Lessons from Afghanistan to all business leaders

The Washington Post has done a service to its readers and indirectly all businesses in its years-long effort to expose the waste of lives, resources and time the US government alone has spent in Afghanistan over the last 18 years. There ought to be hand-wringing in the halls of the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom and think tanks paying former national security staffers. There ought to be serious questions in foreign capitols about following the US in future conflicts. There ought to be outcries in congressional districts across the country where bridges and roads are in disrepair when good money was [...]

By |January 16th, 2020|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

What to Expect in 2030

Its always easy to look back and say, "Yeah, we should have seen that one coming..." Stunning how few people who were professionally studying the Soviet Union for a living saw its collapse. Yet all the signs were there. And the few who did see it coming were scoffed at. Funny how nobody found them and said, "Hey, sorry for scoffing you." Not everyone working on elements of the technology knew about the development of the smart phone, even if they knew the pieces and requisite capabilities existed. Those that were working on it likely knew only what their little [...]

By |January 4th, 2020|Categories: Blog|1 Comment

We Don’t Know What We’re Doing

George Packer, writing on the passing of Leslie Gelb in The Atlantic, quoted Gelb in saying "Foreign policy makes no sense." Packer added: "He meant that our leaders, even ones he respected, often don’t know what they’re doing. They have to make decisions with large but unknowable consequences in ignorance, thinking wishfully, perhaps under the sway of some irrelevant ideology, or the American politics of the moment, or the onrush of events in distant places. Then they spend their careers justifying decisions that they never understood in the first place." We really don't know what we're doing. That is the [...]

By |September 11th, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

John Casciano – Requiescet in Pace

With the passing of Air Force Maj Gen (Ret) John Casciano, the country has lost a leader, a gentleman and mentor for countless men and women over the last 5 decades. A career intelligence officer who rose on a non-traditional path that included both Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command, a long deployment to Thailand during the Vietnam war, teaching political science at the Air Force Academy, and leading the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Enterprise, he did everything and did it well. He exuded calm in the office and deliberate decision-making so that everything was transparent, thorough [...]

By |September 4th, 2019|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

On President George H.W. Bush

On Wednesday the 28th of May, 1986, then Vice President George H.W. Bush gave the commencement address at the US Air Force Academy. The speech itself was unremarkable. It was the man himself that stood out to me. He was very gracious. While most of my fellow newly minted lieutenants stiffly saluted and shook his hand (he shook every one of the 954 hands that morning) I couldn't help but notice his tie. I thanked him for making the trip to speak with us and told him I liked his tie. He perked up and said, "Do you really like [...]

By |December 6th, 2018|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Audits Are Really About Trust

In a Christmas Day release from The National Interest, (retired Army General) Tom Spoehr makes a passionate case that the upcoming audit of the Defense Department is unnecessary and potentially wasteful. Sadly, this Op-Ed column is riddled with straw man arguments, false trails and magic pixie dust to deflect the targeted reader, in this case, Congress, from the genuine purpose of any audit of the Department of Defense: instilling public trust in the processes of those charged with spending the money and ensuring a proper return on that money. Spoehr begins by commending the DoD "for the hard work to [...]

By |December 26th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Future Dystopias Are Our Past and Present Human Nature

A family member once asked me during a home viewing of The Hunger Games what the point was of watching something that was so fantastical and obviously could never happen. I responded that this was not fantastical at all, but a fictionalization of human history. "When? When did this happen?" Well, I said, how about the Roman Empire when wealthy Romans dressed themselves to stand out from one another while watching defeated captives fight each other for others' amusement. Slaves, gladiators, wild beasts. Yes the Hunger Games was a dystopian future based on a historical past. This begs the question [...]

By |December 11th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Transparency is *Really* Important

Transparency. How much light gets through. Can you see what is on the other side of the divide? Perhaps no concept brings on headaches for senior leaders. Perhaps no concept brings on hesitation from investors. Perhaps no concept makes workers wonder whether their jobs will be secure in the future. Why? Why should I as a senior leader give my competitors an insight into what I am doing and thus give up some of my competitive advantage? Why should I as a CEO allow my subordinates to know how I make decisions on promotions and assignments? Why should I ever [...]

By |December 6th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Professional and Business Leaders Must Now Declare Where You Stand

Well, this is an interesting time in the U.S., isn't it? For all those who say we should avoid discussing politics and religion at work and family gatherings, you have larger issues to worry about than having to figure out what is interesting about the weather, the early turning of leaves this summer, and the eclipse in order to avoid discussing the deep divisions this country faces today. It is impossible to avoid the sociological elephant in the room. No matter how busy we can make ourselves at work, there is always down time, always a coffee break, always the [...]

By |August 24th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

On Travel and Its Importance To You

"Someone hauled that wood up here." That was one key point of discussion when our family stood atop the Kofel, a small, but steep granite mountain on the west side of Oberammergau in the Ammergauer Alps of Germany. You don't need to be an experienced mountaineer to get to the top. The thick cables and chains anchored into the granite help you manage the steepest part of the climb. But going up with a backpack is hard enough. I can't imagine climbing up, then hauling a 20 foot beam, a 10 foot beam, and a larger than [...]

By |July 27th, 2017|Categories: Blog, Travel|0 Comments

Busy Is The New Status Symbol

I was listening to NPR this morning when a story came up about the new status symbol in the US these days: Busyness, or at least the appearance of being too busy for leisure and other people. Boy have we flipped things upside down or what in the last 20 years? It used to be that people showed their status by how much time they took off for vacations or how many people they had to do certain things for them. Today it is the opposite. NPR reported on a study that shows people perceive others to be more important [...]

By |April 27th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Can You Change Your Mind? It’s Important.

If you've read this column over the last few years, you would likely have noticed several themes, one of which is peoples' remarkable consistency in getting in their own way on the road to success. I've written many times that the three most important words a senior leader can say is "I don't know." Once you admit that and are open to finding out, your organization can really move forward and people will rally around you as a leader. But saying I don't know should necessarily mean that you are willing to accept the truth when evidence is presented. With [...]

By |March 13th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

A Cautionary Leadership Tale

Warning Aspiring Leaders: If you set about bringing down the king, you had better be prepared to BE the king. That means fixing all the issues you were complaining about. Leading, governing is always harder than complaining. Side note: if you're unable to separate your political feelings from the intellectual argument on leadership that follows, perhaps you should move on to something else. This is not a political analysis. It is about leadership. That said... Three news stories from this past week serve as excellent illustrations and backing material for a very cautionary note to up-and coming leader in business [...]

By |February 14th, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Look Around, Leaders. What Do You See?

Look around, leaders. Who do you see? Yes, it is meant to be a loaded question. We are told constantly through the popular culture and through many of our religious cultures that we are to see and value the dignity of the individual and not merely the skin colors or genders. And as far as the dignity inherent in each person as a human being, that is absolutely true. But a person needs a bit more than inherent dignity to be successful in a particular field of endeavor. We certainly expect to see around us people competent in the tasks [...]

By |January 31st, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Truth and Its Interpretation

Well, if there is a subject many of us didn't think would be at the forefront of popular culture at the beginning of this year it certainly would have to be truth. There's no question that the political culture has that word at the center of discussion as does the media. But it isn't only there. Increasingly there are social media discussions centered on creating your own truth and whether or not truth is malleable. This trend in discussing, debating, and sometimes shouting about truth has real implications not only for media and political elites, but also for business and [...]

By |January 23rd, 2017|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Are You “That Guy?” Here’s Some Help…

Sorry to say, but if you are, you don't know it, and most likely nobody is going to tell you. But there's hope. You can turn it around. Really. The New York Times piece "How To Keep Your Office Holiday Party From Going Off The Rails" is a good place to start. “Getting on top of the boss’s desk and dancing — not a good idea,” John A. Challenger, chief executive of the outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in an interview. “Making a pass at the C.E.O.’s spouse — not a good idea. These sorts of things [...]

By |December 21st, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Will You Survive The Unintended Consequences Of Your Good Actions?

One of the truths of all human endeavor, especially in business, is that your actions have consequences. That is, after all, why we make decisions and think about what we need to do to achieve our desired outcomes. And when we do it properly, we are rewarded with success. But what happens when we take certain actions and something other than our expected outcome occurs? Were we just unlucky? Was someone nefariously undermining our success? Or could it be that we were so focused on what we wanted to happen that we didn't think about what was more likely to [...]

By |December 21st, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Be Ready To Answer What You Are Reading

"What are the last 5 books you've read?" I was surprised how often I was asked that question as a young rising professional by my bosses and other senior leaders considering hiring me. Then as I grew older, I found myself asking the same question to my direct reports when I took over a new job and to those who I was considering hiring. And I also noticed that whether it was a Presidential election, or a local race, there isn't a candidate who isn't asked about the last 5 books he or she have read. Their answers are always [...]

By |December 6th, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Embrace Processes For Business and Governance

Here is a typical situation when a leadership and organizational consultant goes into a new business to help them out. The consultant has a discussion with the client trying to get to the bottom of several issues in the front office. There are multiple paths that needed exploring, but the consultant's process tells him where to start. "Could I please see a copy of your organizational chart?" The client will often answer with something like: "We have four separate entities for business and tax purposes." Which prompts: "Do you have yourselves organized by an org chart?" "No." So the consultant [...]

By |December 2nd, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

It Is Time For Concern And Action

There is no longer any doubt about it. We are at a decision point in history. We are nearing the point at which we have the opportunity to throw the switch on the tracks of history to go down a new path. However, I fear we as a people are too busy with our necks craned down to look at our screens while the switch passes by us and we head down the tracks to major war abroad and on our own shores, upheaval we have not known since before World War II, and a major collapse of the social [...]

By |November 19th, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Some Sociology, Thinking, and Leadership Ponderings…Post-Election

We need to talk. We need to listen. We need to love. Everyone. Our neighbors. Those who aren't our neighbors. The promise of technology, the internet and social media was that people would be able to get together in virtual communities. The reality is that people have used the information revolution to increasingly associate with people who are like themselves. People now use the internet to find neighborhoods to live in -- and the criteria includes, if not is dominated by, who else lives there. People the world over now read newspapers and magazines that focus on a specific point [...]

By |November 9th, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Be A Better Leader By Connecting Ideas

Ideas. The best leaders live in the realm of ideas. Facts and details are great and necessary. But connecting ideas is what advances business and humanity. You've heard me say often that the senior leader's job is to stay above the daily fray and focus on the long-term vision and strategy (see here). I also contend that it is important to stretch your limits as a leader and why it is important to think beyond your knowledge set (see here). How comfortable are you saying "I don't know" or "what do I need to know to understand this better?" If [...]

By |October 27th, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

But Are Facts Enough To Change Minds?

It's better to be right than first. We've talked often here about narratives in the past (see here and here) and why it is so critical for senior leaders to look for evidence when making decisions and developing strategies to achieve corporate objectives. Sunday's Washington Post featured an article titled "Amanda Knox is innocent. But are the facts enough to change minds?" The piece was a review of the new documentary on Netflix which delves into the details of Knox's case in an attempt to change the very public opinion formed without any hint of evidence of the facts. This [...]

By |October 3rd, 2016|Categories: Blog|3 Comments

We Should Reconsider Who We Call Allies

Perhaps it is time to have an internal dialogue within the Government and between our treaty partners about precision in language about what an ally is and isn't. And if necessary, we ought to take the bold steps of making formal changes to whom we call allies. It matters. I would contend allies and coalition partners are very measurably different. Coalition partners share short-term interests. Allies share deep and enduring virtues and values. As values evolve or change, so do and so should coalitions and alliances. Again, it matters. Who you associate with says something about you. We all know [...]

By |September 22nd, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments

Happiness, Well-being, Work and Pay

I sat in a client's office a couple of years ago when the client told me he didn't like my second Maxim (click on the link here to see the full list): Seek Balance in Life. He said that in his experience, people use the concept of balance to not work as hard as they ought to, or might, or should. There is a strong sense in the corporate and government worlds that those who see balance are "wussies" that don't pull their weight. Let me be specific: there are times when an employee must work overtime for long periods [...]

By |September 14th, 2016|Categories: Blog|0 Comments