Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Taming the “Tyranny of the Urgent”

By Lt. Col. Aaron Hopper, 71st Flying Training Wing Safety Office / Published August 21, 2014

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFNS) -- Many Airmen lead incredibly busy lives, full of unfinished tasks that we often wish we had more hours in the day to fit it all in, and in our professional lives, budgets remain tight, the Air Force is shrinking, and we are challenged to do more with less.

Yet the demands on our time never seem to diminish. We are overdue on annual online training, our shop will be inspected next week, our co-worker just deployed (their work is now ours), our inboxes are full, and we recently accepted another Outlook invitation for a meeting whose purpose is a mystery.

In our personal lives, we rush to juggle kids' activities, clean the house, make ends meet with both parents working, attempt to resolve the latest family drama, and maybe, just maybe, fit in a workout. We work hard. We hurry to complete tasks, but we never seem to have time to finish our "to do" lists.

Moreover, when we collapse exhausted at the end of the day, we are not quite sure whether we spent our time working on the right things. We may even feel guilt or remorse over the way we spent our day or the things that we did not do.

Our problem, however, is not the length of a day, but rather the misdirection of our attention and priorities. Even if we had 48 hours in a day, we would quickly fill those hours with additional tasks. The additional time would not guarantee an unhurried or well-ordered life.

In 1967, Charles Hummel, a former president of Barrington College in Rhode Island, detailed this problem in a short essay that he called, "The Tyranny of the Urgent."

In it, he wrote that, "We live in a constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week ... (but) the momentary appeal of (urgent) tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy."

Unfortunately, we live in a fast-paced, high-tech environment, where cell phones, email and social media relentlessly compete for our attention and invade the precious moments we set aside to deal with important matters.

Distractions are rampant and demands for our time are unending. In the midst of all of our busyness, how do we focus on the important and tame the "Tyranny of the Urgent?"

I have a few suggestions:

1. Identify your priorities. What is most important at home and at work? It could be a long-term project that is more important than two dozen unread emails in your inbox. It could be a talk with your teenager that is more important than the extra hour at work you need to meet an urgent suspense.

2. Schedule your priorities. Urgent suspenses always find a way to shove aside the important suspenses when you fail to schedule priorities. If a new fitness goal is your top priority, then block off time on your calendar to work out

3. Don't manage priorities by emails or phone calls.

The fact that someone emails or calls you does not mean they require your immediate attention. Voice mail is a wonderful tool. Allow a caller to leave a message, and return the call when the important task is complete. In my home, for example, family meals are sacred. We almost never answer the phone or a text message during a meal, regardless of who is calling.

Do not feel the need to read or answer every email when it arrives or in the order it was received. Scan for priority messages, write down tasks that arrive by email, prioritize those tasks, then turn off the email and work your list in priority order.

I was assigned to the Pentagon when Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III became our new chief of staff . The first week on the job, he notified us that he checks email only twice per day and that we had to visit or call his office if we had a matter that was important enough to warrant his immediate attention. If it works for our chief, it can work for us.

4. Reschedule the urgent. Once your priorities have been scheduled, it will be clear how much time and attention you can devote to urgent, but less important matters. Delegate, reschedule, refuse or request extensions for urgent tasks that are not truly important. If conflicts exist, or another shop believes their urgent request is more important than your priorities, use your chain of command to resolve and/or re-prioritize the conflicts.

5. Remain flexible. At times, there are phone calls and emails that genuinely demand our immediate attention and priority. Though fewer and further between than we might think, we must be able to identify new priorities and reorder our schedules to accommodate tasks that are both urgent and important.

The most important things in our lives are not always the most urgent things. We frequently and easily set aside important tasks to deal with those whose urgency appears to make them important. Our challenge is not so much the amount of time we have, but the way in which we spend that time.

As former astronaut Story Musgrave remarked during a lecture I once attended, "You have time in life to do anything you want, but not time to do everything you want."

Monday, August 18, 2014

CRW Airman reaches ‘Warrior’ status in Leadership Pathways

by Senior Airman Charles Rivezzo
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

8/18/2014 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Since the establishment of Leadership Pathways in 2012, only two Airmen have ever reached the program's top-tier. Until recently, when Senior Airman Akeem Washington, 573rd Global Support Squadron, became just the third Airman in Air Mobility Command to stake his claim at attaining 'Warrior' status.

The Leadership Pathways program is designed to encourage the Total Force, Department of Defense civilians and family members to participate in wing programs and activities that strengthen individual, family and unit resilience using the four domains of Comprehensive Airman Fitness - mental, physical, social and spiritual.

Each course taken in the program allots a certain amount of credits to the individual. Wingman level is achieved at 10 credits, Leader level at 20 and Warrior level at 30.

For Washington, entry into the program was an after-thought as he had unknowingly taken multiple fitness and nutrition classes that fell within the Leadership Pathways spectrum.

"I'm big into fitness so I naturally gravitated toward those classes without even knowing they were tied into Leadership Pathways," he said. "I'm always searching for knowledge and wanting to take advantage of what the Air Force has to offer. Leadership Pathways gave me that opportunity."

The Los Angeles native went on to take an array of classes ranging from fitness and nutrition to anger management to the seven habits of highly effective people - a class for which Washington advocates.

"I think every Airman should take this class before they become a noncommissioned officer," he said. "It helps you as a person, but it correlates perfectly with your Air Force life and the Air Force core values. All of it correlates into being an effective supervisor and leader."

For the prior C-5 Galaxy maintainer, it wasn't just tangible knowledge and skill-sets that had the greatest impact on him; it was the unforeseen networking he encountered with others around the base that stood out most.

"I work in the armory, so I don't get the chance to meet people from half my squadron, let alone the rest of Travis Air Force Base," Washington said. "Every time you go to one of these classes you get to meet different people. You get the chance to network with people and hear about their careers fields and what they do and what their impact on the mission. It gave me an opportunity to see the bigger Air Force picture."

Washington added that in today's fiscally constrained environment, now is the time to take advantage of these programs while they are still available.

"It just comes down to the fact that if it's not being utilized and participated in, it is going to get cut," he said. "As long as your supervision allows it, you have got to take advantage of this program.

"Everyone goes through TAPS before they separate from the military and take a lot of these classes, but why wait until the end of your career to gain these skills when you could have used them throughout your career."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Department Head Leadership Course Debuts at NLEC

By Rosalie Bolender, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Twelve active duty and Reserve Supply Corps students from the Naval Supply Corps School (NSCS) successfully completed the newly developed Department Head Leadership Pilot Course (DHLPC) at the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center (NLEC) Aug. 15.

The weeklong course was taught jointly by NLEC and the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) College of Operational and Strategic Leadership (COSL).

At the command level, it is imperative that the Navy's future leaders and department heads are educated not only in their areas of expertise, but in ethics and leadership effectiveness as well. The DHLPC course upholds the NWC's mission of developing such leaders, combined with a strong sense of preparing its students for real world operations.

"We chose to embark on a proof-of-concept for department heads because it's such a pivotal position within any command," stated Capt. Mark Johnson, NLEC commanding officer. "These officers will be required to lead other officers, and for most of them it's the first time in their careers where they will be charged with that responsibility. This curriculum gives us the opportunity to leave an impact on them."

The DHLPC course is designed to prepare students for their next career milestones by centering activities on relevant challenges that are faced by department head leaders today. Students develop their leadership capabilities through a series of reading assignments, writing and reflection, lectures, and case-based learning methods on the topics of self-awareness, ethics and professionalism, team building, and decision making.

"Leadership is of utmost importance in the development of oneself and the development of people for the good of the Navy," said Lt. Cmdr. David Kolberg, a DHLPC student. "This course looked like an excellent opportunity to help develop myself as a leader, as well as to be put in a situation to learn more about current ethical training."

This course has a strong focus on both ethics and character; it ensures that the talents that students develop as leaders are as administrative as they are ethical. In addition, the course offers students an in-depth assessment of their own personalities, and also those of their peers, as an exercise in understanding problem solving and communication. This theme is later translated into an assessment of different learning styles and leadership tactics relating to the personality of an individual, which are then broken down in case-studies.

Lt. j.g. Courtney Fowler, DHLPC student, remarked, "Leadership is not static, it's dynamic. That alone was incredibly enlightening for me, to know that one leadership style doesn't always work. It was very powerful to study the theories first and then apply them to a real-world scenario."

The DHLPC course is taught by NWC COSL professors retired Capt. John Meyer, Olenda Johnson and Gene Anderson; and NLEC professors Cmdr. Kate Standifer, Cdr. Tom Dickinson, and Lt. Cmdr. Ed Rush.

"The model for NWC professors coming to NLEC to teach has already been established in some of the other command-level courses that we run," said Johnson. "What's different about this course is the greater level of integration and synergy between NLEC and the NWC, and that's what really makes it special. NWC's COSL formed the Navy Leader Development Strategy, and the Leader Development Outcomes are associated with that strategy, so it was natural to have that kind of expertise in leader development assist us in putting together this pilot course."

This was the first run of the DHLPC course. It will be taught again during an October session incorporating refinements to the material based on feedback from students and faculty and from the five observers from NSCS, the Center for Personal and Professional Development, and Naval Air Forces who watched as the pilot course was taught. The command-level course curricula will then be updated sometime in the spring of 2015.

"This course gave me the tools and self-awareness that are needed to position myself and those who work for me to better serve the country," said Kolberg. "The nation needs to be able to trust that their sons and daughters are being led by people they can rely on."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Seminar delivers 'Growth through Knowledge'

by Master Sgt. Minnette Mason
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

8/15/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash -- More than 150 Airmen of various ranks came together Aug. 7 for a two-day Professional Development Seminar at the American Lake Conference Center at Lewis North.

Themed "Growth through Knowledge," the event focused on current trends that may influence Airmen, both in the reserve and active duty, and their personal and professional progression.

"If you don't know what your strengths are, or your opportunities, you're going to fail," said Daniel Yeomans, Air Force Sergeants Association International president and retired Air Force chief master sergeant.

Yeomans, one of 13 presenters during the seminar, is a lead course developer at Northwest University. He has attained three professional certifications, including Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence. He provided insight on how to combine personal strengths and opportunities to overcome challenges and, ultimately, be successful.

"When I handed over my Air Force, I wondered what [it] would be like in five years ... 10 years [from now]," Yeomans said.

Fortunately, providing information on modern-day topics in the Air Force was the mission of the other presenters. Mary Goreczny, benefits assistant with the Veterans Administration, clarified the options for Reservists who were interested in education benefits. Chief Master Sergeant Anthony Mack, 446th Airlift Wing command chief, explained the process of submitting a Reserve Enlisted Development Plan. Lastly, Reserve and active duty chief master sergeants synchronously facilitated an open discussion about Total Force Integration.

Chief Master Sergeant David Sanchez, 446th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, demonstrated how Reserve and active duty Airmen intertwine by asking attendees to identify whether they served on active duty, volunteered for deployments, or are strictly part-time Reservists. Roughly 70 percent of the attendees spent time working alongside active-duty Airmen.

"When you think about leadership, think about the person sitting to the right and left of you," said retired Col. Bruce Bowers, former 446th Airlift Wing commander. "When it comes to wearing the uniform, never forget that it is a privilege."

The colonel made an appearance at the seminar two days prior to his retirement ceremony.

"I get the opportunity to retire after 30 years. I feel like that's a 'win-win' for us," he said. Bowers explained the importance of advancing the Air Force by allowing Airmen to progress into senior positions.

The Airmen were also provided opportunities to discuss their concerns regarding the future of the force. During a speed mentoring exercise, roughly 18 senior NCOs rotated around the room to facilitate small group discussions regarding any questions or concerns about their careers.

"The mentors told [us] how to get to the next level; how to get there, where to go, and what to do," said Staff Sgt. John Magno, a knowledge operations specialist with the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Magno said he felt encouraged, especially when it comes to completing his associate's degree through Community College of the Air Force.

Magno participated in all the exercises that were facilitated during the seminar including a "people puzzle," where participants reflected on their own personalities and temperaments. They learned about four general traits and were divided into respective groups to discuss common behaviors. After the discussion, the groups were debriefed and provided worksheets for note-taking.

"The information we got is not just for the Reserve, but also in my civilian job," Magno added.

"It doesn't matter how good the information is; it matters if you use it or not," said Master Sgt. James Briggs, 446th Military Equal Opportunity superintendent and final presenter at the seminar.

"The goal of an inspiring leader is to cast a vision," he said. "We're all leaders in here, and we need to know why we're doing what we're doing."

Sunday, August 03, 2014

USO Partnership Builds Veterans’ Leadership Skills

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ESTES PARK, Colo., Aug. 3, 2014 – The United Services Organization, in partnership with Team Red, White and Blue, held a leadership seminar here yesterday to encourage veterans to use their unique skills to improve their communities.

Held during a rock-climbing camp 7,522 feet above sea level, J.J. Pinter, director of operations for Team Red, White and Blue, led the seminar emphasizing leadership and effective communication.

Team Red, White and Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The organization has more than 100 chapters, Pinter said, noting they are located in every state and in 10 countries with only nine employees. Volunteer leaders make up the bulk of the organization’s personnel.

To open the training Pinter asked a simple question -- does the country have enough leaders?

“Reading the news and what’s going on in the world, does anyone think that we have a surplus of leadership?” he asked. “Does anyone think that’s the case? That’s one of the reasons we’re talking about this.”

Pinter noted a recent leadership survey among veterans where they “unanimously” said they “still wanted to be leaders and they still wanted to lead after they got out of the service.”

“So it just makes sense,” he said. “We’ve got all of these veterans that still want to continue leading, and some of them have the leadership skills to do it and some of them don’t.”

That’s another reason to do seminar like this one, Pinter said, “because we want to help equip veterans to be better leaders.”

“We want to make our organization better, but we want to make our country better at the same time,” he said.

“And we want to make veterans better,” Pinter continued. “During the course of this thing, [if] you take one thing that you can go back to your job with and make you a little bit more efficient after we’ve talked about it … that’s a win.”

During the leadership seminar, Pinter combined definitions of leadership from the 18 veterans in attendance with examples they’ve experienced throughout their lives and careers.

“Team Red, White and Blue goes out of its way to try to find people,” he said, “and try to develop people who can be good local leaders for us.”

“We want to build stronger leaders because we want to have a strong organization and stronger communities,” Pinter said. “You know who’s going to do this? Veterans are going to do this.”

Pinter pointed to the generation of Americans known as the Greatest Generation as inspiration for leading the nation.

“Those guys fought and won World War II and Korea,” he said. “They came back and became titans of industry and leaders of our country for the next 50 years, right?”

They grew up in the Great Depression, Pinter said, and then they went and accomplished many great things

“There’s not a single reason our generation of veterans can’t do the same thing,” he said. “We’re at the tail end of the two longest wars our country has ever fought right now, and smaller pools of people have fought those wars than before.”

“Think about all that leadership experience,” he said. “There’s no reason that you can’t go back in your communities and be the leaders that our country is drastically needing.”

Pinter went on to remind the veterans of their response to his initial questions.

“The first question I asked you guys was do we have enough leaders in this country and everyone said ‘no,’” he said. “So go fix that.”

Mike Oldham, a Navy vet who attended the seminar and participated in the rock-climbing camp, shared his thoughts on the training.

“I thought the information was very relevant for the group,” he said. “I thought it was useful information that we can take back and apply in Red, White and Blue, and apply in our jobs and social lives.”

“I thought it was very practical and well presented,” Oldham continued. “The information wasn’t some sort of a new theory that you hadn’t heard before. It was a good compilation of information in a format that was easy to understand and will be easy to remember and apply in, sort of, day-to-day life.”

Oldham, a Golden, Colorado, native, said his personal definition of leadership is “a person that can motivate and inspire other people to get outside of their comfort zone and accomplish real, meaningful goals.”

“I think the emphasis, to me, is being able to get people out of their comfort zone,” he said. “Get them to push themselves and help push other people in places that they wouldn’t normally go.”

Mike Greenwood, an Army veteran from Colorado Springs, Colorado, also agreed the seminar was a valuable resource.

“Like J.J. said, we’re not selling anything except for relationships or people,” he said. “So you can get companies who have this distorted view, but it was simple.”

“It was ‘Build that relationship and be that person in the community that veterans can look up to and be there,’” Greenwood said.

Being there, he noted, can mean just “shutting your mouth and listening,” because that’s pretty important to just kind of hear that person out and go from there.

Greenwood said he made his definition of leadership “simple” -- belief and motivation.

“A leader can motivate people to do something that they believe in,” he said. “You have to buy into what you’re doing in order to get other people to do what you want them to do, or they need to do.”

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Understanding sergeant's words: 'I've got your back'

By Chief Master Sgt. Patricia Yelverton, 60th Medical Support Squadron superintendent / Published August 01, 2014

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- Seeing the newly selected staff sergeants recently brought back memories of when I was selected for staff sergeant.

Actually, my thoughts went to the night I graduated Airman Leadership School. As I crossed the stage after receiving my completion certificate, my co-workers gathered to congratulate me and shake my hand. My supervisor, Staff Sgt. Todd Mitchell, stayed back at the table and as I approached he shook my hand and said, "I've got your back."

I said, "Thank you," as I sat down.

While cheering on my fellow graduates, I started thinking of what my supervisor said to me. What did he mean? I expected "Congratulations" or "You did awesome," but not "I've got your back."

The next morning at work, I immediately asked my supervisor if we could talk.

I asked him, "What did you mean last night when you said, 'I've got your back?'" His response was surprising and informative.

"Everyone has a specific role in our section,” he said. “Before yesterday, your role was to master skills required as an Airman and a Health Service Management Apprentice. Today, your role changes to a frontline supervisor which includes responsibility for others. My duties also changed today, I am now your first line of defense, meaning I've got your back."

He explained, as tasks flow down from above, I will always keep you informed and prepared to complete the mission. Also, leadership will always be aware of what you and your Airmen are working on and what requirements are being met and exceeded. Most importantly, you will make many decisions affecting personnel on a personal level as well as a professional level. Your Airmen will not always agree with you and they will come to me.

“When this happens, I want you to know, I've got your back,” he continued. “I will never question your decisions in front of subordinates and will never ask you to change your mind on a decision as long as it upholds the values of the Air Force. I have to make sure your subordinates understand you are the leader and will make the decisions.”

That single conversation made me a better supervisor and leader. Throughout my entire career those words have been engraved in my mind. Mitchell was right that night. I didn't need the usual congrats, good job or well done on my graduation night. I needed to be reminded what my next step in my career was and what responsibilities lie ahead as an NCO. His words gave me the confidence in my abilities to be not only the NCO I was back then, but also the chief master sergeant and leader I am today.

I have stayed in touch with now retired Master Sgt. Mitchell, for advice and mentoring. We still talk about that conversation and how he knew exactly what I needed to hear that day. He reminded me as I, in turn, remind you, "Those we lead need to know they have leaders who will stand behind them through the good and the bad."

Today, I challenge all of you to let your subordinates know you have their back.