Friday, January 30, 2009

Leadership 101: Integrity is a Coin You Can’t Afford to Spend

Two of the worst leadership failures I’ve seen both involved me as the recipient of dishonest, duplicitous actions by leaders while I was in the Air Force. (Bear with me: there are some military positions, ranks, and terms in this post…)

Six months into my first stint in the Air Force I got in some trouble because I didn’t take responsibility in the first leadership role I’d been entrusted with. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you the whole story.

My First Sergeant [1] repeatedly ensured me he was supporting a verbal reprimand for me, not something more serious. After the dust had settled I looked over the paperwork for the mess and found, in extremely light, tiny handwriting, the First Sergeant’s recommendations to my Commanding Officer (CO): a much more severe punishment which would have resulted in a loss of rank and fines.

18 years old, six months into my first stint in the service, and this two-faced, lying SOB is what I’m being shown as an example of a leader? I still have a copy of that paperwork around somewhere. It’s been 26 years, and I still get pissed every time I run across that.

Years later I had an extremely tense situation involving one of my subordinates. Our Chief Enlisted Advisor (CEA [2]) gave me verbal orders which I vehemently disagreed with because they put me in a completely untenable position. I repeated the CEA’s orders to ensure I understood things correctly, then respectfully let him know my objections. “Carry on” or something similar was the response. I left that man’s office, went and got my superior officer, explained the situation, then returned to the CEA’s office with my Major in tow.

“I never said anything like that” was the CEA’s response when confronted with the situation. An outright lie to my face, and he knew it because I remember him being unable to look me in the eye. I served with that CEA in that unit for several more years, then again in another unit later on in my career. I also ran in to him several times after I left the service. Not once after that initial incident did I ever give him anything more than the bare minimum of courtesy required by regulation. He didn’t deserve it, and he never even remotely attempted to earn back my trust. Fail Whale, to use the vernacular.

Integrity is absolutely critical to who you are as a person. Not a developer, not a professional, not a leader, but as a person. Small transgressions with your friends, peers, customers, or team members will dig you into a big hole. Moderate transgressions leave you at the bottom of a huge crater. Large transgressions are the equivalent of the Grand Canyon, and you’ll likely never, ever recover.

In the past I’ve dug some holes through sheer stupidity or lack of courage, and it took me a lot of hard work to recover. That time and pain of that recovery effort is something I can look back on now and say “Jackass! You could have avoided all that if you’d had the stones to do the right thing.” Thankfully Darwinism gave me a pass and I’ve survived after learning some hard lessons.

I can’t emphasize this enough: Integrity is the foundation of nearly everything I’ve written about so far: communication, respect, responsibility. All my examples were negative ones because I wanted to show the impact of getting it wrong. Take the magnitude of those examples’ failures, flip them over, and hopefully you’ll understand the upside of being adamant about protecting your integrity.

You earn your integrity very slowly over a long period of time by demonstrating your honesty and trustworthiness. You spend it quickly with white lies, hypocrisy, and uneven handedness in how you treat those around you. Big lies drain your entire account in an instant.

Integrity’s a coin you need to hold near and dear to your heart. You can’t ever, EVER afford to spend it.

[1] First Sergeant: a senior enlisted person responsible for conduct and performance of all enlisted personnel in a unit.

[2] Chief Enlisted Advisor: somewhat like a First Sergeant, but generally responsible for a smaller group of enlisted personnel in a unit.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Central Ohio Day of .NET Call For Speakers

The Central Ohio Day of .NET will be Saturday, 18 April, and will once again be held at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio.

We’re now accepting submissions for sessions, so go submit your talks at the speaker submission page!

Updated: Fixed the bad URL for the speaker submission page. Thanks to commenter Kevin Upchurch for pointing it out, and massive boos to Live Writer for its less-than-helpful handling of pasting in URLs.

Leadership 101: Open That Door!

While at Quick Solutions, I had mentorship responsibilities for a number of folks. I was very fortunate that all my mentorees were in Quick’s Solutions group. QSI Solutions folks are, in my honest opinion, the region’s best and brightest conglomeration of bleeding edge devs. (Second, of course, to my homies at Telligent!) As a result, the scope and number of problems I had with them were miniscule in comparison to other situations I’ve been in at previous jobs.

(For example, while in the Air Force I had to manage a subordinate who “accidentally” shot his friend who was having an affair with said subordinate’s wife. Long story. Buy me a beer some time and I’ll tell you more. But I digress.)

Almost all of the personnel issues at QSI are handled through Larry Schleeter, the Vice President for Professional Services. Larry oversees nearly all consultants at QSI, and all the recruiters report up to him, so he’s an extremely busy guy. Twice I had situations where I needed to bounce my ideas off someone in a leadership position. Both times I walked into Larry’s office and was able to get a significant chunk of his time to discuss my approach to the problems. Larry was freely giving of his time and experience, helping me to refine a couple aspects of how I was going to fix the problem.

Larry was always adamant about making time for any conversation his folks needed to have with him. Sometimes I’d need to hold off while he finished up a meeting, but I knew I’d get his time at some point fairly quickly. What’s more impressive is that I wasn’t even a direct report to Larry.

As a leader you absolutely must keep your door open to your team. They need to have a clear belief that you’re going to make time to help them out with their problems. If you’re closing your door, either metaphorically or physically, then you’re crushing free and productive communication with your team. A closed door means you’re blocking the ability to quickly hear about problems that are hindering your team’s ability to function smoothly. More importantly, you’re giving the impression your team’s is somewhere far down your priority list. You’ll not be getting crucial feedback to situations, and you’ll be missing the chance to let your team bring up pressing issues – something that’s crucial for keeping a happy, productive team.

Of course you have situations where you can’t drop everything immediately for your team, and you do need to respect your own time and productivity. Set up a Do Not Disturb signal with your team and lay out some clear expectations for them, but ensure that you’re tipping the balance to “Open Door” rather than “Closed in Most Cases Door.”

Keeping your door open reaps you a wealth of goodness with your team. Ensure you’re giving your team priority for their communication needs.

Open up that door!

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Leadership 101: Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (And It's NOT All Small Stuff)

My first Air Force assignment after basic training was technical training school at Keesler AFB in Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi. There I joined the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps where I played a bad second horn. (No, I don't mean bad as in wicked good, I mean they were hard up for horns and took me despite my tremendous suckage.) Because we performed for the public, we Blue Knights spent a lot of time keeping our uniforms top-notch. I, as did the other Blue Knights, took immense pride in having a set of boots and shoes that were incredibly well-polished. I kept up this habit through months of other training until I was posted to my first "real" job with the 963rd Airborne Warning and Control Squadron at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma.

Just a couple weeks after I arrived in Oklahoma, the Soviet Union's air force shot down a Korean Air 747 over the seas north of Japan. Things in the world were pretty tense at that point, and we deployed a number of extra aircraft to Okinawa to fly overwatch for the salvage operations. I was on one of those deploying flight crews and was scrambling around to get everything ready. For some reason, instead of focusing on getting my training material and deployment gear gathered up I was fixated more on getting my two pairs of flight boots polished up to my usual high standards.

Master Sergeant George Bishop, one of the most utterly smart, highly experienced, and very respected radar technicians we had, said in a very calm, quiet voice "Don't sweat the small stuff." Nothing more, nothing less. His calm voice snapped me out of my tizzy and reminded me that polishing my boots wasn't going to get me on the plane.

You as a leader need that same view: what's the really important stuff for getting your team's goal accomplished? What are the important things that will help not only your team, but your broader group succeed? Focus on those crucial things, and keep your team from getting lost in minutia which contributes only churn and hinders progress.

Is your team getting constantly interrupted for administrivia tasks? Jump in as the gatekeeper to block those disturbances. Do you find members of your team getting overly focused on small tasks tangential to delivery on your project? Take time during the day to help guide them back on track.

You've also got to have a good filter for deciding what's small stuff and what's not. Everything isn't small stuff. Sorry, but those time cards, while a complete pain in the keester, ensure your team members get paid. Furthermore, those same sucky timecards ensure your company is properly recording your billable hours so you're pulling in your appropriate revenue.

Don't sweat the small things, but keep in mind that it's not just small stuff because it irritates you.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Leadership 101: Build Broad Shoulders

Note: This post really dovetails with the prior one “Foster Success with Small Victories”, and might even be the same concept but spun differently. Regardless, I wanted to call it out separately…

I never thought twice about it at the time, but at the age of 20 I was a single point of failure for a radar system responsible for protecting a lot of human lives and critical targets in the Persian Gulf. I ran and maintained the radar and transponder systems in flight on E-3 radar surveillance planes, and during the 1980s I was part of aircrews monitoring the Iran/Iraq war. Occasionally planes or boats from one side or the other would go try to blow up things like oil tankers, ships, or ground targets in countries other than Iran or Iraq. Our radar planes monitored those bad guys and vectored in good guys to keep people and things from getting blown up.

If I didn't do my job right, the radar wouldn't be available to find the bad guys, things might explode, and good guys could die.

On a less dramatic but more cheerful note, during my non-flying times I was also responsible planning annual budgets for a fairly large set of computers, radios, and other equipment. I was responsible for several thousand dollars worth of equipment, and had to plan an annual budget between $50K and $100K. I needed to understand budgetary cycles, equipment phase out schedules, future requirements, and a lot of other fairly complex concepts.

Both of these things were part of my regular work day all right around the time I was first able to legally drink alcohol.

I had a lot of responsibility heaped on my shoulders at an early time in my career, and I never thought twice of it. There wasn't a big deal made of it, and I got solid guidance and help along the way. That said, at the end of the day, it was my name on the dotted line for equipment, and my hands on the equipment keeping the radar alive to keep the bad guys at bay.

Dealing with responsibilities is just like exercise: you need to build up your muscle to handle it and do it well. Help your team grow by giving them ownership of and responsibility for tasks. Furthermore, don’t shy away from putting large amounts of responsibility on them. Do it in an escalating manner, and monitor things as you go to ensure you’re putting the right level of responsibility on the right shoulders.

Finally, do this as early as possible in your subordinates' careers, because it dovetails right in with the concept of fostering success with small victories.

Learning to take on responsibilities for significant things is an important part of your team members’ career growth. Help them build up the strength to shoulder those responsibilities.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Foster Success with Small Victories

Confidence is a nebulous, sometimes fragile thing. (Confidence ain't arrogance or ego.) As a leader you need to build the confidence of your team with a regular parade of victories and successes, even if it's a parade of small victories. This is critically important in two different lines of leadership: team confidence and building the confidence of your future leaders.

Team confidence can often hinge on the perception of the team's progress. If your team isn't seeing progress on the project, then frustration builds and morale suffers. One of the reasons I'm such a fan of Big Visible Charts in project workplaces is that the entire team can easily see how you've been doing in delivering velocity. You might feel beat down by a problem you're working on today, but a quick glance at the velocity chart and you can see that you've made some progress on the project this week. Sure, you may be behind projected velocity, but you're still knocking things off and you've still got some success to lay claim to.

Building the confidence of your future leaders is something that too often gets completely ignored. While there are many, many aspects to building your organization's future leaders, one of the simplest, most critical things you can do is start building the confidence of those people at an early point in their careers. Give them small tasks at which they can succeed, then be sure to note their successes. Don't ignore failures, and don't make the tasks or recognition patronizing, but do get them creating a pattern of wins. Increase the complexity and responsibility of those tasks, and continue to give appropriate praise where earned.

Success is habit-forming, and you’re priming the pump for those future leaders by getting them a cadence of seeing success. Your future leaders will gain the confidence that they're able to make correct decisions and will be better positioned to accept more important tasks.

Small victories lead to big wins.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Leadership 101: Communicate Bad News And Big Changes In Person

Twice I've worked for people who surprised me with personnel changes via PowerPoint slides shown on the wall at staff meetings. The first time I learned three people who worked for me now worked for our new practice manager. The second time I learned a former peer had been promoted to a position managing me and two other peers.

The first example was one of the final straws causing me to leave a badly led company that was sinking. The second example, while it happened to be a case of promoting the right guy to the right job, came as a slap in the face because the CEO of the company who decided on the change didn't have enough respect for me and my peers to let us know in private we'd be getting a new boss. The second example was even more galling because a peer and good friend had a demotion from "Manager" to "Lead" and found out about it on the same slide.

This year several friends of mine got notice a week before Christmas that their benefits were being substantially cut -- a week after a company meeting had the CEO announcing the company's outlook was rosy. Said notice came over e-mail.

The same company laid off another friend via a phone call instead of face-to-face. My friend had been recognized as "Consultant of the Year" two years before and had been highly regarded at clients.

Bad news in companies happens. Big changes happen. Every reasonable employee understands that there are economic cycles, and sometimes hard choices have to be made. Every reasonable employee understands that reorganizations are a necessary part of making sure you've got the right people in the right slots to ensure the company's success.

If you even pretend to want to be a leader, then you're going to have to make hard decisions at some point. You owe your team the respect of sharing those changes in person, not via e-mail or over the phone. Sometimes this can't scale: incredibly poor leadership at the auto companies and UAW is forcing nasty changes down the entire supply chain. CEOs from all the auto companies and the UAW union president can't hit up each and every worker in person.

Still, there are ways to ensure that big impact news is handed out in as respectful manner as possible. Such communications absolutely must be in person, regardless of the effort it costs you as a leader. Shy away from these tough conversations and you're in Fail Whale mode. Not only will you be losing respect (remember the thing about getting respect by giving respect?), you'll do immense damage to morale across the organization.

I can't stress that morale issue enough. Rumors fly rampant and quickly spiral out of control when bad news comes from a phone call or an e-mail. There's no face to the message, there's no context to it, there's no chance to ask questions. Get in front of the message, get in front of the audience, get in front of the recipient. Share the changes or bad news, and at least make an effort to answer a few questions.

Bitter pills are never easy to swallow, but giving that news in person is the only way to lead.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Leadership 101: Calm in a Storm

Great leaders project calmness, even during crises. Your team doesn’t benefit from you losing your cool when times are tough. They need the feeling that things are being handled, even in tough situations.

One day while working at Quick Solutions we got news that a client had funding for our project yanked by their venture capital board. As a result, a large team of 28 needed to get down to 14 in a matter of three days. The entire team on the client site knew the bad news, and they were understandably flustered.

Tim James, our sales manager, calmly and quietly told me and the other studio leads “It’s 4:30 now. By 5:30 we’ll have a plan for each of the folks, and by 6:30 you’ll have called all of them to let them know what they’re doing tomorrow and where they’re going next week.”

Tim’s quiet, calm demeanor helped us quickly accomplish what we needed to: get coverage for all our folks, and get them quickly informed of the action plan. We met the deadlines, and we got our folks reassured that they’d still be valued members of our group.

Contrast that demeanor with your stereotypical Dilbert-style boss. Exploding in a fit, or getting wound up and emotional rarely solves problems. Furthermore, your team quickly picks up on the emotional explosion. Productivity plummets, rumors begin to fly, and your team’s morale falls through the basement.

Take a hard look at how you react to crises. If you’re an exploder, or someone who gets tightly wound, then you need to change that. If nothing else, force yourself to separate yourself away from your team for a few moments so you can settle down and get your head on straight. I’ve literally gone and sat in a stairwell for a couple minutes so I could collect my thoughts.

I can’t emphasize this enough: You need to have the presence of mind to get your act together. Even telling your team “Hey, this sucks. Give me a couple minutes to think. I’ll be with you shortly.” is a completely acceptable response. You’re showing your team that you’re actually in control of yourself instead of just exploding.

There’s another critical aspect of Calm in a Storm: The ability to figure out what a real crisis is. My military background comes in to play here, combined with my time as a system administrator for a global computer reseller. Some of my career experience is working on sensor systems used to keep bad guys from killing good guys, and from maintaining systems for a company where downtime meant, literally, tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue every minute the system was down.

If people aren’t dying, if something’s not on fire, or if your company is still able to do its job, then the problem you’re experiencing is likely not a crisis. There may be a massive inconvenience, and the problem may be epic in scope, but you need to keep and force some perspective on the issue. Yes, you likely need to address the problem in a quick and focused fashion, but is it bad enough that you need to keep your team in overnight on a Friday evening?

Likely not.

Don’t get me wrong: There are times when you do need that level of escalation to fix a problem, but as a leader you need to protect your team by calmly triaging issues and allocating resources in a sane fashion to fix them.

Calm reactions on your part as a leader are crucial to keeping your team from spiraling into a panic attack. Keep your head on straight, stay cool, fix the problem.

Calm in a storm. It’s critical.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Switching Website Root With PowerShell

Gasp! Jim is actually writing a technical blog post!

I'm using Selenium to write UI/feature tests for Community Server and Evolution. I use these tests both as feature acceptance and as regression tests to make sure we didn't bust something while working on other parts of the system. In order for me to regression test, I need to easily switch my website between the release and latest trunk.

For example, I’ve got two virtual directories in IIS, one for release, one for functional tests against trunk:


   Default Web   (http://localhost)

           Community Server Release  (http://localhost/CS)

                  Filesystem: C:\Program Files\Telligent\Community Server 2008.5\Web

           CS from Subversion’s trunk (http://localhost/csfunctionaltests)

                  Filesystem: D:\TelligentSvn\CommunityServer\Core\Trunk\CommunityServer.Web

I can change this manually in IIS Manager via the virtual directory's property sheet, but that's slow and a lot of mouse clicks. I hate the mouse. Keyboard, FTW!

PowerShell, to the rescue! I'm only just (finally!) getting back to PowerShell after a couple years' hiatus, so the following script likely isn't as cool as it could be. Still, it does the job and I'll refactor later if needed.

param ([switch]$showCurrent, [switch]$trunk, [switch]$release)

if ($trunk -and $release)


"Only one of -trunk or -release can be used."




$cstests = $iis.psbase.children | where {$_.AppRoot -eq '/LM/W3SVC/1/Root/csfunctionaltests'}

if ($showCurrent)


     "`nCurrent path: " + $cstests.Path + "`n"



if ($trunk)


     # Path for trunk

     $path = "D:\TelligentSvn\CommunityServer\Core\Trunk\CommunityServer.Web"


if ($release)


     # Path for release

     $path = "C:\Program Files\Telligent\Community Server 2008.5\Web"




iisreset /noforce

$cstests = $iis.psbase.children | where {$_.AppRoot -eq '/LM/W3SVC/1/Root/csfunctionaltests'}

"`nNew path for csfunctionaltests: " + $cstests.Path + "`n"

Save this as ChangeRoot.ps1, edit the trunk and release paths for your environment and invoke it with "ChangeRoot.ps1 -trunk" or "ChangeRoot.ps1 -release" to change appropriately. Use the "-showCurrent" to tell you which path you're currently using.

Monday, January 12, 2009

CodeMash 2009 Is Wrapped!

It’s Monday following the conclusion of CodeMash 2009, and I have to say it was the best CodeMash to date. The PreCompiler went off really well and seemed to achieve its goal, namely giving folks some building blocks for the regular conference. The conference itself went off really well: there was an incredible amount of energy throughout the venue, everyone seemed to be getting the content they wanted to get, and no major emergencies of any sort.

There’s plenty of buzz around CodeMash on Twitter and the CodeMash Google Group, so I’d encourage you to keep your ears open around those spots. Also, keep an ear out for the .NET Rocks podcast which should post shortly – Leon Gersing, Jesse Liberty, Josh Holmes, and James Ward had an utterly amazing, passionate discussion that could have easily lasted two hours.

CodeMash Families and KidzMash continued their explosive growth, something which is really personally fulfilling to me. I count that aspect of CodeMash as important, perhaps even more important, than the conference itself. Come to CodeMash, learn lots, and have some amazing time to connect with your family. That’s particularly important to me because of my priorities for family/life mix.

Many thanks to all who helped CodeMash 2009 be such a great success: staff, sponsors, speakers, and most of all the attendees and their families!

Leadership 101: Want Respect? Give Respect.

Respect is a crucial thing in any relationship, whether it's personal or professional. Furthermore, it’s like a currency that you can’t afford to spend, ever. The respect your team has for you helps drive your team to do their utmost; lose that respect and it will take you an incredibly long time to earn it back. In some cases, you may not be able to recover lost respect.

By far the worst boss I ever worked for had utterly zero clue on how to treat his subordinates with respect. He'd curse at them, berate them, patronize them, and just be outright insulting to them – all the while micromanaging every aspect of work that was accomplished around him. I got large doses of his patronizing, insulting behavior, but somehow he understood to never cross the line of cursing at me. I can be foul mouthed myself, but that's never directed at another person, and I won't stand for people cursing at me.

As a result, this boss was feared by some and in my case outright hated, but never respected. His workers did their jobs for him, but he never got the maximum out of his people because they were too browbeaten to show initiative (others, not me), or too pissed off to focus on broader goals (me!).

Ted Gracey, a British expatriate I met while living and working in Germany, spent a long number of years serving in the British armed forces. Ted was a wise fellow who once told me a great jem: "You get respect by giving respect."

How utterly true.

You can't force people to respect you; you've got to earn it. You earn respect through your integrity at what you do, and you earn respect fastest when you freely give respect away to others around you.

Respect your team by being honest with them, even when the news is bad. Respect your team by looking to them for answers to your business problems and goals. Respect your team by listening to their opinions, let them know you've heard the opinions, and share when you're not able to go with those opinions. Respect your team by giving them the freedom to accomplish a goal by their own means, even if that means is a different way than what you'd choose. It's what you get done, not how. (Unless we're talking single classes with 3,000 lines of hand-written code and a cyclomatic complexity of 500. In that case, the how does matter.)

Fear isn't respect. Respect isn't mandated. Fail to treat others with respect and you’ll never get it yourself. Give respect out freely and it will come back to you in spades.

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Leadership 101: Don’t Screw With My Crew

First and foremost, as a leader your #1 job is to protect your people. In the Army a platoon leader's job is to keep his people from getting killed while still accomplishing their mission. Your job as a leader is to protect your team from interference, petty BS, and personal politics so your team can focus on succeeding at their mission.

There is nothing that will get me more fired up than having someone mess with my team while we're heads down on a project. Your job as a leader, in the micro or macro context, is to run interference on people who are more focused on their ancillary priorities than helping the team succeed with their mission. Yes, time cards are important, but don't come break into my dev team's quiet productive time to harp about a half hour of mis-billed time. I'll do my job as a leader, grab you by your ear, and have you route that conversation through me at a less intrusive time. (Funny, how "your ear" can be mistyped as "you rear" which fits the context, too.)

This doesn't mean you throw out all things which aren't directly related to your team's goals. Yes, you have to eat your vegetables and fill out your timecard. Yes, those monthly department meetings are mandatory and really can be important. However, as a leader you need to ensure your team has the space they need to get their jobs done. It's your job to prioritize those less-than-essential tasks and schedule them in at sensible times.

As a leader from time to time it's also your job to jump in front of a bus or take a bullet for your team. I once had a couple team members goof on getting something done for a VIP. Said VIP had a huge ego and lousy people skills. Said VIP blew up at my crew, going off into a profane, over-the-top rant on my guys. Unfortunately, I wasn't around when this happened, and it bothers me still to this day that I wasn't able to intercept that lunatic. I did have some words with him after the matter, but the crux was I'd missed my opportunity to have taken that flack, redirected it, and let my guys get on with their jobs.

Your running interference for your team's critical for several reasons. First off, your team can focus on accomplishing their primary goal. Secondly, your team's sense of self-worth grows because they're allowed to get the mission-critical tasks done and see Big Picture Progress. Finally, your stock with your team grows because they know you'll protect them when it's really needed.

Protect your team. That's your job.

(It should be noted that when discussing this topic with my colleagues I often use a phrase that's a little more in the vernacular, something like "Don't f**k with my homies.")

Update: Find links to this series of posts here.

Leadership 101: My Take On Fundamentals

Leadership is near and dear to my heart.  It's something that I've had a lot of exposure to in many contexts over my more-than-a-few years in the workforce. Leadership’s critical for any size group, be it a team of three devs working on a small website project or a multi-national auto company.

This blog post, and the series following, is the result of some thoughts which have been bouncing around my head for several years. The series is my attempt to point out some fundamental topics central to good leadership, regardless of the size of team or environment. My posts will be in smaller scale things one can easily control: respect in your dealings with your team, protecting your team, communicating, etc. You’ll need to look to folks like Jack Welch for the macro-scale leadership things like strategy and vision.

Be clear, please: I do not claim to be some leadership expert or guru. I've been in a leadership role in a range of environments from intensely competitive volleyball teams to software development groups, but I have never lead larger groups, organizations, or companies. Regardless, some things are fundamental across all leadership positions, or at least I think so.

I have strong opinions on how leaders should and should not act, and I have some strong opinions on how many companies are utterly failing in training future leaders. This would be in addition to the utter failure we see with companies failing to ensure their corner office types are leaders with a positive impact instead of a negative one.

I think I've got some unique insight into these matters thanks to my 11 years in the Air Force. What a lot of folks outside the military don't see, don't understand, or flat out ignore is the serious investment the military makes in training soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen in leadership concepts from the very beginning of their careers. I can't speak to details of branches other than the USAF, but by the time I left the Air Force in 1993 I'd had three separate week-long leadership courses. Each of those courses covered a lot of ground not directly relating to leadership, but each of those courses spent a significant amount of time focusing on how to get your teams working smoothly and successfully. I can confidently say I've had more "leadership" training than a number of executives I've worked for, and the lessons I learned in those years have served me well.

I'd like to say that examples of behavior in my series are fictional and not based on any person living or deceased, but we'd all see that as a pile of hooey. Of course the examples, both positive and negative, are based on people I've worked with, around, or for. I'll avoid naming names in some cases, simply out of the desire to focus on behavior, not specific people.

Look for these blog posts to land once a week or so. I’ve got a number written up already, but am continuing to evolve and polish them.

I'd also love to hear feedback from my few readers on this -- but please, I'm working hard to avoid turning my columns into Dilbert-themed rants, so please keep that in mind with your feedback.

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