Posts Tagged honor

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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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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Warriors learn from Warriors


Warriors learn from Warriors

We laid to rest this week one of the greatest Warriors of all time, her name was Patricia G. Spisso. She was not only a brilliant educator and champion for Women’s rights, she was also the greatest mother any family could ever ask for. Warriors learn from warriors, and we learned from the best!

As a modern day performance coach and leadership consultant I often speak about being a warrior, winner, leader and survivor. Four key attributes that define the best of the best and what I challenge everyone to be. These attributes all have sub-attributes, which complete the definitions. Though only four simple words they are very complex. For example, you can’t be a winner if you’re not a gracious winner or a sore loser. Winning is the action but a “winner” is what defines the attribute.

I often ask clients what their definition of a warrior is? What do they believe embodies a warrior and more importantly defining an example of one? A warrior is not only the Spartan jumping off the rock impaling the enemy with his spear. Being a warrior is much more than the physical attributes (though it does have a part); being a warrior is working hard to be the best at what ever you do and doing it with honor, personal courage and character.

My warrior traits and ethos I learned from my mother. She absolutely set the standard and did so with a kind heart, gentle touch, and a brilliant mind that taught my sisters and I toughness, humility and passion.

Toughness is a trait often mistaken for someone with the rough exterior and attitude to match. Being tough has nothing to do with being a prick, nor being cold, callous, mean or aggressive. Toughness is the ability to do the right things, despite the “crowds opinion” or personal consequences. My mother had the look of an Italian movie star and the toughness of a Spartan Queen. She stood for Women’s Rights in the most unpopular times and squared off against some of the most chauvinistic and ego maniac men that Western Pennsylvania had to offer. Her battle armor was her spirit, her mind and the knowing she was making life better for others. As a brilliant educator (41 years), she worked tirelessly to help the children of the rich, middle class and poor receive an education. She showed kids from all walks of life how to succeed, how to move forward and especially how to do it with the humility necessary.

She challenged my two older sisters and I to leave a “footprint” in life. Mom always said if we did it the right way with honor, personal courage and integrity that others would use our path for their own success. She never let herself be bogged down with negativity or negative people, and taught us to do the same. If you wanted my mother’s help, you better show up positive and ready to work; the “oh poor me” attitude was never accepted.

My mother didn’t come from money nor married into it; my father and her raised three successful children on a middle-class budget and inspired all of us to follow our dreams and leave that “footprint.” All of us have that work ethic, and though we might have a few more “things” than our Parents, the values we have learned are the foundation.

My mother accepted another warrior into our family many years ago, my loving wife. Cut from the same mold they quickly formed a bond that was untouchable. Throughout the years she taught my wife and I how to love and understand each other more than we thought was ever possible. My mother and father were married over 53 years; she shared with us her tools to a happy, healthy, blissful marriage. Some say sons marry their mothers and it’s no different in my case; my loving wife has all the attributes my mother possessed, taught, inspired and loved.

Warriors learn from Warriors. Teach, coach, mentor, train, inspire, be passionate and motivate; these are what I do best, but only because I learned from the best!!

Patricia G Spisso, 10/09/2011
Rest in Peace Mother, you will never be forgotten!

JB Spisso
Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

Twitter: @Leadership_Trng

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The God Squad

In the military the term “God Squad” is sometimes used to represent an elite group or a group of leaders formed into one fighting element. This would be a very experienced force, those capable of nearly any mission; a veteran group with unlimited capabilities.

This weekend the Minnesota Wild Hockey Club took part in one of our outdoor team building exercises; this mission was codenamed Operation: “Urgent Fury” (this was the name of the US Forces operation onto the island of Grenada to rescue college students in 1983.)

The Wild had four assault squads for their exercise; three of the squads were complied of the players, while the fourth squad or “God Squad” was comprised entirely of the coaches and staff.

The coaches and staff are all fit individuals, but the daily physicality of being an athlete in the National Hockey League is not their main assignment. They are there to plan, prepare, coach, train, mentor, provide treatment and lead these men. Believe me, I’ve spent many weeks with them in the past; the staff works extremely hard, as well as shouldering most of the burden of the organization.

The God Squad did a fantastic job! In four simulated combat & technical missions they scored a first place in one event and no lower than third place in the remaining events.

The God Squad shared blood and sweat with the men under their charge and their actions in this operation sent clear messages to the team. First and foremost it shows the men that their leaders are prepared to battle with them side by side in the mud and more importantly they are willing to “embrace the suck” that they are going through. The leadership isn’t just telling their men to go and fight, rather they are doing it together in the “one team – one fight” concept.

Secondly is shows the men that the warrior-instinct and spirit is alive and well in the leadership, and despite that role the leaders are mentally and physically ready to pick up the sword and defend the arena if called upon.

Not only did the Minnesota Wild players receive a great assessment on their performance from our cadre; the God Squad received equally high marks as well! Hooah!

The lesson here is that all leaders, regardless of rank, position or authority, need to occasionally get out there and “embrace the suck.” Feel what the people under your charge feel, serve with them side by side. You will be surprised what you will learn and it provides the leader their own “compass check.”

I salute the Wild staff for getting out there and doing this mission; they set the tone for their organization as Warriors, Winners, Leaders & Survivors!

Have a great week! Keep moving forward and thanks for reading my blog!


JB Spisso
Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC


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Always is a good time to lend a helping hand

My day started off as usual with a great cup of coffee with the “Six” (military call-sign for either the boss or wife, in this case it’s both!) and headed out to the pet groomers to get our Malinois her brush out.

On the way back I stopped at a very nice but busy Circle K for fuel. As I was fueling my truck I was banging out a few emails on my phone and checking my schedule for the day (no the phone does not make the gas pumps explode, watch Mythbusters!). While I was multi-tasking as most Americans do, especially in the AM on their way to work, I hear this loud banging over and over again.

I look up to realize a young man was having trouble with his car door and was slamming it repeatedly to try to close it. He then jumped out and was literally shaking the door to try to realign it and get it closed. He stood at least 6’4″ and 260lbs, had lots of tattoos and was driving a war-beaten faded Chrysler whose better days were behind it. The place was full of cars, people getting gas, coffee and their morning bagel. All this was going on and I watched in amazement as not one person flinched to lend a hand.

This was just a regular guy, granted he came across as potentially “scary,” and his car wasn’t new, but no one was offering to help this guy and EVERYONE heard the banging and continued to ignore him. I watched him struggle a few more seconds with the door, stopped my gas pump and walked over to him and asked “Do you need some help?.”

He said, “The door is off the hinge and I can’t get it closed.” I said, “Well, I’m not a mechanic but I’m a dam good problem solver, let’s check it out.” After a minute or two of assessing the situation I found what I thought was the problem, told the guy, he says “Oh yeah, that’s it!” and proceeds to fix his door. He gets in his car, I slam the door a few times with him inside to get it to secure, and he’s good to go.

I start heading back to my truck and he yells, “Hey sir, hey sir!” I walk back to his window and out comes this giant winged spanned arm and massive hand, he shakes my hand and says “Thank you sir, I appreciate the help.” I tell him in my best Sergeant Major voice “No worries young man, have a great American day”. He smiles and drives off.

I then begin the “stare down” to all the others that were immediately to the left and right of this young man. Hey don’t “choke on that bagel your sucking down” were some of my thoughts. Seriously, just because he wasn’t wearing a suit and driving an expensive car have the generosity as a human being to provide some type of assistance.

Now if you know me you know that there is all truth in that statement I’m definitely not a mechanic! But this young man didn’t need a mechanic, he needed somebody to put fresh eyes on the situation, help him diagnose the problem and get him on his way.

Always is a good time to lend a helping hand!

Look past whatever distractors you need to look past and if the opportunity arises, just lend a hand. Most times you don’t have to be a subject matter expert, just a person willing to roll up your sleeves if the situation arises, and dig in!

Have a great day! Hooah!

Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

Twitter: Leadership_Trng

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Trust your Instincts: When to change a professional service

It’s often said “we only know what we know.” A military commander cannot make a sound and timely decision on a battle plan if the reconnaissance element doesn’t get the necessary information to the commander. The same for the business/corporate field. Bottom line, we put trust in the professionals that do the job or provide a service.

We all know or have known a local automotive mechanic that we could take our vehicle to for service. It would be fixed in a timely manner, and we would not be sticker shocked on the bill. I’m not a mechanic (though I did rebuild a motor in a ’73 Ford Truck from a Chilton’s manual!), so when I take our vehicles in for service we “trust” the professionals providing the service will do a sound and timely job and they will do so with a professional “responsibility” as if they are working on their own car. Much like the commander expecting the Recon Sergeant to provide him or her with an accurate assessment on the enemy situation.

Now we all know that quality service only goes as far as the level of quality we expect, the trust we have, what we are willing to pay or how far to we want to be ripped off. We’ve all had bad service at restaurants, barbers, retail stores, etc… We have to gauge the price versus the service or what we want to deal with.

When we are hired for leadership training, team building or character development, our goal is to provide a “First Class” service and also give the client “bang for their buck.” That’s our motivation, our foundation, our ethics. If we cannot do something or if there is something that is better suited for another company, we are upfront and honest with our clients. We would rather provide the best service to a few, then a sub-standard effort to many.

This motto is unfortunately not the standard across the professional community. With the economy the way it is, businesses want to take on as much as they can, and if they limp to the finish line with a sub-standard performance, their satisfied because they were paid.

This is much more than a lesson in ethics, it’s about doing the right thing by each client regardless of the circumstance if you accept a job. For us it doesn’t matter if you are a professional sports team, major soft drink or pharmaceutical company, or the family owned pool company with six employees. You will receive 110% effort each and every day.

Now this blog isn’t about pumping up Elite Leadership Training, rather this blog is about when is it time to change professional services?

Some say to give a professional service one chance, if you’re not satisfied, move on. But what about the instances where you receive great service initially, and the service over time worsens?

I get my hair cut a lot, probably three times a month (old Army Ranger habit, high & tight every 7 days!), so if I receive a bad haircut the first time I change Barbers, but I also know I’ll have a chance of a better haircut in 10 days!!!

But let’s talk about key professional services like a doctor or lawyer, positions that require both stellar education & ethics. I’m an educated man but I’m neither a doctor or lawyer. My days of being a Ranger EMT & Army Sergeant Major did not prepare me for either position. So if a doctor or attorney tells me something, I take it as fact. They went to medical school or law school; this is their profession.

Granted the Internet has helped in finding out pieces of information, but much of the Internet is not fact. You have to decide when the information you’ve received is “what you want to hear” and the professionals no longer have your best interests in hand. Easier said then done in many instances.

Everyone has attributes they do well and don’t do well; if you do everything well your lying or your ego makes you a narcissist. I’m a terrific motivator who leads with passion & wears his heart on his sleeve. I’m also a very trusting person and I take people a their face value. Do what you say your going to do and be upfront and honest. That’s what I expect and how I live my life; unfortunately that’s not a standard 100% across the board.

My answer for when is it time to change professional services is simply “trust your instincts” and “don’t ignore those instincts.” My “instincts” told me years ago to make a change in a professional service (as well as my wife’s instincts); but when aggravated I would be told what I wanted to hear from that service, receive the necessary reassurances, and oh by the way there is new bill in the mail!

I’m an overly trusting person (my attribute that needs work) because it’s what I give so what I expect. I ignored my instincts, the advice from my wife, and I’ve overpaid for a service that lacked the quality and professionalism necessary to complete the mission. Shame on me, but I’ve learned and moving forward! Hooah!

Here’s the standard, do what you say your going to do and if you can’t, or you are not qualified, or it’s too hard, or you just don’t want to do it, then tell me from the start. We have lost this sense of professionalism somewhere.

The foundation of trust in a professional service has to be the keystone in being a Warrior, Winner, Leader & Survivor.

Trust your instincts! HOOAH!

Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

Twitter: Leadership_Trng

*This is NOT an attack on Doctors or Lawyers; my family has four medical professionals in it & I have several great people of character that are attorneys. This point can be made about a home builder, electrician, driver or anyone offering professional services. The point being made is understood that doctors & lawyers are some of the upper echelon of educated professionals.

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The Power of the K9

I had a number of subjects for today’s blog but as its said, some missions don’t go as planned. Adapt, over-come, move forward!

If you’ve heard one of my Warrior-Leader Briefs you know that I often ask “is it OK to have a bad day?” This can cause somewhat of a stir with some groups and I’m not here to debate this question today (another blog for a later date!).

My bottom line, it’s OK to have a bad day; except for a lack or preparation and/or focus. The enemy, opponent, or competitor all have a “vote” in what happens to you so bad days will happen, it’s life (if your planning & focus is on you will limit those days!).

After after a long and *demanding day I took some time to walk to the park with our dog and play fetch. Our dog is a 18 month old female Belgian Malinois who stands in a slender 50lb frame. Regardless of what’s going on, she is ready to play, greet me, and comfort me despite any trials and tribulations of the outside world.

While we were playing I eventually took a seat on the park bench and was continuing to bang out a few texts and emails and continuing to stress my day out when I looked up and there was our dog, starring at me patiently, tennis ball in her mouth, just waiting. The power of the canine goes beyond being man’s best friend, they give unconditional love and affection and really ask for little in return. Some food, water, walks and play catch and I’ll be there for you always! Good days, bad days, any days!

The dog doesn’t need to speak our language; their message gets across!! They let you know “hey, I’m here for you.” They get the most pleasure out of the simplest of things, like fetching a ball until “WE” get tired. With a little professional training (thanks Ann Austin), you can take your canine almost anywhere and they listen better then most teenagers!

My day finished up in the back yard grilling food for dinner, and playing frisbee with the Belgian!

The day started out a little rocky, but ended with a ruff!!!!

Have a great weekend!! Hooah!! JBS

Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

*Demanding day is a figure of speech; though this was a mentally exhausting day for sure I had hot chow, saw my family & had the ability to crap on porcelain. There are men and women standing a post, walking a patrol, and defending our freedoms tonight with their lives on the line. They don’t need medals and don’t want a fuss to be made over them; they are doing their job as a service to our great Nation & our way of life! HOOAH! RLTW!

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The Power of Hand Written Thank You’s

Our world has changed with the power of the computer, smart phones & social media. We have the ability to get information out to many in a few short key strokes, and there is obviously a lot of good that has come out of that.

When I first became a young Sergeant in the Ranger Regiment (my first time actually having my own fire team to lead), my Father reminded me to always say “thank you” to those that have assisted in your career and to those that you lead. He said “thank you’s work both up and down.”

Growing up I noticed he would always write people hand written notes; he was “old school” as they say and was never big into the computer information age (though he just passed his first college computer class at age 88, Hooah!) He reminded me throughout my career that there “was a power in the hand written note.”

I didn’t catch on early in my career, but the last 10 years I became well versed in writing little notes of encouragement and thank you’s to those that have made a difference. These notes don’t have to be long, just a few lines to tell those that their contributions were appreciated and made a difference.

Now retired from the military, I still continue to write clients and friends “Hooah” notes on James Dietz WWII pictured stationary (Dietz is a famous painter of Ranger History). Not an e-mail, not a text, but a hand written note that might sound archaic, but goes a long way into the “power of people.”

I still to this day have a hand written note on a 1st Ranger Battalion note card from then LTC Brian Pentecost, thanking me & telling me I did a great job as a jumpmaster on a particular airborne operation, in 1993!!!

While deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, I received six letters (and still have them) from legendary Army Officer LTC(Ret) Hank Keirsey on unique Civil War note cards; telling me to “stay strong, take care of your men, & press the fight to the enemy.” This is a man who is extremely busy, traveling and doing great deeds! Yet he “made” the time to write me a few sentences and check on my morale.

We were on a return trip for a leadership session for a major pharmaceutical company this past July. While there I was able to stop and see one of the leaders that initially hired us to do work. While we were chatting in her office I noticed next to her family pictures and work documents was a distinctive Jim Dietz notecard, the one I sent her as a thank you six months earlier!!

The power of handwriting notes!!

E-mail, text, twitter, etc…, they are all great. But if you want to thank a client or an employee, then jot down a few sentences on a note card outlining your thanks or their great job. It shows the receiver that your words are actually sincere, and you will be surprised how good it makes you, the sender, feel as well. It takes a little more effort, but it’s truly a “win-win!”

Hooah! Have a great day!!

Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

Twitter: Leadership_Trng

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