Is the juice worth the squeeze?

A new turn of phrase has infected the Diamond6 office: “Is the juice worth lemon-your-hand-cut-citrus-squeezing-drop-white-background-54396239the squeeze?”

CEO and founder of D6 Dr. Jeff McCausland began asking the question during staff meetings, and it is something that all employees have started to consider. Essentially, it boils down to the following concept: is the end result or reward worth the time and energy required to accomplish a task? Is what we are doing consistent with our mission, vision, and values particularly if it is going to demand considerable effort and resources?

This is a fundamental question that a leader must ask him/herself every day.

When Dr. McCausland teaches his Gettysburg seminar that discusses the leadership principles learned on one of the largest battlefields of the Civil War, he focuses a fair amount on the idea of innovation. One of those innovations he focuses on is the development of “triage” by American surgeon Dr. Jonathan Letterman.

This 19th century doctor organized injuries into different categories depending on the severity of their injuries: those who couldn’t be helped, those in immediate need of care, and those whose wounds did not put them in immediate danger. Triage is still used to this day during events that involve mass casualty. Emergency medical personnel would have used triage in dealing with casualties at the Boston Marathon bombing or the shooting in Orlando.

Most modern leaders rarely face life-or-death situations, but they must organize their teams to confront organizational problems similarly. At times, we are faced with issues that we can invest all of our time, energy, and resources to, but in the end we are just treading water.

It is at these moments that leaders know to focus on difficulties or complexities that they can resolve, begin to undertake, or are fundamental to what their organization is about. Meanwhile, they must rid themselves of the unsolvable and either relegate the minor problems to a subordinate or push it to a later date when they have time to address it.

Time management is a key characteristic of a good leader.

So the next time you look to conquer your own personal battlefield, take a moment and ask yourself: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” You may quickly realize that the task you have dedicated yourself to wasn’t worth the few drops of liquid swimming around the bottom of your glass.

Understanding Lincoln – Presidents at War: Conflicts with Generals

If you hadn’t heard, our colleague and resident Abraham Lincoln expert Matt Pinsker has been conducting an incredible on-line course titled “Understanding Lincoln.” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland was asked to participate. This most recent session focused the conflicts Lincoln faced with his generals. The responses to the discussion from grateful teachers has been incredible so far, all of them along the lines of this excerpt:

– “I thought yesterday’s discussion was incredibly intelligent.”

Jeff has had a great time participating in these sessions and can’t wait to take part in the last discussion Wednesday, July 9 at 10 am EST. Please take a moment and watch the video embedded below.

The top three leadership lessons from the battle of Gettysburg

Article was originally published in The Guardian on July 2, 2013

Gettysburg_General_Armistead_Picketts_Charge_smallThe United States has fought many battles in its history. During two battles, however, the fate of the entire nation hung in the balance. The first was Yorktown where the combined forces of George Washington’s Continental army and a French fleet defeated the British army and forced its surrender. If Washington had lost at Yorktown, the American war for independence might well have failed. The second was at Gettysburg during the American civil war.

For three days, 1-3 July 1863 the future of the US as one nation was in jeopardy. A Confederate victory could have resulted in recognition of the south as an independent state by several European powers, and Abraham Lincoln would likely have lost the election in 1864.

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. We have an opportunity to reflect on many important leadership lessons that are as relevant today as they were in 1863. Let’s consider three:

1. The importance of time and timing
When a leader makes a decision for his/her organization, timing may actually be more important than the decision taken. The battle of Gettysburg occurs largely because a Union cavalry commander, John Buford, recognizes the critical importance of the town’s crossroads. As a result, he positions his troopers on the best terrain west of the city, resulting in the initial fighting on 1 July.

Today, we often believe that leaders are better equipped to make decisions based on a plethora of available technological devices (cellphones, iPads, computers, etc) and data. But if leaders today are not careful these very devices can rob their organizations of initiative. Buford made a decision for the entire Union army. If he had had a cellphone he might well have called his boss to ask his opinion, left a voicemail, sent a text, etc and then waited for a reply before acting thus wasting precious time.

2. Effective leaders must “park” their personal ego and focus on what is best for their organization
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great argues his research of the best modern companies demonstrates that so-called “Level 5 leaders” who make decisions solely based on what is best for their organizations are the most successful. Robert E Lee arrived at Gettysburg following a string of victories at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. Consequently, some civil war historians have suggested that Lee, despite his brilliance as a tactician, may have suffered from hubris. He appears to have believed that he and his army of Northern Virginia could not be defeated. As a result he orders the now famous “Pickett’s Charge” on the third day, which resulted in disaster.

3. An effective leader must articulate and communicate a strategic vision to his/her organization
The full story of Gettysburg encompasses both the battle and the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Lincoln on 19 November 1863. This iconic speech of less than 300 words described a clear vision for the nation’s future – “a new birth of freedom”. It followed naturally from his first inaugural address that focused on preserving the Union, and the Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves in the “states under rebellion” but did not end slavery as an institution.

Lincoln would continue to communicate his vision for the nation to the end. At his urging, the US Congress passed the 13th Amendment ending slavery in America in January 1865. On 4 March, Lincoln was inaugurated for a second term. During his brief remarks (only slightly over 700 words) he described a vision of reconciliation: “With malice towards none, with charity towards all.” He later provided guidance to his Generals Ulysses S Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman that they should let them up easy when dealing with the impending surrender of Confederate troops.

On 10 April, there were celebrations throughout Washington following the announcement that Robert E Lee had surrendered. Lincoln addressed a crowd outside the White House that evening, and his final speech argued that former slaves who had fought for the Union should receive full citizenship including the right to vote. One of the onlookers was John Wilkes Booth, a relatively famous actor. On 14 April, Booth shot Lincoln during a play at Fords Theater. The president would die the next day – Good Friday. Sadly, the vision he articulated would not be realized for over a century.

Leadership is clearly an art and not a science, and we can learn much from the past. As we prepare for the future, leadership is as critical to any organization today as it was during a few days 1863.

Image from HERE.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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Lincoln and Strategic Vision

The movie Lincoln is a case study in how a leader creates a vision for an organization, communicates that vision, and evolves the vision over time.  Lincoln realized a leader must develop and articulate a vision in a fashion that followers can “digest” and accept.  The leader must also take advantage of important moments to communicate changes to the vision.  These refinements must be both timely and timed to occur when the organization is focused on an intermediate step.

Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington in the spring of 1861 firmly opposed to slavery.  Still in his first inaugural address he stated that he did not intend to interfere with slavery where it existed.  Rather he described a vision focused on preserving the Union and preventing war.  He knew that to argue for the elimination of the so-called “peculiar institution” at that moment would insure war, prevent any possibility of reconciliation with Southern states, and might not be widely accepted even in the North.

Following the attack on Ft. Sumter the nation rallied to preserve the Union.  By the summer of 1862, however, Lincoln realized that the time had come to expand on his initial vision and began secret discussions with his cabinet on the Emancipation Proclamation.  Late that summer he achieved agreement on a draft document and announced it following a Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September.  Still it only freed slaves in the “states under rebellion” and did not go into effect until 1 January 1863.  Consequently, it had no effect on slaves in the border states and if any southern state had returned to the Union in the intervening months they could have retained their slaves.  When any leader announces an evolution in the organization’s vision it is met with opposition.  Frederick Douglass (himself a former slave) ridiculed the President for not ending slavery throughout the entire nation.  Others who had supported the war to preserve the Union announced their firm opposition to any effort to expand the goals of the war to end slavery.

On a cold day in the autumn of 1863 Lincoln mounted a stage at the Gettysburg cemetery to make “a few appropriate remarks”.  He delivered an address of 272 words which may be the clearest and most concise statement of a strategic vision in the English language.  He began by telling the audience where they and the country had been – four score and seven years ago which connected these remarks with the Declaration of Independence and its opening statement of essential values – we hold these truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal.  He then moved to where the nation was that afternoon.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.  Lincoln concluded with a statement of a revised vision for the future.  That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

By the spring of 1864 the Union Army was bogged down outside Richmond in a series of bloody battles of attrition. Many Republicans had begun to argue that Lincoln should not be nominated for a second term.  The fall of Atlanta in September to General Sherman, however, restored the nation’s confidence.  Lincoln was reelected President on a campaign slogan of “Liberty and the Union” which summarized the theme of the Gettysburg Address.

As dramatically portrayed in the movie the stage was set for the debate over an amendment to end slavery forever in January 1865.  Many of Lincoln’s supporters argued that this was premature and urged him to wait until the war was over.  But the President overrode the opposition and succeeded in securing passage of the amendment.

On March 4, 1865 Lincoln ascended the podium at the Capitol for his second inaugural address.  The war had lasted four years and over 600,000 Americans had died, but Union armies appeared close to victory.  Everyone in the audience had lost someone – brother, father, son, nephew, etc.  The President could called for retribution against Confederate leaders (Lee, Davis, etc.), and the audience would have likely endorsed the sentiment.  But Lincoln returned to his initial vision of preserving the Union.  In 703 words carefully crafted words the re-elected president delivered what he believed to be his finest speech.  He would anchor the hope of the nation’s future with malice toward none and with charity towards all.  In the days that followed the pace of events would accelerate.  In late March Lincoln met with his principal military leaders – General Grant, Admiral Porter, and General Sherman to discuss the end of the war.  As he departed the President gave his commanders his final guidance – Let them up easy.  They would follow this counsel in the terms they offered during the surrender of Confederate armies.

On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.  The nation rejoiced and on the following evening there were fireworks and parades in Washington.  Crowds assembled on the White House lawn, and Lincoln delivered his final speech.  He reiterated his desire to reconcile the southern states into the Union, but used this opportunity to expand the vision once more.  Lincoln argued that in the war’s aftermath the nation should offer former slaves that had served in the Union Army (over 200,000) full rights of citizenship.  This might seem a logical next step that would be non-controversial, but this was not the case in 1865.  Lincoln knew he was setting the stage for another bitter political debate.

In the crowd that evening was a well-known actor, John Wilkes Booth.   Later that evening Booth met with his fellow conspirators and announced, “that is the last speech that man will ever give”.  Four nights later Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, and the President died early the next morning, Good Friday.  Sadly, the vision that Abraham Lincoln had created, evolved, and communicated to the nation would largely remain unrealized for the next hundred years.  Not until the civil rights movement of the 1960’s would the nation return fully to the ideals he had articulated.  It remains a vision of equality and human dignity that we continue to strive for even today.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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Leadership Lessons of “Triage”

September marked the 150th anniversary of what is arguably the most decisive battle during the American Civil War – Antietam.  Many historians might contest this point and suggest that Gettysburg was the “high watermark of the Confederacy”.  Still a Union defeat at Antietam would have further delayed Lincoln’s decision to announce the Emancipation Proclamation which redefined the purpose of the war.  It could have also encouraged Britain and France to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation that could have led to their intervention.  Finally, another Federal defeat in September 1862 would have further inspired those in the North who opposed the war to greater success in that fall’s congressional and state elections.  Sadly, Antietam holds an even greater distinction in American history.  It was the bloodiest single day in the American Civil War.  Over 25,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded in one day of fighting.

But historically wars also have encouraged innovation and the need for leaders to deal with new and frequently enormous problems.  The mass casualties suffered by both sides resulted in rapid advances not only in medicine but also the management and treatment of these huge numbers.  For example, it was during the Battle of Antietam that a young woman from Washington, Clara Barton, would appear with a wagon of supplies to treat the wounded.  Her efforts during the remainder of the war would eventually result in the creation of the American Red Cross.

It was also at about this time that a young Union Army Captain, Jonathan Letterman, would begin to ponder how to deal with this “wicked problem”.  Letterman would convince the Union Army leadership to assign a doctor to each regiment, organize medical teams that were the advent of today’s medics, and invent the field ambulance.   He also formulated a new method for dealing with mass casualties known as “triage” that General Omar Bradley, the famous World War II commander, would later describe as the greatest innovation in military medicine.

Letterman argued that military doctors and aid workers must be trained to quickly assess the extent of a soldier’s injuries and “triage” or classify the wounded into three groups.  First, were those so badly wounded that they were deemed terminal with no hope of recovery.  These were managed by chaplains and nurses who could make them as comfortable as possible.  Second, were wounded whose treatment could be delayed.  They might require some immediate treatment to stem the bleeding, but this could be handled by nurses or medical orderlies.  Third, the soldiers with injuries that if they were immediately addressed had a good chance of survival.  They were moved quickly surgery and the immediate attention of the available doctors.

“Triage” saved countless lives during the Civil War and in conflicts ever since.  But it is also a concept that leaders can apply as they deal with a mounting number of problems that clog their inbox on a daily basis.  Leaders must quickly scan their email or office inbox and ask themselves the following questions:

  • First:  Which problems are terminal or have been overcome by events?  There still may be issues of so-called “consequence management”, that may need to be confronted, but these can often be handled by others in the organization.
  • Second:  Which problems can be delayed or deferred?  We sometimes need to consider whether a problem is “ripe”?  Is it time to deal with it or should we let it evolve?  Can others in the organization deal with this problem which will both free up critical time for senior leaders (like the few doctors at Antietam) and allow subordinates an opportunity to both better develop their potential and confidence?
  • Third:  Is this an issue that demands the immediate attention of senior leaders?   Does this problem directly affect the essence of our organization, or is this an opportunity that the organization cannot fail to miss?

Making this calculation is invaluable to leaders.  It further forces them to understand that some problems are “wicked problems” like mass casualties during the American Civil War.  These are those challenges that are probably never “solved” but are “managed”.  For example, our national leaders will likely never solve the threat posed by AIDS, poverty, world hunger, etc.  But the importance of these problems demands every effort to “manage” them as effectively as possible and move us in the direction of a long term solution.  Every organization has such problems that will unlikely be “solved” at least during the term of the current leadership, but they must be “managed”.  Failing to do so can have dramatic consequences just as it did on the.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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