Archive for the ‘Leadership Concepts and Application’ Category

Effective Delegation Saves Time, yet Initially it Requires Time

December 7, 2012
  • Delegation is the process of entrusting a task or a part of a task to others.
  • Know what cannot be delegated – make sure you properly assess the task and the level of competency, confidentiality, and commitment required to complete the given task SUCCESSFULLY. Do not put yourself or any of your Team in a position where they cannot succeed. Remember: Failure can be successful if learning occurs.
  • Granting Authority: you can delegate authority, however you cannot delegate responsibility. When you delegate a task, it is important to remember this: in the eyes of YOUR Manager, ultimately you are still responsible for the successful completion of all tasks delegated to you, INCLUDING the tasks that you delegate to others.
  • Creates an Obligation: delegation creates an obligation for both of you-to each other. This mutual obligation, granting authority and entrusting a task are like a three-legged stool. Each depends on the others to support the whole. No one can stand alone.

Deterrents to Delegation

1. Why don’t I delegate better ?

  • “I can do it better myself.” -Yes, AND you can’t do it ALL better yourself. For most of us, there is too much to do and too little time to do it. Take the time to develop others. Someday they may be sitting in your seat.
  • “I can’t trust others to do it as well.” -Trust is reciprocal. You get what you give. As a leader you may have to take the first step towards building trust with your team. Delegating a task to someone shows that you trust them to handle the responsibility and you believe in their abilities.
  • “I am reluctant to take the risk they’ll fail.” -Taking risk is a part of a leader’s job. If you’re not taking risks and making mistakes you’re probably not leading much. Remember, leaders operate where things are being done for the first time, where there is no road map. You’re bound to take a wrong turn. We all make mistakes – recover and move on.
  • “I don’t have time to involve others.” -Then make time. It may cost you time upfront, however, the long term investment ensures a solid foundation of informed, trained, and competent team members/associates.
  • “I feel my team members resent when I follow up on their work.” -Following up is done out of RESPECT for them and their work. Because you RESPECT and APPRECIATE your team members and the contributions they make, it is your job as a leader to confirm how much value they add. Additionally, follow up will help you and your team members decide where the learning opportunities are simply by conducting brief After Action Review (AAR) or “lessons learned.”
  • “I can’t bring myself to delegate ‘busy work’.” – Busy work is a part of any organization and any job function. If they are going to be standing in your shoes eventually, let’s make sure they understand up front just how they fit and what comes with the fancy laces.
  • “I can’t delegate to my friends.” – It’s hard to separate work from fun, family from friends, and team members from friends. Oh, well. That’s just part of being a leader. Get used to it. There is no easy way out for a leader. Keep the communication open and treat others with dignity and respect. FRIENDS will understand.
  • “Everyone is already busy.” – THAT’S AN EXCUSE! So are you! Try to identify areas where consolidation may be appropriate. We’re all busy all the time. It’s like the weather: Accept it or move.

2. Why team members resist delegation ?

  • They don’t know how to do the task. -Based on the priorities you set and the “NLT” (No Later Than) completion time of the task you or your Customers establish, make time to train others how to complete tasks essential to your organization’s success. The more value they add, the more valuable they are to you, the team, and the organization. Remember, people make the difference, they are you only true, long-term competitive advantage.
  • They have a fear of failure, of criticism of mistakes. – Coach them through the learning curve. Reassure them that mistakes are learning opportunities and that criticism (feedback) is a gift when presented properly.
  • They lack confidence in their abilities. – I can’t think of a better way to build their confidence than to delegate to them and give them the opportunity to succeed and add value. Enough said.
  • They don’t understand what is expected. – Remember we all have different “input” channels and “sorting” styles. Remember, everyone interprets things differently. To some a BOW adorns a package, to others it is a part of a ship. Be Clear. Don’t make assumptions. Ask them to paraphrase until you’re certain the expectations are mutually understood.
  • They don’t have time. – Neither do you! You don’t have time to waste getting team members up the learning curve either. Task organization and time management are essential to mission success. Delegation provides a learning opportunity for everyone. Problems will always exist and can be found everywhere. At any time anyone on your team may need to assume the leadership role and complete the task. Delegation helps prepare others so no time is lost when roles must change quickly.
  • They don’t like doing it. – SO! We all must do things we don’t like to do. It’s a part of life, get used to it.
  • They feel inadequate. – WHY ? This sounds like an opportunity to practice good listening skills. Sit down with them and find out “why”, then develop a plan to coach them through their insecurities.
  • They already feel overworked. – I know, so do I, empathize don’t sympathize.
  • They’ve done it before. – Great! Then maybe they can do it better again, OR, maybe they can teach someone else how they do it and hone their ‘delegation’ skills.
  • They find it easier to ask than to decide. – At some point they need to learn how to make decisions. Easy isn’t a good enough reason to resist. A path with no obstacles would probably lead nowhere and is well traveled. Each of us has a personal responsibility to learn and grow as much as we can. To choose not to do something because it is difficult or challenging is simple laziness and you are depriving yourself of a learning opportunity.
  • They don’t possess the proper attitude. – WHY ? As a leader you need to go find out. It’s your job. Don’t keep stragglers on the team. Be sure you are doing everything possible to redirect their attitude through feedback and coaching. If you have confidently expended all means then you must trust that they are in control of their own behavior. You may correct the attitude through communication and you may not and you may have to cut your losses at some point and move on. It’s a part of being a leader.

How can I Delegate Better ?

  • Trust the abilities of your team members. -By working with your team, practicing the Four Factors of Leadership, and through experience your ability to assess others will improve. Listen to your gut. Often it is the only choice you have.
  • Respect your team members as people. – That’s right. PEOPLE not machines. They have feelings, emotions, and problems; Beliefs, Values, and Norms just like you. Don’t forget that.
  • Keep an “Open Mind!” – The ability to remain “open” about others’ ideas and contributions is essential for leadership. It is extremely hard to do as we tend to view the world through our eyes and our experiences. Remember leadership exists in the unknown. Keep an open mind and keep learning.
  • Understand that mistakes will be made. – Cool! First time mistakes are learning opportunities. Be sure to debrief with subordinates when mistakes occur. A mistake the second time is your learning opportunity: You didn’t prepare / train them enough after the first mistake occurred.


  • Effective delegation saves time AND initially requires time: YOUR TIME! It’s a long term investment for you, your team, your Customers, and your organization.
  • Delegation is not a shortcut to avoiding responsibility. You can delegate authority but you can’t delegate responsibility. Delegation saves time through task organization/distribution and by teaming up problem solvers with the appropriate skills to solve them efficiently.
  • Don’t waste valuable time. You can never regain lost time. NEVER!
  • Set the right “Climate.” The right climate is one that promotes successful behaviors and stimulates growth. Be approachable and be sure to approach your team members with the intent of helping them be successful. If you help others succeed, in turn, you too will be successful.
  • Follow the basic steps of delegating.
  • Assess the task.
  • Consider the Four Factors of Leadership: The Led, The Leader, The Situation, Communications.
  • Consider the confidentiality, competency, and commitment required of the individual or team.
  • Provide leadership essentials: Purpose, Direction, and Motivation.
  • Clearly state the Task, Conditions (resources), and Standards (outcomes).
  • Be accessible for help.
  • Follow up and give feedback: Reinforce what you want more of and redirect what you want less of.
  • If you do the whole thing yourself, you are ensuring that the next time you will have no choice but to do it again since no one else learned how.

Select a Task for Delegation and use this Outline:

  • Identify the task and asses it. Evaluate the skills required.
  • Consider the Four Factors of Leadership. How do they apply to this task ?
  • Consider the competence and commitment of team members. – select a person or persons to complete the task.
  • Identify and provide:
  • Purpose – Why are we doing it ?
  • Direction – Where to begin; orientation of tasks.
  • Motivation – Fuel for the fire.
  • Identify and clearly state:
  • Task – What is to be completed or accomplished.
  • Conditions-resources available for this task.
  • Standards-Minimum results expected.
  • Be accessible for help. Inquire about progress. Spot-check along the way.

Follow up:

  • Was the task completed successfully according to criteria ?
  • If no, identify reasons why-conduct AAR.
  • How can you turn failure into a successful learning experience for both of you ?
  • What feedback will you provide from this process ?
  • Reinforce ?
  • Redirection ?

Leadership Competencies

November 16, 2012
  • Communications is the exchange of information and ideas from one person to another. Effective communication occurs when others understand exactly what you are trying to tell them and when you understand precisely what they are trying to tell you.
  • You communicate to direct, influence, coordinate, encourage, supervise, train, teach, coach and counsel. You need to be able to understand and think through a problem and translate that idea into a clear, concise, measured fashion.
  • Your message should be easy to understand, serve the purpose and be appropriate for your audience.


  • You must control, direct, evaluate, coordinate and plan the efforts of team members so that you can ensure the task is accomplished. Supervision ensures the efficient use of material and equipment and the effectiveness of operational procedures. It includes establishing goals and evaluating skills. Supervising lets you know your communications are understood and shows your interest in the team members and the mission.
  • Remember that over-supervision causes resentment and under-supervision causes frustration. By considering your team member’s competence, motivation and commitment to perform a task, you can assess the amount of supervision needed.

Teaching and Counseling

  • Teaching and counseling refer to improving performance by overcoming problems, increasing knowledge, or gaining new perspectives and skills. Teaching your team members is the only way you can truly prepare them to succeed and survive on the business battlefield.
  • You must take a direct hand in your team members’ professional and personal development. Personal counseling should adopt a problem-solving, rather than an advisory approach. You also need the judgment to refer a situation to your leader or a service agency if it’s beyond your ability to handle. You will, of course, follow-up on this action. Performance counseling focuses on team members’ behavior as it relates to job performance.

Team Development

  • You must create strong bonds between you and your team members so that they function as a real team. Since work is a team activity, cohesive teams are a business requirement. You must take care of your team members and conserve and build their spirit, endurance, skills and confidence. Good leaders recognize how peers, seniors and team members work together to produce success. Team development is significant in training and orienting team members to new tasks and departments. You can help new team members become committed members of the organization if you work hard at making them members of your team.

Technical and Tactical Proficiency

  • You must know your job. You must be able to train your team members, maintain and employ your resources to help win business battles. You will gain technical proficiency in formal training programs, self-study and on-the-job experience. You have to know your job so you can train your team members and employ your resources efficiently. Tactical competence requires you to know your business’ doctrine so that you can understand your leader’s intent and help win battles by understanding the mission, MODD (anything that: Makes Our Day Difficult), terrain, team, and time available (METT-T). Technical proficiency and tactical proficiency are difficult to separate.

Use of Available Systems

  • You must be familiar with techniques, methods and tools that will give you and your team members the edge. Use of available systems literally means that you know how to use computers, analytical techniques and other modern technological means to manage information and to help you and your team members better perform the mission. This competency may vary depending on your leadership position. You must use every available system or techniqe that will benefit the planning, execution and assessment of the task at hand.

Decision Making

  • Decision making refers to skills you need to make choices and solve problems. Your goal is to make high-quality decisions your team members accept and execute quickly and effectively. Furthermore, it is important that decisions be made at the lowest organizational level where information is sufficient. Like planning, decision making is an excellent way for you to develop your leadership team. Include team members in the decision making process if time is available and if they share your goals and have information that will help produce high-quality decisions.


  • Planning is intended to support a course of action so that an team or organization can meet an objective. It involves forecasting, setting goals and objectives, developing strategies, establishing priorities, delegating, sequencing and timing, organizing, budgeting and standardizing procedures. Team members like to have order in their lives, so they depend on you to keep them informed to ensure success. Including your junior leaders in the planning process is an excellent way for you to develop your leadership team. Remember, one of your tasks is to prepare your team members and help them grow into new roles and responsibilities.

Professional Ethics

  • Professional ethics includes loyalty to your organization and your Team, duty, selfless service and integrity. The leadership competency relates to your responsibility to behave in a manner consistent with the professional business ethic and to set the example for your team members.
  • As a leader, you must learn to be sensitive to the ethical elements of situations you face, as well as to your directives, plans, and policies. You must learn to use an informed, rational decision-making process to reason through and resolve ethical dilemmas and then teach your team members to do the same.

Assuming a Leadership Position

  • Assuming a leadership position is one of the special leadership situations you will face. Everything discussed in this supplement, about what you must BE, KNOW, and DO, is relevant to assuming a leadership position.

Choosing the best Leadership Style

  • Do not fall into the trap that some techniques always work, such as observing for a week or two and then making changes, or going into an organization like “a lion” and then becoming “a lamb”. Such beliefs will cause you to miss the benefits of the thought process used to select the appropriate leadership style (directing, participating, or delegating). The best strategy in one situation can be exactly the wrong strategy for another. For example, you would use a different leadership style when taking over a well-trained and proficient Team, than when replacing a leader who was inefficient or unable to lead.
  • As a leader, you must always establish and enforce standards and provide purpose, direction, and motivation for your team members. When assuming a leadership position, you must assess the readiness of the Team to perform its mission and then develop a strategy to provide what the team needs to be successful. You should use the leadership style that your experience tells you will be most appropriate after you have assessed the Team’s level of competence, motivation and commitment to accomplish the mission or task. In fact, you will probably use all three styles with different team members and/or in different situations. Your style will need to change when new objectives are established, new team members and leaders are assigned, or the competence, motivation or commitment of your team members changes.
  • When you assume a leadership position, talk to your leader, your peers and other key people. Seek clear answers to the following questions:
  • What is the team’s mission?
  • How does the mission fit into the mission of the next higher Team?
  • What function am I responsible for, such as training, maintenance and administration?
  • What are the standards the team must meet?
  • What resources are available to help the team accomplish the mission?
  • What is the current state of morale?
  • Who reports directly to me?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my team members, individually and collectively?
  • Who are the key people outside of the team who support mission success and how can they add value?

Be sure you ask these questions at the right time, of the right person, and in the right manner. Answers to these questions, and others that follow should give you the information you need to correctly assess the situation and select the right leadership strategy. You must also remain flexible enough to adapt your leadership style as you continually assess the competence, motivation and commitment of your team members and the organization.


Sharing your leadership philosophy with your team members will make your transition more efficient. Your team members will appreciate the chance to see how you intend to lead and welcome the chance to ask questions. Your leadership philosophy is your promise of how you intend to lead and interact with your team members.

Developmental Leadership Assessment

  • Developmental leadership assessment is a process used to improve a person’s ability to lead. It involves comparing performance to a standard or performance indicator, giving feedback and developing a plan to improve leadership performance. It is an essential element of your leader development responsibilities. Just as you need your leader’s coaching, your team members need your help to improve their leadership performance.
  • You have two leadership assessment responsibilities. First, assess your own leadership performance. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and work to improve yourself. Second, assess your team member’s leadership performance, give them feedback and help them overcome their weaknesses.

The Leadership Assessment Process

The goal of leadership assessment is to develop a competent and confident leader. Leadership assessment should be a positive, useful experience that does not confuse, intimidate or negatively impact young leaders. It should be conducted as follows:

  • Decide what leadership skill, knowledge or attitude you want to assess.
  • Make a plan to observe the leadership performance.
  • Observe the leadership performance and record your observations.
  • Compare the leadership performance you observed to a standard or performance indicator.
  • Decide if the leadership performance you observed exceeds, meets, or is below the standard or performance indicator.
  • Give the person leadership performance feedback.
  • Help the person develop an action plan to improve leadership performance.

Normally, leadership assessment will not lead to improved performance unless it includes an action plan designed to redirect undesirable performance and reinforce desirable performance. The leader and the team member must:

  • Design the action plan together
  • Agree on the action necessary to improve leadership performance
  • Review the action plan frequently to see if the team member is making progress and to determine if the plan needs to be changed.

Naturally, when assessing your own leadership performance you have to modify the steps. First, examine your performance in a particular situation. Then, compare your performance to a leadership standard or performance indicator. Finally, decide how you can improve your leadership performance. You must want to discuss your self-assessment with your leader, peers, team members and others.


Feedback Sources

A complete and accurate leadership assessment includes feedback from these six sources:

  • The person being assessed
  • Leaders
  • Peers
  • Team members
  • Close friends and family members
  • Trained leadership assessors (You can find these in a number of places. For example, some service school instructors have received special leadership assessment training.)

It will not always be possible to get feedback from all of these sources, but each of them can give valuable information about leadership performance. If you can get feedback from all six sources, you will have a complete picture.


Note to the Leader:

Grow your people. They’re your only real competitive advantage. Often they are the only true indicators of your leadership abilities and success. It’s up to you. Use the tools you learned while at Leading Concepts. Open and review your Course Reference Guide. Review your LC Handbook, CD’s, and Supplements. Lead and set the example for others to follow.


Lead the way!

The Leaders Formula for Success and Greatness

November 16, 2012
Energy + Ability = Success
Add Wisdom and you get greatness
“Hard work does for you what nothing else can do
when you feel it is producing results.”


Leaders that combine energy with ability are successful leaders and produce results and when they apply wisdom they achieve greatness. There are many examples of this throughout history, enough to identify a pattern and present a simple formula for the leader to be productive.


To name a few examples off the top of my head Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great, Gustavus Adolphus, Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, T. E. Lawrence, Douglas Mac Arthur, and unfortunately I cannot think of any that measure up to this caliber in modern days in the military. I am sure they exist but have been held back by the strange no win policies of our day known as limited warfare with the emphasis on management instead of leadership today. All these men accomplished great things by combining energy with ability and applying wisdom – something we can all do. What I hope to accomplish in this message is to provide you with a simple formula and an understanding of the obvious that stares us in the face daily but many of us never take advantage of this to achieve great things in our lives.


The formula is simple but the self discipline and will required to execute it are not as simple as is with anything else in life.


Here is the formula: Energy + Ability = Success


“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

– Vince Lombardi


British General Sir Walter Walker’s life was a model of this formula to follow rising up through the ranks to some of the most critical of commands impacting his country and the men who served under him positively. General Sir Walter Walker was an outstandingly successful commander during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s and as Director of Operations in Borneo between 1962 and 1965; Walker was one of the first to identify the importance of helicopters in modern military operations. “In Borneo,” he reckoned, “one SAS squadron with helicopters was worth ten infantry battalions to me.” Denis Healey, who became Secretary of State for Defense in 1964, considered that the Borneo campaign would be recorded as “one of the most efficient uses of military force in the history of the world”. Yet the qualities that made General Walker so effective in the field were hard work, endless drive and energy, great ability, acquired wisdom, clarity of vision, single-mindedness of purpose, fierce insistence on discipline, fearlessness in the face of both the enemy and his superiors which unfortunately made him a highly controversial figure. When a Major, Sir Walter Walker was in India when WWII broke out, and the Japanese had just opened their front against the U.S.A., Great Britain and other allied countries.


The Japanese had mounted an invasion into India through Burma after driving the British out earlier taking control of the Burma Road cutting a main supply route off to China. Walker was sent to that front where after an intense battle with the Japanese they had suffered many casualties and morale was low. Part of the reason for low morale was that the British troops were unaccustomed to fighting in the jungle, whereas the Japanese were used to it and very good at it, and eventually the Brits began to think the Japanese were invincible.


At one point these downcast British troops were rotated off the front lines for 2 weeks R&R (rest and recovery) with other surrounding units that had suffered the same fate and had the same self defeating diagnosis. Here’s where Walker saw his opportunity. He used the two weeks to train his soldiers how to fight the Japanese in the jungle based on what he had experienced. While the other R&R units idly rested, he was merciless in his training – never letting up – while demanding perfection. He took his energy and ability and instilled it into the men.


“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”

– Vince Lombardi

At first it was hard on the men – Walker seemed inhuman the way he drilled and pushed them but something started to happen. As he worked them hard they started to acquire more energy despite the lack of leisurely time that they were deprived of.


Let’s take a step back and look at a bigger picture here, i.e., jungle warfare. To this point the British commanders in Malaya and Burma long since had agreed with the Chinese philosopher General Sun Tzu that jungle is difficult ground and no place to wage war. The British considered jungle country “out of bounds” for training. So their troops had no specialized jungle tactics or proper equipment. Only a few units like 2nd BN of Argylls had any serious jungle training. But, Walker had his work cut out for him and all he had been a couple of weeks.
But, soon the men’s ability increased. Through the rehearsals and practice their morale and confidence improved. While the other units rested he prepared his soldiers for their next round with the Japanese. They soon got their chance and the Japanese were no longer king of the jungle. Walker defeated them in battle after battle.

In jungle warfare the first thing one must learn is to live in the jungle before he can fight in the jungle …so this wasn’t going to be easy…but Walker had observed the tactics of the Japanese. They organized into smaller patrols and traveled light giving them great mobility which is the key to Jungle Warfare allowing them to take and keep the initiative.


Their tactic was to make contact in front and then hit you from the rear and the flanks. Basically Walker had 2 weeks to teach his unit how to counter the Japanese jungle tactics which started with when contact is made assume you are surrounded and the enemy is always at your rear. This sounds simple but was not a tactic familiar to his troops and junior leaders. They were only trained in conventional frontal attacks and not fighting an enemy using Jungle Warfare tactics that constantly attack from the rear.


Good leaders must always remain flexible and be ready to adapt to the tactics of the enemy. Let’s go back to the formula Energy + Ability = Success. One might ask what if I don’t have any energy? What if I don’t have any ability? What if I have one without the other? I will attempt to answer all these questions now.


Walker’s Jungle Warfare story I just told provides an extreme example of how both energy and ability are acquired. The answer is the same for “hard work”. Hard work gives you energy and hard work gives you ability. This is what happened as Walker worked and drilled his men. As I noted in the beginning if you add wisdom you will have greatness,


but wisdom…I will save that for another day because it is a topic unto itself. However, I will say this of wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through learning truth, correct principals and applying them to life’s experiences. We will start with how to acquire energy. When you’re out of shape and decide to get back in shape you do that through working out, the harder you work the better the results. As time goes on you find you are moving faster, more alert and have more energy. Tasks that would wear you down and make you tired become more effortless. The same is true for mental energy. The brain is like a muscle when you work it out it increases your mental capacity and ability to think. For example if you want to read faster you have to practice reading faster day after day and you will soon find yourself reading faster the same as running, to learn to run faster you must practice running faster to develop the muscles and soon you can run faster with less effort.


Ability is also acquired through hard work. A person isn’t born with the ability to win gold medals at the Olympics. They may have talent, but only through hard work and practice can they use that talent to the fullest.

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

-Vince Lombardi


I spent the weekend with one of my former team mates and he said while in 3rd Special Forces Group assigned to a CIF Company in Afghanistan and Iraq they would pull a lot of all nighters out on raids and engaging the enemy and he told me no matter how tired they were most of them would hit the gym and the range when they returned from their Ops. This was done to maintain peak performance when most would think rest was the priority. They pushed themselves because they understood the formula I have given you and they knew this would give them the edge they needed to survive in combat.


“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” – Vince Lombardi What happens when one has energy with no ability?


Energy without ability often produces inordinate ambition and troublemakers. It can also produce self righteousness and crusader arrogance which is all these people you see leading these crazy causes that the news media likes to cover so much. For example Code Pink, the Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators and others. Having no ability to channel their energy they latch on to causes or jump from thing to thing. Also they often stick their nose in other people’s business and try to control their lives. This is what we have going on now in our government today, people with no ability seeking power have gone to work for our government. Now they abuse their power to control and hold back people exercising their ability to be successful. People with no ability are often threatened and jealous of successful people and lust for power. “Energy without ability is arrogance, and arrogance is misguided energy.”
What happens when one has ability with no energy?


Ability without energy is lack of motivation and self discipline or simply put: laziness. Many people have abilities they never put to use due to lack of self discipline and go nowhere in life. I see it so much in the young generations of our day. Many never finish school and many of them think society owes them something and instead of hard work


to advance themselves they would rather do nothing hoping some politician will give them what they want and they try and justify their envy calling it Social Justice, fairness and stooping so low as to call it being patriotic. The idea of working hard for something is beyond them because they are arrogant. Laziness is arrogance which is self indulgence.
Arrogant people cannot take pressure and when pressure is put on them – like being asked to work hard – they become monsters. Look at what is happening today in Europe and Greece in particular.


“There is no substitute for hard work”

– Thomas A. Edison


I will end with this short recap. Energy without ability is arrogance, and arrogance is misguided energy. Ability without energy is arrogance and arrogance is laziness. The energy produced by hard work creates ability. Ability channels energy into productivity, which produces the true drive in life that leads to success. Energy plus ability must be related to wisdom to achieve great things.


“Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.”

– Nadia Comaneci


“I do not know anyone who has gotten to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it will get you pretty near”

– Margaret Thatcher

After Action Review (AAR)

September 6, 2012
  • One of your most important responsibilities as a Leader is to develop your team. To do that effectively, you must use every means available to make sure your Team members actually learn from their activities.
  • People learn best when they “discover” an answer or solution on their own. Learning is most effective when you train and evaluate at the same time.

What is an After Action Review?


An AAR is: a review of events that allows team members to discover what happened during the events, actions, and planning; why it happened, and how to improve the results the next time you perform the same, or similar, task. The purpose of the AAR is two-fold:

  • It allows team members to discover for themselves what happened during the and why
  • It helps team members identify how to improve going forward

What does an After Action Review do for you and your team members?

  • Focus on learning objectives
  • Helps identify strengths and areas needing improvement
  • Emphasize achieving organizational standards
  • Encourages team members to learn from their experiences
  • Allows a number of team members to participate and share common experiences and lessons learned

The AAR is a professional discussion, conducted after each critical activity, which focuses directly on goal accomplishment. It stresses meeting standards and does not determine winners or losers. It involves team members and leaders in the analysis and it links the lessons learned to subsequent and future tasks. It is important to remember that an AAR is not a critique. A critique has only one viewpoint. This does not allow for others’ observations, discussion of events, and comments. This means that critiques are less effective than AARs in realizing the most learning from the review of a specific goal, task, or assignment. Moreover, the limited and often biased point of view of a critique prevents the open discussion of events. A critique also prevents team members from learning from their mistakes. AARs are not critiques because AARs do not determine success or failure. When you use an AAR, you avoid lecturing your team members on what went wrong, and this makes it easier for them to learn and develop.


What are the different parts of an AAR?

  • Review what should have happened
  • Establish what did happen
  • Determine what was correct or incorrect with what happened
  • Determine how you should do the task differently the next time

First, you and your team members review the plan to determine what should have happened. Once complete, identify what actually did happen. Here, it’s important to include the thoughts and viewpoints of others that may not have directly participated in the mission/task but who observed or were affected by the results. During this step, it’s also important to be ‘brutally honest’ and not fixate on assigning blame for any part deemed a failure. The goal is to improve, not to identify a scapegoat.


The third part of the AAR is very important because this is where you determine what went right and what went wrong with the mission/task. This is when you as the leader/facilitator must be careful and not let the AAR turn into a critique session.


Finally, you and your team must determine how you will perform the task differently next time. You play a critical role in guiding the AAR discussion so that the conclusions reached are technically and tactically sound, morally and ethically straight. You will actually lead your team in determining how to perform the mission the next time to achieve improved results. AARs provide immediate feedback to your Team and reinforce and increase the learning that takes place as a result of the task or event.


What are the three steps in the execution sequence of an AAR?

  • Plan
  • Prepare
  • Conduct

As a leader, you must know these three steps in order to derive the maximum benefit from the AAR process. The first thing you must do is develop a plan for your AAR. Without one, you may fail to provide your team with the needed. As a part of the planning stage, there are certain steps you must take:

  • Establish an objective for the AAR
  • Review the action plan
  • Identify the participants and their roles
  • Select the meeting location and time
  • Assemble AAR tools-something to record the information gathered, i.e. overhead or marker board
  • Draft an AAR plan

It is important that you begin the plan by establishing what you want to accomplish. You should also review the action plan and identify who will attend. Select your location and ensure that it is large enough to accommodate the size of the group. Determine whether or not you will require meeting aids, i.e. overheads, markers, marker board. The final step in the planning process is drafting the AAR plan and preparing to conduct it.


How do you prepare for an AAR?

  • Review the objectives of the mission or task (mission/plan)
  • Execute the mission or task
  • Organize the AAR site
  • Collect the information-report on the mission/task accomplished
  • Organize the AAR meeting

Your preparation for conducting an AAR actually begins before you set out to achieve your goals or tasks! Your notes and preparation must start from the beginning and continue up to the actual AAR. Focus on actions and events related to the key objectives and keep good notes during execution phase. Be sure you clearly know and understand the standards that must be met to achieve success.


Once the task is complete, identify and prepare the AAR meeting location and assemble your resources. Finally, ensure that you organize and review what you are going to say and do during the AAR. A discussion outline is a way to organize your notes and observations in an orderly sequence.


AAR Discussion Outline

  • Introduction and Ground rules
  • Review of the plan and what should have happened
  • Summary of what did happen
  • Discussion of key issues
  • Discussion of how to improve or maintain performance; identification of strengths and areas needing improvement
  • Summary and conclusion

A discussion outline helps organize your thoughts and determines what direction you want the discussion to take in order to achieve the desired results. Once you develop an outline, you should prepare open-ended, specific questions that will lead the discussion in the direction you want it to go. Lastly, you should review the outline thoroughly prior to conducting the AAR.


The Final Step!

What important points should you cover when conducting an AAR?

  • Restate the goals and objectives
  • Seek maximum participation
  • Generate discussion
  • Determine how to perform the next time

The first thing you should do is restate the mission and orient on the key objectives. This brings the AAR into focus for all participants and tells everyone what should have happened during the mission. Ensure that you receive comments from all the participants. Maximizing participation makes for a successful After Action Review. The way to increase participation is to stimulate discussion among your team members. Use the following techniques to help stimulate the discussion.

AAR Discussion Guides:

  • Ask leading and thought-provoking questions
  • Ask why it happened-be sure to fix problems, not blame.
  • Ask how they could have done better
  • Record pertinent information

Phrase the question in such a way that the information discussed is what you want brought out. Prepare yourself to ask follow-up questions to elicit additional information. Involve team members and if possible, anyone else who played a role in the accomplishment of the mission or task. Spread your questions around so that everyone in your team participates. Good questions can help determine what went right and wrong during the mission. You can discuss errors by asking why the team made certain decisions and what alternative decisions they could have made.


Keep this part of the AAR positive and be careful not to embarrass your team. This is when the AAR can disintegrate into a critique session if the leader is not careful. You can avoid this problem by entering the discussion only to guide it back on track when necessary. Keep the team oriented on the by facilitating and asking questions to keep everyone focused.


The last part of conducting the AAR is to determine how you should perform the task differently next time. You do this by continually summarizing and linking the lessons learned to future and related missions, tasks, and events. You need to determine what happened, why it happened, and what the team can do differently next time to improve performance and raise standards. Conclude the AAR by listing those areas that you and your team need to work on. By the end of the AAR, your team should clearly understand what was good, bad, and average about the outcomes and their individual performance and contributions.

Lead the way!

Project Planning – Missions, Projects, Tasks, and Goals

September 3, 2012
  • You can only count on luck to achieve so much. For the rest of your goals and objectives you must learn to plan effectively. No mission, project, task, or goal is ever achieved to its fullest without a good plan.
  • Before you can create a plan you must first have a Vision and recognize where you want to go. Your Vision of where you want to go and what you want to achieve, is the focal point of your plan.

Step 1: Create a Vision or Receive a Mission

Identification of goals – How do you create a vision? What do you do after you’re given a task to complete from your manager? Some people seem to simply know where they want to go, where the team needs to go, where the business needs to go and where their life needs to go. Other people need to work a little harder to identify these destinations. Listen to your gut, trust your experience, and picture in your mind’s eye a vision of where you want to go. Step two will fall into place and the process is the same for each vision you create or mission/task you receive.


Step 2: Draft the Heads-Up & initial time-table

A good heads-up requires covering four general sections of information: Situation, Goal, General Instructions, and Specific Instructions. The heads-up addresses everyone involved and affected. Be thorough and realistic in your completion of each section below:

  • The Situation: An overall assessment of your current status. Once you know where you want to go, you need to conduct a good assessment of your current status. Clearly identify the current situation and be completely honest about it; tell it like it is. Remember, identifying the current situation is the first major factor of leadership. Don’t forget to include others’ perspectives and use all your available resources (PET: People, Equipment, Time) to accurately determine the current status. The situation should also include an assessment of any known obstacles at that time. Identifying known obstacles allows you and your team to pro-actively plan and prepare for dealing with them as you set out to accomplish your goal.
  • The Goal: A definitive statement of what is to be accomplished and the deadline (No Later Than (NLT) time) for completion. Clearly identify the goal and be specific about what is to be accomplished. Be sure the goal statement is clear, concise and to the point. Take time to ensure everyone on the team succinctly understands it forwards and back, and that there are no misunderstandings within the team; ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • General Instructions: For Groups, Sub-Teams, and other Departments — Identify your PET (People, Equipment & Time). In this section you will begin to identify, in general terms, a priority of events and the resources needed to take the first steps towards successfully completing your plan and putting it into action. Provide direction to your team and team leaders (anyone who leads a sub-team) by providing guidance about preparations needed, information to be gathered, others that must be informed, and so on. Select pieces/tasks you can delegate to those most suited to accomplish them successfully and independently. Issue assignments to others including completion times. At this point, you also need to establish a tentative schedule or time-table for everyone to follow. The time-table can and likely will be modified along the way. However, an initial time-table is always needed early in the planning process because it helps keep people on track and focused. At a minimum the time-table must reflect the No Later Than (NLT) time of completion for the overall task/goal and the current time now. These are your two most critical times, the difference between them is all the available time you have to work with. Start with the overall goal NLT time and ‘backwards plan’ to your current time. Sequentially fill in the tasks that need to be accomplished along the way and when each is to be completed by. The time-table will serve as a measurement tool that helps you and your team stay focused. It will be used to chart progress and raise flags if you fall behind or get off course. You may find it helpful to identify a team member to be responsible for time-table updates, progress, changes, and alerts along the way.
  • Specific Instructions: Key Individuals and Team Leaders — In greater detail, identify what you need to share with your key team leaders including any specific tasks you intend to delegate to them. Be sure they know your expectations and how you can be contacted should they need your assistance, support, or additional information.

“Heads-up” Summary:

  • What you have just created is your initial plan of what is to be accomplished, by whom and when. Now it’s time to gather the team and communicate it. Once communicated, ask key leaders to paraphrase (brief-back) information to verify complete understanding.
  • Sub-teams, departments and groups should be busy completing tasks delegated to them in the General Instructions section of your initial plan. This may include gathering and/or disseminating information, organizing teams and collecting/identifying additional resources that are needed for the successful completion of the goal. Key individuals and team leaders are ensuring all the pieces are coming together, paying specific attention to the time table and staying focused and completing any specific instructions that you delegate to them.
  • While team members are completing their General Instructions tasks, you are completing the “execution” piece of the forthcoming detailed plan. You are pulling all the data together, outlining in detail the road map, and identifying who will drive, when, and how far.

Step 3: The Detailed Plan

The detailed plan contains five sections: Situation, Goal, Execution, Support, & Communications.

  • The first two sections are essentially repeats of the tentative / Heads-up plan, with updates, modifications, changes and added details that have occurred since the Heads-up was first communicated to the team.
  • Execution – this section is your main responsibility. It is the most crucial piece of the plan and it is essential that the entire team understand it. A good Execution section of any plan contains thorough: Details, Sequential Organization, Identification of Roles & Assignments, Plans for dealing with known obstacles, Rally Points (when and how we’ll regroup if we deviate), Focus on Accountability
  • Support – this section identifies other areas in the organization that may offer assistance to the team or be a resource that can be utilized if necessary. This section informs the team of who, what, where, when, and why and how to obtain needed services and support.
  • Communications – this final section includes contact information and identifies proper communication channels, methods, and mediums.

In summary, the process works something like this:

  • Create the Vision or receive a Mission from your manager.
  • Complete the Heads-up. This is an information tool used to give everyone involved a “Heads-Up” and get the ball rolling. Therefore, at a minimum, it must include whatever information or directions required and a time-table to track your progress. Begin with the end in mind.
  • Communicate to the team. Bring everyone together and communicate the information.
  • Finalize the Detailed Plan. The detailed plan includes everything involved: who, what, when, where, why and how-start to finish, for successful completion of your mission/task/goal.
  • Communicate the Detailed Plan. Share the detailed plan with everyone involved.
  • Monitoring and Progress. Keep the whole thing moving forward and measure progress as compared to your time-table.
  • Remember these key items as you proceed:
  • Be sure everyone on the team shares the same understanding of all aspects of the plan.
  • Spot check to ensure delegated tasks are completed and to required standards.
  • Do “Brief-Backs” – ask team members to summarize their role and other aspects and details of the plan.


  • As a leader you must ensure successful completion of the mission – it is your responsibility.
  • At times you may lead; at other times you may follow.
  • You may be required to remove barriers and obstacles that get in the way. You may be a liaison to your manager, providing status updates along the way.
  • And don’t forget your coaching responsibilities. As a leader you must ensure that you are growing your people for tomorrow’s challenges.
  • To be a successful leader you need to know how to plan.
  • Finally, remember: People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

Lead the way!