<![CDATA[Chris Waters - BLOG]]>Wed, 25 Oct 2017 20:41:48 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[Train Your People as a Team]]>Thu, 15 Jun 2017 20:16:19 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/train-your-people-as-a-team

Part of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals.

One of the biggest missteps leaders and organizations make today is the focus on individual training programs.  In today’s “every man for himself” business world, the focus is on the expertise, knowledge and abilities of the individuals, rather than the expertise, knowledge, and abilities of the organization.  When you train your people as a team, you bring teams of experts; you bring collective knowledge; you bring multiplied abilities to bear in accomplishing objectives; you bring a set standard that ensures organizational success.
So, how do young leaders train their people as a team, especially when they may not have established themselves as knowledgeable experts, yet? 
My favorite methods are mastermind groups/group coaching sessions:  Bring your team together and spend more time asking questions vs. feeling like you have to be the one with all the answers.  Bring an agenda, identify a topic or challenge that your team recently encountered, or these eleven leadership principles, and have an open discussion that encourages true learning.  Ask questions that drive the conversation deeper.  Take notes yourself, because the great thing about these learning methods is that everyone learns including the facilitator, hence, training as a team.  You learn more than just the subject at hand.  You learn about each other, how one another thinks, what your team’s strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and areas of reluctance.  With all this knowledge, you are better equipped to Employ Your People According to Their Capabilities.”
My other favorite is scenario-based training:  Find creative ways to recreate real situations that your team will have to take on, like a project scenario, or a typical client or customer situation.  You may even have case studies that you can use.  If your schedules or operational demands don’t support the logistics for setting a scenario up, you can use scenarios in your masterminds or group coaching sessions.  Place your people in different roles while conducting the training, including yourself.  A friend of mine actually had an officer appreciation day in the Marines.  He and his fellow officers left the unit for a day, and left the enlisted Marines in charge as the officers.  They even informed the battalion headquarters that the official business of the day would be handled by the enlisted Marines.  It was an excellent learning experience for everyone.  The enlisted gained a new perspective on the demands on the officers, and how, in their daily operations, how they could make life easier on both themselves and the officers.  In return, the officers gained knowledge of who was capable of stepping up and who required more training. 
You don’t have to be the expert in the room in order to train your people.  I was twenty three years old when I was required to train my Marines.  There was a wealth of knowledge all around that I could tap into in order to train my Marines properly.  After some time, I also developed my own thoughts and ideas that I implemented into training as well.  The bottom line is that training your people is more important than you appearing to be the expert who conveys the knowledge.  Just make sure they are trained as a team, so that collective knowledge, COMRADEry, and team work can be wielded in the efforts of increasing effectiveness. 

This is the final principle of this series.  I hope these leadership principles have added value to your personal growth as a leader, and will serve as a resource to you in the future. 
<![CDATA[Develop a Sense of Responsibility Among Your People]]>Wed, 31 May 2017 14:38:35 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/develop-a-sense-of-responsibility-among-your-people

​​​Part of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals.

In today’s business world accountability and responsibility are, at best, punchlines.  Just look at the examples that have been set.  CEOs and executives receive unreasonable pay checks on their way out the door after having cratered the success of the company they led.  This is COUNTER-INTUITIVE to all the rules and lessons we are taught growing up.  We can learn a lot from seeing things done wrong, and that is what I hope to share with you in this post. 

Today’s current corporate environment sets an example that as long as you climb in to the “C” suite levels of corporations, you are protected from the burden of responsibility.  From government bail-outs to the golden parachutes, millennials and young professionals are taught that responsibility is a good punchline, but something to be deflected to the next layer down when it’s time to own a negative outcome.  It is far too rare today to see or hear of a leader in an organization own the responsibility for failing to accomplish an objective or task.  They gladly take the credit when success has been achieved, but lack courage to own a shortfall or failure. 

So, how can you break this trend and develop a sense of responsibility among your people?

There are two leadership principles that I mentioned in previous posts that are critical here.  First is “Set the Example”:  As mentioned above, if the example that you are setting is that you seek reward for running your organization into the ground, you are creating a precedent for future generations to think that it is OK to avoid responsibility.  The second, which goes hand-in-hand with setting the example is “Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility For Your Own Actions”: You are setting a good example if you are constantly seeking more and more responsibility, and at the same time, owning responsibility for your decisions and actions (including owning the decisions and actions of those you lead).  You must have the courage to go first in order to have your people willing to follow you. 

Hold your people to higher standards when it comes to responsibility. 

Holding your people responsible for their actions can be uncomfortable, especially when it’s regarding a failure or shortfall in what they were asked to do.  If you lack the courage to have tough conversations, you will fail at this principle.  I am not talking about giving people a butt-chewing.  I’m talking about coaching sessions, mentoring sessions, and counseling sessions that are tactful, yet truthful.  You are not serving your people in order to raise them up when you lack the courage to challenge their comfort zones, and likewise, challenging your own comfort zones.  It is never fun to have tough conversations regarding owning responsibility, but when you have established consistency and a high standard, I promise, your people will live up to them.  And those who don’t live up to them will weed themselves out. 

In order for you to act on this leadership principle, you must have your own house in order.  If you have not established a track record of taking responsibility for your own actions, it will be difficult to instill a sense of responsibility in your people.  Once you have you house in order, you must have the courage to raise the bar regarding your people and develop that sense of responsibility in them. 

Just imagine being part of a team that operates this way.  Imagine having leadership who showed you that this was the way to act.  What would it be like to work in an organization that practices this principle?  

<![CDATA[Ensure Assigned Tasks Are Understood, Supervised, and Accomplished]]>Thu, 18 May 2017 20:47:22 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/ensure-assigned-tasks-are-understood-supervised-and-accomplished

​​Part of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals.

I am going to keep this post short and simple.  There is no need to try to over complicate this leadership principle with content fluff in order to fill space, but this principle is important to understand, none-the-less. 

Understood equates to Clear and Effective Communication
The burden of understanding resides with the one doing the communicating.  Intentions are never enough, and it’s a cop-out to place blame on the person who did not understand.  Firing off an email is not effective communication either.  A quick set of statistics for you:  7% of our communication comes from the words we use. 38% of our communication comes from our tonality, and 55% of our communication comes from our body language.  So, in other words, you give yourself a 7% chance to ensure tasks are clearly understood when you only communicate through email.  How often have you listened to someone’s tone on a call, and perceived them to not understand?  Or, saw how someone adjusted in their seat, or diverted eye contact when you were in the process of communicating a task or assignment?  Likewise, how much more effective are you in emphasizing importance or how CRITICAL of an assignment with your voice and body language vs. just an email?  The burden of understanding is on you the leader.  Make sure your people understand what you expect in the assignments you are giving them.  One tip when communicating an assignment:  Make sure objectives and boundaries are made clear.  If those are clearly defined, your team will be armed with what they need to make adjustments and decisions in order to complete the assignments you have given them. 

Supervised equates to Support and Obstacle Elimination, as well as Assurance
You don’t have to micromanage your people, but you should maintain contact with them during the conduct of an assignment to make sure any and all obstacle are managed or eliminated in order to empower them to complete their assignment.  Can you answer how you people are progressing?  What challenges or changes they have faced?  Needs or additional resources they could use to be more effective?  What is the timeline to complete the assignment?  Supervision is not the act of taking the ball out of their hands and micromanaging their activities.  It’s being able to answer these questions in order to assure nothing unexpected pops up and derails expected outcomes, as well as allowing for enough foresight to inject solutions to challenges with enough time to meet expected deadline. 

Accomplished equates to Verify
We’ve all heard the phrase “trust but verify.”  When your team has completed an assignment, how do you know they have accomplished that assignment according to expectations?  Do you just take their word for it?  I can tell you that in the Marines, this was a huge mistake for your officers.  I saw fellow officers report with certainty that a task was complete according to expectations based off the word of their Marines, only to have their higher ranking officer conduct his own verification and that verification resulted in the completed task not meeting expectations, which I point you back to the previous aspects of this principle of understood and supervise.  If the tasks are understood and supervised, it’s much easier to verify that the outcomes are the desired outcomes. 

As a young leader, hoping that your communications are understood, hoping that your people will come to you with challenges and obstacles, and hoping that when they report their assignments are complete according to expectations is a sure-fire way to placing undue stress in your life, and causing yourself to resort to becoming a micromanager in the future.  This leadership principle is simple, yet one that is more frequently missing in many leaders’ daily practices.  The more time you spend practicing this principle, the more time you have tackling high priority items that would otherwise suffer from lack of attention due to your need to micromanage your people.  
<![CDATA[Make Sound and Timely Decisions]]>Thu, 11 May 2017 16:33:48 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/make-sound-and-timely-decisions

Part of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals.

One of the biggest fears for many young leaders is the fear of making a decision.  It’s quite ironic when you look at all the schooling and “education” (I use “education” loosely) that millennials and young professionals have had.  With everything that is taught, the confidence to wield that knowledge is anemic.  Even worse, the business culture today has created the perception that making the wrong decision is the basis for incompetence; therefore, many people in leadership positions dodge the opportunity to make decisions in an effort to retain the perception of being competent.  There are many differences between veterans and civilians due to culture, but being decisive is one of the biggest differences I have witnessed.  In order to minimize any fear you may have in making decisions, I will share some tips/perspectives you should consider, which may offer the confidence you need.

Your decision does not have to rely solely on your knowledge, education, or experience alone
Ask for input, opinions, and thoughts from the experience of your team.  One thing I learned early as a young officer in the Marines was I was surrounded by a wealth of knowledge and experience.  I was held accountable by my leadership for being decisive and executing on my decision, but I did not have to make my decision based on my limited experience.  I asked for input from Marines of all levels of experience, including from those with even less experience.  After weighing the options presented to me, I then made decisions. 

Make sure the environment you set with your people invites them to offer their opinions in order to help you make informed decisions.  In addition, set the expectation that though you may not always act on their advice, you value it all the same, because it offers you the opportunity to consider all options that you may not have thought of.  Lastly, make sure the expectation is also set that once the decision is made, that is the decision to be executed, and you own it.  As you grow in experience and confidence, you will be able to make decisions based off your own knowledge, but as you are learning, be smart enough to ask those who already know.
Know your objectives, boundaries, values, and purpose
One of the biggest flaws I see in decision making, or hinders people’s abilities to make sound and timely decisions, is the lack of knowledge of what the objectives and boundaries are. 

Here is a common example:  You are a department lead with a list of performance metrics you are evaluated against every quarter or even annually.  All you are going to do is to make sure your performance metrics look good in order to get promoted or a raise.  When faced with operational decisions, those performance metrics do nothing in regards to informing you on how to decide, or what to decide.  Your leadership ends up frustrated, often times, because you did not make a decision the same way they would have.  You end up frustrated, and your confidence slowly erodes. 

The alternative is to gain a clear understanding of your department’s operational objectives, and how those objectives tie to your higher organization’s mission, vision, strategy, and ultimately purpose.  Along with those end states, you also have a clear understanding of the boundaries you are to operate within and standards you are to maintain, not to mention the values your organization practice (If you follow my other posts, you know I write frequently about how morals and values guide decisions and actions).  Objectives, boundaries, and values, when made clear and well-practiced, create an environment for decision making.  In the Marines, this was the greatest weapon in warfare.  Our Marines were empowered to make critical, IMPACTful decisions at the lowest levels, and those Marines were never afraid to make such decisions because they were armed with clarity of objectives, boundaries, values, and purpose. 

Now, you may be asking: What if my company does not make these things clear?  What I do is become a total pain in the ass about these things.  Ask any of my former leaders in consulting.  They will attest that I was annoying and relentless if objectives, boundaries, values, and purpose were not clear.  I always held myself to this principle of making sound and timely decisions, and knew what I needed to know in order to live this principle.  Become a pain in the ass, and hold your leaders accountable in providing the information you need to make decisions. 

A bad decision is better than not making a decision at all
The very worst thing you can do is to not make a decision at all.  One thing that was beat into our heads (figuratively speaking) was that not making a decision had greater consequences than making a wrong decision.  The bottom line in that way of thinking is that action beats inaction.  We were taught that we could always correct our decisions on the fly.  It was not a dead end, nor did it have finality in it being a wrong decision.  I had total confidence that whatever decision I made, I could always make it right if I decided wrong.  Ironic, when you consider we were operating in situations of life and death, when in comparison, people in business become more and more paralyzed in their abilities to decide with every increase in the dollars involved.  When you are faced with a decision, make one and commit to it.  Have faith that you have the knowledge and the abilities to make it the right decision, no matter what. 

I’ll leave you with this simple perspective on leadership and decision making:  Name one great leader who wasn’t decisive.  You can’t be an effective leader if you fear being decisive.  Be intimately in-tune with your morals and values, because they are the foundation to each and every leader’s ability to make sound and timely decisions.  

Chris Waters
Leadership Coach, Author, Speaker, & President of
Agoge Leadership Development

Chris was a Captain in the United States Marines.  After leaving active duty in 2005, he entered into the corporate consulting world where he quickly recognized the gaps in leadership.   In 2012, he founded Agoge Leadership Development in order to help individuals raise their leadership effectiveness, and organizations design and implement leadership cultures.

<![CDATA[6 Steps to Calculate the ROI of Your Leadership Development Program by Alexandra Brown from Careerminds]]>Fri, 05 May 2017 13:33:29 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/6-steps-to-calculate-the-roi-of-your-leadership-development-program-by-alexandra-brown-from-careerminds

The next decade is paced to be one of significant change in terms of leadership development. The "silver tsunami," or the mass exodus of baby boomers from the workforce, will result in over ten thousand retirements each day. The boomers have remained in the workforce longer than previous generations, resulting in a lack of leadership development opportunities for less tenured workers.  The vacancies in upper management and the C-Suite left in the wake of the silver tsunami will reveal a dramatic skills gap in leadership preparedness and ability. Organizations will have to prepare for the transition through succession planning and begin to implement structured leadership development programs.
            Many recent studies tout the importance of leadership development, and it is clear that an organization's leaders have a huge impact on its overall success in the long run. In our research, we have found two outstanding facts that explain the significance of proper leadership for an organization:
1)   Effective leadership is the second most important reason for employee satisfaction at work.
2)   Leadership development has been shown to make a bigger impact on an organization than that of the organization's overall culture.
Human resources departments should be leading the research on the various leadership development resources available to their organization, and programs aspects to consider should include mentoring, job rotation, workshops, and online virtual coaching.  It is important that the correct program is selected while keeping the organization's objectives in mind, as well as to have a plan to determine the return on investment over time.  The infographic below provides instructions and a real life example of how to calculate the ROI of your organization's leadership development program. 

<![CDATA[Employ Your People According To Their Capabilities]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:34:21 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/employ-your-people-according-to-their-capabilitiesPart of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals.

This leadership principle is one that many leaders struggle with and they struggle even more in trying to understand why.  The ability to employ your people according to their capabilities relies on another principle I already wrote about (Know Your People and Look Out For Their Welfare Link to Post Here).  You have to get to know your people in order to employ them according to their capabilities.  It’s during that time of getting to know them when you also learn what they are good at, what drives them and also what they are less experienced at or struggle with.  You witness your people in action.  You see how they interact.  You see who the best team players are, and who the individuals are.  You gain appreciation for their different levels of skills and abilities.  Now you are arming yourself with the knowledge to set them up for success, as well as your team’s success, and ultimately your organization’s success. 

I recently witnessed this principle terribly violated.  I witnessed organizational leaders of an IT firm set their people up for failure on multiple occasions.  On one in particular, they recognized a project need for a major client.  The client had extra money to burn at the end of the year, so they thought it was a good idea to send a proposal in, even though they didn’t have anyone in the firm with the experience in the systems their people would operate in.  Other leaders in the organization advised against moving forward, but that advice was not heeded.  The sentiment from the leaders who sent the proposal was that the team being sent in had enough technical knowledge and experience that they could figure it out on the fly.  Beyond the lack of experience in the systems, this project was also set up poorly administratively, which due to schedule delays on the part of the client, left the firm’s team having to meet deadlines that ended up condensed.  The reason why I add this is because the team was already on a steep learning curve, and that curve only got steeper due to the administrative and schedule issues.  Needless to say, the project ended as a failure.  After months of pulling long hours every day and working over the weekends, week in and week out, along with added obstacles from the client’s administrative mishaps, the project missed deadline after deadline, and the funding ran out.  Moreover, the team left the project completely burned out with nothing to show for it, except a sense of failure.  To be honest, I can’t even call this poor leadership, because this is a complete absence of leadership. 

When you get to know your people, you know how to put them in positions for success.  One thing I think I should make clear.  I am not saying to not challenge them in order to help them grow.  What I am saying that the leaders who take the time to learn about, and get to know their people also know when to challenge their people, and how to challenge them. 

A perfect example in sports was Herb Brooks and the 1980 Miracle on Ice USA Team.  There are a few scenes in the movie that emphasize this.  In the beginning of the movie, Herb Brooks says: “I’m not looking for the best players, Craig.  I’m looking for the right ones.”  And later in the movie, when challenged for how hard he was pushing the team, he refers to a survey he had the team take in order to know how hard he could push each of them.  Had Herb Brooks chosen the best players, they would not necessarily been capable of executing in the system he put in place, nor been mentally tough enough to take the punishment of the conditioning he put them through.  As a result, we have one of the greatest sports stories of all time, and it’s because a leader knew his people and employed them according to their capabilities, thus setting them up for ultimate success and the defeat of the, then, greatest hockey team in the world. 

It’s ironic that we are emphasizing another principle in order for this principle to work, but that is both the beauty and simplicity about it.  Some principles can be practiced in isolation and others are dependent upon others.  The ability to set your people up for success hinges on you knowing them.  If you are to employ them according to their capabilities, you must know their strengths, weaknesses, passions, and dislikes.  You become a very effective leader, and should you get to know them enough, you can discover the limits of your people, and push them beyond those limits without breaking their spirits, or moral.  In fact, you begin to make them feel invincible.  Just answer these questions:  How would you have performed had your leadership put you in situations that played to your strengths, and put you on projects that were in line with a passion you had, or interest?  When you’re performing in an area of strength, how difficult is it for you to give a little more than the minimum required?  And, how much pride do you have in the work you do? 

Now, give your people that same feeling of accomplishment and success.  

Chris Waters
Leadership Coach
Agoge Leadership Development

<![CDATA[Keep Your People Informed]]>Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:12:50 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/keep-your-people-informedPart of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals

How often have you been frustrated with a leader you had because they didn’t share information with you?  Did they hold information back that you thought was valuable, and could have helped you do your job better?  Did you miss out on productivity and levels of effectiveness because the information they held was related to a project or tasks you were assigned?  How would you have handled that information differently?  How different would the results had been had that information been available? 

We all know that knowledge is power.  And in order for a business or organization to be productive and grow, its people must be armed with the knowledge they need to be productive and effective.  I too have suffered under leadership who held information that would have served me in my job or duties.  The more prominent experience was when I was in a unit I served in during my service in the Marines.  I was a lieutenant and an assistant operations officer reporting to a captain.  The captain always held information tight and only trickled it out when it was the absolute last minute of needing to know.  As a result, I and my Marines were forced to be more reactive, instead of proactive.  Our effectiveness in our duties was reduced as a result.  It made our jobs frustrating in our inability to have a level of anticipation. 

Something most leaders strive for is to have their people be decisive and take initiative on a consistent basis.  I can tell you that you hinder making that desire a reality if you neglect to keep your people informed.  No one can be decisive and take initiative when they don’t have all the information.  The Marines told us, as young officers, that our Marines are our most valuable weapons, and to make sure those weapons are well armed.  Arming them with information and knowledge made them just as effective of WAR-FIGHTERS as did providing them with weapons and ammunition.  Your people are you’re your most valuable weapons in your line of business; make sure they are well armed with the information they need, so you can employ them to their fullest capabilities. 

Want to raise your organization’s productivity?  At no cost, all you have to do is increase the level of information you provide your people. 

Ask yourself these questions on a daily basis: 
  • What do I know? 
  • Who needs to know what I know? 
  • How will what I know benefit those who need to know?
  • Have I told them?  (If not, do it NOW!)
  • If I have communicated needed information, have I followed up to my communication was effective in its delivery?

“Keep your people informed” sounds like a very simple leadership principle to practice, but unfortunately, because of its simplicity, it is often taken for granted. 

Oh, and by the way, a fire and forget email is never enough for communicating.  Inspect what you expect. 
Chris Waters
Leadership Coach
Agoge Leadership Development

<![CDATA[Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions]]>Thu, 13 Apr 2017 15:42:11 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/seek-responsibility-and-take-responsibility-for-your-actions

Part of the Series: "Leadership Principles For Young Professionals & Millennials

One of the best times to take on responsibility is this very moment, because if you wait for the perfect time, that time will never come.  All your schooling, all your training, all your investment in personal growth, and all your experience up to this point is plenty for you to raise your hand and volunteer for more responsibilities.  There is no better way to grab the attention of you leadership than to be willing to take on responsibility that the majority of your peers shy away from.  Become willing to ask for more responsibility.  Take the initiative and take it on without permission when the opportunity presents itself.  You may be taking on something entirely new, and that is outside everything that makes you comfortable.  Be the one who steps forward, not the one who steps back.  This principle is one that sets leaders apart. 

When you take on more responsibility, you will expose yourself to increased risks of setbacks.  One trend that I have sought to disrupt in the business world is the dodging of responsibility.  More often than not, leaders today are quick to allow failures to fall to the lowest levels to their people rather than accept the responsibilities of those failures, and find solutions to them.  It’s so commonplace that no one calls anyone out on it.  And when someone does, it’s an eye opener. 

Nearly two years ago, I was leading a project estimation solution that was under a tight deadline that was not to be moved.  The subject matter experts had submitted their estimates for each of their department’s levels of effort for their roles in the project.  In an effort to meet the tight deadline, I made the decision to cut a step of reviewing and confirming the accuracy of the estimates, which cut days off the timeline.  The result was that the estimates were not conducted correctly on the part of the subject matter experts, and the client wanted names of those who filled out the estimates wrong.  I did not give them any names.  Instead, I told them my role was the responsible role for the estimates, and that I had made the decision to skip the verification step in order to meet the deadline.  I told the client we will get the corrections made and get the estimation in.  The client actually had no response.  I never heard another word.  They were looking for someone to come down on.  It was demonstrated in their culture time and again prior to that with others.  They were not used to people taking responsibility for their own actions. 

What is just as important is the level of trust your people have with you and a desire to never want to let you down when you are willing to accept responsibility.  Think of it this way:  Imagine making a big mistake at work, but instead of you getting burned by your manager, boss, or leader, when they are asked by their leadership, they shoulder the responsibility for the mistake.  If you are a moral human being, you are going to feel more urgency to make corrections.  You will never want to have to put your leader in that situation again. 

In the Marines, leaders taking responsibility for their actions is such a common cultural dynamic that it is a huge scar on a career for a Marine to even attempt to pass the responsibility of something going wrong down to their subordinate Marines.  An officer who may try to place blame on his Marines, when questioned by superiors, would be met with a larger butt chewing for side-stepping responsibility far beyond the one he would have received for the mistake that was made originally.   I witnessed fellow officers make this mistake.  Even worse than the scorn from their commanding officer, they completely lost trust and credibility with their Marines. 

If you desire to set yourself apart as a leader, the one place where you can make an immediate impact is in the level of responsibility you are willing to take on, and the responsibility you own in regards to your actions.  This is an area of both growing pains, but yet accelerated growth for a young leader who is brave enough to take on this challenge. 
Chris Waters
Leadership Coach
Agoge Leadership Development
<![CDATA[Be Technically & Tactically Proficient]]>Wed, 05 Apr 2017 20:58:46 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/be-technically-tactically-proficient

​​Part of the Series: "Leadership Principles For Young Professionals & Millennials

A leadership principle that you will find very familiar is being technically and tactically proficient.  In today’s business world, certifications, degrees, and experience are of the highest of emphasis.  Knowing your craft or skill is paramount to being productive in your profession.  As a leader, knowing the craft or skills your people must perform and be productive in is just as critical.  Since this principle is relatively common knowledge compared to the other leadership principles in this series, I’m going to share a couple tips to keep in mind in regards to this principle, as well as pitfalls to avoid. 

Know what’s in the book, but learn how it’s done.
On the day that I graduated from the Basic School in the Marines, a sergeant I knew at the school gave me a tip as I was walking out the door.  He said “Sir, all that stuff you learned in your books, throw it in the garbage, find yourself sergeants, staff sergeants, and gunnery sergeants and learn from them.” (all enlisted Marine ranks that tend to have experience ranging from five years up to twenty plus years)  Now, I did not take him literally and throw my books away, but I did take his advice.  Knowing what was in the books, and what was taught in our classes was important to know for a frame of reference, how things should be done in ideal conditions.  Also, what was in my books was also critical in recognizing when things are being done wrong. 

Book knowledge is a critical foundation to build on.  Without it, you have nothing to grow from.  There will also be times when your people may try to take a shortcut, or just have a lapse in how to execute in their profession.  Without enough experience, you have to fall back on book knowledge to guide your judgement.  But there is something to be said about learning from those who have been doing it daily and in the real world. 

When you’re humble and build rapport with those you lead, but they have more experience, you will find a very willing teacher and mentor.  Align yourself with experts who have made the mistakes already.  Though, we may learn a lot from our own mistakes, there is no rule that says you can’t learn from other’s mistakes and successes, for that matter.  Be a sponge.  Be willing to learn.  You will find people eager to teach and share what they know, and at the same time, know what is in the book, so you can make judgments and decisions for yourself. 

You have to know why the rules were written in order to know the right time to break them.
In 2003, I was a platoon commander of a convoy security team in Iraq.  I had been trained in the conduct of proper convoy security.  I studied the enemy’s history and tactics they had implemented in the past and noticed that their tactics exploited many of the convoys rules I had been taught.  Knowing the enemy’s limitations, I changed the rules my Marines and I would follow in the conduct of our convoys; to the point that it made those who did not know we were doing it on purpose very nervous.  I even received a good butt chewing from a more senior officer on one of my convoys when my Marines and I were moving him and his Marines closer to the front units, but I did not wavered from what I knew was working and keeping us safe.  The result of executing those unorthodox tactics was that my convoy security team was the only team in our company not to get shot at or ambushed, even when we passed through known ambush zones that other teams received fire from. 

The lesson from that experience is that I studied my butt off.  In the conduct of reviewing everything I was taught as standard convoy tactics, I began to question why those rules were in place in the first place.  In bouncing those rules off the enemy’s past tactics, I was confident in my judgment and decision to make changes and quickly train my Marines on what those changes were.  I didn’t break the rules in order to be a rebel.  I broke them because I knew why they existed and recognized that those reasons did not apply to the situation we were about to enter. 

When you know why the rules exist, you have the knowledge to know when to break them, and for the right reasons.  When you experience success in this regard, you find a level of influence that even draws people who you have never led before. 

If you are surrounded by experts, you don’t have to be one.
As you progress in your leadership journey, you will find yourself in roles where you only know enough to be dangerous.  It’s in those roles where I have seen may leaders make a critical error.  I have witnessed leaders practice the old mantra “fake it until you make it.”   They believe that in order to be seen as a leader, they have to be the expert.  This is always an accelerated path to losing trust and respect with the people you lead. 

Remember, leadership is about influencing people in an effort to accomplish a common objective, goal, mission, purpose, or vision.  It’s not about you proving your level of expertise.  The best leaders I have had the privilege of working with surrounded themselves with experts who advised them.  As the leader, they were responsible for making decisions, and were accountable for their outcomes.  You must be technically and tactically proficient enough to make sound decisions.  That is the intent of this principle
Chris Waters
Leadership Coach
Agoge Leadership Development
<![CDATA[Know Your People and Look Out For Their Welfare]]>Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:57:08 GMThttp://agogeleadershipdevelopment.com/blog/know-your-people-and-look-out-for-their-welfare

Part of the Series: "Leadership Principles For Young Professionals & Millennials

One of the easiest mistakes to make as a young leader is to give in to the pressures of leaping right to getting your team to high levels of productivity as quick as possible.  It is a natural ambition to want to prove you are deserving of that promotion.  You want to prove those who promoted you that they are correct in their judgement, and you want respect from your peers and those you are now leading that you earned this opportunity to lead.  In order to solidify these opinions and perceptions, you drive hard to meet performance metrics and standards right away.  What so many newly promoted leaders neglect to realize is that they are actually driving nails into a ceiling that will limit your potential as a leader. 

One of the most commonly overlooked leadership principles is “Know Your People and Look out for Their Welfare.”  In other words, establish and build trust with your people.  This principle was critical to every leader in the Marine Corps.  We had a rule that if your Marines did not come to you with their problems, they did not trust you.  If they don’t trust you, you will be exposed to more risks and failures than those who do have the trust of their people.  You don’t have to know so much that you intrude on their privacy, but you should know enough to know what motivates them, what troubles them, what issues they may be facing both personally and professionally.  You must take on that servant leader mentality to make sure you help them tackle their challenges, minimize their weaknesses, and maximize their strengths.  When you, as a leader, do these things for your people, your team will return the same to you tenfold. 

I have witnessed fellow Marine officers allowed to fail because their Marines did not trust them.  What I mean by “allowed to fail,” is that they followed orders literally.  If an officer gave an order that his Marines knew was the wrong thing to do, they’d do it anyway.  Because accountability is a way of life in the Marines, that officer would find himself answering to his leadership for issuing that order.  Had that officer built trust and rapport with his Marines, they would have advised him on the error of that order (especially the more senior enlisted Marines who had many years serving already), and helped him make the right decisions.  I can’t tell you how many times my Marines kept me from making mistakes.  I was never the best performing officer as an individual, but I made sure I dedicated myself to looking out for my Marines, because, in return, they looked out for me.  And I live this principle still today. 

About a year ago, I sat with a CEO of a firm.  We were discussing leadership, and the subject of a top performer recently leaving came up.  He mentioned how disappointed he was in the person who left because he did not communicate personal desires and issues he was facing.  I shared with him what I just shared with you about how it’s a leadership shortfall when your people don’t trust you enough to come to you with their issues.  Like most CEOs, he disagreed with me on that sentiment and held the opinion that it was the responsibility of the person who left to have communicated with his leaders.  Today, that CEO struggles with keeping people, especially top performers.  People in that firm are secondary to metrics and revenue.  Ironically, if he, along with the rest of his executive leaders, would get to know their people and look out for their welfare, those metrics would be met, and revenue would exceed expectations, because his people would not let him fail. 

Wherever you are in your career, make sure you get to know your people and look out for their welfare.  If you have aspirations of reaching your maximum potential, this principle is not an option.  One thing to note as well, every time you have a new team, you must re-emphasize this principle.  It is not a badge you get to wear that states you are certified as trust worthy.   This principle is a daily activity, not a milestone. 

I leave you with a quote from John Maxwell:  “Your people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 
Chris Waters
Leadership Coach
Agoge Leadership Development