Making the Same Mistake

20150110_172457_Richtone(HDR)We are making the same mistake with returning Vets as we made in Iraq the first time.  We failed to promote the better option.

No 22 push-ups for me, no challenges, just actual work.  All of the foundations do enough awareness and believe me, there are enough egos behind the initiatives.  The awareness, beyond fundraising, can be doing more harm than good if you ask some epidemiologists, as highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”.  Find a brief review of the concepts here in the New York Times.

We hear PTSD and suicide as if they are near synonymous… and I will say the word or claim of PTSD is over used and overly romanticized.  PTSD is not a disorder, it’s a natural human response to exposure of a reality that we hope most will never know.  Beyond that, the knowledge is a burden that must be carried.  It’s not treated; rather learned to live with.  But, I’m not focusing on PTSD.  I want to focus on romanticizing the suicide rate and victimizing.

Want to actually impact the suicide rate for Vets?  Give them something better to do, a better option.  Show them they haven’t lived through the best part of their life.  Give them expectations, not excuses.  Just like American Military Generals recognized, one of the primary mistakes made in Iraq was failure to build an infrastructure after taking Baghdad.  An Iraqi is less susceptible to be convinced to become a suicide bomber, or be bought as a soldier, or fear their family starving, if they have a sustainable way of life, an income, and a contributing role in their community.

Don’t give Vets hand-outs, sympathy and aimless “hugs”.  They all have a time and place, but are not the solutions alone or collectively.   Put the Vets to work and demonstrate their impact and purpose that is still ahead of them.  Sometimes that means giving them expectations.  Sometimes that means giving them the chance to fail.  All the time it means guiding them to understand how they are translating and demonstrating themselves to others, and most of the time that means equipping them with a meaningful career path.

There is no, single, correct career path for any person – Veteran or otherwise.  But with Veterans, going from a role of indescribable purpose, to a role where you aren’t sure if you have a purpose anymore, or if you add value, or if you can provide for your loved ones… is tough.  Add the burden of knowing what it really means to have friends, to love, and to sacrifice.  They know what it means, and why it is so important to put others before self.

No good gripe or complaint is worth it without a suggestion.  What’s my suggestion?  Spend less time romanticizing the visible symptom and create a solution for the source.  How do I do that?  Well, I chose to be a part of Four Block; we work on career development for Veterans.  Not a two day, or two hour workshop where we forget about you after.  Not a once a month phone call or Skype.  But a comprehensive, content retaining, and impactful, LONG-TERM solution to promoting successful transitions of Military Veterans into productive members of society.

They say idle time is the devil.  Well, idle ambition is a death sentence.  Let’s focus less on romanticizing the excuses, focus on holding each other accountable for desired expectations and reminding us all that we have a purpose.  Change the narrative.

As is always the case with my articles here on LifebyDamien.com – views and thoughts are my own, and I welcome yours in the comments as well!

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Beat the Standard

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leadership is not always comfortable

In the absence of leadership, he who holds himself and his peers to a higher standard than is demanded will rarely have 100% approval ratings from peers. Those peers who actively seek self improvement will show interest; those who don’t might show resentment.  A key tool in leading peers, particularly without any given title, is to carefully monitor and manage your methods of communication.

This doesn’t mean you will gain the 100% approval rating, but it may help to ensure you don’t earn disapproval on account of unintentionally sending the wrong message.  You may also need to check your own definitions, to ensure your own definition of seeking self-improvement and performance is not blinding you from seeing the ways others may do the same – just in different ways.

Still, I remain supportive of those who maintain a higher standard.  Even at the risk of not, “pleasing everyone”.   The reward of positively influencing one, or being an influence in the development and growth of another, far  out-weigh the cost of an unambitious collegue.  They are only the few, and will either catch on eventually, or just weed themselves out.

Whether it be the advances in technology that we use daily such as electricity, cell phones, refrigerators, fleece or the internet – or – the awe inspiring accomplishments of our world such as landing on the moon, the space station, virtual reality, olympic world records or your favorite theme park – We wouldn’t have any of it, if we all settled for the standard.

We’ve become the society we are, we’ve made many accomplishments and will continue to accomplish more – on the backs of those who didn’t let us just meet “the standard.”

#whoisleadingyou

Management & Leadership

Management is tangible.  It is about the effective and efficient completion of task items.

Leadership is intangible, and it is NOT about you.

If you are developing those in your charge, they will grow and will be offered opportunities.  Don’t be bitter; be proud.

If you are NOT developing those in your charge, they will FIND other opportunities.  Don’t be bitter; be better.

My Career Path is “Speed” and I’m Sandra Bullock

It’s no secret that in today’s global economy, if you are not improving you are losing.  So if nothing else, you must be moving forward or in the general direction you aspire to go.

When guiding discussions about establishing “SMART” goals for students, transitioning Vets, or professionals I like to use the GPS analogy…  When using a gps, you must input the address in order to get directions to your destination.  With all the technology in the world, you still can’t arrive at your destination without identifying it.  Well, I’d like to add that – you don’t have the luxury of delaying your decision of where to go.  Actually, you HAVE to be driving… in some direction…At some speed until you can decide on a destination.

So… what happens when you are behind the wheel of a bus, that can’t slow down and you have no destination?  Well Sandra, stopping is not an option.  Thus, the title of this post… and what happens now?  What for those who have identified that you “don’t know what you want to be when you grow up” but have a career started?  You can’t stop the bus, but if you don’t identify your destination soon, you may be traveling in the opposite, or at least wrong, direction until you do.

Typically I like to propose a feasible solution or recommendation each time I highlight a conflict or hurdle.  This time, I don’t have one… or at least not a good one.  You might want to find your Keanu Reeves, a mentor, or an outside perspective that can help you get on course – before things blow up.

The Employer’s Equation: Veteran Recruitment and Retention

The Employer’s Equation:

Veteran Recruitment and Retention

One thing I learned in training to become an infantry officer or as a Marine officer in general:  You have to turn the map around.  In combat – that means you need to see how your enemy expects you to act, and then exploit their plan.  In the civilian world I see it as a mix of strategy and desire as described by the amazing and late, Randy Pausch, creator of the Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon University.

Randy says, in life there are walls.  But those walls are for other people; those walls help you because it keeps those other people from getting to YOUR dream.  If it’s your dream, you’ll find a way around those walls.  As a vet looking for a job, your opponent, your wall, is not an adversary; instead it’s the need of the employer.  If it’s YOUR job, then you will find a way to get over the translation wall and exploit the needs of the employer by demonstrating your ability to fill them.

But for now, I’d like to share an idea with Employers.  In the 1990s, only 3% of the nation’s population was made up of Veterans, while 8% of CEOs in the fortune 500 were Vets – that’s no coincidence.  That’s what happens when drive, technical expertise, and leadership ability come together.

When employers begin thinking about hiring Veterans into their company it starts with the question:  Why Veterans at [insert company]?  Truth of the matter is… they aren’t turning the map around, and they are asking the wrong question.  Let me correctly rephrase the question:

“Does [insert company name] deserve Veterans?”

Hiring Veterans makes business sense; it is not a philanthropic issue.  I’d like to point out a few issues that face employers who enact a Recruitment and Philanthropy only Initiative, and I present them as an equation that results in Turn-Over or Retention.

Philanthropy V. Business, PvB (negative values for Philanthropy; positive values for Business)

Culture Training, CT (a value of 0 for no training, and increasing positive value for added training)

Mining for Oil, MOe (An exponential, “force-multiplyer” of the sum of the previous two values)

Turn-Over / Retention, “Retention” (a negative product results in increased turn-over; a positive product results in retention and efficiency in recruitment)

Looks like:

Employer's Equation for Retention
Employer’s Equation for Retention

There should be a multiple in front of CT, as internal training on culture for the Vets, and leadership for managers is more impactful to the equation than the PvB in many ways, but I cannot identify a percentage to weight it.  I’m going to give a brief explanation of each component, and then I will explain aspects of the equation in my next article.

Philanthropy V. Business:

Recruiting Veterans is a business choice, and it makes business sense.  Just like any business venture with a measurable ROI, it takes investment and monitoring.   Philanthropy is more like what fighter-pilots refer to rockets as “fire and forget”.  You write the check, sign off on the agreement, and it generates smiles, warmth and a few positive PR effects without much follow-through needed.  It also has hard to measure ROI, and its effects cannot be controlled once committed.  If employers only see Vets as a philanthropy and PR topic, rather than the ability to increase training, retention and desire through-out the company – they will never get the value out of the investment.

Culture Training: 

As outlined well through experience and in documented surveys in Emily King’s book “Field Tested”, hiring a Veteran for their leadership and not helping them adapt to corporate culture is a quick way to increase turn-over (civilians don’t take well to command and control leadership).  However, adjusting this to more of a highly efficient, servant leadership style is easy to do if you plan for it.  Veterans also receive a full-time education on customs and courtesies of the military until it encompasses all they do –this needs to be readdressed with recently transitioned Veterans in the workforce.  Don’t think it is that powerful?  I will address this very issue in articles to come. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the second half of, Isolated.

Mining for Oil:

Veterans are like Mining for Oil… especially the good ones.  If a company recruits and retains a Vet, providing them with a positive experience – the Veteran will tell his friends.  High-quality Veterans that employers are seeking are often connected with each other.  You find one – and you find many.  This works in reverse as well:  Burn one good one, and they will warn off their buddies.  The result is a greater negative effect on Employer desirability in the Talent Market, and increased struggles for the company to find good talent.  With companies like LinkedIn now tracking an employers’ “Total Brand Index”, this is a force to be reckoned with.

I will leave it here for now.  The equation is my gift to employers.  Stay tuned as I carry out the next series of articles centered on this very topic.  Touching further on the level of friendships and relationships Veterans once shared, culture of training, mining for oil, and how quotas (often a product of philanthropy) can hurt your company.

As always – please share, and please share your thoughts.

Soldiers of Fortune (JMOs): Veteran Profiles – Part III

The United States Marine Corps awards the right to carry the “Mameluke” Sword (Seen in Chrome and Gold) to Commissioned and Warrant Officers.  The Marine Officer’s Sword commemorates the jeweled Mameluke sword that was awarded to Lt. Presley O’Bannon after leading a small Marine Detachment to march over 550 miles through the desert before attacking and retaking the enemy’s, heavily-fortified, Derna, Tripoli position.

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"
The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

Today we focus on the Junior Military Officers [JMOs]:

So, let’s briefly go over the profile of a Jr. Military Officer.  I have to admit – I am not as excited about this group as I am the Jr. Military Enlisted – but that doesn’t make them ANY less valuable to the workforce.  On the contrary, my reduced enthusiasm is because JMOs are SO well positioned to take on roles in Corporate America!

First – the hard numbers.  When I refer to JMOs, I am referring to the bell of the curve for officers that:
–          Commissioned after earning a degree and have not had prior military experience as a JME
–          Served honorably for 4-12 years (considering those under 4 years doesn’t help as they are under obligation to serve for a minimum of 4 years, and frequently longer).
–          Previous salary ranging from $66k-$101k/yr (Tax adjusted equivalent: $74k-$115k/yr)
–          Make up less than 10% of the Active Duty Military

JMOs Typically
–          Directly responsible for Assets and equipment usually ranging in Millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.
–          Responsible for 5-150 personnel
–          Have had unparalleled leadership training, and leadership-development training to include proper implementation of performance evaluations, and performance evaluation systems.
–          Have hands on experience in organizational change and change management
–          Have “Employee Relations” and Human Resources expertise regardless of their military specialty
–          Have at least a SECRET DoD security clearance

Depending on the service, many JMOs will have a degree that is relative to their career field.  The Navy is the service where this is most common.  The Marine Corps would be on the opposite spectrum, as Military Occupational Specialties (jobs) for Marine Officers are assigned based on the needs of the Service, with respect to the Marine’s most desired role, and their performance.  At the same time, The Marine Corps is the only service that requires ALL Officers regardless of job, to attend the world’s highest rated leadership course, known simply as “The Basic School” [TBS].

From every civilian organization I have had conversations with, I hear a common theme – It is not so difficult to find someone great at their job; it is ever-difficult to find an effective leader that develops members of the organization at the team level.  In civilian organizations, the logic follows “I’m the best at what I do, and I have earned the right to be promoted into a Sr. role”.  That may be true – but technical expertise and leadership are far different.  JMOs are taught to lead FIRST.  Then they are given the tools of their trades.  Marine Officers spend 6 months, 60-100 hours per week, training with peers – solely on LEADERSHIP, refining their ability to develop OTHERS.  They are the Michael Jordan of corporate employees.  When they are on the court, the rest of the team plays better!

JMOs have experience in developing and being held responsible for the development of protégés, and the junior members of their organization.  Their measure of performance is based on their team.  This is a trait normally reserved for very senior and C-suite executives.    It doesn’t have to be – a JMO is willing and able to fill the void your organization has in developing it’s young talent, creating organizational loyalty, commitment, and efficacy.

When reviewing the resume of a JMO, or interviewing them and you notice a specific job skill they don’t have enough “experience” with – ask yourself:  Which will cost my organization more, teaching him how to use Salesforce, or sending my Salesforce Admin to six months of leadership training and a following 3 years of practical application?  You can hire one technical expert, and you’ve gained one savvy technical expert for your job field.  You hire a JMO, and you gain a team of motivated members of the organization; all constantly being challenged to perfect and grow their technical expertise.

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.

Jr. Military Enlisted: Veteran Profiles – Part II

The United States Marine Corps awards the right to carry the “Non-Commissioned Officer’s” Sword (Seen in gold and black leather scabbard) to those Enlisted Marines once they obtain the rank of Corporal (E-4).  The Marine NCO-Sword is the oldest weapon in continuous service in the U.S. inventory.

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"
The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

Today we focus on the Junior Military Enlisted:

According to the most recently available (2011), complete figures I could obtain per the Dept. of Veteran Affairs, Junior Military Enlisted service members (Those enlisted members with 4-12 years of service, and in the ranks E-3 to E6) make up nearly 50% of the Military’s force.   That is the single largest group of any of the four groups described last week.

First, to reduce risk of carpal tunnel, I will refer to a Junior Military Enlisted service-member, or a Veteran of that group, as “a JME”.  The typical JME has spent 4-12 years on Active duty in the military and in addition to being immersed in leadership training that entire time, they have spent 2-10 of those years in a leadership role.  During which time they have been responsible for up to 30 direct reports (in cases much higher, and in cases never more than a handful).

JMEs with this leadership experience are experts at handling ambiguous situations and making decisions based on what they best understand their superior’s goal or intent to be.  This translates into becoming a manager in a larger corporation that can lead and employ his team, setting and meeting team objectives that are aligned with the organization’s strategic vision.  In the military we like to refer to it as “Understanding a clear Commander’s Intent while operating in a decentralized command structure”.

With the fruition of the Post 9/11 GI-Bill, JMEs are able to pursue higher education at amazing rates.  Based on size alone, separating JMEs who pursue higher-education vs. those who don’t would constitute adding a 5th group.  For ease of identification we will remain with four.  However, from this point forward, I will refer to solely the group of JMEs who pursue higher-education.

For the corporate world, where a Bachelor’s degree is required for employment, seeing a JME with a degree or in pursuit thereof is a great signal!  This means they are already demonstrating a prized leadership quality – Know yourself and seek self-improvement.  Not to mention they have taken Initiative to do so, maintain an internal locus of control, and are combating the ambiguity of financial pressures and security in order to complete their education as opposed to looking for immediate financial gain.  This is a distinction worth noting.

JMEs are SEVEN TIMES more plentiful than Jr. Military Officers (JMOs), and bare the same leadership and educational experience after completion of their degree.  It should be said however, that JMOs get more formal training in the honing and development of their leadership abilities.

To wrap things up, here are two points that are often over-looked by under-exposed and improperly educated Recruiting “Professionals”, often those who will only recruit or who have “clients” that will only hire prior “commissioned officers”:

  1. Formally, Staff-NCOs (Ranks E-6 and above) are charged with the development and mentorship of all JMOs until the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander (O-4).  In practice, JMOs until the rank of Captain/Lieutenant (O-3) receive constant mentorship and development from JMOs (E-4 and above).  Yes – these NCOs or JME are exactly who have been developing these highly sought after JMOs!
  2. A typical JMO that gets out of the military after 4 or 8 years of service has earned a degree, and THEN gained his leadership training.  A JME who pursues higher-education will have received his leadership training first and then receives the most current in academic training while earning a degree.

 

I’d like to leave our brief description of the JME at that.  Next week, I will even things out a bit by diving further into the unique and valuable assets the JMO offers employers in today’s corporate world.

Until then, I hope to see as many Veteran seeking, or knowledge hungry Human Resource Professionals at the NYSE 2nd Annual Call to Action Forum on Nov. 1st at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, NY!

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.