Posts Tagged Leadership

Leadership: Adaptive Leader LLC–Leadership Training By Don Vandergriff

Don illustrates how to use Outcomes Based Training & Education (OBT&E) and Adaptive Decision Games (ADGs) to teach and develop adaptability – shaping leaders and teams who achieve out-sized results and help continually evolve their organizations to thrive in the face of change and adversity.
Don began his work on personnel management and leader development with the question “How would John Boyd develop the kinds of leaders he saw as most effective?”

Wow, this is cool. Don Vandergriff is another outstanding John Boyd enthusiast that is actually applying his ideas to leadership training/consulting. This would be a fantastic training provider to look to if your company is looking to square away your management systems. (Or maybe your company could care less about leadership?….)

So who are Don’s clients so far? Well if you look at his client page, you will see a whole list of private and public organizations, to include the Army, Marines, and Navy SEALs. Check it out and definitely like them on Facebook or their other social networking sites they list. They also run a blog with an RSS feed. –Matt

Website for Adaptive Leadership here.


Adaptive Leader

Adaptive Leader focuses on helping you develop the right kind of leadership and decision making skills within your organization.
We are a world leader in the application of cutting edge Outcome Based Training and Education (OBT&E) having worked with the British Council, Johns Hopkins University, Wells Fargo, United States Army, the U.S Navy Seals, the Baltimore Police Department and many other large innovative organizations.
Our unique OBT&E model can be applied to a wide variety of areas to encourage rapid learning and extremely fast team cohesion. The process enables participants to develop leadership skills, moral courage and decision-making skills in a safe but pressured environment. All our workshops are completely interactive with participants fully engaged throughout.
Our unique application of the “After Action Review” tool allows us to craft customized Adaptive Decision Games based on a client’s own market place experiences; meaning your leaders and future leaders can be trained with your business as the case study.

Author, Innovator and Leading Thinking on the Development of Adaptive Leaders
Don Vandergriff has been quoted as an expert on leader development, personnel management and fourth generation warfare in publications ranging from the Washington Post, Inside the Pentagon, Army Times and The Atlantic Monthly, and his ideas featured in Harvard Business Review.
Don illustrates how to use Outcomes Based Training & Education (OBT&E) and Adaptive Decision Games (ADGs) to teach and develop adaptability – shaping leaders and teams who achieve out-sized results and help continually evolve their organizations to thrive in the face of change and adversity.
Don began his work on personnel management and leader development with the question “How would John Boyd develop the kinds of leaders he saw as most effective?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Leadership: General Mattis On ‘Command And Feedback’, And The Use Of ‘Eyes Officers’

From his lead position, Mattis stayed close to the regiments involved in the fiercest fighting and got a good sense for events on the battlefield. The general refused to believe that images on a computer screen in the quiet hum of a command post could tell him what he needed to know about how the battle was progressing and what his subordinates required. Mattis could be ruthless; he would relieve the commander of one of his regiments in the middle of a campaign. In the marines, only performance counts. Mattis picked several officers to act as what he called his “eyes only” representatives. They had no authority but, he said, like “Frederick the Great’s focused telescope or Wellington’s lieutenants in the Peninsula Campaign,” they had the duty of wandering the battlefield to keep him informed of things they thought he needed to know: troops or officers who were exhausted by combat, supplies that were not reaching the front line, and the other human factors that can be crucial in combat. -page 116 and 117 of The Iraq War: A Military History, By Williamson Murray, Robert Scales

The Slate put this out last year, but I just recently stumbled upon it and wanted to share. General Mattis is a Marine’s Marine and he is very much respected. With that said, when I found out that he was implementing some concepts that are familiar here in Jundism and some of my leadership posts, I perked up.

Specifically, the mystery shopper concept or having folks on the inside of your organization to give you some honest feedback about the true health of your company or military unit. With this data, you can actually make adjustments to policy that will better serve the mission or contract.

I also liked the focus on innovation and gaining feedback. Or, command and feedback, which is a play on the phrase command and control. This also led to the best quote in the article below about where that feedback or innovation could come from.

If you are always on the hunt for complacency, argues Mattis, you will reward risk-takers, and people who thrive in uncertainty. “Take the mavericks in your service,” he tells new officers, “the ones that wear rumpled uniforms and look like a bag of mud but whose ideas are so offsetting that they actually upset the people in the bureaucracy. One of your primary jobs is to take the risk and protect these people, because if they are not nurtured in your service, the enemy will bring their contrary ideas to you.”

That is awesome and all companies and military units should learn from this. Leaders should dare to listen and seek feedback from all quarters of their organization, and soldiers/contractors should dare to come forward and disagree, or present the better idea. Any policies and actions within an organization that supports this command and feedback process should be looked at and attempted.

We should constantly be supporting and pushing innovation within the ranks, and constantly seeking feedback and using these innovations in order to continuously improve the organization/mission/contract/war fighting/strategy. Awesome stuff. –Matt



Gen. James Mattis, USMC The general who is fighting a constant battle to keep the military innovating.
By John Dickerson
Aug. 9, 2011
When speaking to rising officers, Marine Gen. James Mattis likes to tell the story of the British Navy. At the turn of the 19th century, it had no rival in the world, but 100 years later it had grown complacent in dominance. Officers amassed rules, ribbons, and rituals that had little to do with the changing nature of war. “They no longer had captains of wars,” he tells them, “but captains of ships.”
As commander of the U.S. Central Command, Mattis oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but his career mission has been against complacency. In modern warfare the reliance on better technology and superior firepower deadens the talent for innovation, he argues. This blinds some officers to emerging threats and slows their ability to react to them. The U.S. military, he argues “must avoid becoming dominant and irrelevant.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Cool Stuff: TED-Margaret Heffernan: Dare To Disagree

Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren’t echo chambers — and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.
The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan explores the all-too-human thought patterns — like conflict avoidance and selective blindness — that lead managers and organizations astray.“A fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.” (Margaret Heffernan)”

This TED was fantastic. In the past I have talked about questioning authority, avoiding group think or confirmation bias, and seeking feedback as crucial elements of a company or organization’s health. Especially if you want a thinking or learning organization.

The other point in this TED that was cool was that the answers to your company’s problems are often times right there in the data and feedback from employees/members, but because folks are afraid to bring them up or leaders shun that data because they hate being questioned or challenged (ego), that the data is ignored or is thrown away. A company must find ways of finding this data, and use it effectively for their Kaizen programs.

They must also listen to those who have the courage to disagree or say something, and they must reward these folks–because they cared enough about your company or contract to bring that forward. It is feedback gold, and those leaders who care more about ego, and less about encouraging that process and acting on it, are toxic to a company and that contract. Check it out. –Matt


Tags: , , , , ,

Cool Stuff: HBR–How Damaging Is A Bad Boss, Exactly?

This post over at Harvard Business Review was awesome. It also goes well with my prior post about curing CEO-itis. Poor leaders or ‘bad bosses’ do immense damage to a company, and I am blown away at how little PMSC’s focus on this aspect of their companies and contracts. You should be doing all you can to find and get rid of the toxic leaders in your company and reward good leaders. This article below shows exactly why, and that is what is sooooo cool about it. It is hard to argue with these kinds of numbers. lol

The money quote is this one though.

And we’re not the only ones who’ve seen it: In a recent article, *Jim Clifton, the CEO of the Gallup organization,* found that 60% of employees working for the U.S. federal government are miserable — not because of low pay, poor workplace benefits, or insufficient vacation days — but because they have bad bosses. He goes so far as to report a silver-bullet fix to this situation: “Just name the right manager. No amount of pay and benefits will solve the problems created by a manager who has no talent for the task at hand.”
This matters so much for two very basic reasons.
Bad Bosses Negate Other Investments: As Clifton points out, none of the other expensive programs a company institutes to increase employee engagement — excellent rewards, well-thought-out career paths, stimulating work environments, EAP programs, health insurance, and other perks — will make much difference to the people stuck with bad bosses.
Good Bosses Lead Employees to Increase Revenue: And, as many other studies have shown, there’s a strong correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue.

That first one about bad bosses negating other investments of the company is a vital one for our industry to understand. I have seen it first hand, and bad bosses or project managers or team leaders or whatever you want to call them, can make all of the company investments into ‘codes of conduct’, incentives, perks, training, clearances, etc. seem of little use or concern for a contractor that has no respect for a poor leader in charge of them. They will either stay on that contract but do the very minimum to survive ( not be engaged), or they will just jump contract and leave–all because of that poor manager/leader.

The company could have invested all sorts of money into a contractor/employee for a specific job–but it all goes away once that contractor runs away because of a horrible boss in charge of them. Or worse yet, disgruntled contractors tear apart the company from the inside out or go on to sabotage a company. Those horrible bosses could also be the ones that allow a G4S London Olympics screw up, and yet you just don’t see the kind of focus on leadership that is truly required by companies these days.

And get this. When you have contractors constantly leaving because of poor leadership, then a company has no chance of growing leaders from within. That you are constantly having to roll the dice with new leadership that might or might not be able to do the job, all because the company has no one that sticks around long enough to be that go to guy or gal for a contract. This is especially troubling when you combine this reality with the reality of protecting people in war zones. Pretty scary, huh?

I can’t stress this stuff enough, and these multi-million dollar companies out there need to do all they can to properly vet and pick good leaders that will represent the company well and motivate subordinates to be ‘engaged’. Check it out below and let me know what you think? –Matt



How Damaging Is a Bad Boss, Exactly?
by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman
July 16, 2012
What’s the one factor that most affects how satisfied, engaged, and committed you are at work? All of our research over the years points to one answer — and that’s the answer to the question: “Who is your immediate supervisor?”
Quite simply, the better the leader, the more engaged the staff. Take, for example, results from a recent study we did on the effectiveness of 2,865 leaders in a large financial services company. You can see a straight-line correlation here between levels of employee engagement and our measure of the overall effectiveness of their supervisors (as judged not just by the employees themselves but by their bosses, colleagues, and other associates on 360 assessments). [please refer to graph up top]

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Leadership: Curing CEO-itis And Gaining Fingerspitzengefühl

This is a great article. Professor Michael Roberto gave the heads up about this article and I instantly thought this would be some good stuff for leaders of all levels to check out. It is also some good advice for how management/leaders can gain Fingerspitzengefühl or a ‘finger tip feel’ for what is going on within their company or unit. Below is a quick background on the German term and I think it fits well with what is talked about in the article.

Fingerspitzengefühl is a German term, literally meaning “finger tips feeling” and meaning intuitive flair or instinct, which has been appropriated by the English language as a loanword. In German, it describes a great situational awareness, and the ability to respond most appropriately and tactfully. It can be applied well to diplomats, bearers of bad news, or to describe a superior ability respond to an escalated situation.
The word is enjoying a second life in the English language in military terminology, where it is used for the stated ability of some military commanders, such as Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, to maintain with great accuracy in attention to detail an ever-changing operational and tactical situation by maintaining a mental map of the battlefield. In this sense the term is synonymous with the English expression of “keeping one’s finger on the pulse”. The mental image given is of a military commander who is in such intimate communication with the battlefield that it is as though he has a fingertip on each critical point, expressed in the 18th and 19th centuries as “having a feel for combat”. -from Wikipedia

I also agree entirely with Professor Roberto’s commentary on the article. That these are some concepts that leaders should be practicing in their formative years so that it becomes ingrained into their psyche and leadership style. Perhaps one day a reader here, that has taken these concepts to heart, will apply them to their command as a CEO of a company? Here is Roberto’s quote:

 I think it’s a terrific list.  Moreover, I think it applies to managers at all levels of an organization, not just at the CEO position.   Front-line managers should also cultivate an objective sounding board, encourage dissent, and surround themselves with talented subordinates.   In fact, if people engage in these practices early in their managerial career, they may be less likely to catch CEO disease if and when they rise to the top.

What also came to mind as I read through this thing is that the CEO of G4S, Nick Buckles, was probably the victim of some of this CEO-itis, or basically was lacking in any kind of finger tip feel for what was going on with their London Olympics security contract. The end result has been disastrous for him and the company, and it is still ongoing.

So here are the main concepts, and I will add some points to them that are relevant to this industry. Also note how many of these tie into the concepts listed under Jundism.

#1 Surround yourself with highly capable lieutenants.

This one is commonsense and you always want to bring folks into your decision making team that are smart and capable. But you also want honest folks who will give you the straight scoop. You do not want a team of ‘yes men’ who will never say no or fear giving their advice or opinion. You do not want clones of yourself either just because then you get situations within a team that leads to confirmation bias or group think. So pick your lieutenants wisely, and that goes from the shift leader looking for an assistant shift leader, all the way up to CEO’s of companies looking for a management team.

#2 Encourage dissent, discourage sycophants.

This one is great, and ties in well with #1 . You want folks who will be honest with you and genuinely care about the success of the company or the mission. You do not want yes men or folks willing to step all over others in order to get to a position– that has your ear. The CEO should ‘trust, but verify’ the quality of their management team. They should actively seek feedback and treat that as gold.

Those who are willing to dissent should be heard, and leaders should have respect for those individuals that actually came forward with an issue. A leader should interpret that as someone who cares enough about the company to actually step forward with a way to make it better.(the courage to do what is right) A leader should not look at that as a threat, or be driven by ego to the point where only they come up with the ‘good ideas’. Good ideas or warnings about issues in the company can come from anywhere and anyone, and it is up to the leaders to make sure they are listening and keeping open to that.

This definitely applies to shift leaders and small unit leaders. You should encourage folks to come forward with better ideas, and actually act on those ideas. (People will support what they help to create), so let them help to create a great team so they can feel  part of the process.

#3 Regularly admit and fix your mistakes.

No one likes dishonesty and no one likes folks that do not admit to when they screw up. Take ownership of your mistakes and then fix them–and learn from them. (Continuously improve)  yourself and the company, and don’t sweep this stuff under the carpet.

As a shift leader or project manager, this rule is very important. If you want folks to come up to you and admit some crucial error, then you as the leader must (lead by example) and show by your actions what that means. This process will allow for honesty to surface, which then leads to getting a better feel for what is going on with your contract or the company.

I imagine with this G4S deal, folks were not willing to admit to mistakes at some point along the line. Because if the CEO of the company only found out about the condition of a poorly run high profile contract like this, only days before the media found out and blew it up, then that says to me that some folks were not keeping upper management in the loop. Or upper management was told, but no one wanted to pass it on. Probably so that their leader(s) they were sucking up to would get the impression that all is well and they are ‘on top of it’. pffffft. In the end, not saying something about it or acknowledging that there was a problem, has led to an even bigger problem.

#4  Treat every employee with respect.

This is a no-brainer as well, but CEO’s all the way down to Project Managers seem to screw this one up. Especially in this industry. Our group is filled with Type A personalities who sometimes think it is appropriate to demand the same respect they got when they were in the military or police or wherever. Actions speak louder than words, and in this industry, it is not about what you used to be, but what you are right now.

Private industry also requires a different type of leadership than what was required in the military or police. When PM’s or others fail to shift gears and recognize this new reality, they quickly learn the errors of their ways. Especially when contractors make the mass exodus from a contract because they were poorly treated or disrespected. Remember, at will contracts go both ways, and contractors will just leave. There is no law requiring folks to sit there and take that kind of abuse.

The other one that project managers especially screw up is ‘leadership by email’. If you are thousands of miles away and sending out emails to folks on contracts, and you have not paid special attention as to what is said in those emails, then PM’s can do massive damage.  They can be insensitive to the particulars of those who are fulfilling the contract in some war zone, they can sound gruff and out of touch, they can actually offend by saying the wrong things, etc. It all leads to the one thing, and that is having respect for those that you are leading out there. If you cannot show that respect in person in that war zone, then at the very least you should work hard to show respect in your emails as you sit in the comfort of your office.

Besides, those emails are permanent records of communications.  If a disgruntled contractor had received a horrible letter filled with disrespectful items, then that thing could be used in future actions against that sender or the company. Or if a leader wrote an email while they were drunk or during a really stressful time period in their life, then like a bullet leaving a gun, that email is effectively doing damage. It does it’s damage well after it was sent and could passed around all over the place. Subordinates will show others these emails, and have proof of how little the company cares or how horrible a leader is. So sending nasty-grams like that are incredibly damaging to a program and the culture of a company.  Don’t do it, and always watch what you say when you communicate with subordinates.

Treat them with the same respect as if you were face to face with them, and use positive reinforcement versus the negative. And don’t lie or keep folks in the dark, because that can be damaging as well. Especially if folks find out through other means that a leader has purposely done those things.

#5 Find an objective sounding board outside the office.

This last one is a good one. Find someone or a group that will keep you grounded. On contracts, it could be a loved one or a friend(s) you talk with via skype. Or if the job is at home, then maybe you have a group you can connect with that is outside of your gig.

Or, if you are on a contract, then find someone there that you can confide in and talk openly. In the military they call this a battle buddy, and not only are they important for watching your back in a war zone, but they are very helpful for when you need to vent about stuff on the contract and mission. Especially if you are a shift leader or PM, all the way up to CEO.

It is extremely helpful to be able to just talk freely and not worry about command presence or being the guy in charge. To have someone that you can just be a normal joe around and use them as a sounding board is great. Leaders are human too, and you definitely cannot be an island. With that said, I imagine Nick Buckles is venting in private with his ‘sounding board’, and especially after the monumental stress of responding to this crisis every day.

You also need a sounding board at the CEO level, just so you don’t get into the idea that you are superior or the company is untouchable or will never fail. One of the comments in the article over at where this was originally published said that CEO’s need someone whispering in their ear, much like the Roman whispering slave during Roman Triumphs. These guys followed behind generals telling them how immortal they were, as a part of the ceremony. (The words that the slave is said to have used are not known, but suggestions include “Respice te, hominem te memento” (“Look behind you, remember you are only a man”) and “Memento mori” (“Remember that you are mortal”-wikipedia).

Pretty cool and let me know what you think? If you are a CEO or former CEO, or if you have had experience at any level of leadership in a organization, I would love to hear your thoughts on this stuff.  –Matt


Nick Buckles, CEO of G4S.


Finding a Cure for “CEO-itis”
July 12, 2012
Warning: You could be at risk of contracting “CEO-itis.”
An affliction of arrogance that plagues many people picked for powerful posts, its symptoms include a tendency toward isolation, belief that you’re smarter than others, preference for loyalists, aversion to changing course even in the face of failure –and love of royal treatment.
It appears to occur when promising managers reach the corner office or other C-suite spots. Once infected, once-successful executives often underperform and put themselves at great risk of early exits, experts say.
In June, John Figueroa quit after 17 months as chief executive of Omnicare Inc. “He believed he accomplished the goals established by the board,” the nursing-home pharmacy operator announced.
But Mr. Figueroa also acted imperiously, ignored suggestions from colleagues, and made extensive personal use of the corporate aircraft, according to people familiar with the situation.
In short, the CEO title went to his head, one informed individual says. McKesson Corp., Mr. Figueroa’s prior employer, had recommended him as a collaborative team player, another person remembers. Omnicare declined to comment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leadership: Fast Company– Design, Teamwork And Leadership Lessons From General Stanley McChrystal

This is an excellent video presentation on McChrystal’s ideas on organizations and leadership (‘It Takes A Network’), as applied to businesses today. He really dives into the complexities of today’s wars and market place, and talks about his lessons learned at JSOC and with special operations. Of course our industry should pay attention, because we are the ultimate combination of business and war.

One theme that you see with many books on special operations/leadership is how much of an impact Operation Eagle Claw had on the spec ops community. That failure was a hard lesson to swallow, and the leaders of that community at the time had to really dig into what went wrong and how to fix it. This is a starting point with McChrystal’s talk, and it sets the tone perfectly.

McChrystal also delves into the second reshaping of the JSOC organizational structure, and that is modern terrorism and 9/11.  That the problem was very complex, and that there were so many pieces (agencies, units, foreign partners, etc.) to put together in order to be effective, and that they were fighting networks.  The traditional top down management structure was not working, and could not effectively use or control all of these pieces. It couldn’t keep up either, and that is not a good position to be in.

So what happened was a rethinking on how to make this machine called JSOC into a network that could compete with terrorist/enemy networks. Nothing new if you have been following the blog or reading McChrystal’s stuff. Very cool, and watch the video if you want a better picture of what I am talking about.

As to today’s PMSC’s and their organizational structures? Good question, and I have never really dived into that.  It would make for a fantastic thesis or chapter in someone’s book, and authors/researchers might have already touched this issue. Who knows, and maybe some of the readers can present some examples?

With my limited exposure to companies and their organizational structures, most follow a traditional top down approach.  Although what is interesting is that corporate usually has no idea what is going on at the ground level with contracts, and they are highly dependent on the Project Manager to find that out with the leadership out in the field. PM’s are the ones that should be keeping a track of that leadership out in the field as well–but sadly, many companies operate with the PM at the home country office and they lead through emails or video conferencing. They might visit out in the field now and then, but that costs money in the eyes of corporate, so it is one of those deals where some PMs do it more than others based on what corporate will allow.

So companies do put a lot of trust into those leaders out in the field. If anything, companies forget about those leaders or could care less about properly supporting them or listening to their concerns. These leaders out in the field have to interpret emails and policies and directives, while at the same time making sure the troops and the client they are providing a service too is happy.  These guys are where the rubber meets the road with contracts, and they have a lot of impact.

These mid-level field managers might have several site managers under them. Under those site managers, there might be a day shift, mids, and night shift supervisors.  They might have team leaders in charge of PSD details, and PSD teams might be permanently assembled or piecemeal depending on how the organization and man power is set up.  Rotations of folks coming in and out of that country/war zone has an impact on how things are done as well. There are so many organizational models and types of operations that contractors create, that it would be very interesting to try to tap into that and see what works and what doesn’t. Even PMSC’s from Europe and elsewhere bring their own brand of organization structure to the table, and it is fascinating to see that stuff in action.

Companies also lack the proper policies and incentives to grow leaders into those positions. This is a big problem out there, and it is something I have covered before. You will see managers in the field, hand pick whomever they want, and PM’s usually just go with that choice–partly because they really don’t have any guidance or support from corporate. Which is great if that manager knows how to do that, but absolutely sucks when they create really poor teams of leaders that the rest of us have to put up with.

With that said, the really poor teams of leaders are usually defined by guys that are extremely loyal to that manager, and pose no threat to that manager’s position.  Much like how dictators operate. It is how you get teams of yes men that do not question that manager, and it is also how you get group think scenarios.  PM’s would be very wise to pay attention to how and why mid-level managers pick the folks they pick.  Was it based on merit, experience and good leadership skills, or were they chosen based on ‘what’?

Also, if the company has poorly set up the pay and incentives with the idea of hanging on to good people, then growing leaders is damn near impossible. Or if they do not offer a way to advance in the organization that is fair and makes sense, then folks will have no interest in participating in that. We default back to how mid-level managers assemble crap teams, because either they are more concerned with loyalty or they just don’t have a lot to choose from–because the company really doesn’t care about ‘growing leaders’ or seeking good leaders during recruitment.

So why am I adding this to McChrystal’s deal on organizational structures and networks?  Hopefully companies will look at Crosslead and other ideas on how best to manage their folks and organize their companies for success. In a way, incidents that are extremely embarrassing to the industry and companies, are like mini-Operation Eagle Claws, and all companies should be striving to learn from their mistakes/embarrassments and continuously improve (Kaizen). Perhaps there is a better way of structuring your organization, and maybe you can do things that will create the necessary leaders to manage that? –Matt



Design, Teamwork, And Leadership Lessons From Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Must Watch
By Austin Carr
McChrystal shared the lessons he learned as leader of the Joint Special Operations Command and talked about how they translate to business at Fast Company’s recent Innovation Uncensored conference.
For five years, retired General Stanley McChrystal led the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, the branch of the military charged with special operations planning that was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden one year ago. The successful raid on bin Laden’s compound took place after McChrystal’s tenure, but the crucial lessons he learned during his years commanding JSOC have applications in all industries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,