DEVELOPING THE LEADERSHIP PIPELINE I have worked with thousands of executive teams since I left the Navy and one of the common complaints I hear is where to find the time to mentor the next generation. Schedules are double and triple blocked as it is. “I just don't have the energy or the time,” is the common refrain.
I come from a family of story tellers. My father was a World War II veteran and our main meal on Sunday was at noon after church. He would always tell his seven children, gathered at the table, stories from his days serving on convoys in the Atlantic. I would sit there mesmerized but would come back to the question: "If I was ever called upon, would I have what it takes like my father's generation."
It's tough out there today and no organization is safe. There are a lot of variables that many of us have absolutely no control over. It's easy to feel like a victim and obsess over the uncontrollable. My advice to you is to forget about what you can't control and obsess only over that which you can influence.
The neat thing about what I do is that I get to meet and learn from all sorts of people from all walks of life. Whatever my experience, I realize that I don’t know everything and more important, that I still have tremendous opportunity for growth as a leader.
My 18-year-old nephew is a Plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy and wanted to spend spring break at his uncle's house in Miami Beach. After the brutal winter in the northeast, who wouldn't? The problem was he also wanted to bring his three high school buddies from Colorado. I dreaded the thought of four 18-year-olds for spring break but I relented as he is such a fine young man.
One of the critical issues facing organizations today is safety... not just safety in the workplace but safety in all facets of our personal lives. After all, if people get injured at home, it affects their on-the-job performance, as well as medical costs.
One of the mental exercises I often put myself through is to look at current events from a leadership perspective and continue my lifelong pursuit of self-improvement. There are two cases that fascinate and stand out for me. One is the Captain of the Italian Cruise Liner, the Costa Concordia, the ship that ran aground and sank two years ago and the other fascinating case study is Pope Francis.
Matthew Shaer recently wrote an article in New York Magazine entitled The Boss Stops Here discussing the current state of flatter-transparent organizations and the evolution of bossless environments.
A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled how McDonald's, battling back from recent earnings disappointments, is putting unusual emphasis on a longtime challenge: getting its far-flung workforce to provide service with a smile. The fast-food giant, whose restaurant sales in the U.S. began to slip last year, is pushing franchisees to improve staffing and service amid mounting complaints about rude employees.
Love and respect are like self-esteem: hollow if they’re not earned. On Benfold, I tried in large part to unify the crew by insisting on high performance and continual learning. The Navy has a special program, the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist Program (ESWS), designed to train sailors to go beyond their specialties and learn how the entire ship works. This training makes it easier to learn to backstop others, and it strengthens the ship’s performance, especially in a crisis. But the program is so difficult that only the most experienced sailors usually sign up for it. And since hardly anyone had passes ESWS in my predecessor’s time, the crew was convinced that it wasn’t feasible. So I streamlined the program, cutting out all the parts that didn’t apply to Benfold – perhaps 15% of the total. Then I told the crew that learning ESWS would train them to show visitors around the ship, a duty that was becoming enormously popular. In that light, the program didn’t look so hard, and nearly every sailor aboard signed up. In short order, we qualified nearly 200 of our 310 crew members. One of the qualifiers was Sarah Garner, who was shocked to learn that disgruntled crew members on my predecessor’s watch hid themselves away to avoid duty. Sarah became a great success, eventually getting selected for chief petty officer in eight years instead of the usual fourteen, and she was always one of the first to take on new jobs and learn entire new systems. At the beginning, the ESWS program looked impossible, she once told me, “but it ended up being fun. What it did was, it got you out talking to everyone. You got a chance to interact with other people on the ship whose jobs were so dissimilar from yours that you might not have a lot of interaction with them otherwise.” One day, on a missile training exercise with two other ships, Sarah found herself at a watch station on the combat systems coordinator’s office, where she realized that, on the other ships, the corresponding stations were being manned by a lieutenant and a master chief. At that point, she was still a second-class petty officer. Both of us were proud of what she had achieved. Even now in civilian life, Sarah says she still applies the lessons she learned on Benfold – in particular, that an organization is far more effective if its people understand each other’s jobs and why things are done the way they are.