5 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization

Ask any person walking with a cell phone who Steve Jobs is and they’ll tell you.  They wait in line for hours to buy the next IPhone.  They hear smartphone and IPhone is the image that comes to mind.  Steve Jobs left the world with a product that is now a part of every day life.  

Most people are aware of his innovative approach to technology, business and how he made people better.  I find Steve Jobs to be one of those most influential, inspiring and innovative people in this generation.  I have listened to Steve Job’s Crazy Ones speech at least 500 times.  It gives me purpose.  It inspires me.  It opens possibilities that we are all better than we allow ourselves to be.  

As a leadership enthusiast, I want to point out some of my favorite quotes from Jobs that have inspired me to be a better leader.  We need to understand that Steve wasn’t just a brilliant innovator, but he was also a leader.  

“What leadership is is having a vision and being able to articulate that so that the people around you can understand it.” – Steve Jobs

If anyone is going to make that first step into leading, they MUST have vision.  Leaders must know where they’re taking their team.  Leading people implies we are going somewhere.  Leading implies we have a goal/objective to accomplish.  Leaders must create a vision to accomplish that goal.  Call it a plan, a path, an idea, but communicate it in such a way that your team can see what you see.  Communicate that vision clearly, concise and easy enough for their followers/team to understand. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to understand.  When we understand things, we get the full spectrum of what it is we’re about to do.  Thus, a leader must paint a vision so that their team can see it too.  

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” – Steve Jobs

Leaders invest in people.  That’s what they do naturally.  They make people better.  Steve Jobs nails it.  A leader’s job isn’t to be easy on people, it’s to make them better.  If we’re going to invest in people, let’s make it count for them.  A leader must be honest with their team.  If a team member needs a wake up call, hold them accountable to the values and standards that are set in place.  It’s a leader’s job to coach, mentor and guide their team members to not only be better, but do better and know better.  Don’t forget that a leader focuses on people.  They are in a way, our soul purpose for being a leader.  We don’t just want to make them better, but also want to make them leaders.  

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs

Leaders want to know that what they’re doing is working.  They want to know that their leadership is effective.  They want to know that their vision is being carried out and that progress is being made.  There is only one way to check how you and your team is doing and that’s by stopping to assess where the team is and how they have been performing.  You can’t look forward to see that, you must look behind you to see how far the team has gone.  Looking back provides an opportunity to grow from your experience, the failure, the perseverance, the challenges you’ve faced and so on. It’s important that we look back to connect the dots, but don’t forget that more dots need to be made.  Don’t focus too much on the past, but look to the future.  Leading is about where we’re going, but we must learn and progress from where we’ve been.  

“Be a yardstick of quality.  Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

Think from the follower’s perspective.  Followers want amazing leaders leading them. Leaders must be that quality that followers are looking for.  I’ll say this in the nicest way, but followers don’t need a half-ass leader.  They need someone who is of the utmost quality.  The quality of the leaders depends on the follower’s development, progress and effectiveness.  Leaders will always have a high standards of excellence for their team and their work environment.  A leader cares about how things are done.  They expect high quality results.  They expect high quality performance.  As a follower, be selective on who you follow.  Who you follow is not only important for the objectives and goals, but also important for the followers.  A leader will raise the bar for the benefit of their followers. They see your potential and will ensure that you are growing to meet it. 

“Innovation distinguishes between and leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs 

This may be one of those most recognized quotes from Steve Jobs.  Some people have yet to understand the correlation between innovation and leadership, but it’s quite simple.  Innovation isn’t just an action, but being innovative is seeing outside the box.  Like innovators, leaders also see outside the box. Leadership and innovation are actions of a decision to not accept the normality of how people and products are grown. Leaders see around corners in ways that others don’t see.  They are strategic, they are creative, they are risk takers and they certainly don’t fear failure. It’s very important for leaders to see things in ways other people don’t.  A leader isn’t a leader because they have all the answers; a leader is a leader because if they don’t know an answer, they find or create their own solution to any challenge or issue. 

Develop your Team

Leadership

If you could strategically pick people to create the ultimate team would the people on your team now make the cut?  If they would, why would they?  If not, why wouldn’t they?  If they could do the same, would you be on the team?

Teams are the life blood of organizations.  They provide results, growth and function.  We often don’t assess the team as if it’s a one person with many different abilities. We identify a team as a group of individuals with many talents.  Most people on the team will play to their strengths.  It’s natural that we step forward when we are familiar with something that we know.  Our weaknesses on the other hand often go unplayed and undeveloped.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “A team is strong as its weakest link.”  Another way to look at it is one person’s weakness becomes the team’s weakness.  

Sometimes people don’t know what their weaknesses are.  It takes feedback from others to point them out.  How well do you provide feedback as a team?  Have you sat collectively as a team and talked about your weaknesses? If not, why not?  Every team needs to have a 360 degree view of what they’re capable of being. 

The only way to grow as a team is to learn as a team and develop as a team.  Sure, it does take individual parts to move and do so, but above all, if you’re going to be a team then develop as a team.  Growing together strengthens the team.  One of the hardest things to do is take a diverse group of people and work together in one direction.  A successful team crosses the finish line together.  Win or lose. 

As a leader, what are you doing to help develop the team?  Are you providing feedback when necessary?  Are you not only improving weaknesses, but identifying potential?  Leadership is essential to the progression of any team.  Without even saying it most people know the leader on their team.  Are you that leader?  If so, what are you doing to help develop your team?  It would be awesome to be able to strategically pick your ultimate team, but you don’t need to in order to have a great team.  You can create the ultimate team by investing in your current team’s development!

5 Leadership Lessons from Suicide Squad

Leadership

Everyone had the potential to be better, do better and know better.  A chance to put ourselves last and a chance to prove that we are better than we may seem.  The Suicide Squad was given the opportunity to do some good.  Though, this is a movie about some bad guys, we can still learn to be a good leader from the examples.  Here are a few things we can learn from the Suicide Squad regarding leadership. 

viola-davis-as-amanda-waller-in-suicide-squad

Amanda Waller: I want to build a team of some very dangerous people, who I think can do some good.

Leaders see potential.  They see a bit of the future in how people can make a difference.  Here,  Waller pitchers her idea that she wants to build a team of some very dangerous people, who she thinks can do some good.  She did her homework.  She looked into everyone’s background to get all the information she needed to pick the team.  She looked at everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to form the team.  Which brings us to the next lesson.

Amanda Waller: Because getting people to act against their own self-interest for the national security of the United States is what I do for a living.

Leaders know their team.  A great leader knows their team members on a personal level.  Meaning they know more than their strengths and weaknesses.  They know their story.  They know their families, they know their goals, etc.  They do this so they will know their triggers in how to inspire them, how to motivate them and what they need to get the task complete.  

Amanda Waller:  Before she ran off and joined the circus, she was known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel. A psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum. She was assigned to the clown himself. She thought she was curing him, but she was falling in love. Talk about a workplace romance gone wrong.

suicide-squad-4-2-600x399
Knowing how to motivate can be quite difficult if you don’t know your team members.  Deadshot brought it up a few times to Flagg about motivating the squad.  Flagg didn’t care about the team. He just saw them as tools.  If you’re going to lead any time regardless of the mission you must learn to inspire and motivate.   Leaders know how to motivate.  

Deadshot: You might wanna work on your team motivation thing.

During the bar scene where everyone is having a drink, Deadshot is talking about how they almost pulled it off and then Diablo responds with how they weren’t picked to succeed, but they were chosen to fail.  

Deadshot: Well, we almost pulled it off despite what everybody thought.
Diablo: We weren’t picked to succeed. You know that, right? We were all chosen to fail.

gallery-1470325627-suicide-squad-trailer-2-3-bar-scene

Diablo goes on to talk his past of killing his wife and children and then Harley comments:

Harley Quinn: Own that shit. Own it!

It’s important for leaders to own their mistakes.  What you do after the mistake matters most.  Near the end of the movie, Waller asked Flagg how the Enchatress got loose and Flagg confessed that it was his fault that she pretty much got away from them. He owned his mistakes and said he would accept the consequences.  Admitting mistakes and then taking ownership is a characteristic of integrity.  

Rick Flag: I’ll accept the consequences.

Integrity isn’t just doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also admitting you did something wrong when no one was watching. Leaders have integrity. 

3 Ways to Stay Sharp as a Leader

Leadership

When the new IPhone comes out all you have to do is have enough money and stand in a line to get it.  Once in hand you have adapted to the newest technology.  If only leaders could stay ahead of the culture the same way as buying something.  Unfortunately, teams evolve and environments change.  It’s hard to keep the edge up, but we must adapt.  One must continually develop their talent and skills in order to keep up with the culture around them.  It’s not a question of if you should, it’s necessary.  You must be adaptable as a leader.  Over the last few years I’ve found a few key elements that have helped me stay sharp as a leader so that when I do enter a new environment or the team changes I am prepared to adjust as needed to lead those around me.

1. Balance Stress is nobody’s friend.  The more stressed you are the higher chance you have at making mistakes. Stress takes a number on the body as well.  Knowing when to take a break can relieve stress.  This is why being resilient is so important. Resiliency is the ability to cope, adjust and recover from stresses or adversity.  We live in a go, go, go society and the standard for working overtime is well, fairly normal.  It may be necessary at times to put in the extra hours, but how many extra hours are we putting in when it’s not necessary? 

The human body wasn’t meant to work 12 hours a day. We created that standard.  We’re maybe not even meant to work 8 hours a day.  Whatever the case, time for yourself and your family is always necessary for staying balanced with work and your personal life.  Everyone handles stress differently, but it’s safe to say the best way to relieve stress is to not work.  Ensure you prepare time for you.  Work will always be there.  It can take time to find the balance you need to remain at the top of your game, but there is a balance.

2. Professional Development/Mentor – Every goal I have reached I can rewind back and point out at least one person who helped me get there.  Not everyone will be a mentor, but it’s beneficial to have one.  I have a few mentors and anytime I need advice about a decision, or another perspective on a situation, I ask them.  Think of them like a trusted adviser.  Ensure you pick a mentor that knows a little about what you’re going through.  They must have experience and knowledge about the path you’re pursuing.  Mentors help you grow, they help you progress in your career goals and they can be great coaches. Find a mentor that can be there for you, but don’t forget that a mentor and mentee relationship is reciprocal.  It’s a two way street.

Mentors will help develop you into the person you have the potential to be.  Having a mentor is one form of professional development, but there are other things you may need to do in order to get the development you need.  I spend much of my time reading.  I gain a lot of insight from reading books about topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation, and psychology.  Hearing other people’s stories and advice can help you understand specific areas of interest.  I also attend seminars, participate in book clubs, Twitter chats, and discussion sessions on specific topics.  Whatever you can do to further your knowledge and understanding of a topic, or area of interest should be something you do continually and consistently.  Never stop learning and never stop growing. 

3. Self-Awareness (strengths/weaknesses) – Have you ever handled a situation with your weaknesses?  No.  Of course not.  You take things head on with strengths, but you’ve got to know them in order to know how and when to use them. You must be self-aware of what you’re good at and what you need improvement on.  Most of us can’t point out our weaknesses because we don’t operate with them.  For me, someone pointed them out to me. I received feedback which is a great way to help learn them. You can also take a personality test or a strength/weakness test to hone in on each. Above all, you’ve got to put the work in.  For anyone joining a team, self-awareness is a great place to begin. There will always be strengths and weaknesses and you get better with each with practice, knowledge and understanding.  Play your strengths and develop your weaknesses.  

 

5 Ways to Help You Lead in a New Environment

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization, Social, Tips, Tricks

It would be naive to think that one leadership or management strategy is going to work exactly the same from environment to environment.  It’s just not that easy.  Every organization, work center, company, and or course, the military will have different ways of operating.  After all, they all have different missions.

I am now working in my fifth work center in the last six years. I didn’t have a full spectrum of the mission or what I’d be doing.  I did have to put my learning cap on and embrace the change. A question that has come to mind lately is how do I lead in an environment that I am unfamiliar with?  After brainstorming with my mentor and close friend I have narrowed down some ways. Here are 5 ways to get your foot in the door into leading in a new environment.

Learn the mission!  You have to know what the overall mission is and you have to know your role in the mission.  Know your limits of responsibility and know your strengths and weaknesses given the new mission.  Everyone has a specific amount of responsibility over their area. Know where your role begins and ends. Ask yourself what you bring to the table? What are you good at and what do you need work at? You will need to self assess your strengths/weaknesses in this new environment. Play your strengths when you are able and learn when you are unfamiliar with the process or directions. Ask questions when you don’t know an answer or a process. It’s okay to ask other agencies how they fit in the mission. You need to see the big picture and not just the area around you. Knowing the mission and knowing your role will ultimately help move the mission forward.

Introductions! Aside from knowing the mission, you have to know the team you’re a part of. In order to work on a team you’ve got to know the team and the team has to know you. First impressions are very important, but we can never truly know someone by a simple greeting.  After personal introductions have been made, lay the foundation of your work ethic. Begin to show your work ethic. This is where people will truly get a sense of who you are. Lead with values, not authority.  Values provide a standard of positive behavior. Use them and add other values that instill a strong work ethic. Get to know how your team members operate. Seek what drives their performance.  Ask them questions about their passions, their family, their background.  Leading is ultimately about taking care of people.  One must know their teammates on a professional and personal level in order to be effective at taking care of them. After all, leadership is about taking care of people. Know your team!

Be proactive, not reactive!  Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do something.  Take initiative in your area.  Seek out and find what needs to be done or what could be done.  There is always someone who needs help.  Go ask them if you can help or if there is anything you can do to help.  If you know what needs to be done, do it.  If you don’t, then ask someone what you can do to contribute. This is why knowing the mission is important.  It will give you an idea on what needs to be done.  When you’re proactive you stay ahead of the game.  Doing so can often help save you and others time in the future. Being proactive means you’re prepared.  No one likes the feeling of being unprepared. Take initiative every chance you get!  It may lead to some great opportunities! Nothing is more satisfying to a supervisor than seeing a subordinate take charge.  This not only tells them you have a great work ethic, but that you are capable of leading. Be proactive!

Communicating clearly.  Communication is a very hard skill to master.  For someone to put thoughts or an idea into words, or better yet, action, it can be quite difficult if you don’t understand how each member of your team listens or learns.  To clearly get your objectives across to your team can be very delicate.   Make sure you take time to get the correct words down before you speak your objectives/tasks/ideas, etc. The precision of your communication can make or break the success of your team.  And always make sure that your team members know to ask questions if they don’t clearly understand the objective.  That is also another part of communication.  It’s a two way street.  Ensure you communicate clearly and ensure your team knows how to seek answers from you by asking. Listening and hearing are two different things.  Listening is an audible action, hearing what’s said is the process of information into a structured concept.  Communicate clearly so that your point is heard.

Be willing to learn!  A leader’s job isn’t to know all of the answers.  Leaders must show they are willing to learn from their team members.  Listening and learning from the members on the team builds trust.  When teams learn from each other it strengthens their ability to adapt to overcome challenges. It creates a teamwork environment.  When leaders and members of the team are open to learning from each other it also creates a culture of learning.  Learning is how we grow.  Show them that if you can, they can.  Learn together!

3 Leadership Lessons from Captain America: Civil War

Ant-Man, Leadership, MARVEL, Spider-Man

Well it has been a few months since Captain America: Civil War has been out and it has been a while since I’ve blogged about leadership.  I bought Captain America: Civil War on digital DVD today and watched it.  This one was very hard to extract something that could teach us something.  I hope you understand these points below.  I’m sure if I were to watch it again I could find something else, but for now these will do.  Here are a few leadership lessons from Captain American: Civil War.

screen-shot-2016-04-20-at-2-48-24-pm

Steve Rogers: We are if we’re not taking responsibility for our actions. This document just shifts the blame.

In this statement Steve is talking to Tony about signing the Accords.  He says that if they sign it, they will be giving up their right to fight the battles they choose.  It is also talking about taking responsibility of previous battles.  Steve believes that they should have the freedom to choose.  He mentions taking responsibility for their actions.  This is talking about holding everyone accountable to what they do.  Leaders can’t dismiss moments when they do something wrong or incorrect.  They must openly admit when they are wrong.  Sometimes there may be consequences, but the point is that in this situation, leaders will never choose between taking responsibility and ignoring it.  They will always do the right thing.  Leaders hold each other accountable.  In a way, this whole movie is focused on that exact thing.  Holding each other accountable.  Living a higher standard.

captain-america-civil-war-2-trailer-vision-vs-scarlet-witch-177304

Vision: If you do this, they will never stop being afraid of you.

Fear isn’t the best ingredient for progress.  When we fear we don’t trust.  Trust is essential for every team and every member of the team.  At this point in the movie, Wanda is being held on the Avengers compound and Vision is trying to keep her there in a safe manner.  She is rescued by Hawkeye and Wanda forces Vision to let her go.  He tells her if she leaves the people will never stop being afraid of her.  Fear doesn’t have purpose in teams.  Trust is what holds teams together.  Simon Sinek once said, “A team is not a group of people because they work together.  A team is a group of people because they trust each other.”  Leaders will never create fear, but drive out fear by building trust. 

War Machine: Jesus, Tony, how old is this guy?

War Machine was asking Iron Man how old Spider-Man is.  Often we underestimate the influence the younger generation has.  In all reality, leadership has no rank.  It has no title.  It has no age limit.  A leader can be anyone.  Even kids or in this case a teenager.  Spider-man did the things he did because he wanted to ‘help the little guy.’  He saved people and made a difference in his community because he had the ability to.  Everyone has the ability to help someone else.  The very notion to help someone else with nothing in return contests to our ability to lead.  It all starts with the action to help others.  Leaders can come in all ages.

captain-america-civil-war-spider-man-shield-official-0-0

3 Leadership Lessons from X-Men Apocalypse

Leadership, MARVEL, X-Men

xmen_apocalypse_-759

X-Men Apocalypse seemed like a long time coming and now it is finally here. It took me a few days to think about the movie and extract leadership lessons from it. This movie was about bringing a team together.  It was about empowering each other with the idea that you can make a difference and that each person is important as the next. Raven became a great leader in this movie.  She showed a group of students that coming together to work toward the same goal can yield success. Here are a few lessons I’ve pulled from the movie. Hope you enjoy. 

x-men-apocalypse-trailer-screenshot-29

 

Apocalypse: It’s over, Charles. You are beaten.
Charles Xavier: You’ll never win.
Apocalypse: Why not?
Charles Xavier: Because you are alone… and I am not.

Charlies Xavier didn’t work alone. He had a team.  He had a team of people who believed what he believed.  A team works better than an individual when reaching toward a goal, especially when you have a diverse challenge in front of you.  Every person will bring a specific set of skills to the table.  It’s important to embrace diversity in a team.  If you have a team, use it, don’t alienate yourself from them.  Leaders leverage their team’s strengths.  Leaders don’t try to make the winning play.  They encourage teamwork. When the team wins, you win. Leaders understand the importance of a team. 

X-MenApocalypse_Xavier

Charles Xavier: [senses Apocalypse with Cerebro] I’ve never felt power like this before…

A true leader will never us authority to get things done.  Charles Xavier had power unlike most mutants, but he didn’t go around using it for his benefit. Leaders don’t use power. They use influence, they inspire people. Charles motivated people to be more than they thought they were.  He inspired them to make great decisions.  He cultivated an environment to grow each mutant’s potential. He never forced them with his mind control to decide on the right path.  He taught them the right choices from the bad.  Leaders never use power to make things happen. At the end of the movie Charles is speaking with Erik about staying for a bit.  

Charles Xavier: You sure I can’t convince you to stay?
Erik Lensherr: You’re psychic, Charles. You can convince me to do anything.

The greatest part about this is that Charles didn’t use his power to convince him to do anything. Leaders will never use power to control anyone.

Sometimes we don’t see the potential we have.  Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to help us point it out.  We always know our weaknesses, but our strengths sometimes can be hidden. 

X-Men-Apocalypse-Jean-Grey-as-Phoenix

Charles Xavier: Once you know the extent of your power, then you can learn to control it.

Charles’ whole purpose for having a school for the gifted was to help each person understand their power and to know how to use it.  He brought out each person’s potential and guided each person into managing their power. Leaders do the same for the team members.  Leaders study their teammates.  They get to know them.  They look deeper than the surface.  Leaders invest in people.  When a leader sees potential in someone they assist with providing opportunities for that person to use their skills.  In doing so, they help that person grow. Leaders seek out potential in people and help them develop that potential.

2 Leadership Lessons from Batman vs Superman: The Dawn of Justice

Batman, Leadership, Superman

I was able to watch Batman vs Superman while I was serving overseas a few months ago.  There was a lot of backlash about the movie which is perfectly fine.  Some people just hold movies, remakes, with high expectations from previous versions.  The thing you had to understand with this movie is that it was never going to be like the older Batman movies.  Different personification of Batman and a different look at Superman.  I enjoyed the movie.  I love a good superhero movie regardless of who it is, or how bad it may be.  

Of course I haven’t seen the movie since, but I was able to remember a few things from the movie that contributed to being a leader.  This is only two points, but perhaps when I re-watch the movie later on I’ll pull some more lessons.  For now, I give you two leadership lessons from Superman vs Batman: The Dawn of Justice.

senator-finch-in-batman-v-superman

US Senator: [on Superman] The world has been so caught up with what he can do that no one has asked what he should do.

Leaders that have influence will never be questioned on what they should do because they’ll be already doing it and they already know what they should be doing.  They use that influence for what’s best for their team and the mission.  When leaders have the influence to make people better, they take it, it’s never a question of should they. The morals and values that leaders portray will always be with best intentions of helping those around.  If we have to question if a leader is going to the right thing then perhaps they’re not a leader after all. Leaders never question if they should do what’s right, they already do what’s right. Leaders have integrity.

Martha Kent: Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be.

Martha+Kent

Every leader must know their strengths and their weaknesses.  I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about how to be an effective follower.  I mentioned that to be an effective follower you have to play your strengths. Here, Martha Kent is telling Clark to play his strengths.  Superman obviously wanted to do right by the people, but the people got caught up n if he was doing things for the greater good that he started to question the opportunities he took to help.  Martha told him to be and do what he’s capable of doing, being not only a hero, or an angel, but whatever they needed him to be.  Leaders play whatever role their team needs them to play if means bettering the team or helping the team.  Leaders are versatile. 

My First Deployment: A Joint Environment – 4 Leadership Lessons

Leadership

I was on vacation in Texas with my wife and daughter.  We were vising family, enjoying being away from our normal routine in Colorado.  My Superintendent calls and says, well, I have some bad news.  You’ve been hit with a deployment.

Nothing really bad about it, just wasn’t expecting to get tagged as I just got to the unit 6 months prior.  It happens, I’ve been tagged with less time on station before, but it got canceled. What do you do when you’re tasked to deploy? You begin to prepare and roll with the punches. 

Four months later I got on a plane and flew out of the US for the first time in my life.  Was I nervous?  Yes!  I wasn’t being tasked with a group of people.  I was alone and I didn’t know what to expect.  After almost missing my international flight, I was finally able to relax on a long 9 hour flight to Zurich and then another 9 hour flight to Muscat, Oman.  You see, this was no ordinary report to an Air Force base and begin your time. There was no base.  There were no dorms. There were no chow halls. There was the Embassy. I was tasked to work at a U.S. Embassy. I didn’t even know such a tasking existed.  No one ever talks about this sort of tasking.  It was going to be interesting.

This was a joint environment. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force.  I was around other branches actively for the first time in my career.  What do you do when you find yourself learning the culture of other branches? You become a sponge and start learning the best you can. Sadly, I just wasn’t up to par on how other branches operate.  I highly respect my brothers and sisters in arms from other branches, but I honestly don’t know much about the other branches.  I was not only about to learn a new position, but I was about to learn how to work with other services on a different level than the usual operations that I was accustomed to in the Air Force.

If you know me, I don’t take part in anything without trying to learn something about leadership.  Thus, after 20 hours of flying back home, reflecting and analyzing what I just did for the last six months I have narrowed down the lessons I’ve learned while working in a joint service environment.

Teamwork makes the dream work.  When you combine multiple cultures into one culture, things can get tough. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different terminology, different skills and everyone had different missions that contribute to the overall mission. We all had our own missions to do, but when someone needed the assistance from someone else, you had their attention. When you have the cooperation of others that agree on the same solution while striving for a shared/common goal, you get success.  I learned that when you need help to make progress, find out who the subject matter expert is on the team so they can bring their skills to the court.  You can’t win alone.  Use your team when necessary.  Leaders don’t lead because they know all of the answers, they lead knowing that diversity is a great team asset.  Teamwork is viable and valuable. If you can’t take another step, someone on your team will be able to help you take it.  Leaders utilize their team members effectively.

The right environment makes a difference.  I was the lowest ranking member in the office.  In fact, we only had three enlisted members in the office.  Everyone else was an officer.  As the new guy in the office learning not only about the job, but the people and their mission, I was a sponge taking in information on a level I’ve never known.  Given that it was a joint environment, the people around me helped me learn, at my pace, how they operated and how they contributed to the mission.  They didn’t get frustrated that I didn’t know certain processes or procedures, but they adjusted as needed to fit my learning needs.  They didn’t expect me to know everything.  They created an environment of progress and learning.  Adjusting to a new position was going to take a little time. Leaders are adaptable.  They are able to change approaches on a whim.  I am thankful for the officers who were patient with me as I learned about my job, learned about them and learned about the whole mission.  They helped me learn effectively and they taught me effectively. The environment, in a way, changed to fit my knowledge, but yet remained in a progressive state.  I believe if I entered a work environment that demanded instant knowledge, instant responses, instant right answers that I would have been overly stressed making the office a place I didn’t want to be in.  I’m thankful to learn the importance of culture in a joint level. An effective work culture contributes to the effectiveness of the office. The people can make that happen and it’s people that should make that happen. Leaders are adaptable and create environments fit for growth.

Communication is key for any team to function.  There were some days where everyone was in the office and some days where only a few remained in the office.  Communication goes a long way and without communication no team can function fluidly.  We had meetings Sunday morning and Thursday afternoon.  Sunday morning was a time to say, hey, here is what is going on this week.  Thursday was a time to reflect on what happened during the week as preparation for the next.  Although, at first, I really didn’t see the need for two meetings a week, but looking back, these meetings were very important. Even though, I had a small role in them, for the big picture, they were crucial. This was the time where we all came together in one room to talk through issues and how we were going to fix them. This wasn’t a time just for updates, but this was a time to communicate.  Communication was the driving force for this.  Everyone had their chance to speak and everyone had a chance to listen, learn, provide feedback, and provide ideas/suggestions.  Without this circle of communication, getting everyone on the same page would take a lot more effort and time.  I’ve been through many staff meetings and some seem like a waste of time, lack purpose and boring.  I began to look at these meetings as the chance to communicate. As everyone had their own agenda during the week and turned many pages, this time allowed everyone to sync up and get on the same page.  Communication was key in making this happen. Leaders communicate. 

You’ve got to have balance! When you’re away from your family during the holidays, it can take a hit on your spirit and your morale. The best thing about this deployment was that when we weren’t at work, we weren’t working. Haha. The people around me would always have something going on that allowed us to hang out, relax, and keep the morale up. Weather it was a camping trip, a hiking trip, a site seeing trip, or even just going out to eat, it was an important time to balance the week out.  Balance is very important even when you’re not deployed.  Although, I wasn’t around my family, we became like a family. We made sure there was a time for fun. It wasn’t forced, like “mandatory fun,” it was genuine fun.  I find that foreign in our culture sometimes. We try to force it with fun runs, BBQs, etc. Sometimes the best thing to do is provide the opportunity and those who want to show up can voluntarily show up.  Balance helped me stay positive and grateful.  I met awesome people and I’m grateful they provided the opportunity to have a little fun while being away from my family. Leaders provide balance. 

Reviving Core Values

Leadership, Organization

Every day I walk up a flight of stairs to my office where I work as NCOIC, Administration Management. On the first set of stairs, there are three steps that have one Air Force core value written on each of them.  Integrity, Service, Excellence. These core values are burned into the memory of every Airman since day one of basic training. They are meant to guide us. They are meant to be lived. They are meant to be a path of being better, doing better and knowing better. Yet, at times, we, members in the Air Force, undervalue and underutilize our core values. 

Values drive the behavior of any organization, not just the military. Values are set so that the people in the organization have a guiding light, a north star to show which direction to go when we’re lost and to remind us that although, people fail, our values cannot. Values will be rock solid. Values will never fail you. Values will always be there when you need them.

An organization that doesn’t have a set of values setting the behavior of the organization will often fail. It would be as if the organization is walking blindly. Our Air Force core values are easy to understand. Opportunities are birthed every day that allow us to perform our core values. Values are not meant to be used sparingly, they are meant to be used at every opportunity that arises. It’s how we create a culture of positive behavior. We can correlate a core value into almost every decision and every action and if we’re dedicated to actually living them, we’ll never be wrong. Though, we can fail as people and as a leader, it doesn’t mean values have failed you, it just means that you’ve failed at what you’re doing.  Ret. Gen Stanley McCrystal once said, “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”  The same goes for our core values.  Though, you, a person may fail, if your core values are the heart of your actions, you will not be a failure.  It just means you have to try again.

Sure, we hear them, read them and every Airman is given a coin that has them embedded in it, but are we using them to the fullest potential? Even more, are we, as a team and individuals using them at all? Is it even possible to live them constantly every day? I like to think that if we gave a little more effort into living our core values how awesome our leadership would be and how awesome our teams would be. Walking up the steps to my office while reading our core values challenges me to live them. Just like in any busy work culture, it’s easy to overlook our values. I’m guilty of it, I’m sure others are too. Will there be days that you just don’t feel like putting in the effort? Of course, but our core values even address that behavior. 

The Air Force provides a definition for each core value(can be found here), but is that the end all be all to the core values? No. They can mean different things to different people and can be elaborated on.  What do you think they mean?  It’s a question that we, as an entire organization sort of forgot about as we engage in our daily duties and I believe our core values need to be given the attention they deserve. Right? Our culture depends on it.  Lately, it seems we’ve lost sight of our values and that’s okay, we’re human, we forget things, we know life is busy. It’s never too late to revive them and use them to improve our culture. Our core values have unlimited value.

Above all else, values help us be and become better leaders. When we feel our teams slipping in character, judgement and performance, we should always look at our values.  They’ll keep us in line and keep us moving forward.  Values create a work environment fit to thrive and survive.  Here is my personal look at how I apply and see the Air Force core values. I hope over the next few days or weeks you consider writing your perspective on the core values.  Share your perspective with your team, use it as a topic of professional development.  Get to know your Airman’s perspective to see how they view them.

Integrity first –  It’s not just about doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also about holding yourself accountable when no one is watching.   This also includes you holding your team members accountable.  It’s about carrying out your responsibilities accurately and effectively as possible. Show humility when you don’t have the answer. It’s okay to be wrong. Own your mistakes.  Be transparent in what you do. Keep true to yourself and be a person others can count on.  Integrity is about how the team is held together.  Make sure there are no kinks in your line that can jeopardize how the team holds on together. 

Service before self There will be days when you wake up and you just don’t feel like it.  We’ve all had those days and we will have more. What we do as Airman is bigger than ourselves.  It’s bigger than our personal desires.  Service before self is simple.  Your duties come first to include the service of leadership.  It’s about taking care of people as well. People are a part of the service so they must be taken care of so they can take care of the mission. Personal desires can always be put be aside to handle an issue/task/challenge at hand. This is not about you, it’s about the team.  When the team wins, you win.

Excellence in all we do –  My middle school coach used to say, “Go hard or go home.”  That was the standard.  Was it possible to give your full 100% every single football practice? No, but it wasn’t just about your physical ability. It was about your mentality, your heart, your attention, your dedication. It was more than running hard or hitting hard. It was the effort, the approach to the game. We must not only do our best, but whatever we do must be done with the results of great effort.  It’s hard to really measure effort, but people can always tell when you are giving less than what you are capable of giving. Whatever we’re working on, the end goal, must reflect excellence. Don’t commit to something unless you can give your absolute full attention and effort it deserves. One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite runners Steve Prefontaine. “To give any less than your best is to sacrifice a gift.” There is no time for slacking, half-assing, or procrastination.  If you’re going to do a job, do it right.  In the words of Deadpool, “Maximum effort.”