Archive for category Leadership

Asleep at the Wheel

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Drop and give me 200…seconds!

Asleep at the Wheel

Leadership is a dynamic process and a learned trait.  All of us are born with a certain amount of talent in a variety of different areas.  What we do with that talent based on our skill we put into it (practice) is what eventually will define us.  You would rather be the person that has gone above and beyond with limited talent then the one with all the talent and little to show for it.  That all being said I think it’s absolutely critical that leaders at every level know what’s going on around them and take responsibility for their actions and those under their charge.  Look, there will always be things that happen that are out of your control; things you don’t directly manage or affect.  However, responsibility falls back to the “leader” and President Harry S. Truman said it best when he declared “The buck stops with me.”

No leader wants to be embarrassed, ridiculed or exposed in a scenario where they seem as if they had no idea, training, or experience into what happened.  Murphy’s Law comes into play at times and “stuff happens;” how you deal with that as a leader will define you.  President John F. Kennedy had his own issues when he took office in January 1961.  He immediately was thrust into the debacle known as the  “Bay of Pigs.”   This operation actually began in the Eisenhower administration and captained by the CIA.  The plan was to use counter-revolutionary insurgents (Cuban exiles) trained by the U.S. to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba.  As history tells us this was a complete disaster and many feel JFK was pressured into the invasion from his more experienced senior civilian and military advisors.   Afterwards JFK didn’t deflect the issue to a previous administration, or to advisors that were possibly misinforming him in the hopes of making him look bad.  Rather JFK went on the air and took public responsibility for the failed invasion and said “…we got a big kick in the leg and we deserved it. But maybe we’ll learn something from it.”  People are not dumb; they can accept the truth and most often will welcome it regardless of how hard it is. Key note: the highest point of JFK’s Presidential approval ratings came in wake of Bay of Pigs disaster.  Despite the embarrassing admission the White House made about the U.S. involvement in the botched invasion, JFK actually received a bounce in his approval ratings.  It’s also important to note JFK then fired three top CIA officials immediately after this failed invasion.

Now there are hundreds of other leadership examples out there and you can each do your own research and form your own opinions.  Taking responsibility for not only your actions but also the actions of the people and situations you are overall responsible for, shows that you are “manning the helm” and being answerable.  When you don’t take responsibility, or defect accountability, or make counter accusations, all you do is display the perception that you’re “asleep at the wheel.”  As a leader, you have to keep abreast on what’s happening around you.  Many times we surround ourselves with very smart and extremely competent people.  The advantage of this is you can give these folks a direction and distance and they can get the task accomplished with little guidance.  The disadvantage is the left and right limits of the task sometimes get wider, making the target objective larger, slowing the effort.  Then you also have what I like to call the “good idea fairy” that comes into effect; beware of this!  The good idea fairy only complicates the process by adding layers to the objective when you should be “staying the course.”  Simply, plan your fight (task) and then fight (execute) the plan!  If there are changes to be made then take time to make sure it’s the right change and don’t make change because you hit a speed-bump.  Key note: we would often say in the military “don’t scrap the plan at the first sign of gun-fire.  This is to be an expected part of what we do.”  The same goes for business.

The Take-Away:

If you’re a leader at any level, know what’s happening around you.  Manage, don’t micro-manage. Ask questions (a lot of questions), look for multiple solutions, and regardless if you made a particular decision or not, its your responsibility to be accountable for it.  You may get it wrong from time to time but the leadership value you will learn will assist in your expertise moving forward.

I never kept count of the times I was wrong, all that does is eat at your spirit and fuel a negative leadership style.  What I always do remember is standing there and being accountable for the men and women under my charge and my decisions and their actions.  Believe me, that’s what they will remember most!

I look forward to your comments and an always, Lead From the Front!  Hooah!

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Failed Leadership

In the wake of the NHL cancelling more games, there seems to be zero negotiating between the League & NHLPA. There is only one thing that comes to my former Sergeant Major mind, and that’s simply “failed leadership”.

Now I’ve read over a hundred articles on this subject both for and against each side and bottom line, it’s dismal. You can make a case for either group and both have done that through their verbiage in the media and campaign ads to attempt to bring some validity to their cause.

Here’s the bottom line, this is destroying the game! Though each side can make a strong case, neither is keeping with the spirit of the game, which should be getting out there and showcasing it. The owners hold most of the cards as they take the most risk and want a bigger portion of the pie; the players want the contracts they’ve already signed honored, we understand this. We can debate for days, weeks, months and this is exactly what each side is doing. It’s now the end of October and we have yet to play a NHL game while the KHL plays on ESPN, how silly.

Lawyers vs. Leadership: let me be clear that this is NOT an attack on lawyers. I know several attorneys who are close friends and we’ve used lawyers both in our personal and professional lives as they are a necessity. Attorneys are there for one thing, the best interests of their clients. So now we have four attorneys (Bettman/Daly vs. Fehr/Fehr) in the spotlight slugging it out against each other & making the case for their clients (I’m sure there are several more behind the scenes.) We can say “this is great” because this is what we want to see out of our representation. However, it comes time when you need more than attorneys and smart people, you simply need LEADERSHIP!

History has shown that sound and timely leadership trumps everything else when it comes to decision making. Having an extensive military background and now as a professional performance and leadership coach, I fully understand the necessity of leadership. I’ve seen it first hand in combat, and lived it for the past 30 years of my entire career. Neither side is willing to give ground even in the wake of corporate sponsors pulling out and monies that will never be recouped. Though Gary Bettman continues to state “we have the best fans in the world,” we are continued to be marginalized because of this lockout. If and when the game does come back, please don’t embarrass us any more with the “Thank you fans” painted on the ice.

If you want to be the leader of the organization you must simply get a deal done. The commissioner holds the key and though works for the owners, he has the necessary authority to say “enough is enough, we’re playing hockey!”


Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

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Random Acts of Kindness

It was early Spring, 1985 and I was a Private in the U.S. Army assigned to the elite 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington. We had a great platoon loaded with talented individuals and even a few that had cut their teeth on the recent Combat Parachute Assault into Grenada (Oct 1983) to rescue American College Students. This mission was known as Operation: “Urgent Fury.” Now today combat operations are plenty, however in the early 1980’s, there wasn’t a lot of combat action post-Vietnam Era. If you participated in Grenada with the Rangers, you were commonly known as a “Grenader Invader” and were viewed as “gods,” especially by Ranger Privates (AKA “tab-less bitches”).

The life as a Ranger is a difficult one, both physically and mentally. Every day is a test; everyday is a new challenge, everyday you have to show why you are one of our military’s finest fighting units. To be a Ranger you have to be as a minimum a three time volunteer. You have to volunteer for
the Army; volunteer for Airborne School; and finally volunteer for the Rangers which has a requirement process of passing RIP, or Ranger Indoctrination Program (this name has since changed to RASP or Ranger Assessment Selection Process. I still love the name RIP!). Just qualifying for the Rangers is only part of the process; once you complete RIP you have to earn your position in a Ranger platoon everyday and when trained enough, you will have the chance to attend Ranger School in hopes of earning the coveted Ranger Tab (which then removes you from the “tab-less bitch” listing!). Ranger School in itself is a daunting task and covers over 8 weeks of patrolling, raids, ambushes, reconnaissance, field craft, survival, graded patrols as well as food and sleep deprivation. It’s still to this day one of the most difficult leadership schools the military has to offer.

The life of a Ranger Private is a tough one. You want to prove everyday that with guidance and the proper training you can be a combat Read the rest of this entry »

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It was a beautiful, sunny, spring day in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. If you’ve never been there its a great spot tucked away about 40 minutes east of Spokane, Washington, along the banks of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Through a hockey connection I met a great family who own a very successful minting company in Coeur d’Alene, and after about a year talking back and forth we were contracted to conduct leadership and team building for their company. This was actually our second time with the company in the past six months and this time they were taking on our premiere outdoor team building exercise known as Operation: “Victory Spike” on the terrain of Tubbs Hill.

The client set us up right as they always do, providing us first class accommodations at the famous Coeur d’Alene (CDA) Resort located on the lake. This resort is known to many the famous traveler and is even one of the hosts for a popular Triathlon every year. It even has a terrific golf course with a “floating green” that is accessed only by boat.

It was our recon (short for reconnaissance) day and our Elite Leadership Training LLC Cadre were hard at work prepping lanes and finalizing the scheme of maneuver for tomorrow’s event. The weather was terrific, the views excellent, it really couldn’t get much better, well except for a good cup of coffee. It must be a military thing but former Soldier’s can drink coffee just about anytime and in any weather. As the Lead Consultant for our company I planned all the outdoor missions and then tailored them as necessary to fit the terrain and fitness level of the client. It was time for the coffee run and one thing I learned from serving with the Brits in Afghanistan, is that everyone is on the hook to get coffee. This is one task where rank does not have its privileges with the Brits and I actually liked that! (Many a evenings the British Colonel would be getting tea for his mates after losing the ceremonial dice roll which they all participated in to see who was make the tea run). As the team was finishing up preparing their task lanes and we were waiting for the “Six” (term for the boss which in this case is the ELT CEO Lona Spisso) to complete her final walk through of the site, I tasked myself to get the boys coffee.

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Keeping Your Fingers On The Pulse

Leadership is about giving your subordinates the room to do their job, the ability to think through decisions and understanding there is no such thing as a zero-defect environment. There are clear lines that can’t be crossed and things you cannot do (lie, cheat or steal for example).

We spent a few days with a retired Green Beret Sergeant Major friend of ours and as we were enjoying a few German beverages we were talking leadership. He is a hero and spent the bulk of his 25 year military career in Special Forces. He will be the first to tell you he has learned the hard way, and though he achieved the highest Non-Comissioned Officer rank, his early years were spent achieving and losing the rank of Private First Class. He had good leaders looking out for him and I’ve found him to be one of the finest military leaders of our modern time with a gruff and tough exterior that can frighten the most chiseled warrior! He looked out for Soldiers, counseled them as needed (even wall to wall counseling if it applied), and always backed them regardless if he personally liked them or not. He knew leadership is not a popularity contest and he wanted men that were accountable, capable and audacious. They were Green Berets, they had to be good at everything! Read the rest of this entry »

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You got to know when to leave.

A few days ago I was talking to my Father. He’s 88 years young, a World War II Combat Veteran, and grew up during the Great Depression (the 1929 one, not the housing crash of 2008!) At 88, my Father is still as sharp as they come and still to this day regularly gives talks on leadership. As a Civilian Aide, to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) – Emeritus for the State of Pennsylvania, he is daily doing work to assist the Army units of his state. He is known for his powerful and motivating speeches on Veterans and Memorial Day and frankly, there’s no greater American.

He’s battling with the loss of his wife of 52 years. If you’ve read my previous blog on “Warriors learn from Warriors” you know what she has meant to our family. My Father has always provided sound and timely advice (some I’ve taken and as most children do, some I’ve not and I learned the hard way.) We were talking about general topics and we both love sports so we began to talk about the debacle at Penn State University with their Football program and how it’s going to be difficult to rebuild for the incoming coach. We talked about Coach Paterno and how long he has been at the program and by all estimation has done a good job of assisting the players under his charge with graduating and moving on to life beyond football. My father then said to me, “you got to know when to leave.” It’s my father’s opinion that Coach Paterno was there too long, and when you’re an 88 year old WWII Veteran, you have earned the right to your own opinion!

The lesson started here. He went on to say that regardless of the business you are in “you got to know when to leave.” The more I thought about this the more evident how crucial this advice is!! Looking back at my career I retired from the Army at the right time. I still had 4 or 5 good years left in me, but I was healthy, could still compete if I had to, but I chose the right time to start my next career. Looking back at my time working at West Point, I probably stayed there six months to a year too long. I knew I should have made the change but I was comfortable in the job, had the systems down, and as it’s said, could run on auto-pilot. The turbulence hits when you hand off the stick (Murphy’s Law!). Read the rest of this entry »

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This is an oldie from last year but it’s so important to remember sometimes you just have to…SHUT IT OFF!  Enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend with your families and Shut it Off!

Take a break and shut it off! We are in the information technology age and surrounded by devices and sources to stay in touch, send and receive information, and have the ability to get things done faster.

We use them, we count on them; we can easily become addicted and dependent on them. This blog focuses around your mental health and the necessity of taking the time to SHUT IT OFF!

The gym we go to clearly states “no cell phone use in the workout area.” Though this is posted and even announced over their public address system, you still have plenty of people (including their staff) that make and take calls while out on the gym floor. This does not bother me, except for the fact I know those people aren’t focused on their workout; their mind is filled with other priorities. Questions to ponder: Do they do this when their home? Or at work? Or at their kids hockey game?

It’s called information overload and it can affect your daily life if not controlled. Too much of anything is never a good thing. Keeping it simple; know when to SHUT IT OFF.

I have about a 6-minute drive to our gym and I used to make a quick call to a client or friends on the drive there and checked a few emails in the parking lot before going in. What I found was my mind was not focused as it should be when it was time to get to the work out. I have fixed that issue and either leave my phone at home or shut it off before I leave for the gym. I now use the short drive to relax my mind and when I get to the gym its “business” for the next 45 minutes; I get in, get fit and get out. My mind is refreshed and my body is as well!

I fully understand for most of us our phones are our connection to our business, profit margin and our lives. However, taking the time to “focus” on different objectives during the day make you more productive, healthier and you guessed it, happier all around! Read the rest of this entry »

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12 Days of Christmas Workout

Here is a quick workout to do over the Holidays and keep in the spirit! Timed exercise.

Just like the song; do #1, #2, then # 1. Do #3, #2, #1, etc…

Do the number of exercise it says; one Turkish get up, two push ups, etc…

Day 1: Turkish Get-up w/Dumb Bell (Men 25lb DB, Women 12.5lb DB or better)
Day 2: Pushups – strict form, nose to mat
Day 3: Jump Squats (squat low as you can and reach high to the sky)
Day 4: Kettle Bell Swings (heavy weight – Men 55lb, Women 30lb or better; substitute a dumbbell if no kettle bell)
Day 5: DB Push Up & Pull (get in push up position w/hands on dumb bells, do a push up then row right then left; repeat 5 times. Men 30lb DBs, Women 15lb DB or better)
Day 6: Box Jumps (24″ box)
Day 7: V-ups w/plate (Men 45lb, Women 25lb)
Day 8: Diamond Push Ups
Day 9: Burpees
Day 10: Ski Jumps (jump over a 12″ high obstacle)
Day 11: DB Clean & Press (Men 40lb DBs, Women 20lb DBs or better)
Day 12: Walking Lunge while holding a plate over head (Men 45lb, Women 25lb or better; walk alternating legs until you hit 25 total, touch knee to ground briefly on each lunge).

HOOAH! Stay motivated & stay fit! -Happy Holidays!

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Don’t Feel Sorry for Yourself

It’s been a couple weeks since my last blog but we are finally back at the patrol base (military term for your home) after a great trip inspiring and motivating some great people! HOOAH!!

Motivation is infectious, and always in a positive way. If you are motivated and display that motivation and speak with positive energy that will naturally flow into others. The message in this blog is to stay motivated and don’t feel sorry for yourself!

Times are tough, we all know that and feel that. Most of us have to do more with less and watch their spending. So it’s even more important in these economic times that we are thankful for what we have.

If there is an event happening in your life that is testing your mental and/or physical toughness then look at it as a challenge and not as a curse. Remember that toughness is a “learned” trait and you can learn it at any time in your life and you can continue to improve on it! Toughness has nothing to do with being mean, cold, callous, arrogant or insensitive. Toughness is simply viewing all obstacles as a challenge and “chipping away” at those obstacles with a positive attitude and demeanor.

Everything worthwhile in life takes effort and hard work (marriage, family, your profession, etc…). If it was easy then everyone would do it! Stay focused, accept the challenges, and never feel sorry for yourself!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes. One that was given to me in 2008 when I was half way through my 12 month deployment to Afghanistan. It gave me energy, strength and the necessary resolve to battle-on!

“Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion usually coming from those that have never measured themselves in the face of adversity!” -Coach Tom Renney

You can do it! HOOAH!

Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

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Cooperate and Graduate

It was week 11 of a 13-week Infantry Basic Course for new privates in the Army at none other than Fort Benning, Georgia. I was the Senior Drill Instructor for one of the platoons in Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 38th INF. Infantry School was commonly known as the “Fort Benning School for Boys.” Unlike most military training posts, Fort Benning had only Infantry training at the time and only trained new male recruits.

Our platoon was a great one; a nice compliment of motivated and seasoned Drill Instructors, as well as a physically fit platoon. Having men from all over the country with as many different upbringings posed some challenges. We were able to mitigate many of these challenges by giving the new Soldiers two common enemies; tough, realistic training and naturally us, the Drill Instructor.

By doing this the men were required by necessity to focus on a common goal, graduating Infantry training and moving on to their Army unit. Unlike a normal basic training, which was 8 weeks at the time, Infantry training combined both the basic and advanced training into a single continuous course which lasted 13 weeks. As the weeks go on the comfortability level increases in both the trainees and the cadre. We were preparing for a week long Field Training Exercise, (FTX) which measured everything they had learned in their training. It was the keystone for completing the course, earning their blue Infantryman’s Cord and moving on to their unit. Tempers were flaring a bit in the barracks and Soldiers were showing their irritation with one another. We could hear the back and forth bantering from our DI office in the barracks and after about five minutes of this I rose up from my desk and told my DI partners “I’m going to end this right now!” As stated before, I was the Senior DI for the platoon and held the rank of Sergeant First Class. My previous assignment in the 75th Ranger Regiment as well as combat experience set me up for success in the Army and I was promoted ahead of my peers in the regular Army. My eight years in the Army had been stellar and exciting up to this point, however my partners had more “Army” experience with 12 to 15 years in service. After my statement my partner, Staff Sergeant Requena stopped me and said, “Boss, I’ll take care of this.” He knew immediately that my statement carried a “pain” consequence for the men, and I would PT (physical training) them into being a team once again. Many times this is a very effective technique, but Drill Instructor Requena, with his vast experience, went for a different approach.

Staff Sergeant Requena was a quiet man, family oriented, and very skilled as an Infantry Mortar man. He rarely was upset and always tried the “fathers” approach to new men. Our leadership styles complimented each other. He walked out to the bay and the men were still bickering like little boys over who was going to get ice cream first. He walked half way down the bay and yelled “At Ease!” Immediately all the men became attentive and the bickering stopped as all eyes turned to DI Requena. He looked at all of them and calmly said “Gentlemen, this is week 11, you have two weeks to go, cooperate and graduate.”

Cooperate and graduate, this was not the first time I’ve ever heard this statement and probably heard it back when I went through Infantry training. It was not necessarily what he said, but his timeliness and delivery. We went back to our office to prepare our gear for the FTX and for the remaining time that evening the men were back into their preparation mode, the “cooperation” mode. This was the first instance as a leader that I truly realized that sometimes the axe or hammer or whatever you want to call it isn’t always the right tool for the job. I kept that “cooperate and graduate” lesson in my leadership arsenal and used it on several occasions throughout the remainder of my 26 year military career.

Fast forward to the week of 30 October, 2011 and we landed in the unexpected Nor’easter in Boston. We were in Springfield, MA on business in a town that received 30 inches of heavy wet snow in less than 24 hours. There was an estimate of 700,000 people without power, and still rebuilding from a violent tornado caused from hurricane Irene just a few months prior. Springfield, like many small cities right now suffer from their own economic hardships. The hotel where we were booked was one of few establishments that had power and facilities, so as you can imagine it became a shelter for residents and their pets and the hotel was doing the best they can under their own stress of limited staff, food and their own intermittent power losses. Anything that was open in town (restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations etc…) had lines hours long. The elevated stress was apparent and this only made the situation worse.

Maybe it’s the military and the prior hardships we had to endure at times that allows both my wife and I to just deal with things a little easier than others. The snow did its damage, fortunately the weather was hanging around 50 degrees, which assisted in the recovery process. Yes there is a 3 hour wait for food, but your going to eat. We were in a hotel booked over capacity and they were doing the best they could under the circumstances.

I actually was able to get a workout in one of the days and rode the elevator with three people who were just bitching about everything going wrong in the hotel. They “couldn’t get fresh towels” or something silly like that and on the slow ride to my floor I felt my anger building, thinking “don’t these people get it? The town is in a state of emergency!” My immediate reaction was going to be “stop your bitching, you have water, hot food and a bed, that’s more than most people have now!” However right then I flashed back to 1992 and Drill Instructor Requena and as the elevator stopped at my floor I calmly and even with a little smile looked at the one doing most of the complaining and said “Ma’am, half the state is out of electricity, I’m sure they are doing the best they can to restore your power. Everyone at the hotel is ok, I think what we should all do now is simply…cooperate and graduate.” I exited the elevator feeling good and thanking Drill Instructor Requena for that valuable lesson.

The “graduate” part fit in this situation as well, with the implied task of just getting along and out of here once your power is reestablished. I got the point across and did it without putting anyone in a choke hold!

Cooperate and graduate; a very effective and calming statement that can be used with your family, employees or whenever the right time is needed to assist calmly in an issue and give people direction and hope.

Hooah! Keep moving forward!

Lead Consultant & Performance Coach
Elite Leadership Training LLC
Twitter @Leadership_Trng

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