Archive for organizational leadership

Plan For Failure

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

We all strive for victory.  Each one of us hates to lose.  After all, it is essential for us to succeed in our daily lives.  We are obviously not living life to fail.  But, fail we will.

As important as it is to plan for victory, it is just as important to plan for failure.  Every ‘battle plan’ should consider all contingencies.  But, victory, of course, hangs on the details, and behind those details are hidden the pitfalls that can spell disaster and defeat.  We often take our eye off the potential negatives and ultimately find ourselves facing the unexpected.  This can easily be avoided.

Last week, we again saw another data breach hitting Anthem Blue Cross.  And, again, many experts are saying that this ‘disastrous’ data breach was avoidable.  When I first heard about it, my first thought was how something like this could happen again.  Haven’t these major organizations learned from other data breaches, such as to Michaels Stores, Home Depot, Kmart and ebay?  Aren’t major corporations taking steps to prevent these kinds of disasters from happening to them?  I can understand maybe not recognizing the unknown, but I cannot accept these companies blatantly ignoring what is going on around them, and to their peers in various corporate circles.  Again, planning for failure is just as important as planning for success.

In a recent blog post on The Military Leader, entitled 5 Questions That Can Save You From Disaster, author Drew Steadman discusses how failure can be avoided by not getting caught off guard by things that could have been anticipated.  As he states in his article, “A few moments of reflection can cue you in to the key indicators. And asking hard questions will force you and your team to acknowledge the situation you face.”  But, what I take away from Drew’s article is that you cannot wait for things to happen, or circumstances to change, before putting into place a plan that could work to avoid failure.  It is important to be quite aware of the peripheral things, because failure or victory are contingent on how (or if) you recognize and react to them.

One thing that I am certain of is that there will be a lot of uncertainty when planning for any outcome.  In essence, failures and miscues can be avoided by taking action based on our anticipation of the known’s and the unknowns.  And, doesn’t that sound familiar:

Recommended Reading: “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld

Part 1: Three Reporters

Part 2: The Known and the Unknown

Part 3: A Failure of Imagination

Part 4: Absence of Evidence Isn’t Evidence of Absence

As my youngest daughter, Kassandra, when she hears something so profound, says, “what does that even mean?”  When Donald Rumsfeld first uttered this statement during a press breifing in February 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, he was making a point that there are various levels of certainty and uncertainty based on our knowledge of the facts as we know them, and the facts that aren’t yet clear. [View video of Donald Rumsfeld’s comments HERE]

To better define this, I found an article on SmartOrg by Don Creswell that defined the 3 Basic Sources of Risk and Uncertainty, which came out of a presentation by Kelvin Stott.

My take:

  • We must remain cognizant of those things that we know, while not discounting the possibilities that we think aren’t likely to happen.
  • We need to open more widely the avenues of communication, encouraging everyone to say something if they know something; share knowledge.  Nobody can assume the other knows what they know, nor can they think the information isn’t important.
  • Be Inquisitive and curious.  Ask questions and challenge the status quo.
  • We need to use our imagination, as well as look at the intelligence that is available, to make the best decision possible at the time.

Bottom line: Think outside the box, and don’t ignore the obvious.

“Failure is in a sense the highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.”

John Keats (1795-1821) British Poet

In the military, disasters could be due to bad planning, bad execution, bad weather, general lack of skill or ability, the failure of a new piece of military technology, a major blunder, a brilliant move on the part of the enemy, or simply the unexpected presence of an overwhelming enemy force.  But, what bothers me is when defeat and failure occur as a result of a known and preventable cause.  There are many military disasters throughout history that you can spend hours researching and realizing that they could have been avoided.

Recommended Reading: The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

I’m not suggesting that we are always going to be perfect.  What I am saying is that paying attention to certain details can make the difference between success and failure.  Being aware and prepared, innovative and imaginative, proactive and intuitive, can all make a big difference.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer

As you look around at the people and organizations who are facing critical issues, problems, and crisis,[i] you should view those situations as instructive and constructive. They should, for you, act as lessons learned.[ii]  We can learn as much from other people’s failures, as we can from our own.  Try to recognize what took that person or organization into the direction of failure, and plan to do the things necessary to avoid them happening to you or your organization.

Don’t be smug thinking that these things cannot happen to you, or that they are rare or isolated incidents.[iii]  And, don’t be arrogant in the thought that these things can’t happen to you … Or, that ‘things just happen.’[iv]  Don’t let things happen because you failed to prepare, or you grew over-confident with success. Plan for failure.[v]  Don’t fall to complacency or laziness.

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Inspired by five consecutive Tweets (#5Star #5Tweet) I posted on Friday, February 13, 2015:
[i]     Tweet 1 of 5
[ii]    Tweet 2 of 5
[iii]   Tweet 3 of 5
[iv]   Tweet 4 of 5
[v]    Tweet 5 of 5
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Sources:

A New Method of Resupplying ~ Putting “I intend to…” into Action

Posted in Leadership, Naval Leadership, Reading Room with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Another excerpt fromTurn The Ship Around! How to Create Leadership at Every Level, By L. David Marquet, Captain, U.S. Navy (retired), published by Greenleaf Book Group LLC, released today, August 1, 2012:

For context, read the post, “I intend to…,” before reading this excerpt.

Chapter 28

“A New Method of Resupplying”

A submarine at dawnSanta Fe was operating in the Strait of Hormuz and we were running low on oil.  I was “thinking out loud” (one of our mechanisms) with the Engineer in the control room when a solution came from an unexpected place: the newest officer on board.  After listening to a discussion about our need for more oil, Ensign Aviles chimed in. He was manning the periscope and was looking at the contacts around us.  “Hey, that’s a fast-resupply ship. Why don’t we just ask them for some oil?”  I looked at the periscope display and, sure enough, the USS Rainier is transiting through the Strait of Hormuz several miles away.  The Rainier was a supply ship designed to support a carrier battle group.  She carried 2 million gallons of diesel fuel, 2 million gallons of jet fuel, and tons of ammunition and supplies.  All we needed was a few cans of oil. Surely Rainier would have that.

There was a problem.  All ship movements in the carrier battle group were pre-directed 36 hours in advance.  One just didn’t “call up” and get supplied.  But I was curious.  I waved the flashlight around.  “Go ahead, guys, see if you can set it up.”

“I intend to break radio silence to coordinate a resupply from Rainier,” said the Officer on Deck (OOD).

“Very well.”

USS RAINIER (AOE-7).jpgThe OOD called Rainier on the radio, identified who we were, and what we needed.  Sure enough, they would supply us!  Fortunately, Captain Kendall Card, commander of the Rainier, had reinforced with his crew that they were there to support the ships of the U.S. Navy, and that trumped bureaucracy.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  Not only that but the CO invited us to send over any crew members who needed medical or dental checkups beyond what Santa Fe’s Doc Hill could provide.

Rainier had a schedule to maintain; we couldn’t delay long.  If we didn’t get surfaced in a few minutes, it wouldn’t be able to stay around to help us.

The crew sprung to action, to which I gave my immediate assent.

From the Officer of the Deck: “Captain, I intend to prepare to surface.”

Very well.

From the Chief of the Boat (COB): “I intend to muster the small boat handling party in the crew’s mess.  I intend to open the forward escape trunk lower hatch.  COB is Chief in Charge.”

Very well.

From Doc Hill: “I intend to muster selected personnel for dental checkups in the crew’s mess, conducting watch reliefs as necessary.”

Very well.

From the admin officer, Petty Officer Scott Dillon: “Captain, I intend to canvass the crew for outgoing mail and transfer it to Rainier.”

Very well.

From the supply officer: “Captain, I intend to transfer the hydraulic oil from Rainier.”

Very well.

Myriad various activities happened quickly and in a synchronized manner.  Here’s where the training paid off.  There’s no way I would have been able to pull off a plan for conducting this kind of operation and direct it piece by piece.  You could call it speed of response, or reducing the sense-act delay inherent in organizations, or adaptability to change.  Whatever you call it, the crew’s performance allowed us to resupply at sea and continue being a submarine in defense of the country rather than limping into port for a fill up.

*Reprinted with permission from “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, by L. David Marquet, 2012, Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, Texas. Copyright © 2012 by Louis David Marquet.

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If you would like to order the book “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, please visit:

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Related Articles –

“I Intend To” – More Than a Recommendation (championsclubcommunity.com)

How We Made Leader to Leader Work on Santa Fe – By David Adams (leader-leader.com/blog)

Good to Great (A Submariner’s Profile in Empowerment

Turn The Ship Around! A Captain’s Guide to Creating Leadership at Every Level

Up Scope!

Teach Your People to “Think Out Loud” to Enable Them to Maintain Control

In Memory of Dr. Stephen R. Covey (1932 – 2012)

“I intend to . . .”

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“I intend to . . .”

Posted in Leadership, Naval Leadership, Reading Room with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Over the last few months, I have been writing posts featuring David Marquet and his new book, Turn The Ship Around! How to Create Leadership at Every Level.”  The reason for this is simple: I am fascinated with David and what he was able to accomplish as the Commanding Officer of the USS Santa Fe.  If you have not read the posts about David Marquet, I encourage you to read them first, before continuing to read this post, as it will provide you some background.  Then, come back to continue reading this post:

I was introduced to David in February of this year, through this blog and other social media, and I became acquainted with his leader-leader (leader to leader) philosophy.  He became a fan of my blog, and I became a fan of him and his blog.  David was gracious to share with his blog’s audience posts from this blog.  David even invited me to write a book review for his book reviews section of his blog, such as the post, “How Would the Marines Run Your Business.”  Over time, David and I have become allies and friends.

This blog, Command Performance Leadership, is about the synergies between military and corporate leadership, and there is no better example of those synergies than David and his leadership philosophy of empowerment and developing leaders at every level.  What he has accomplished throughout his career,  and since his retirement from the United States Navy, is the perfect story for this blog.  David’s message is one that absolutely deserves to be told.

Today, David’s book is officially released, and “Turn The Ship Around!” will be deployed for an important mission: to enlighten leaders, those who aspire to lead, and those formerly known as followers (the people who are leaders without a title).  The book discusses empowerment and how to create leaders at all levels.  I wanted to use this occasion to celebrate this book’s release, and to share a few of the ideas and mechanisms that come right out of the pages of David’s book.  Below, I have ripped a few those pages out of the book for you to read.  I hope that David’s message resonates with you, and that you can use a few of his ideas in your workplace to empower your people, and to create leaders, not followers.

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Chapter 11

“I intend to . . .”

How proactive are senior managers and employees in your organization? Rewording our speech dramatically changed our level of proactivity.

21 January 1999, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (159 days to deployment)

“Conn, maneuvering, reactor scram!” The reactor had just shut down. The engineer inserted the shutdown deliberately, testing his department’s ability to find and repair a simulated fault.

The Officer of the Deck was my senior department head, Lieutenant Commander Bill Greene, and he was doing all the right things. We had shifted propulsion from the main engines to an auxiliary electric motor, the EPM, to turn the propeller. The EPM can only power the ship at low-speed and draws down the battery.

The ship was coming shallow in order to use its diesel engine to provide electrical power and keep the battery charged until the reactor was restarted. During the long troubleshooting period while the nuclear electronics technicians were isolating the fault, I started to get bored. I fiddled with my flashlight, turning it on and off. Things were going too smoothly. I couldn’t let the crew think their new captain was easy!

I nudged Bill and suggested we increase speed from “ahead 1/3” to “ahead 2/3” on the EPM to give the nuclear-trained enlisted men a sense of urgency. This would significantly increase the rate of battery discharge and put pressure on the trouble shooters to find and correct the fault quickly. At “ahead 2/3,” there is a near continuous click-click-click on the battery amp-hour meter. An audible reminder that time is running out, it’s physically unnerving!

“Ahead 2/3,” he ordered.

Nothing happened.

The helmsman should have reached over and rung up ahead 2/3. Instead, I could see him squirming in his chair. No one said anything and several awkward seconds passed. Astutely noting that the order hadn’t been carried out, I asked the helmsman what was going on. He was facing his panel but reported over his shoulder, “Captain, there is no ahead 2/3 on the EPM!”

I had made a mistake. I’d been shifted to command Santa Fe at the last-minute and unlike every other submarine I’d been on, there was only a 1/3 on the EPM.

I applauded the helmsman and grabbed Bill, the OOD. In the corner of the control room, I asked him if he knew there was no ahead 2/3 on the EPM.

“Yes, Captain, I did.”

“Well, why did you order it?” I asked, astounded.

“Because you told me to.”

He was being perfectly honest. By giving that order, I took the crew right back to the top-down command and control leadership model. That my most senior, experienced OOD would repeat it was a giant wake-up call about the perils of that model for something as complicated as a submarine. What happens when the leader is wrong in a top-down culture? Everyone goes over the cliff. I vowed henceforth never to give an order, any order. Instead, subordinates would say “I intend to….”

Mechanism: Use “I intend to . . .” to turn passive followers into active leaders

Although it may seem like a minor trick of language, we found “I intend to…” profoundly shifted ownership of the plan to the officers.

“I intend to . . .” didn’t take long to catch on. The officers and crew loved it.

A year later, I was standing on the bridge of the Santa Fe with Dr. Stephen Covey. He’d heard what we were doing and was interested in riding a submarine. By this point, the crew had fully embraced our initiatives for control, and “I intend to . . .” was prominently visible. Throughout the day the officers approached me with “I intend to.”

“Captain, I intend to submerge the ship. We are in water we own, water depth has been checked and is 400 feet, all men are below, the ship is rigged for dive, and I’ve certified my watch team.”

I’d reply “Very well” and off we’d go.

Dr. Covey was keenly interested and incorporated this concept into his subsequent book, The 8th Habit.

The Power of Words


The key to your team becoming more proactive rests in the language subordinates and superiors use.

Here is a short list of “disempowered phrases” that passive followers use:

Request permission to . . .

I would like to . . .

What should I do about . . .

Do you think we should . . .

Could we . . .

Here is a short list of “empowered phrases” that active doers use:

I intend to . . .

I plan on . . .

I will . . .

We will . . .

Later, I heard from a friend of mine who had taught future submarine commanders how frustrated he was by the inability of too many officers to make decisions at the command level. He said that these officers “came from good ships” but would become paralyzed when it came to tough decision-making. I took issue with his categorizing them as “good ships.” By using that term, he meant ships that didn’t have problems—at least that we knew about. But this had obviously been accomplished using a top-down, leader-follower structure where the captain made the decisions. Had those officers practiced “I intend to…” when they were second-in-command, they would have been practiced in decision-making.

This shows the degree to which we reward personality-centered leadership structures and accept the limitations. These may have been good ships, in that they avoided problems, but it certainly was not good leadership.

Questions to Consider

What causes us to take control when we should be giving control?

Can you recall a recent incident where your subordinate followed your order because he or she thought you had learned secret information “for executives only”?

What would be the most challenging obstacle to implementing “I intend to . . .” in your place of business?

*Reprinted with permission from “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, by L. David Marquet, 2012, Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, Texas. Copyright © 2012 by Louis David Marquet.

Another source for this excerpt can be found HERE

– If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can read another one.  I posted “A New Method of Resupplying ~ Putting “I intend to…” Into Action” today.

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If you would like to order the book “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, please visit:

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Related Articles –

“I Intend To” – More Than a Recommendation (championsclubcommunity.com)

How We Made Leader to Leader Work on Santa Fe – By David Adams (leader-leader.com/blog)

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Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

*The following was inspired by a post by the late Timothy F. Bednarz on his blog, Leaders to Leader, entitled, “Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance.”

Footnote (in advance of reading this post):  In the context of this article, when I speak of a ‘leader,’ I am referring to a leader at all levels; not necessarily the commander, CEO or department head.  Empowered followers are the key to implementing and accomplishing plans at all levels of the organization.

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Plan for Victory ~ Expect to Win

A vision or goal (short-term / long-term) is where the organization sees itself in the future.  It is a desired result that an organization plans and commits to achieve.  To move towards these results requires planning and goal-setting.  These time-targeted plans should be specific, measurable, realistic and attainable to achieve each objective along the path towards the vision.  The anticipated results guide reactions, according to various successes and failures, as the organization maneuvers towards the objective (vision).  From these plans, a leader must ensure that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve an objective.

In the military, they call this the Commander’s Intent; the stated description of the end-state as it relates to forces (entities, people), the purpose of the operation, and key tasks to accomplish the mission.  This blog will discuss, more specifically, Commander’s Intent, and mission planning & accomplishment, After Action Reviews (AAR’s), etc., another time.  But, the blog, PurpelINK, defines and discusses Commander’s Intent very well:

A soldier’s every move is predicated upon hours of forethought and planning. After the commander-in-chief approves the order of battle, a soldier will find his personal orders specifying the scheme of maneuver and field of fire. Each battalion is told what to do, what materiel to use, and how to set up supply lines to replace its munitions.

There’s only one problem: no plan survives contact with the enemy because the enemy always gets a vote. Consider the variables; [a weather change], a key military asset is destroyed after it is deployed [etc]. In short, the enemy is unpredictable.

The beautiful thing about knowing the [Commander’s Intent] is that it means your plans are never rendered obsolete by the unpredictable. You may lose the ability to execute the plan (involving the timing of men and materiel), but you never lose the responsibility of executing the Commander’s Intent.

[Commander’s Intent] manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels of the army without requiring detailed instructions from the High Command. If you know the intention of the order, you are free to improvise to arrive at its fulfillment. If people know the intent, they can engineer their own solutions to accomplishing the task.

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Planning GoalsAn organization’s history of past accomplishments (or failures), and the acquisition of desired (or poor) results, obviously influences the plans and strategies of the future.  When we are successful, we build on the plans that made us successful in the achievement of certain goals and objectives.  But when we fail, we tend to throw away those plans, and sometimes we adjust, or dramatically change, our vision.  This is the wrong thing to do if you intend to grow, improve and become successful and victorious.

For example, an Army might put their efforts into creating plans that become useless once the enemy is engaged.  Companies do the same thing when they implement initiatives and strategies that are poorly planned out or executed.  But, one should be reluctant to throw aside entire plans because of those failures, or by falling short of mission.  On the contrary, using lessons learned, one should assess the capabilities of their resources (people, material, finances, etc.) that contributed to those results, correct the weaknesses and gaps in performance, and then adjust the plan, re-allocating and reassigning resources to be better utilized for future actions and plans.  Maybe the people, or the team, responsible for certain results were not afforded all of the tools necessary to succeed.  Or, the people were not properly appointed the right tasks to drive towards the desired results; individuals weren’t assigned tasks according to their talents.

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Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

The United States Marine Corps calls it, “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  The Marine Corps has been successful employing this concept mostly because of the creativity of its people and their success-based attitude.  During the chaos of battle and the implementation of plans according to the Commander’s Intent, they must find what works, or people die, equipment is lost, and the battle is lost.  For the Marine Corps, the whole notion of improvise, adapt and overcome becomes second nature.  For companies and organizations, what worked last year does not work this year, and what works now is a radical departure from what worked last year.  They must improvise, adapt and overcome.

My point is that past results should never change your vision.  Yes, you should plan according to past lessons learned.  But, a good leader will never hesitate as a result of, or be intimidated by, past failure.  And, a good leader will never change their vision for the future as a result of those failures.  The future vision or goal must remain the same, never changing because of the past.  One must have the courage to change according to those failures, yet not change their mindset because of those failures. The past can tell you a lot.  But don’t let it tell you to reverse course.

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A good leader will:

  • Align the capabilities of people and resources based on the past, not in spite of it.  They will match the people to the tasks according to skill level and proficiency
  • Manage and monitor time to efficiently and effectively achieve the planned mission
  • Adjust milestones & short-term goal targets, and determine the feasibility of certain objectives
  • Frequently assess, reconsider and change according to the circumstances they are facing
  • Improvise according to the availability and reliability material (supplies, equipment, etc.)
  • Acquire and/or properly allocate the tools needed to achieve short and long-term results
  • Teach, and at the same time learn, the knowledge necessary to improve and succeed, sometimes based on the conditions at the time; gaining feedback, recommendations and reviewing solutions, etc.
  • Implement the plan by breaking it down from a big job into little jobs, and delegate those jobs accordingly

Finally, throughout any situation that requires action and/or change, it is important for any leader to remain optimistic, to be proactive and to cultivate passion.

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Here are my recommendations for making plans based on past performance:

1) Set tasking according to capabilities

2) Your vision (Commander’s Intent) should never change, but your plans must

3) Don’t let short-term setbacks blur your long-term vision

4) ‘Change’ is the only thing that remains the same throughout an organization

5) You might miss your target, but as long as you’ve adjusted and improved your tactics (based on Improvise, Adapt and Overcome), you’re making progress.

6) Remain motivated.  Failure is a hard thing to deal with, but the taste of success (victory) is sweet.

7) Never give up.  You may have failed to reach your target, but as long as you have learned from your mistakes and have acknowledged the lessons learned, you’re making progress and one step closer to victory!

*Inspired by a post on Timothy F. Bednarz‘s blog, Leaders to Leader, entitled, “Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance.”

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Sources –

“Problem Solving: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” – Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2011 – http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/improvise-adapt-overcome/52001 – Accessed 23 July 2012 – Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity – http://peakprosperity.com/

“Commander’s Intent” – Posted Friday, August 1, 2008 – http://washelby.blogspot.com/2008/08/commanders-intent.html – Accessed 23 July 2012 – PurpelINK – http://washelby.blogspot.com/

“Goal” – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Last Modified on 21 July 2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goal – Accessed 23 July 2012 – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – http://en.wikipedia.org/

“Commander’s Intent” – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Last Modified on 24 March 2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intent_(military)#Commander.E2.80.99s_Intent – via “Intent (Military)”  at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intent_(military) – Accessed 23 July 2012 – WikiPedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Related Articles –

Empowerment (Not Just Another Buzzword)

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not the one who does the greatest things.  The greatest leader is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”[i]  He also said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere…”[ii]

I wanted to use this post to discuss The process of empowerment, the guiding principles of workplace empowerment and empowerment in management.  Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices, and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.[iii]  In today’s workplace, people quite often endure the absence of empowerment and carry on like robots doing as they are told.  Empowerment unleashes an individual’s potential and enhances [their] ability to promote creativity and productivity in the organization.[iv]  Some might call empowerment a buzzword.  But, empowerment is being increasingly embraced by more and more managers and leaders in both the military and the corporate World.  And, quite honestly, people are hungry for empowerment.

Decision-making in many organizations and corporations is currently too top-heavy.  Decisions need to be pushed down to the lowest level possible.  But, in some instances, managers and executives are afraid to relinquish some of their authority.  They feel that doing so would be too risky, fearing that they would have less power, diminished control or might lose their job.  But, the true risk is to not embrace some form of an empowerment process.

Empowering others is essentially the process of turning followers into leaders.  Through empowerment, there are fewer levels of decision-making.   As a result, there are reduced levels of bureaucracy, and organizational pyramids are flattened.  Managers trust employees to make decisions, and the staff trust managers and feel supported in their decisions.  In some instances, procedures and guidelines are generated by the people who perform the work every day.  Through empowerment, good ideas and decisions are implemented faster.  Ultimately, empowerment creates confident and competent employees who are more productive because they are not waiting for approval to make decisions.

PattonGeneral George S. Patton saw empowerment this way:

“Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Patton believed in exploiting, encouraging, and rewarding individual initiative.  Patton saw leadership as mostly training and motivation.  The object of leadership is to create people who know their jobs and who can reliably supply the how to your what.[v]

But, empowerment is not something you just simply turn on like a light switch among your staff.  You don’t show up one day and say, “you, the people, are now empowered!”  For all involved (leaders, managers, employees, etc.), it is a process of education, knowledge and experience, where the staff is provided the criterion which directs them in making decisions in their respective jobs, areas of expertise and departments.  If the staff has the basic guidelines, they should be able to make educated and informed decisions without having to go to the next level.  As a result, the customer is served, or the mission is accomplished, more quickly and effectively, and managers are freed to make decisions that really require their level of expertise.

It is in this way that all staff has the information they need to be truly empowered to collaborate effectively.  A process is developed to continue the culture change so that there is true empowerment for informed decision-making.  Through this empowerment process, a new organizational culture is established; a culture where management encourages teamwork and risk taking, and employees can establish teams where they see the need.  From this teamwork, creativity and initiative are fostered.

As leaders, we should strive to cultivate leadership not only in ourselves, but in those we are responsible to lead.  As leaders, we shouldn’t think that we have all of the answers.  As leaders, we don’t know everything.  As leaders, we should be surrounding ourselves with capable, knowledgeable people who can take much of the decision-making burden off our shoulders; where employees own their work and are more accountable for outcomes.

As a result of employee empowerment:

  1. Micro-management is virtually eliminated
  2. Productivity in the workplace increases
  3. Creativity and innovation within the organization is cultivated
  4. Employee morale is improved, and there is greater job satisfaction
  5. The leader – follower (management – employee) relationship is strengthened
  6. There becomes an environment where future leaders are developed and nurtured for the future.

When people are empowered with the knowledge and tools to be successful doing their jobs, their confidence breaks down the intimidation of any task, and they are energized to do their jobs well.  When people know that the leash is off their neck, and their boss is not breathing down their neck, they become some of the strongest and happiest people.  Empowerment is about making sure that people are well-trained, they have the tools to do the job, and are given the autonomy to take risks and to think outside the box.  A truly empowered team can do great things, and as leaders we need to stand back and let them succeed.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

Footnotes –

[i] Interview with Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, December 14, 1975

[ii] Ronald Reagan, September 15, 1986, in an interview with “Fortune” magazine, describing his management style – Cover Story: Reagan on Decision-Making, Planning, Gorbachev, and More

[iii] Empowerment – PovertyNet – http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTEMPOWERMENT/0,,menuPK:486417~pagePK:149018~piPK:149093~theSitePK:486411,00.html – Accessed 2 May 2012 – The World Bank – http://web.worldbank.org/

[iv] Hungry for Empowerment – Posted May 4, 2012 – http://sidtuli.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/hungry-for-empowerment/ – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Sidtuli blog on WordPress – http://sidtuli.wordpress.com/

[v] Axelrod, Alan. Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999. Page 165. Also, War As I Knew It (1947) by George S. Patton, “Reflections and Suggestions”

*Portions of this blog post were adapted from a presentation entitled, “Empowerment & Decision-Making – Building a Framework for the Future.”  This presentation can be found at the link http://www.maine.gov/labor/bendthecurve/minutes/empowerment.pdf, through the State of Maine’s Department of Labor website (http://www.maine.gov/labor/), and their Bend the Curve initiative.

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Related Articles and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Reading –

Hungry for Empowerment (sidtuli.wordpress.com)

6 Steps to Sustainable Leadership: Feedback Mechanisms (linked2leadership.com)

8 Ways to Find Freedom (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

10 Strategies for Building Confidence in Others (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

Believe in Empowerment? Then Just Do It! (km4meu.wordpress.com)

Delegation and Empowerment (prmarketingcommunication.com)

Enlightened Empowerment (myraqa.com/blog)

The Benefits of Employee Empowerment (cutimes.com)

Cover Story: Reagan on Decision-Making, Planning, Gorbachev, and More (money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune)

Need Some Advice? (managebetternow.com)

Creating A Culture Of Civility (managebetternow.com)

Dropping Keys? (m100group.wordpress.com)

Surround Yourself with High Quality Employees (cambridgeprofessionals.com)

Strategies That Lead to Victory (Part Five)

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Yesterday, I posted part four of this series.  I encourage you to read Strategies That Lead to Victory (Part Four).

From an article in Business Insider entitled “33 War Strategies That Will Help You Win Everything In Life.”

UNCONVENTIONAL (DIRTY) WARFAREUNCONVENTIONAL (DIRTY) WARFARE

The following 11 strategies will give a greater understanding of the diabolical psychology involved in dirty warfare, helping to arm you with the proper defense.  It gets nasty.

23) Weave a seamless blend of fact and fiction

Misconception Strategies

Since no creature can survive without the ability to see or sense what is going on around it, make it hard for your enemies to know what is going on around them, including what you are doing. Feed their expectations, manufacture a reality to match their desires, and they will fool themselves. Control people’s perceptions of reality and you control them.

24) Take the line of least expectation

The Ordinary-Extraordinary Strategy

People expect your behavior to conform to known patterns and conventions. Your task as a strategist is to upset their expectations. First do something ordinary and conventional to fix their image of you, then hit them with the extraordinary. The terror is greater for being so sudden. Sometimes the ordinary is extraordinary because it is unexpected.

Occupy the moral high ground25) Occupy the moral high ground

The Righteous Strategy

In a political world, the cause you are fighting for must seem more than just the enemy’s. By questioning your opponents’ motives and making them appear evil, you can narrow their base of support and room to maneuver. When you find yourself come under moral attack from a clever enemy, do not whine or get angry; fight fire with fire.

Deny them targets26) Deny them targets

The Strategy Of The Void

The feeling of emptiness or void — silence, isolation, non-engagement with others — is for most people intolerable. Give your enemies no target to attack, be dangerous but elusive, then watch as they chase you into the void. Instead of frontal battles, deliver irritating but damaging side attacks and pinprick bites.

27) Seem to work for the interests of others while furthering your own

The Alliance Strategy

The best way to advance your cause with the minimum of effort and bloodshed is to create a constantly shifting network of alliances, getting others to compensate for your deficiencies, do your dirty work, fight your wars. At the same time, you must work to sow dissension in the alliances of others, weakening your enemies by isolating them.

28) Give your rivals enough rope to hang themselves

The One-Upmanship Strategy

Life’s greatest dangers often come not from external enemies but from our supposed colleagues and friend who pretend to work for the common cause while scheming to sabotage us. Work to instill doubts and insecurities in such rivals, getting them to think too much and act defensively. Make them hang themselves through their own self-destructive tendencies, leaving you blameless and clean.

The Fait Accompli Strategy

Overt power grabs and sharp rises to the top are dangerous, creating envy, distrust, and suspicion. Often the best solution is to take small bites, swallow little territories, playing upon people’s relatively short attention spans. Before people realize it, you have accumulated an empire.

Take small bites29) Take small bites

The Fait Accompli Strategy

Overt power grabs and sharp rises to the top are dangerous, creating envy, distrust, and suspicion. Often the best solution is to take small bites, swallow little territories, playing upon people’s relatively short attention spans. Before people realize it, you have accumulated an empire.

30) Penetrate their minds

Communication Strategies

Communication is a kind of war, its field of battle is the resistant and defensive minds of the people you want to influence. The goal is to penetrate their defenses and occupy their minds. Learn to infiltrate your ideas behind enemy lines, sending messages through little details, luring people into coming to the conclusions you desire and into thinking they’ve gotten there by themselves.

31) Destroy from within

The Inner-Front Strategy

By infiltrating your opponents’ ranks, working from within to bring them down, you give them nothing to see or react against — the ultimate advantage. To take something you want, do not fight those who have it, but rather join them — then either slowly make it your own or wait for the moment to stage a coup d’état.

Dominate while seeming to submit32) Dominate while seeming to submit

The Passive-Aggression Strategy

In a world where political considerations are paramount, the most effective form of aggression is the best hidden one: aggression behind a compliant, even loving exterior. To follow the passive-aggression strategy you must seem to go along with people, offering no resistance. But actually you dominate the situation. Just make sure you have disguised your aggression enough that you can deny it exists.

Sow uncertainty and panic through acts of terror33) Sow uncertainty and panic through acts of terror

The Chain-Reaction Strategy

Terror is the ultimate way to paralyze a people’s will to resist and destroy their ability to plan a strategic response. The goal in a terror campaign is not battlefield victory but causing maximum chaos and provoking the other side into desperate overreaction. To plot the most effective counter-strategy, victims of terror must stay balanced. One’s rationality is the last line of defense.

A soldier’s greatest weapon is himself

——> Continue reading 33 War Strategies That Will Help You Win Everything In Life via Business Insider

For additional content related to today’s excerpt, please see Part 5: Unconventional (Dirty) Warfare via Wikipedia.

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Source –

33 War Strategies That Will Help You Win Everything In Life – Business Insider / Military & Defense – By Eloise Lee – Posted May 4, 2012 – http://www.businessinsider.com/33-strategies-of-war-you-should-apply-to-everyday-life-2012-5 – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Business Insider – http://www.businessinsider.com/

based on the book The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

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Additional Resources –

The 33 Strategies of War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – page was last modified on 19 April 2012 at 14:42 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_33_Strategies_of_War – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/

Strategies That Lead to Victory (Part Four)

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Yesterday, I posted part three of this series.  I encourage you to read Strategies That Lead to Victory (Part Three).

From an article in Business Insider entitled “33 War Strategies That Will Help You Win Everything In Life.”

OFFENSIVE WARFARE

The next 11 strategies outline the form of warfare practiced by the most successful captains in history. 

The secret to their success is a blend of strategic cleverness and audacity — it will give all of your attacks much greater force.

Lose battles but end the war 12) Lose Battles But End The War

Grand Strategy

It’s the art of looking beyond the battle and calculating ahead. It requires that you focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it. Let others get caught up in the twists and turns of the battle, relishing their little victories. Grand strategy will bring you the ultimate reward: the last laugh.

Know your enemy13) Know your enemy

The Intelligence Strategy

The target of your strategies should be less the army you face than the mind or women who runs it. If you understand how that mind works, you have the key to deceiving and controlling it. Train yourself to read people, picking up the signals they unconsciously send about their innermost thoughts and intentions.

Overwhelm resistance with speed and suddenness14) Overwhelm resistance with speed and suddenness

The Blitzkrieg Strategy

In a world in which many people are indecisive and overly cautious, the use of speed will bring you untold power. Striking first, before your opponents have time to think or prepare, will make them emotional, unbalanced, and prone to error.

15) Control the dynamic

Forcing Strategies

People are constantly struggling to control you. The only way to get the upper hand is to make your play for control more intelligence and insidious. Instead of trying to dominate the other side’s every move, work to define the nature of the relationship itself. Maneuver to control your opponents’ minds, pushing their emotional buttons and compelling them to make mistakes.

16) Hit them where it hurts

The Center-Of-Gravity Strategy

Everyone has a source of power on which he or she depends. When you look at your rivals, search below the surface for that source, the center of gravity that holds the entire structure together. Hitting them there will inflict disproportionate pain. Find what the other side most cherishes and protects — that is where you must strike.

Defeat them in denial17) Defeat them in denial

The Divide-And-Conquer Strategy

Never be intimated by your enemy’s appearance. Instead, look at the parts that make up the whole. By separating the parts, sowing dissension and division, you can bring down even the most formidable foe. When you are facing troubles or enemies, turn a large problem into small, eminently defeatable parts.

18) Expose and attack your opponent’s soft flank

The Turning Strategy

When you attack people directly, you stiffen their resistance and make your task that much harder. There is a better way: Distract your opponents’ attention to the front, then attack them from the side, where they least expect it. Bait people into going out on a limb exposing their weakness, then rake them with fire from the side.

Envelop the enemy19) Envelop the enemy

The Annihilation Strategy

People will use any kind of gap in your defenses to attack you. So offer no gaps. The secret is to envelop your opponents — create relentless pressure on them from all sides and close off their access to the outside world. As you send their weakening resolve, crush their willpower by tightening the noose.

Maneuver them into weakness20) Maneuver them into weakness

The Ripening-For-The-Sickle Strategy

No matter how strong you are, fighting endless battles with people is exhausting, costly, and unimaginative. Wise strategist prefer the art of maneuver: Before the battle even begins, they find ways to put their opponents in positions of such weakness that victory is easy and quick. Create dilemmas: Devise maneuvers that give them a choice of ways to respond — all of them bad.

21) Negotiate while advancing

The Diplomatic-War Strategy

Before and during negotiations, you must keep advancing, creating relentless pressure and compelling the other side to settle on your terms. The more you take, the more you can give back in meaningless concessions. Create a reputation for being tough and uncompromising, so that people are back on their heels before they even meet you.

Know how to end things22) Know how to end things

The Exit Strategy

You are judged in this world by how well you bring things to an end. A messy or incomplete conclusion can reverberate for years to come. The art of ending things well is knowing when to stop. The height of strategic wisdom is to avoid all conflicts and entanglements from which there are no realistic exits.

——> Continue reading 33 War Strategies That Will Help You Win Everything In Life via Business Insider

For additional content related to today’s excerpt, please see Part 4: Offensive Warfare via Wikipedia.

Strategies That Lead to Victory (Part Five), discussing Unconventional (Dirty) Warfare, will be presented on Command Performance Leadership tomorrow, May 10, 2012

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Source –

33 War Strategies That Will Help You Win Everything In Life – Business Insider / Military & Defense – By Eloise Lee – Posted May 4, 2012 – http://www.businessinsider.com/33-strategies-of-war-you-should-apply-to-everyday-life-2012-5 – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Business Insider – http://www.businessinsider.com/

based on the book The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Additional Resources –

The 33 Strategies of War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – page was last modified on 19 April 2012 at 14:42 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_33_Strategies_of_War – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/

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