Showing posts from 2020

A couple of technical posts.

  Find out what the best programming language is for you to learn now in 2020.  Is Python the best programming?  Should I learn JavaScript?  What are the best programming languages out there?  Quit stalling and get to work!     Learn how to increase your productivity in Outlook.     Find the source at

Some People aren't Made to be Leaders

Recently, we had a speaker that made this statement: "Some people aren't made to be leaders."  While I have a lot of respect for the individual that made this comment, I have reservations against this statement.  It's dis-empowering.  The statement suggests that skills are predetermined and bend towards the will of the Fates.  We are not living in the time where leadership is only for the select few—some bastardized form of an oligarchy.  We live in a society that espouses democratic values and equality.  We can all be leaders.  And if I'm wrong, I'd rather be wrong believing in people that be right being cynical.

The Booing of Peyton Manning

In 2013, the Denver Broncos shattered records for scoring.  They started off the season with a blistering “revenge game” against the Baltimore Ravens that featured Peyton Manning throwing for 7 touchdown passes (a single-game record) in a fashion that would characterize the season.  With such a start, it’s no surprise the team broke season records for scoring and Manning broke season records for touchdown passes. I got the chance to go to the sixth game of the season.  The game was against the Jaguars, a team that had several poor outings on the year.  I, along with all the fans in the stadium, expected one thing—a blowout. The first half, however, was bland.  A couple of touchdowns carried the Broncos with a two-point lead heading off the field at half-time.  Manning and the Broncos heard a chorus of boos as they went into the locker room.   At that point, it may occur to you that Broncos fans were spoiled.  They had grown comfortable with a certain level of performance, and they were

Sacrifice Self-Interest for Others

We just had another event that involved a speaker from an external organization.  It seemed a bit random, but there were some good tidbits that came out of it.  The best reiteration from this discussion was the notion that leaders sacrifice their own self-interest for the interest of others.  This is a theme in Sinek's Leaders Eat Last as well. The speaker invited us to read an article by Maj Gen Michael Rothstein titled Great Leaders Follow First — Nine Rules for Dynamic Followership.   The rules from this article are: 1. Think Two Levels Up 2. Speak Truth to Power 3. Don't Bring the Boss a Problem—Bring Proposed Solutions 4. Internalize and Work the Boss's Priorities 5. Give Good Readbacks 6. Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Performance 7. Don't Pass the Buck 8. Demonstrate Professional Loyalty 9. Excel at Your Job Now, this article features some—what I perceive as—redundancy.  There's nuanced differences between 6/7/9, but these are all a part of the same conve

Leaders Eat Last

A really great book by Simon Sinek—from "Start with Why" TED Talk fame. It starts with action featuring an A-10 pilot endangering himself to save others. This story launches the premise of the book.  Leaders take care of us and make us feel safe even at risk of their own safety.  Leaders like Bill Gates provide leadership in the form of providing a vision.  Sinek details that in the Marine Corps, leaders do eat last because they put their own needs last. Leaders do not need to be so obsessed with performance that they ignore the needs of those around them.  Performance and concern over cost led to unnecessary lives being taken during the sinking of the Titanic. Group over self.

Change Models

During my MBA course regarding organizational development and change, the text introduced us to a few views on it.  I've heard the first one several times, but the other models are ones that I was unfamiliar with. It also brought me in touch with Kotter's eight-stage process: 1. Establishing  a sense of urgency 2. Creating the guiding coalition 3. Developing a vision and strategy 4. Communicating the change vision 5. Empowering broad-based action 6. Generating short-term wins 7. Consolidating gains and producing more change 8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture These processes can obviously be mapped onto the three-step change model, but there is a plan to it.  It's interesting to see this thought of generating short-term wins so soon after the GO brought it up during his discussion. Any large-scale changes will be met with opposition regardless of how much the change is needed.  Change is scary.  Change is hard.

Curiosity is the Common Thread of Great Leaders

For the ULDP program, we had our first encounter with a General Officer (GO), and it was fantastic.  There is so much to unpack. Points that he made - The GO introduced himself and was extremely humble and considerate of our time. - The GO contrasted the shift between tactical and strategic leadership - Leaders need to be able to add value to situations.  Berating people does not add value. - When finding resolutions, it is important to hear from all parties involved. - When starting a new position, find small problems to fix quickly and establish trust - Don't laugh at concerns - Technical competency shows your investment into the organization's mission and establishes a baseline of knowledge - With educated professionals, it is better to not be authoritarian or autocratic - Think about legacy — Toxic leaders' legacies are quickly forgotten - Take charge when given the opportunity and take responsibility regardless of how small or short the job might

EQ 2.0

EQ 2.0 is a summary to the original Emotional Intelligence. Some years ago, my dad gave me a copy of the original and I had the opportunity to read through it. EQ 2.0 is a valuable book with practical tips for taking action. EQ combines four different elements: 1. Self-awareness - the ability to understand your own feelings and behaviors. 2. Self-management  - keeping yourself in situations in which you know you'll be able to behave correctly. 3. Social awareness  - Understanding the feelings of others 4. Relationship management  - Building stronger relationships with the important people in your life. I don't expect this to be my final take on this topic.  We'll have a seminar on these topics shortly.  When I took the self-assessment, I scored the weakest on social awareness.  As such, I have tried implementing three countermeasures per the books recommendation: 1. People watching 2. Paying attention to body language 3. Preparing a back-pocket question The first two are

8 Symptoms of a Toxic Command Climate

8 Symptoms of a Toxic Command Climate Taken from the article located at, the following symptoms exist in toxic environments.  While we discuss these things in the context of military organizations, such toxicity exists in large established organizations as well. 1. Micromanagement exists often on an epic scale. 2. There’s a lack of respect shown from higher echelons to lower, and the lack of simple professionalism. 3. Zero-defect mentalities and zero-tolerance policies are standard. 4. Leaders tend to have a suffocating adversity to risk. 5. There’s no meaningful purpose behind any order or task given to subordinate elements. 6. There is no attempt to develop subordinates. 7. Superiors take all authority from the noncommissioned officers and platoon-level officers within the command. 8. There is a complete lack of trust of superiors, between peers and between subordinates. Reflection All of these items stem fro

Getting to Yes

Getting to Yes One of the books that we have in our catalog for the leadership program is Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton.  It is a treat and really speaks to me.  There's a lot to unpack. Don't Bargain Over Positions This chapter really sets up the ones after it.  Positions that are arrived at separately often are not optimal and do not feature mutual gain. Separate the People from the Problem This chapter focuses on the social aspect of negotiation.  Seeing the other party as a problem-solving teammate is better.  They will usually be relatable, but it's also important to note that they may come from a significantly different background and have things that cannot be related to.  More than anything, the person is not the problem; the problem is the problem. Focus on Interest, Not Positions This chapter builds on the previous one by steering the focus on interests.  In order to reach other solutions, it's important to realize that other pa


A few years ago, our kid watches an animation that featured mummies.  Being young, he recalls this experience and gets too scared to fall asleep by himself.  As he gets older, I try to motivate him to push through it, but I usually cave in. Yesterday was one such day.  He was upset by the mummies, but instead of going through a similar pattern that we had done several times before, he exclaimed that he was  born wrong .  No phrase can be more disturbing to me.  My kid questioning his own existence at the age of six because he's scared of mummies makes me question a lot. How can I make him more resilient?  How can I make him see that his weaknesses are something he can improve upon?  Maybe such an analysis is not necessary.  After all, kids don't understand the weight of such language, but such questions must be answered in all areas of life.  I owe it to myself, my family, my friends, and colleagues to be a source of strength and inspiration. 

3 Ways to Make Your Emails Clearer

If writing was easy, people wouldn't get paid to do it.  It's tough, and if you're like many of the people I have worked with over the years, you write emails with a lot of great information that nobody reads.  Eventually, you spend time clarifying this information in a meeting instead of doing the important task of brainstorming solutions. You are  busy .  Yes, you are.  You are a professional that cares about the work you do and as the adage goes — the reward for  good  work is  more  work.  Keeping that in mind, I'm going to give you and your team members something very precious — time. It will cause you to spend a little more time drafting your emails, but you will reap the benefits and look more professional. 1. Get to the Damn Point Readers want to know why you're sending an email to them.  If you do not make it clear why you have emailed them in the first paragraph, you have failed.  Take a look at the following example: Jacob, I know that Larry was doing som

Personality Tests and More

Top 3 Bottom 3 Leadership Traits We recently had a fantastic instructor from the Defense Acquisition University provide a course that covered leadership and management topics including a couple of 10-item leadership lists. We were told to examine these lists and note where our strengths and weaknesses may lie. I will provide the lists below, but I will not go into significant detail about the context in which they are listed. Taken from Secrets of Special Ops Leadership Create the Best Dare the Impossible Throw the Rulebook Away Be Where the Action Is Commit and Require Total Commitment Demand Tough Discipline Build a Commando Team Inspire Others to Follow Your Vision Accept Full Blame; Give Full Credit Take Charge Taken from "Make Your Bed" Start your day with a task completed You can't go at it alone Only the size of your heart matters Life's not fair - drive on! Failure can make you stronger You must dare greatly Stand up to the bullies Rise to the occasion Give pe

Don't Be a Spotlight Ranger

Our first speaker was a senior civilian. I'm hesitant to specify his name in this context, but the individual had an impressive resume including a distinguished career in the uniform. Having time with this speaker gave us a rare opportunity to ask questions regarding management and leadership to someone very high in our chain. During my past 12 years in government service, this was my first opportunity in such an intimate setting. I've been curious over the years on how senior civilians see their role in regards to mentoring the active-duty leadership around them. This individual replied that at his level he doesn't see his role as being one of leadership but as one that exists to see his leaders succeed. Such a viewpoint is certainly valuable within the DoD. It fosters trust, and it's likely that the success of a boss equates to the success of an organization. Don't be a spotlight ranger During the course of his prepared remarks, he provided an interesting anecdote

Make Your Bed

Admiral William McRaven gave a commencement speech to the Class of 2014 that subsequently went viral. Given the many speeches over many years, this is one of the best. Watch it yourself at . You will be pumped after watching it. Make your bed - You'll start off with a completed task and come back to something you're proud of when you get back home. Stand up to the sharks Measure people by the size of their hearts One person can change the world by giving people hope Life is not fair and you will fail often Watching this video made me recall the context of which I first watched it.  We were in the middle of a lot of change within an organization.  I will reflect on this event at another time.

Getting Things Done

This first time I read about this book was on a Reddit thread with book recommendations for Project Managers. As the name would suggest, it's primary focus is on productivity. Before we dive into the meat of it, the following image includes the general workflow. (btw, I made the chart via Early on, David Allen places a lot of emphasis on the fact that having large to-do lists, especially non-written to-dos, can create a a lot mental strain on individuals. For example, you may be generally aware that you need to buy someone a present within the next couple of weeks. You know that you want to buy it at least a couple days prior, but the task keeps repeating in your head, over and over. This roughly translates into Mr. Allen's call for organization. How do we organize? Receive Stuff Categorize Stuff Decide What to do with Stuff Do Delegate Defer Tidy Trash Review Engage Plan I'm not quite yet sure if I want to get engage with this type of organizing, but it's nice