch?

- Failure is part of success…we need to reward risk takers and recognize the failures that come with risk taking as lessons learned. The only way we grow is by extending beyond our comfort zone and helping others to do the same.

Please give some thought to the culture each of us is promoting (intentionally or otherwise) within our workcenter, command, or other place of business. We each need to do our part to make our team one of character, collaboration, and competence.

I am not a basketball fan, but am a fan of great leaders and for that reason alone, Go Duke!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Politics in the Workplace

Though many people believe that politics have no place in the workplace, if you think of politics as relationships than I would guess your opinion might change. The way I see it us the term "relationships" has a much more positive connotation than "politics," though they are very much the same.

As a boy, I grew up in a very loving and athletic minded family. When it was time for bed, my brother and I might be able to negotiate a delayed bed time if we challenged our Dad to a wrestling match. We knew that the best time to challenge Pops was when Mom was out. We also knew that he rewarded maximum effort. If we fought hard, he might let us last more than the requisite two minutes before getting pinned and thereby "earn" an extra half hour of awake time. Though I did not know it as a ten year old (yes, I was a slow starter), I can now connect the dots and recognize that him not pinning us was a foregone conclusion, but he wanted to give us the sense of earning the privilege. In layman's terms, he was ensuring we tried our best, and we were appealing to his desire to spend more time with "His Boys" (though the feeling was mutual). We were both leveraging politics, or acknowledging the unwritten rules of the game.

I have been a staff officer for longer than I care to admit, but any success in achieving any objective to which I was championing on behalf of my seniors is due to the power of the network and the relationships built over time. The longer one spends in the Navy (or any team for that matter) the more adept the capable become at getting things done. That is due in large part to us gaining a better understanding of the rules to getting things done and less because we have some unique perspective or area of expertise.

During my current tour, I have had the unique opportunity to work with someone who I sincerely hope is a Flag Officer in our community. Though he continues to teach me a great deal, one of the many lessons I have learned (though I will clearly spend more time honing) is realizing the power of a "BATNA" (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

Politics in the workplace have everything to do with our ability to influence others, to grow our personal networks and to manage relationships with seniors, subordinates and peers. With that I hope we all translate "politics" in the workplace to "relationships" in the workplace, and see it as a positive and not a negative.

Seeing as my brother works at Cisco Systems, I can't help but plug their example of the power of the human network. Are we doing our part to realize that power? In the commercial, they speak of a world where anyone can "be famous." I offer we replace "be famous" with "add value." How are we adding value?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Feedback

One of the keys to continual improvement is constructive 360 degree feedback. The problem is, we are not accustomed to providing others with honest feedback, nor do we ask others to provide the same to us. Yes, each year we receive at least one Fitness Report (FITREP) or Evaluation (Eval); and yes, for those of us in leadership positions, we write the same on our subordinates. The issue is most of us do not take advantage of these opportunities, nor do we create other forums for such feedback. It shouldn't take long for a Sailor to connect the dots and recognize a FITREP/Eval is designed to speak to a promotion board and not serve as a true performance appraisal. That said, a FITREP/Eval should be accompanied by a true assessment of one's performance. At the same time, mid-term counseling should be the same, vice the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge, consider yourself counseled" evolution most have made it (I personally do not remember the last time a senior made use of a mid-term counseling opportunity).

Though the Navy has created opportunities for such feedback to take place, we not wait for them. When was the last time you asked a mentor for feedback? A junior for an assessment of your performance? A peer how you might be able to improve? Such 360 degree feedback will not happen by accident and we need not wait for CO/XO school or Navy Corporate Business Course (NCBC) and the like (two of a few fora that make 360 degree feedback a part of the course).

Recognizing that my actions in the area of Total Force Integration, though deliberate, have not resulted in meaningful progress, I asked a Reserve Information Warfare Captain for honest feedback. We have a TELCON set up for Thursday. I know the intentions of my actions, and I know how I hope they are being received, but a lack of progress clearly demonstrates something is lost in translation. It's clear the important assessment is not a self-assessment, but the perceptions of others. Unfortunately, without asking for feedback others will not willingly provide it and even if they do, it may not be completely honest (people are not willing to tell the emperor he is not wearing clothes, though clearly none of us claim to be emperors). As one of my valued mentors eloquently stated, "There is no more exacting a method of determining an officer's worth - than asking his (her) Sailors." To that statement, I would also add hollow feedback is a determination of little worth, while honest, constructive, and often times negative feedback, is a determination of great worth.

I look forward to my feedback session on Thursday and I will continue to seek feedback from multiple sources, as we can only improve upon our shortcomings if we now what they are. Likewise, I am prepared to respectfully provide feedback to others even if not specifically asked (which may have turned a few people off over time).

At the Naval Academy, we were continually asked to recite the Laws of the Navy, but none was more meaningful than the fifth:

On the strength of one link in the cable
Dependeth the might of the chain;
Who knows when thou mayest be tested?
So live that thou bearest the strain!

Asking for feedback is but one means of ensuring we are not the weakest link, and offering it to others ensures the chain is as strong as possible.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Executing as a Team

I have but a few passions in life and at the top of my list is doing just about anything with my son. For that reason, I proudly assume the role of Soccer Coach on a reoccurring basis. Our most recent game was this past Saturday and prior to kick-off we talked about positions, spreading out and passing the ball. I received many head nods and the requisite "thumbs up" telling me they understood. We lined up, we forgot our positions, we ran in a pack and few passed the ball. At halftime, we had a similar chat. Again, each player assured me they understood the plan, but when the whistle was blown their actions were a clear contradiction.

As I continually watch this unfold, I see parallels in my professional life. How many times do we ask subject matter experts to come together (i.e. working group) and develop plans to address specific challenges? Smart people come up with good ideas, put them in PowerPoint slides, get head nods from our seniors, pat each other on the back and then return to our respective duty station. The unfortunate thing is that in the execution phase, we look just like a youth soccer team. We forget/ignore our role, we fail to pass the ball, and we run over each other at times, chasing a ball our teammate is better prepared to kick down the field. The most significant difference between the two examples is the soccer players are between six and eight years old.

It does not take much to connect the dots and understand that a working group that doesn't produce a formal execution document (i.e. record message) that formalizes tasks, assigns roles and identifies specific due dates, is little more than a waste of time. There is no doubt that execution is more difficult than strategy development, but without a single execution document, there is no way for us to confidently synchronize our efforts and follow through on the plans to which we may have informally agreed upon.

After Saturday's soccer game, we went to see a string quartet concert. A single sheet of paper (their execution document) and talented musicians made for some beautiful music. Without their sheet music, the sounds would likely have been little more than noise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rivalry

In what is clearly a strange set of circumstances, the ESPN family of networks is currently airing two live football games. Though nothing about that is strange, the fact that one channel has my college alma mater's rival, West Point, and another is broadcasting my high school alma mater's cross town rival, Foothill High School, is definitely unique. As I flip between channel's, I am left wondering about the relationship amongst rivals.

According to wikipedia, a "rival" is a competing person, company, a team. Personally speaking, a rival should not be confused with the term "adversary," which brings with it a connotation of hostility. The point at which a rival becomes an adversary is when the relationship is no longer healthy. Throughout my athletic career, the focus of much of our (note I never played individual sports and was always a member of a team) energy was directed towards beating our rival. All of the while, our motivation was the bragging rights we hoped to earn after beating our rivals. Though that was the reason we put in the extra blood, sweat and tears, the benefit had little to do with what the scoreboard showed at the end of any of our games. While pushing ourselves in hopes of edging our rivals, we become stronger, faster, more focused and a more cohesive unit. In essence, when we truly connect the dots, we realize our rivals made us better.

Though we are accustomed to associating rivals with athletics, the truth is they are prevalent wherever we turn. There are rivals amongst countries, military services, private companies, neighbors, friends, siblings and coworkers. As long as they do not become adversarial, they result in stronger economies, a more capable Department of Defense, more value delivered to the customer, a tighter/cleaner/safer community, improved and more capable individuals/teams/families.

As a matter of practice, I support both Foothill and West Point and consider myself lucky to have friends from both institutions. Because of my rivals, whether it be academic, athletic or at the workplace, I am better in every facet of my life than I would be if it weren't for them.

With that, Go Army! (Though you won't catch me uttering "Beat Navy!" Everyone has to draw the line somewhere.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Legacy

Today was an interesting day at work, as we had the pleasure of interacting with three phenomenal Flag Officers. VADM "Jack" Dorsett, RADM Mike Brown and RADM Jan Hamby stopped by after they completed their responsibilities as members of this year's RADM Promotion Board. I used the short commute home to reflect upon some of the wonderful contributions these three leaders have made for their respective community, the Information Dominance Corps, the Navy and our Nation. In essence, though they have many years in front of them as Naval Officers, all three will individually and collectively leave us with quite the legacy.

The topic of legacy has been at the forefront of my thoughts of late as I witness a long time friend continue his battle with cancer. Because such reflection is a regular part of my battle rhythm, I often times find comfort in viewing Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture". For those few who may not know Randy's story, I will let the video speak for itself, but when you hear about leaving a legacy, following your dreams and time management from a man with months to live (unfortunately, he has since passed), it really hits home. Rather than focus on the life and death aspects of how a remarkable man coped with an all too real situation, it struck a simpler chord with me related to my life as a Naval Officer (though the deeper message is clear and unambiguous).

If you think about it, each tour is a defined amount of time to do something we enjoy, to contribute both individually and as a team, and to develop both personally and professionally. During my XO tour, I would ask each and every Sailor prior to detaching the command two questions that required no answer but provided them with an opportunity to reflect:

1) Are you leaving this tour of duty a better Sailor, Cryptologist/Information Warrior and person?
2) Is the command a better place for having had you here?

When you think about it, being able to answer "Yes" to those two questions is what defines a successful tour, not flowery awards or evaluations. Life is about continually growing and adding value to those with whom we share this wonderful journey. It is my hope that we are all giving thought to what legacy we will be leaving behind when we leave our current duty station, when we no longer wear the nation's cloth or when we depart this world altogether. Additionally, the collective wardroom should be giving thought to what legacy we want to leave to the next generation of Sailors.


- What legacy will you leave your shipmates at your current command?
- What legacy will the IDC/IW Wardroom of 2009 leave to the wardroom of 2029?

We must be deliberate in our actions and execute with a sense of urgency.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Birds of a Feather...

It is said that "Birds of a feather flock together" and we see evidence of great truth in that hypothesis each and every day. Likewise, coaches, mentors, parents and friends will tell us that if we want to be (insert goal) then we need to surround ourselves with people who are (insert goal derived descriptor). As a kid, I was extremely passionate about the sport of soccer and I wanted to be the best player I could. The only way to achieve that goal was to join teams that were made up of only the best players in the area, thereby elevating my game. At the Naval Academy I had my share of academic challenges and the only way to help improve my grades was to spend study hour with classmates who were strong in the particular field of study in which I was having challenges at any given time. I think that lesson is learned early in life and is easy to grasp. It wasn't until my first assignment as an Officer that I was able to connect the dots to the corollary.

As an Ensign, my first set of orders as a Cryptologic Officer was to NSGA Adak, Alaska. Being a single 22 year old, Adak was the last place I wanted to go. I still remember the Doctor at my overseas screening telling me that there was a "pretty girl behind every tree." The joke was lost on me since I had no idea at that time that there were no trees (that said, I guess the joke is on him since I met my now wife there). It wasn't until six months later that I learned the most significant lesson of my tour. The command was slated to close, dependents were soon to be sent home and all new arrivals would be unaccompanied. Despite that fact, top notch Sailors continued to arrive on this remote island eager to contribute, but why? It wasn't the mission (the Soviet Union was no longer), it wasn't the beaches, and it sure wasn't the weather. It had everything to do with the leadership and one man in particular. My first Commanding Officer was Captain Dave Henry, who unfortunately passed away a year ago this week. I had no idea how lucky I was at the time, but every CT that checked in clearly did. These top notch Sailors were flocking to come work for a great leader. Their pride in being a part of the team he was leading did not wane, as I clearly remember his departure just over a year after I arrived. As he drove his trademark "Beater" jeep towards the air terminal where he would board the plane that would take him away from us, the street was lined with almost every Sailor not on watch. We were proudly saluting him as a means of expressing our gratitude. Needless to say, there were many "leaky" eyes.

Even then, I clearly understood that if I wanted to be great, I should surround myself with greatness. Though it was Captain Henry who personally demonstrated to me that if one was great, greatness would follow him (her). His example is one of many I continually attempt to emulate. As I continue to seek out great people with whom to surround myself, I hope that someday I will be worthy of great people seeking out me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Love as Leadership?

I have read many books on leadership, but rarely have I seen the term LOVE to overtly communicate an important leadership trait. In the military ranks, we speak of honor, courage, integrity, competence, vision, humility, compassion and the like, but never LOVE. We speak of open door policies, intrusive leadership practices, getting "buy-in", collaboration and loyalty, but never LOVE.

My parents were the first to help me connect the dots by showing me LOVE is demonstrated through availability and the time we make for others...they were and continue to be there for me, my brother and the rest of our immediate and extended family. My most valued mentors are those who have demonstrated their LOVE by making themselves available to show a personal interest in my professional and personal development. The Sailors I enjoy working with most are those who demonstrate their LOVE by making themselves available to the mission, their families and their shipmates.

If availability is a demonstration of LOVE than I must admit I both LOVE and am LOVEd by my family, friends and Shipmates. Question is how available do we truly make ourselves to those whom we care about most (or are we just going through the motions)? Whether it be our friends, family or Shipmates are we demonstrating our LOVE by making ourselves truly available? When is the last time we demonstrated LOVE as part of our Leadership Toolbox?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Command Triumvirate

As I prepare for command, I reflect upon my time as Executive Officer at NSGA Naples, Italy. Though I was there at a time when the entire command was comprised of excellent Sailors, there were two individuals responsible for my professional development during that 24 month tour. As you might hope, those two individuals were the Commanding Officer (now retired, but then CDR Eric Newhouse) and the Command Master Chief (now CMDCM, but then CTICM Rich Hatton). A "seasoned LT" (as if there is such a thing) could not have asked for two better mentors then the other two members of the command triumvirate. Every situation was turned into a training opportunity and the case study method of learning that Harvard Business School is credited with creating was alive and well in Napoli. The difference was these cases were real. And though not running the command, these training sessions allowed me to play the role of the Commanding Officer. By the end of the year I shared with CDR Newhouse prior to his change of command, I was ready to sit in the big chair, though that was in the cards. Instead, the role was somewhat reversed, as it was now the CMC and me coaching the new CO during his "Honeymoon" (though the CMC was far from done with my professional development). This experience connected the dots by making it clear that the success of any command is based on the collaborative relationship cultivated by the Command Triumvirate. I only hope that the NIOC Pensacola triumvirate is fortunate enough to enjoy the relationship that we did in Naples. I recognize that like with everything else in life, that won't happen by accident. If THEY don't now, WE will soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Command

I was recently made aware that I was "screened for command" as part of the Information Warfare Community's new Command Screen Board model. Needless to say I am extremely honored and excited about the opportunity. When I was told shortly thereafter that I got my number one choice for command (Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Pensacola), I was elated. My wife is excited to move yet again, as she is all about the adventure, and my son has visions of beachfront condo living.

Though I love my current job and have many things left on my "To-Do List", I have already begun my transformation under the direction of my personal Board of Directors made up of mentors (junior and senior, military and civilian.) As Jim Rohn says, "It's not what you get, it's what you become." I'm proud of what others have helped me to become, but I am more excited about becoming the person the Sailors at NIOC Pensacola deserve.