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Category Archives: Team Building

Yes, we’re all dumb – enough to make mistakes – and then we learn.  In a way, that is a part of the self-deprecating culture I miss about the military.  We are all very hard on ourselves, and while also served with an occasional dose of – ahem – “confidence” we also ridicule ourselves more often than anything else.  Well, ourselves and each other.  I have grown to realize there is a productive measure to that ridicule that improves individual, collective and team performance.

When a working team establishes a communication environment that allows for straight, sometimes brutal, but honest and even more often comical, communication – there is very little left unsaid.  Why is that helpful?  Because it ensures that all members of a team are voicing their observations when they thinks something is awry.  If you are doing something that can be done better, you’ll be told.  If your performance is good, but can be better – you’ll be told.  If someone disagrees with you – you’ll be told.  The guess work is taken out, and the perceived friction point can be addressed.  This reduces what I’ve been introduced to as “office politics”.  If we’ve learned anything in a democratic society, it’s that “politics” and “efficiency” often get in each other’s way.

Of course, there needs to be moderation.  No team should suddenly start verbally lashing out at each other (nor should they ever really be “lashing out”).  First, everyone has to believe that everyone else in the team is more concerned about the TEAM’s goals and objectives than any individual’s objectives.  Team-orientation over self-orientation is a topic of its own, and gets into the foundations of team building.  But that will be it for today – let’s keep it short.  How honest have you been with your team lately?

*You might have noticed the title was intentionally, incorrectly spelled as “were” instead of “we’re”.  It’s a play on words… making “dumb” only temporary, until enlightened.

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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 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.

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As a father of two, the quality of my children’s education both academically and socially is at the top of my priority list.  As I sit waiting on a flight, and begin reading Emily King’s book “Field Tested” I am reminded of a conversation I had with my wife.

After exiting the military and leaving Camp Pendleton and the accompanying Oceanside, CA public school system, my son began school in a NYC Public Elementary School in The Bronx, NY.  Needless to say, he immediately noticed a difference, and he was in the first grade.  We expected a culture change, and perhaps methodology, but I have begun to notice something else is not just different, but missing.

The Marine Corps is full of A-type, competitive personalities that enjoy pushing each other to be better.  Where one isn’t faulted for an inability, but if they aren’t in an active effort to be better.  That culture… a culture of ambition is translated to the children of service members – especially the children of Marines 😉  However, sadly enough, I don’t see that same culture of ambition in my son’s (and now daughter’s) elementary school. A culture of ambition is exactly what drives individuals to perform beyond expectations – in any setting, school, work, recreation or otherwise.

Usually I like to propose a solution before ending an article, but as I sit, awaiting my flight – this is something I need to think about more.  Where did the Culture of Ambition go?  More importantly, how does one, a team, or an organization develop, maintain and nourish a Culture of Ambition?

Your thoughts are encouraged!

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.

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.

Overly delayed, but as promised, let’s start looking at the different profiles a high-potential U.S. Military Veteran will likely fall into.  I like to give a broad breakdown of the Veteran Profiles that are most likely to be seeking to enter the non-military workforce.  In doing so, there are four main groups.  I have also described and made the case for one of the four groups in the recently released Hiring Manager Resources published on the New York Stock Exchange Website (I’ll link the work at the end of this article).

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

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

The four main groups of Non-Retiring Veterans are:

–          Senior Military Officers (SMO)

–          Junior Military Officers (JMO)

–          Senior Military Enlisted (SME)

–          Junior Military Enlisted (JME)

Many have heard of the JMO, as they have become a highly targeted candidate pool for both corporations and placement agencies alike.  Where else can you find a pool of talent with post-degree work experience, and a resume of leadership and responsibility that often includes multi-million dollars in assets and organizational command often exceeds 300 people?  The problem is, they only represent 7% of the military – and not all 7% exit the military.  The amount of JMOs actually exiting the military is closer to 2% of the entire military assuming 67% of the military’s JMOs are retained after their first 4 years of service.

For the following summary and description of each group, I will be referencing my own work as published on the New York Stock Exchange website.  Not every member of the military will perfectly fall into the following four groups.  However, for organizations looking to hire Veterans, a clear understanding of the following groups will best prepare you to close the communication gap, and understand the majority of the Veteran population that are currently entering the workforce.

Four Main Categories of Non-Retiring Veterans

  • SMO – Sr. Military Officers (Executive Group)
    • 12+ years of service
    • Often with Master’s credentials and positioned well for Executive and Fast-track leadership programs
  • JMO – Jr. Military Officers (Professional Group)
    • 4-8 years as a Commissioned Officer
    • Highly sought after professional group for Junior and Mid-level Management roles in med-large companies
  • SME – Sr. Military Enlisted (Skilled Group)
    • 12+ years of service
    • Various levels of education and degree progress
    • Often are technical-skilled experts in their job field
  • JME – Jr. Military Enlisted (Skilled Group – Early Growth Stage)
    • 4-8 years of service
    • Mostly hold a High School diploma upon exit, if not a GED.
    • This group is further broken into two categories:
      • JME pursuing/has a degree
      • JME not pursuing a degree

You will notice that “JME pursuing/has a degree” is bolded.  That is because it represents the most under-targeted group that I argue should be considered as equally positioned to JMOs when considered for entry-level and junior leadership roles requiring a degree.  JME within our targeted service time of between 4-8 years of military service make up nearly 50% of the military per 2011 numbers!  That is SEVEN times more than the JMOs.  Additionally, with the onset of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, JMEs are pursuing college degrees at the highest rates seen in history.

This unique set of circumstance creates a large pool of candidates with 4-8 years of leadership training and experience that is unparalleled outside of the military.  Of which many have now earned or are near completion of a degree with the most current curriculum in academia.  Where else can you find a degree holding candidate, with a Quarter-Million-Dollar leadership education and looking to start their career at a salary under $60k/yr?  No Ivy-league school can compete with that.

Stay tuned for next week, as I compare and contrast the great assets both Junior Military Officers and Junior Military Enlisted offer while also giving a more in-depth description of each group.  If you can’t wait until then – feed your curiosity by visiting The Veteran Associate Program page on the New York Stock Exchange Website.

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.

I like to be adventurous sometimes… and this is something that has come to mind and I’ve noticed in Global, Political and local context.  So I’d like to address it some, and briefly apply it to team building and entry-level leadership and manager roles.

Human people, as a mass, are control freaks.  We will always try to find blame for bad things on attributes which can be controlled, or that we at least perceive we can control.  It gives us peace of mind to think we can do something to prevent the recurrence of a mal-event.

It is much less likely for people in mass, to attribute mal-events to forces that are much more difficult to control, require a shift in thought in order to control, or are simply not controllable.  The only exceptions to this rule are those mal-events that are results of natural disasters.  Even then, there will be those that will try to rationalize that any negative effects of the natural disaster were preventable, or controllable, based on some aspect of human error.

We as people are horrible at differentiating what CAN be influenced, and what CANNOT be influenced.  I use the word “influence” intentionally.  No single thing can be controlled, but it can be influenced.  And often, people over-look the ability of influence.  The best influences are those that are never realized, yet effect the decisions and the results of events.

To this, I say – always seek out and diligently identify any contributing factors to an outcome, if you are looking to effect the outcome.  This works in micro and macro applications.  When managing a team and you notice a lack, or shift in performance or results, first identify all contributing factors (team members, member’s work environment, your implicit signals, members’ home environments, etc).  Then, analyze where you should focus your INFLUENCE (not “control”).

Well placed influence will always reap a higher return and more efficient results than emplacing “controls” or “exercising control”.  If you feel like you’ve lost “control” of your team – change your mindset.  Stop trying to control people and control the environment and start influencing people and harboring the environment.  The best part of influencing anyone or anything – effectively influencing forces you to listen, comprehend, and understand the subject of your intended influence.

How do you influence others?

There has been a lot posted lately about my efforts in Veterans Transitions – and there will be more.  But today, I wanted to take a step back and bring up something that has more to do with general Leadership and Team Building.

While there are many “definitions” of Leadership – most generally focus around the idea of organizing a group of individuals into a team with the focus of reaching a common goal.   Most importantly – there is a focus on a common goal.  There are many studies, theories and methodologies out there that speak to the multitude of motivational theories and personality matching that goes into building a cohesive team that will reach and set new goals.  For fun, I’m going to dumb-down to look at a comparison.

I’ve seen motivation of 2 or more individuals based on their desire to achieve a goal that benefits both to a level greater than could be obtainable if each attempted to do so on their own (This would suggest synergy – a more comprehensive and overall better explanation can be taken from Stephen Covey’s The 3rd Alternative.  Is the bond, and level of cohesion in that scenario as strong, stronger, or inferior to the bond and level of cohesion obtained when 2 or more are united by a common enemy?

Now I have thought about this… and I am not sure which is more powerful in the long run.  However, in thought – I believe being united by a common enemy is often more influential and bonding when dealing with a diverse group of individuals with pre-existing aversions towards each other.  I’ve also seen many examples of manipulating individuals into bonding through the threat of a common enemy – as I am sure most of you have.  Let’s look at some.

If you have had siblings – How many times were you and your sibling punished after bickering or fighting by your parents?  So much so that the punishment dealt by your parents made you and your sibling work together to bare the punishment, or even more so, try to out-smart your parent – after such you and your sibling(s) were left with a tighter bond and deeper understanding of each other?

If you are in a direct sales role, where multiple sales teams operate in the same region – there is that one sales team that always wins the contests and bonuses.  You find yourself teaming up and sharing ideas with another team – that would normally be competition, almost solely for the sake of keeping the top team from winning once again.

In the military – it happens EVERY DAY at the ground roots.  In one of the finest and most renowned leadership courses our nation has seen, high school graduates by the hundreds, from all over the nation land on yellow foot prints at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego or Parris Island.  Many times with the testosterone drive, A-type personalities sought after by USMC recruiters.  Once assigned to a platoon, before they can figure out if they like each other or not – recruits realize their greatest, and only ally against the wrath of Drill Instructors is each other.  If you’ve yet to see what Recruits will do, as a cohesive unit, in an effort to avoid the wrath or even further impress their Drill Instructors – you might be grossly underestimating the power of unity through a common “enemy”.

Anyhow, there are many ways to motivate a group of individuals in order to create a team.  But many of the most cohesive, successful and well-oiled teams I’ve formed, been a part of, or observed have all at some point, experienced a period of bonding induced by their own unity against a common enemy.  By no means is that the solution to building a team – but a very interesting piece of the puzzle to be considered.

 

How have you seen it in your situation?

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