Don’t Be Stupid. Don’t Be the Boss. Lead.

Micromanagement breeds cynicism

A common phrase used by my military supervisors was “Don’t be stupid.”  Besides the mission, my overriding goal while in uniform was not being “That Guy.”

Here’s how I avoid it in my corporate life – be a leader.

Humility is a big part of leadership.  I’ve observed time and again how The Boss is convinced that he is the Smartest Guy in the Room, and dictates not only the objective, but the strategy and the tactics.  This worked when they were a functional expert (maybe), or technical leader – but it doesn’t work when in charge of a larger, cross functional team.

Some might call that micromanagement.  I just call it being stupid.  Which is why micromanagers are often referred to as The Boss.

Learning from others is a key part of being a leader.  Three key tasks can set you apart as A Leader, vs. being The Boss:

  • Invite interaction.  Lay out the issue at hand, and ask for input.  Sincerely ask for input, with an open mind – not filibuster for 7 minutes and then look at the team, asking, “What do you think?”  The filibuster breeds cynicism. True interaction brings out team engagement.
  • Listen. Really, really listen. I know that is difficult for driver types, but ensure that you look at the person speaking (not at your phone), and ask clarifying questions.
  • Check for engagement. Once the team has determined the course of action, summarize the next steps. Then, go around the group and ask if anyone has anything to add. Make sure they verbalize or acknowledge. In a functioning team, this simple step can be the glue that binds the team to the decision, or uncovers the hidden dissent that starts the process over again.

For The Boss, there is only one way – their way.  With a Leader, the team engagement identifies several options – and the group selects the right one.

Is the person you work for a Boss, or a Leader? Which will you be? It’s a choice – and it’s up to you.

So you want to start your own business?

Come walk with me, and learn from my mistakes

As part of rethinking the corporate grind, you may want to start your own thing.  Whether it is a side business or your main thing, hopefully I can help you as I start my own.

I’ve spent a week working to get this site up and running, and as you can tell, it is a work in progress…much like my business.  I am definitely not a techie.

Here are the steps I’ve taken in the past week:

  1. I decided to take the plunge.  Whether you are pushed, have decided to do it yourself, or a combination of both – this is a big deal!
  2. I formed my own company.  Cost $300 to file with the state.  Fortunately, I have a close friend who is a lawyer and an entrepreneur, so he spent some time on the phone with me and handled the paperwork.
  3. I bought the domain names associated with my business.  Domain names are simply the url’s – the web address that you type into your browser (internet explorer, safari, firefox, etc.)  I used namecheap.com, and I recommend them.  Easy to use, and relatively inexpensive at under $100 for multiple domains.
  4. I set up hosting for my site.  Hosting is simply the servers that run your website.  I’m using A Simple Orange.  Fantastic support – online chat helped me tremendously.  Inexpensive at less than $5 a month.
  5. As part of site hosting, I installed wordpress.  WordPress allows you to set up the bones of a website, and it provides structure for millions of websites.  And it is free for the self-hosted version!

In the next few posts, I’ll take you through the other resources that I’m using as I launch my website and my online alter-ego.

Do you have any questions about “how to?”

Swagger?

Not at 22

Swagger. You really don’t have it. No matter how much Old Spice you purchase. Not at 22.

When I was 22, I was convinced I was the absolute best US Air Force air weapons officer on the planet. I spent my time in the back of the E3 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft, talking to fighter pilots and practicing air-to-air engagements against Soviet style tactics. Maverick/Tom Cruise from Top Gun? Pansy. I mean, I had a whole 200 hours in the AWACS…half of them as a student, with an instructor weapons officer overseeing my every move. I. Was. Awesome. Just ask me.

Fortunately for me, and the pilots and aircrews I would work with during my Air Force career, I learned to listen to experience. Real experience, from real combat officers who had “been there.” Whenever I get the chance, I pass along some of the best lessons from the folks who cared about me, both in the military and in corporate life:

  1. Leadership by example. Don’t ask others to do what you won’t do – whether it is deploying over the holidays, or completing the annual corporate compliance training. Folks watch what you do, and emulate you.
  2. Communications cadence. Listen intently to what the other party has to say. Digest their meaning, and then respond. It’s efficient, it’s effective, and it works to move the conversation along. Or put iron on target.
  3. Hard work never hurts in the long run. Yes, I know – work/life balance and all that. But when it’s crunch time – get in early, grab the task list, and just get it done.
  4. Look out for your people. Whether they are your troops, your direct reports, your boss, or your colleagues in the company, your well-being and future are tied to theirs. Look out for them, grow them, and everyone wins.
  5. Be humble. Probably the first lesson that my first supervisor taught me on a combat readiness check. “Yeah, you’re okay to go to Desert Shield. But don’t be stupid. You’re not as good as you think you are, and if you don’t keep your eyes open, you’ll get somebody killed.” Or something like that. His point was well taken – you can learn from everyone and everything. Be open to that.

Good lessons from good leaders.Too bad I didn’t know them and fully internalize them, especially number 5, fresh out of flying training! I. Was. Insufferable. And didn’t know it, or didn’t care. Don’t be that guy!