Be Positive Change. Imagine a workforce full of passionate men and women that care about the outcome of each and every day of work. Imagine what happens when you and I show up every day ready to push forward towards positive change. This isn’t ground breaking, this isn’t radical, and this isn’t idealistic. A big part of that positive change is understanding accountability and leadership. Team’s that are being led effectively and held accountable can literally change the world. Imagine what happens in your office if leaders start stepping up?
The Army taught me a lot of great things about accountability and leadership. I wasn’t a Navy SEAL so I won’t write a book today, just this simple post. Hopefully these are rules that we can all apply to our lives so that we can live passionately and execute effectively in every aspect of our lives.
“Who’s in charge of this gaggle?”
One of the first lessons I learned in the Army was when a Drill Sergeant walked up to a group of us lowly privates and asked “Who’s in charge?” We looked around completely lost since we weren’t even considered humans at this point in our career. He looked at us and explained that no matter how junior we were, one person in the group had served just a few more days or hours longer than the others in the group- so even if we didn’t have a title or a position on the org chart, someone was in charge and would be held responsible for the rest of us. Which leads to the next lesson…
“When in charge, take charge!”
Leaders, appointed or assumed, are responsible for the execution of the mission and for the well-being of their team. Leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation to their teams to affect positive change in their organizations. Since I’ve transitioned out to the civilian world, I have heard too many “leaders” say they were waiting on guidance or that they needed some type of “strategic message” from the executives in the organization. What a load of manure. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Branch and Division Chiefs say that they are waiting on approval from a Senior Executive on an internal process change. If you are waiting on an Executive for permission to execute change within your internal processes, you have already lost the battle. Those types of decisions don’t belong at that level in the first place. Micromanagers exists because weak leaders allow them to overstep. Stand up, take charge, and make decisions for your team.
One of the core principles of being a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army was that “I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders”. If you have a leadership position and an official title, you already have some guidance on what is expected of you and your team. You don’t need to wait on guidance from above- YOU ALREADY HAVE IT! You ARE leadership. Your team is looking to you for guidance, not to those above you. Telling your team that you cannot provide them guidance because you are waiting on guidance yourself is a weak excuse coming from a weak leader. It is your job to lead your team. Nobody else. Stand up and take charge. Which leads to…
“If you need to use my rank, I’ll take yours away”.
I have seen too many “leaders” walking around tasking people because the “big boss said to”. I watched a coworker do this in the Army for a few weeks. Everything he said to our juniors was “First Sergeant wants you to…”. The First Sergeant caught wind of that one day and pulled him into his office. Down the hall and through a closed door or two, I heard the clear guidance of “If you need to use my rank, you don’t need yours and I’ll take it away”. While that may sound harsh out here in the civilian world, the point is that leaders should stand on their own merit and position. You were promoted and paid more for a reason. Do the job you’re paid for. More importantly, your team needs to be able to respect you as a leader. They cannot do this when you defer to someone else’s authority. You are probably using this method because you’re not secure in your leadership abilities and/or you are trying to befriend your subordinates. Good luck trying to give them real direction someday. You’ve already lost their respect by giving up your authority to someone else.
Now I’m not saying you have to walk around barking orders and puffing up your chest as “in charge”. Far from it. Become friends with your employees. Earn their trust and respect as a person and as a leader. Be genuine and actually check on how they are doing. I am not the best leader, far from it I’m sure- but I know that there are a handful of people in this world that I could call on to join my team at any time for any task. These were my juniors in the Army. I was hard on them. They rolled in the dirt and snow a few times for messing up while on my team. I said some things that would start fights in most situations. But they are now my Brothers. Be the type of leader that your employees don’t want to fail- not because they are scared of the repercussions, but because they don’t want to disappoint you as a person.
“Improve your foxhole every day.”
So now you’ve listened to my above advice and you’re leading your team from the front. You’re in the trenches every day, checking on your team’s work and well-being, and your team is starting to identify things that can be tweaked to become more effective. Now is the time to start improving your “foxhole” every day. This means that you should be looking for ways to improve your team, your processes, and your organization a little bit each day. This may simply mean tweaking a small step in a team process by sending updated guidance via email. “Hey team, I wanted to drop a note that we’re doing an awesome job on Project X. Moving forward, we are going to also include…”. Monitor how that change impacted the team and the process for a few days or weeks before updating the written SOPs. Another great technique is to call ad-hoc brainstorming sessions to review a specific step in your process or team tasks. Ask if there’s a better way to get it done. Ask if it even needs to be done. Listen to your team, make small adjustments, and always move forward.
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