Published on February 15, 2014
Learning to Lead: Ten things I wish I had known then, that I know now
Two things before we start… • First – most of what I’m about to share with you I heard in some form from either my mom or my dad before I was eight years old. Mom had 4 years of public schools and my dad only 2. In the years since I have probably heard at least 5 variations of each important lesson by more highly educated and highly paid professionals. My point is you probably already know what I’m sharing, but maybe I’ll reinforce it’s value. • Second – one of my favorite mentors once told me “you know and teach the very best leadership, but you create problems for yourself and others by not always practicing what you know and teach.” My advice to you is to find what works for you and to use it, always.
Learning to Lead: ten things I wish I had known then 1. The OODA Loop 2. The Process Model 3. The Situation Appraisal 4. The Priorities Model 5. The Leadership Model 6. The Capability Model 7. The Personalities Model 8. The Culture Model 9. The Team Model 10. The Closure Model
# 1: The OODA Loop Hindsight is 20/20. If I had known then what I know now, the first leadership lesson would have been the OODA loop. The story behind the OODA loop is that many early combat pilots were lost because of crashes after becoming disoriented in clouds. So, pilots were taught to Observe, Orient, Decide, then Act. In my early career, I often crashed and burned because of Acting while Deciding then Orienting, and Observing. I had to learn through experience to slow down my natural extroverted judging personality. Acting and speaking before fully thinking is still a challenge but OODA helps me. Perhaps my career could have advanced faster and further if I had been an early OODA adapter.
#2: The Process Model It’s not that I didn’t hear “you are what you eat”; “you become what you believe”; “find and follow your star/God’s gift”; and “choose your friends carefully.” I fully got “garbage in and garbage out.” What I didn’t get was the systematic and logical process of “procure-protectpromote-provide.” I often accepted less than the best and then had to work harder at protecting and promoting to provide an inferior product or service. All the adages I dreaded when younger have proven to be sage advice and the messengers to be mentors. The process model is Input + Process = Output. My success has been higher when I give the model priority and thought.
#3: The Situation Appraisal I learned early to size up a situation by asking “what’s happening here?” What I didn’t learn until near mid-career was to ask if the situation was a problem, a potential problem, a decision, or, an opportunity. Once I learned the keys to processing information differently for each, it seems every situation became an opportunity. Opportunities fueled my optimism and my optimism directed and energized my personal life and work.
#4: • • • • • • Spirituality Health Family Finances Development Growth The Priorities Model In my youth, I had trouble understanding that goal setting is about setting priorities. It was only after wresting with what comes first in my life did I understand the importance and priorities of life goals. It was only after watching others close to me ruin their health, their sense of dignity and self-esteem, their families, and their careers that I learned to put first things first. Spirituality is about who I am and what I believe, my true North. Health is necessary for sustaining all else. Family is who I turn to when the world turns away. Finances are what I need to sustain my family, health, and spirituality. Development is what confirms for me that there is more to see, learn and do. Growth is what motivates and rewards me. My personal life improved with the priorities model. Then, my career improved when I found the parallel priorities exist in all organizations, and I began using that knowledge to advance.
#5: • • • • The Leadership Model Communicate Motivate Educate Administrate My dad would say “this is what we need to do and what we will get when we do it, if we do it this way and finish it by this time”. We harvested our crops, cared for our livestock, filled our pantries and cupboards, and kept a roof over our heads using this model. Dad communicated, motivated, educated, and administrated as well as any leader I’ve ever known. I believe he learned from his father who learned from his father. Years later I feel almost guilty to be paid to learn and then teach the same model in practically the same words and the same order. During my career I have been exposed to a dozen or more leadership models. My dad is the one I follow. He knows best.
#6: • • • • • Aware Believe Comprehend Do Excel The Capability Model Mom was probably the first to tell me practice makes perfect. Likely I was learning to dress myself or tie my shoes. Years into my career I learned the definition of capability to be the combination of ability and capacity. Even more years later I learned that I could not jump into Performance Excellence with the ‘next new thing’ and should not expect others to either. It seems a person, group, and organization have to move from awareness to believing to build comprehension in order to do the next new thing repeatedly with commitment to build capability to excel. There are no shortcuts.
#7: • • • • The Personalities Model Visionary Coach Troubleshooter Manager Mom and dad blessed me with two older brothers, one older sister, one younger sister and one younger brother. We were as different from each other as humanly possible. The oldest brother and sister were both troubleshooters. He was more task oriented. She was more feelings oriented. The next older brother was a visionary. He could see it coming but couldn’t get out of the way. The younger sister managed the entire family in her own special way. The younger brother watched us and became the coach. Me in the middle became the facilitator, a combination of v/c/t/m (all four). It helps me to seem a little wishy washy being able to see all sides like I do. Mom said we are each special in our own way. Some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of us. Mid-career I became certified in Personality Typing because we all needed to learn to get along in our organization. Mom knew that. It is a good lesson.
#8: • • • • Tools Language Institutions Art The Culture Model About mid career I learned the tools we use to do our work introduce words to the language we speak which influences the way we meet (institutions) and the way we express ourselves (art). One of the top universities in the world did a study for one of the world’s largest organizations to help the organization through ‘culture shock.’ A premise of the study is that all cultures have these 4 components, however different. Deep within the study is the conclusion stated above, only stated more scholarly. Looking back it is easy to see how the tools of the information age have influenced world culture. Introducing a new tool (hardware or software) reinforces the Russian adage “You can dance with a bear by choosing the time, the place, and the music. But once you begin to dance, the bear will determine the speed, the duration, and your final condition.”
#9: • • • • Form Storm Norm Perform The Team Model I’m pretty sure I learned this model as a child playing with others. It would have saved me a lot of grief and pain if I had understood. It seems a team is usually quiet when forming and remains so until the members begin to question the leader and each other. This brings on the storming which continues until direction, support, roles, responsibilities and boundaries are clear. With storming clearing norming begins and continues until relationships are established and accepted. Then, the performing can begin. But, the process can restart with a change such as a new leader, new member, new direction, and a change in support. My best times as a leader have been when the direction and support were clear and steady and the team stayed together.
#10: • • • • Feelings Questions Actions Assignments The Closure Model We don’t want to count the times I could have been a better leader if I had consistently closed using this model. It really is about practicing active listening. Believe me, extroverted judgmental people can stumble here. Take the time at the end of meetings to ask: How do you feel about…? What needs to be done? What can be done differently? What are our next steps? What actions need to be taken? What are the assignments? What are the expectations? What are the due dates? Are you comfortable with the plan?
In Conclusion Leading is the ultimate challenge. Someone once shared with me “we the unwilling, led by the unknowing have been asked to do so much with so little for so long that we are now capable of doing almost everything with practically nothing in no time at all”. So, why not make the best of it? Two things to do to enhance your leadership: First – determine how you feel about “learning to lead” and what you will do differently. It is ok to disagree with what I’ve shared. Second – determine what you need to know and do to enhance your leadership knowledge and capability, and write your own timeline. Then, do it with commitment, and consistency.
Learning to Lead For information about the author search: • LinkedIn Profile for Mitchell W. Manning, Sr. For more from the author search: • SlideShare Presentations and Documents by Mitchell W. Manning, Sr.
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