Posts Tagged teamwork


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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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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Holding all questions to the end…

“My name is Sergeant Spisso, welcome to your operations order brief. Take out your pens, pencils, notebooks, Ranger Handbooks, and hold all questions to the end.”

This is common before delivering any military style briefing, and the way I was taught as a young Army Ranger to give a brief. I’ve kept this as a foundation throughout my career and we teach this in our communication class to corporate clients (

Holding all questions to the end…it’s not just meant for an organized military briefing, but also in something as simple as a phone call or face to face conversation. It does not always have to be said, holding all questions to the end is an “implied task.”

Simply by listening you have a good chance that your question will get answered somewhere in the briefing. Our minds race when working on a project, we want tot jump in and ask a question which is pertinent to our part of the project. The fact is, the question we want answered will probably get answered by being patient and taking notes (two things we are often not good at!). We all have those team mates that jump in with questions five minutes into a brief; questions that will most likely be answered by listening!

If you are the sender and running a meeting or giving a briefing, don’t assume everyone comes prepared or understands the rules of engagement. How many times do you have people coming to meetings with nothing to write on? They sit there, play on their smart phones, and haphazardly pay attention as if you are subjecting them to shock therapy. Do they really think they can memorize everything that comes out of a meeting?

My sister has a photographic memory and still takes notes! Prepare your meeting or presentation by having a handout with a short summary of your briefing/project and highlight all the key points. People don’t come prepared, so your prepare them! This way when there are questions, you can revert back to your simple handout (DO NOT OVER COMPLICATE THIS DOCUMENT- use the KISS method, Keep it Simple & Stupid).

If you are the receiver in a meeting, come prepared. Ask if there is a read-ahead so you can list any of your potential questions (who, what, where, when & why) and as they are being answered in the briefing you can check them off.

Regardless of the meeting intent, you should leave with a minimum direction & distance. Sender you should make this point clearly; receiver its your responsibility to understand where its going. There will be work to do and there will be more questions to follow (called RFI’s – request for information). But a solid brief with take away handouts will lessen the RFI’s that will be filling your inbox.

“Hi, my name is JB Spisso, this meeting is to cover our marketing objectives for next quarter. Please take a meeting handout provided for you, take copious notes, place your phones/PDA’s on silent and stow them until the end of this briefing; finally hold all questions to the end.”


Performance Coach & Lead Consultant
Elite Leadership Training LLC

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