It’s Time to Stop Confusing Leadership and Management

Leadership is deciding what has to be done and getting others to want to do it. 
 
In working with clientsI have found that often leadership and management are used interchangeably. However, leaders and managers have very distinct responsibilities. Confusing the two or treating them the same can cause create very dysfunctional organizations and overwhelmed leaders. 
 
First, let me explain the practical difference between management and leadership.
 
Management is about work standards, resource allocation, and organizational design. Management historically got its start at the onset of World War I. It was around that time that Harvard University created its masters programs while other schools and universities also focused their efforts on varying fields within business management.
 
Leadership, on the other hand, is about vision, motivation, and trust. Developing people and organizations to grow and have a bigger impact. Leaders must deal with change and strongly consider time as they move their team or organization into the future. 
 
I am a lifelong Cubs fan. Seeing them win the World Series was an unforgettable experience. I believe that the key to their success was the hiring of a new manager, Joe Maddon. Management in baseball is about the use of data and use of statistics – how fast a player can run, the speed of their pitch, the angle they hit the ball ator how quickly they move in the outfield. This provides the manager with a very large amount of data. But, just collecting tons of data is not enough. The manager also has to decide what data is most important to collect in analyzing a players strength and therefore the overall strength of the team.
 
Leadership on the other hand is about heartbeat. A leader must learn about that individual, interview themand perhaps even interview their family members to find out if they are a good fit for the team. Will they be more concerned about the name on the back of their jersey than the name the front? While a player may have the right data it is also important to make sure they will fit into our team or organization. 
 
Mangement is a science. Leadership is an art. 
 
As you move up in your team or organization with increasing responsibilities you may find that you will be spending less time on management tasks of your job – those responsibilities should be delegated to those you have selected to be on your winning team. Your responsibility now lies in keeping your team focused on the vision, keeping them motivatedand continually building their trust in you and in themselves. 
 

We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments below how you think leadership and management differ.


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder & CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

3 Ways You Can Inspire Confidence During Difficult Times

Do you know how to inspire your team or organization so they follow you? What if there is a challenge or setback? Will they stay by your side, hunker down and fight with you, or head for the hills?

 
Before we dive into these big questions, let’s talk about the word leadership”.
 
If you try and Google a definition of the word “leadership” you will be inundated with over 2 billion results! With so many definitions to sift through I have come to like the one by President Dwight Eisenhower best.
 
Eisenhower said,“Leaders have to decide what must be done and get others to want to do it.” 
 
The most important part of this definition – and the hardest – is getting others to buy into your vision for the organization and WANT to take action on it. Getting buyin from those who are actually going to make it all happenis the key to success. 
 
Here is my 3-step process for inspiring confidence during difficult times. 

Step 1: Dealing with Change

As a leader you have to deal with changes in the organization and changes in the environment. No matter if changes are in or out of your control, it can still shake your teams confidence. Distrust and uncertainty can spread quickly and significantly hinder the success of a sale, a project, a team, or an organization. Change WILL happen. A successful leader will embrace that change and chart a new course for their team. This brings me to step 2.

Step 2: Setting the Vision

It is the responsibility of the leader to continually remind their subordinates of the vision for the organization to help keep everyone working towards the same goals. Setting and reminding people about the vision is of utmost importance during difficult times, problems, and setbacks.  Keeping everyone focused on the vision of the organization will serve as a positive reminder and everyone working towards a common goal. When hard times hit, keep your vision in mind, and then implement step 3.

Step 3: Optimism in the Face of Uncertainty

On June 5th, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower met with young paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division. Eisenhower knew that these men would be parachuting into Nazi-controlled France, in what we now call The Normandy Invasion. Rather than give the men last-minute instructions on tactics or strategy, his mere presence assured them that this plan was going to work. Eisenhower is quote telling his staff in March of that year, “This operation is being planned as a success. There can be no thought of failure. For I assure you there is no possibility of failure.”
 
As you are leading your team through difficult times never forget that, as author and leadership expert John Gardner said,“The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive!”
 
 

We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments below how YOU have and continue inspire confidence within your team.


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder & CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

A 4-Step Process for Making Decisions and Assessing Opportunities

Do you find yourself having a hard time making decisions? Or, maybe you feel overwhelmed by all the opportunities out there and are unsure of which ones to take and which to walk away from?
 
Making decisions is a leader’s #1 priority and it’s your job to figure out which opportunities are the best for your organization. That’s a lot of pressure!
 
If you let those tough decisions get the best of you, there’s a good chance your decisions may not be in line with your organization’s mission, vision, and values. That is certainly not an effective way to lead.
 
Having a system or a strategy for making decisions, evaluating opportunities, and solving problems can be very helpful. At Diamond6, I use something called the OODA Loop”, a concept created by Korean War fighter pilot, Colonel John Boyd. 
 
The “OODA Loop” stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act, and Colonel Boyd used this approach to train fighter pilots. After leaving the Air Force, he created a number of books and lectures to help organizations and companies apply the OODA Loop” for their decision-making processes. 
 
Here is what the OODA Loop” stands for: 
 
OBSERVE– What is happening in the environment? What is staying the same?  What is changing?
 
ORIENT– Focus on what is the most important thing or things that are happening in the environment and your organization.
 
DECIDE– Make decisions on those items.  Never forget that time is a resource that you must manage. Not making a decision is making a decision.
 
ACT– Take action and monitor these new efforts closely. 
 
You can use the OODA Loop” for your own personal decision-making or throw it out to your team as a strategy for brainstorming solutions or making decisions. 
 
Observe, Orient, Decide, & Act!
Happy decision-making!
 

Do you have a great story about you’ve benefitted from the “OODA Loop”? Share your stories with us!


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Leading Your Peers

“My ego demands- for myself- the success of my team.”
–Bill Russell, Team Captain, Boston Celtics

At Diamond6 we frequently speak about four “dimensions” of leadership. They are:

  • Leading ourselves
  • Leading others
  • Leading the boss
  • Leading (or being led by….) our peers

The last of these, leading peers, is perhaps the most difficult and least examined. Leading peers is hard because it often leads to conflicts over loyalty. It raises thorny questions: Is my greatest loyalty to my peers (friends, colleagues, and co-workers) OR is my loyalty to the organization? Are the mission, vision, and values of the organization more important than my personal relationships?

Sometimes You Stand Alone

Perhaps the most celebrated example of leading one’s peers is Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. As Doris Kearns Goodman described in her book Team of Rivals, Lincoln outwitted his principal opponents (who were his peers) for the Republican nomination for President. Once elected, however, he invited them to become members of his cabinet. The fractious nature of Lincoln’s cabinet meetings is captured well in the Stephen Spielberg movie, Lincoln. For example, it is alleged at a cabinet meeting discussing a draft of Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln asked the assembled members “who opposes the document?”. Everyone raised their hand. Lincoln then said, “who is in favor?”. Lincoln raised his hand and concluded the discussion by saying, “well, I guess the AYES have it.”. During this exchange Lincoln dealt with a conflict of loyalties. What was best for the relationship with his team? What was best for the organization? As President, he preferred the clear support of his cabinet. He had established a good relationship (if not friendship) with several of them, especially Secretary of State Seward. But he firmly believed the best things for the nation was to seek an end to slavery. Consequently, he made the hard leadership decision to stand alone.

The Single Most Crucial Factor?

A new book entitled, The Captain Class by Sam Walker provides some useful insights on dealing with the challenge of peer leadership. Walker set out to determine what was the most important reason for the success of outstanding sports teams? The teams he examined were those that had sustained greatness for at least four seasons instead of a single championship. They include such celebrated franchises as the New York Yankees (1949-53), Boston Celtics (1956-69), Brazilian men’s national soccer (1958-62), Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-80), as well as lesser known teams from rugby, men’s handball, Australian football, and women’s soccer. He wanted to know was the most valuable ingredient money? Management? A unique strategy or associated infrastructure? Having the greatest of all time (GOAT) player?

His research uncovered that the single most crucial factor for a team that achieved and sustained historic greatness was the character of the person who led it – the team captain. He went on to outline the following characteristics of the great team captains:

  • Extreme doggedness and focus in competition
  • Aggressive play that tests the limits of rules/process
  • Willingness to do thankless jobs in the shadows
  • A low-key, practical, and democratic communications style
  • Motivates others with passionate nonverbal displays
  • Strong convictions and the courage to stand apart
  • Ironclad emotional control

If you are placed in a position where you are leading peers, remember Abraham Lincoln. Peer leadership will be hard and place strain on loyalties to colleagues vs. the entire organization.  But there are also lessons for any leader who is seeking to build teams within their organization and, consequently, must select those for positions of increasing responsibility. The characteristics described by Walker in the Captain’s Class may be useful for any organization.  As we look for our “team captains” should we focus solely on individual performance? Or do we take time to make a more subjective analysis that looks for the factors that might not only build a world championship team but one that sustains itself into the future?

Do you have a great story about how you led your peers? Or, how you have been led? Share your stories with us!


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Take The Risk

An interview with participant, Danielle Calero, 6th grade history teacher

At what point during your Diamond6 workshop did you have a “light bulb moment”?

On the third day of the workshop we were at the Army Heritage and Education Center and we heard Dr. Chris Maxwell
’s presentation, Lead Like a Guide. One of the things he talked about was taking risks. At the end of his presentation he asked us to write down what resonated most with us from his presentation. In my spiral notebook all I wrote down was, “take the risk.”

The day went on and we were meeting with our small groups. That is when it all really came together for me. I was in this group with so many established people in my school district. All week long I had been thinking, “I’m just a classroom teacher, I’m just a classroom teacher.” My colleagues definitely weren’t making me feel that way at all. It was more the feeling that I want to do more. There’s more that I can do to help my school site, my students, and my coworkers. But, the idea of taking the risk was something that I was always afraid to do.

Where did the letter to yourself come into play?

When Jeff asked us to write the letter to ourselves. He explained that we were to write down the one thing that we intended to do when we got back to work. We then sealed up the letter, returned it to him and he would mail them to us just around the time when school year would be starting up again.

The only thing I wrote down was “take the risk.” Nothing else. I put a period at the end and put it in the envelope.

What happened when you got home?

When I got back I had so much to share with my husband and my coworkers. The more I started talking through everything it became clear that I needed to take the risk.

I’m not ready to be out of the classroom yet. But, an end goal for me has always been to take on an administrative position. I’ve wanted to explore that avenue more.

I happened to be talking to one of my coworkers who came on the Diamond6 trip to Pennsylvania with me and she told me she applied for the Administrative Credential Program. Through this program I would get my preliminary administrative credential and it would allow me to take on positions like an assistant principal or principal job, student advisor, teacher on special assignment – it gives me a more options to leave the classroom when I’m ready but not completely leave education.

And so I thought about the program a lot. Should I do it? Should I not? My kids are still little. I don’t have enough time. All the excuses that I’ve been using for the past 5 years!

I talked it over with my husband and realized that my kids of course aren’t going anywhere, the busy schedule isn’t going anywhere. What happens if an opportunity arises and I’m not ready or I’m not prepared? So, I scrambled to get my paperwork and application together and literally got it in the day before the applications were due in August.

When did you receive the letter you wrote to yourself?

I came back to work to start the school year and got all the papers from my work mailbox. I saw the letter but I didn’t want to open it yet. I knew what was in it, but I didn’t know yet if it was worth it. I hadn’t heard back from the program so I didn’t know if I had been accepted or not.  

So I brought the letter back to my classroom. I sat down at my computer, opened my email and there was the email saying that I had been accepted into Administrative Credential Program. And then I looked at my letter and I was ready to do this, I was ready to open it!

Those two things happening on the same day made it all clear that the next year and a half might be a struggle, it might be busy, I might get stressed out but it’s worth the risk. I just can’t be afraid anymore. I can’t be afraid because opportunities will pass you by.

Like I said, I’m not ready to be out of the classroom yet. But, when the right opportunity comes along in two or three years I don’t want to be thinking, “I should have taken the risk and gotten that certification.”

Are you taking risks in other ways?

I’m very comfortable talking in front of my students but it’s hard for me to talk in front of my peers. So, over the last few years I’ve been taking on more leadership positions at my school site. The leadership seminar through my school district and the week with Diamond6 really gave me the confidence I needed to start this next journey.

What keeps you motived at work?

I see the potential in our school, in our students, and in our staff. I’ve been learning a lot in this Administrative Credential Program about the importance of school culture, relationships and trust building. That keeps me motivated to keep doing what I’m doing, to stay positive, with that end goal in mind.

 


 

We’d love to hear about your risks! Share your leadership stories with us.

Leading Up

How to lead your boss and be a boss who wants to be led.

It’s hard to believe but, bosses are people too! They are human and they can make mistakes. For the sake of this article I’m talking about good bosses. People who genuinely care about their organization and the people who work for and with them. Not bosses who are incompetent or unethical. (Check out George Reed’s book Tarnished: Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Military for those kind of bosses).

Every Boss Needs Somebody

Even good bosses will not have the right information or aren’t seeing it from someone else’s perspective. They may be tempted, for one reason or another, to make a questionable decision or miss an amazing opportunity.

This is where you have the opportunity to lead your boss! Think of yourself as your boss’s mole. You are their eyes and ears, their boots on the ground. The person who can provide them with a different perspective and insight they don’t have or simply can’t have because of their title and responsibilities.

I’m going to even take this to the next level. I believe it is your ethical obligation – to your boss, your organization, and yourself – to walk into your boss’s office, close the door and tell them when they are about to make a huge mistake or are going down a path that could lead to a major collision.

By leading your boss, you not only have a great opportunity to make an impact on your organization, you can make yourself a great asset to your boss and team. This takes courage from both sides!

Be a Boss Who Wants to Be Led

We have this cultural belief that when you have been appointed as a boss and a leader you must be the smartest person around. You are all knowing. You are always five steps ahead of everyone. That’s a lot of pressure, even for the smartest and most confident leaders!

During my career I have been part of many great organizations, and a few that could have used a little help. Those that are successful and doing great things are led by bosses who are willing to listen and be led.

How do they do it?

First, they surround themselves with smart people. You don’t want to let yourself be led by someone who could possible walk you right off a cliff!

Second, they have built a climate of strong relationships and a sense of trust with their team. The people who work for these bosses know that the boss has their back and will go to bat for them.

Lastly, these bosses welcome new ideas and ask for honest feedback from their team. This doesn’t mean they follow every idea or are pushovers. In the end they are the leader and they have the final say. But they have earned respect from their team by allowing them to be heard.

Be Brave to Lead the Boss….and Let Yourself Be Led

The idea of leading the boss and being a boss who wants to be led is not a given. It doesn’t come naturally or easily to most employees or bosses.

Employees may be afraid they are offending their boss or questioning their intelligence.

Bosses may think that creating a culture in which they seek out input makes them look weak and uninformed.

To break this stalemate both sides must be brave and find the courage to take the first step.

As an employee you must get to know your bosses comfort zone. What are his/her values? Where have they come from? Does your boss appear supported or lonely? Is he/she genuinely secure? What appears to be their failures, fears, or aspirations?

It is your goal to stay within this comfort zone and then work to expand it, slowly but surely.

Knowing HOW to present problems to your boss is critical. Don’t waltz into their office, drop a problem on their desk and walk out, wishing them good luck as you close the door. Leading your boss means you come with problems AND possible solutions. This will help you gain their trust and be in influencer in your organization. In other words, a leader!

As the boss you must create opportunities for people to share their ideas, thoughts and recommendations. Be curious about their personal and professional goals and do what you can to support them. Have a 5-minute brainstorming session at the beginning of every meeting and the only rule is that all ideas are welcome and respected. Hold post mortem meetings on activities, projects or events to discuss what went well and what could use improvement.

 

How have you led the boss during your career? Or, how have you created a culture where you allow yourself to be led? Share your stories with us!

 


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

McCausland’s Laws: Leadership and Critical Thinking

In my talks on leadership I frequently point out that the one thing that makes leaders different from everyone else is that THEY DECIDE! Though the effective leader wants to be open to input from as many perspectives as possible, the leader is the ultimate decision maker and must also decide when he/she is going to decide! As a result critical thinking is essential if a leader is going to make the best possible decisions in today’s complex and ever changing world.

Obviously, that begs a very important question – how do we define critical thinking? While there are various definitions, the one I like is as follows:

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively receive information, recall prior information, assimilate information by comparing differences and determining cause and effect, and evaluating the information to make decisions and solve problems.

This has to be done in a timely fashion to insure sound execution by the team. Leaders must seek to develop their critical thinking skills, and there are numerous historical examples where it was not done well. Here are some illustrations:

The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty…a fad.
— President of Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company in 1903.     

I dont like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out….
— Decca Record Executive on turning down the Beatles

Video wont be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
— Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox Studios, on television in 1946.

How then does a leader develop critical thinking skills and what pitfalls are there? In reality, the best approach is to consider the scientific method. First, identify the question and associated problem. This may sound easy, but in reality it is both fundamental and hard. It is fundamental because failure to do so may move all of the organization’s analysis in the wrong direction. Taking the time at the outset to really ascertain what is the real problem and associated question is key. Second, formulate a hypothesis. Why are things occurring in this fashion that presents our team with a problem? Third, seek relevant data. This can also be difficult because we now have so many means to extract data. Consequently, it is essential to question whether or not the data is valid. How was it gathered? Is it a representative sample? What definitions were used? What are implicit and explicit assumptions associated with the data. Fourth, test the hypothesis and evaluate the results. Finally, from the analysis, draw reliable conclusions that are appropriate to your organization while carefully considering your mission, vision, and values.

Based on my experience in the military, government, academia, and business I have formulated the following list of McCausland’s Laws that may be helpful as you develop these critical thinking skills:

  • Never assume logic plays a role, particularly when dealing with bureaucracies.

  • For every problem, there is a short-term seemingly easy solution that is often the worst thing you can do in the long term.

  • When explaining how something happened, do not neglect the possibility that your opponent/competition just screwed up.

  • Long range planning may only be tomorrow afternoon for your organization, BUT it is still really important and somebody needs to do it.

  • If two people agree on everything, one of them is not thinking at all.

  • Facts are important but placing them in the correct context is REALLY important.

  • Don’t forget that your opponent/competition can influence your strategy and decision.

Leaders in the 21st century would be wise to consider the words of Alvin Toffler, a futurist and author of the book Future Shock. Toffler observed, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

How Leaders Set the Tone

The Success of the Thai Soccer Coach

For two weeks people around the globe were glued to their television and computer screens searching for updates about 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach who were trapped deep inside a cave in Northern Thailand. Finally, on July 10, the story that captivated and stunned the world came to an end when the final members of the soccer team exited the cave alive and well.  

“We’ve rescued everyone,” said Narongsak Osatanakorn, the former governor of Chiang Rai province and the lead rescue official. “We achieved a mission impossible.” 

And it certainly was an impossible mission. Divers and rescuers from all over the world came to help guide the young boys through narrow passages, in pitch dark, weighed down by heavy equipment. Each grueling trip took between nine and 11 hours. Some of the boys had to learn how to swim while waiting to be rescued.

The Thai Navy SEALS summarized the rescue well in a Facebook post that read: “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what.”

What is most miraculous about this incredible rescue is the physical and mental health of the young boys when they emerged. Aside from being tired, hungry, and having lost some weight from weeks without proper nourishment, the boys were considered to be in good health after a short hospital stay.

While the rescue certainly required extraordinary feats in cave-diving expertise and medical know-how, it is steady leadership that played a significant role in helping the crisis come to a happy conclusion. The officials in charge of the rescue operations, the medical doctors, and the Thai SEAL divers were critical in pulling off the actual rescue, but it is the soccer coach who played the most critical role.

Having already gained their complete trust, Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, a former monk, kept the boys calm and focused and kept up their hopes that they would be found and rescued. It was his ability to set the tone in the cave that ensured rescuers would be able to get them out alive. If he had not done so successfully, the divers may have had to rescue boys who were dangerously anxious, panicked, or deeply traumatized. Not a state of mind you want someone to be in when you’re rescuing them from a life-or-death situation.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to set the tone for your team or organization. It is your actions and reactions that your team will follow during challenging situations and crises. However, you don’t have to wait for an epic crisis to start practicing setting the tone. Consider these three concepts during day-to-day operations to set you up for success in trying times.

1. Build Trust

We instinctually know that we will not follow someone we don’t trust, as it can be dangerous— physically, to our careers, or to the future of our businesses. Building trust takes time and effort on the part of the leader, and it can ensure that your team will follow you through thick and thin. But don’t forget! That trust can be lost in an instant if promises are broken or ethics are violated.

2. Check Your Optimism

I often say, “Nobody is going to be more optimistic than you are!” Be it completing a new project, overcoming a financial challenge, or getting through a crisis, if you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, not sure how this is gonna go folks!” you just massively decreased your chance of success. Plus, you’ve lost trust and you will have a hard time being taken seriously in the future. Be an optimist and your team will be optimistic they can complete any task that comes their way!

3. Never Let Them See You Sweat

As a leader, you have to be steady, calm, and keep your cool under fire. Losing your temper in staff meetings or having a public emotional breakdown during a crisis will put you on a path to disaster. You will appear unapproachable and unable to lead with confidence and grace. Be honest, stay composed, and have your emotional moments behind closed doors.

When faced with a challenge or extreme crisis, it is the leader’s responsibility to set the tone. Your reactions will decide what direction a simple challenge or crisis will take – the road headed towards complete disaster or the road that will most likely lead to a positive outcome. But, don’t keep these steps in your back pocket for that worst-case scenario. Start practicing today so you can have success when challenges and crises arise.


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Resilience 101

“Resilience” is a new buzzword I’m seeing these days in a many different contexts.  We need to develop “systems resilience” to deal with potential cyber attacks. We need more “resilient communities” to prepare for tragedy and the unexpected. The government is creating programs to help develop “family resilience” to better cope with the stresses of military life. And the military seeks to develop “resilient soldiers,” less susceptible to traumatic stress disorder, better prepared to positively respond to stress and change.

Resilience is clearly a good thing. So what exactly is it, and how do we get some?

Like many things, resilience is both simple and complex. In essence, it seems to come down to an ability to cope and to respond well to adversity and stress. The opposite of resilient  might be ‘fragile’, ‘rigid’, ‘delicate’, or even ‘sensitive’. Persistence is usually, but not always, associated with resilience.

When we talk about people being resilient, we really have to define the context, since resilience manifests itself differently in different contexts. Different contexts may demand physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or other types of resilience – or some of each –  to respond to different types of adversity. Being resilient in one context does not assume resilience in another. We’ve all seen people who may be mentally and physically very resilient in combat or high-stress environments (physical/mental resilience), but who emotionally over-react or are unbending with their families and friends (emotional/social resilience).   My graduate students are very successful in their personal and professional lives, but sometimes have views of the world that are quite rigid. Graduate school seeks to develop ‘intellectual resilience’ by forcing students out of comfortable mental models, to try on different viewpoints and different ways of thinking.

So how does one become more ‘resilient’?

Aristotle said that if you want to become courageous, you need to do things that require courage. He would say the same thing about resilience. One must be willing to get out of one’s comfort-zone and stretch one’s ability to adapt to a different environment, if one wants to develop greater resilience under stress or adversity. In other words, one must subject oneself to the stress of not being comfortable. In today’s culture, there is a temptation to find a comfortable niche, settle into a ‘comfort-zone’ and fight never to leave it. We commit to career, marriage, family, community, mortgage – what one young friend of mine called  ‘the whole catastrophe’. We seek stability, predictability, and… we get comfortable.

To stay nimble and resilient, we must occassionally force ourselves into endeavors and environments where we are not in complete control – and force ourselves to adapt. We must be willing to at least consider, and accept with some equanimity,  the possibility that the things we count on can be taken away – our job, our money, lifestyle, health, friends, loved ones, our title, and our reputation. And we must be willing to ask ourselves that ‘existential’ question:  What is left, and who are we without those things?

To step out of our comfort-zone, we risk failure. Only by trying and failing, and trying again, do we develop the resilience to deal with things happening in a way that does not suit us. Without learning to deal with failure, there can be no resilience. Not getting what we want means to suffer, and, as the Greeks believed, wisdom only comes through suffering.

In dealing with difficulties and discomfort, we frequently use something called ‘self talk’ as a psychological tool to help ourselves deal with  difficult circumstances. Self-talk has been shown to actually change the way we think, behave, and perceive our environment. “I can do this.”  “This too shall pass.”  “This is my opportunity.” “This is God’s will (or this is my fate).  I must deal with this as best I can.” “I am strong.”   “I am confident.” Prayer is a form of self talk. A wise person once warned against asking God to give us the result we want, recommending instead that we pray for the strength (resilience) to deal with what He gives us.

My old friend Master Chief Will Guild suggested two essentials to resilience:  a sense of humor and love.  A sense of humor gets us outside of ourselves and our own ego-driven self absorption. It can deflate the pressures of fear, anger, panic, and resentment. Love likewise gets us outside of the immediacy of our personal anxiety– loving others, in spite of their failings, and loving ourselves, in spite of our failings. Indeed, Aristotle saw self-love, or ‘proper pride’ as a fundamental virtue.   Maintaining our self-respect and personal sense of dignity, when all is going wrong, is essential to a resilient response to challenge and adversity. Without self respect and ‘proper pride,’ collapse in the face of adversity is predictable.

SEAL training is very much about developing physical and mental resilience to respond to adversity in battle or special operations.  SEAL basic training creates a somewhat artificial adversity in a controlled training environment that serves as a crucible to develop the resilience needed to respond well to the real fear and adversity of combat.  Master Chief Guild used to teach SEAL trainees four key techniques for developing the resilience necessary to succeed at their baic training, and by extension, in combat. These are variations on what sports psychologists teach to professional athletes to help them perform their best under stress and pressure.

Maintain a positive attitude

Believe in yourself, keep your sense of humor, and use self-talk to stay positive.

Learn positive visualization

Visualize and believe in your own success, whatever that looks like. Positive visualization prepares us mentally for the challenge at hand, and for what it feels like to succeed.

Practice segmentation

Break the challenge you are facing into bite-size goals -– this event, this day. Set simple, achievable, short term goals. Don’t look beyond getting through the challenge of the moment, the event, or the day.

Learn arousal control

Learn techniques to calm yourself when fear, panic, and anxiety seem ready to overwhelm you.  These techniques include meditation, deep breathing, heart-rate management.  And again, self talk.

The best literature I’ve read on resilience is from the Roman Stoics and from Viktor Frankl in his classic short book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Vadm Stockdale wrote extensively about how Stoicism helped him survive seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Stoicism divides the world into two spheres – things we can control, and things we can’t.  The Stoic believes that we develop psychic resilience (and serenity) by learning to accept fate’s dictates, assuming full responsibility for our actions and attitudes, and developing the “wisdom to know the difference” between what we have to accept and what we can affect. Viktor Frankl’s book is about the resilience that comes from having a purpose for living – a goal for one’s life. This greater sense of purpose provides the strength and motivation to overcome life’s challenges.  Man’s Search for Meaning is about how Frankl found meaning in his suffering in a German concentration camp and how his belief in his own life’s purpose was key to his survival. Both Stockdale and Frankl would argue that a strong will to adapt, survive, and prevail is essential.

In conclusion, there is much that can be said and written about resilience. It is key to success and survival in dynamic, stressful, and rapidly changing environments.  As with leadership and character, resilience seems to be at least partly innate – some people are naturally more resilient and adaptable than others, and some people seem to be born with a stronger will to succeed. But as with character and leadership, resilience and strength of will can be improved through experience, training, and education. We can intentionally develop more flexible mental models, a broader perspective, and we can learn to imagine things as different than they are. It can help a lot to have a resilient and inspiring teacher, leader, or mentor who believes in us.

It is useful to remember that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection put a very high premium on resilience.

 


Bob Schoultz is currently CEO of Fifth Factor Leadership, which applies a Navy SEAL and Special Operations perspective to dilemmas faced by leaders in business and other public and private sector enterprises. Bob graduated from Stanford University in 1974, and completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado California in the summer of 1975. He then served as Naval Special Warfare officer for 30 years, with numerous extended tours overseas in a wide variety of commands.

During his career he served all over the world, and commanded SEALS and Special Boat personnel at all levels up to Commanding Naval Special Warfare Group Two in Little Creek, Va. His last assignment in the Navy was as the Director of Leader and Character Development at the US Naval Academy, from which he retired as a Captain on 1 July, 2005. From Oct 2005 until Nov 2011 he served as the Director of the Master of Science in Global Leadership in the School of Business Administration at the University of San Diego. 


Never Waste a Good Crisis!

What leaders can learn from the Volkswagen scandal

In September 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency made a discovery about VW cars being sold in the U.S. that was quickly dubbed the “diesel dupe”. It was a crisis that opened investigations worldwide into the legitimacy of its emissions testing. Furthermore, they recalled over 10 million cars, shares fell by about a third, many company leaders stepped down and they lost loyal customers.

The definition of a crisis is an “unstable situation of extreme danger”, “a crucial stage”, “a turning point”. Using a crisis as an opportunity is a very effective yet often underutilized tactic in crisis management.

This is the tactic that Volkswagen is utilizing to restore their business and earn back the trust of world leaders and customers. Much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, VW has turned this cheating scandal into a business opportunity to look toward the future and leave behind diesel for electric cars.

Matthias Erb, VW’s chief engineering officer in North America, told NPR that, while the scandal was terrible, it “supported and accelerated those conversion processes in the direction of electrification”.

Making a sharp pivot, like Volkswagen is doing, can be particularly helpful when dealing with a crisis of this magnitude; one where the company’s image is on the line, where deep trust has been broken, and continuing “business as usual” will be detrimental rather than helpful. This kind of re-branding may be what is necessary to keep a business afloat.

However, before changing the direction of your organization to deal with a crisis, consider these three important steps:

1. Conduct a post mortem

All crises, big and small, must be closely analyzed with a post mortem. Only then can you learn where the problem truly began, how the crisis manifested itself and how to move forward. A post mortem can help uncover decisions you may have to make, bringing us to step 2.

2. Decide and act

Leaders must have tremendous courage, particularly in a crisis. You will have to make some very difficult decisions such as having to let someone go or possibly step aside yourself. Martin Winterkorn, former executive for the Volkswagen Group, resigned as a direct result of the scandal. It is important to consider your “true north” when dealing with a crisis – what is the moral and right thing to do in this situation? Before making any decisions however, be sure to consider step 3.

3. Consider the consequences

You may have come up with the perfect pivot for your organization to come out of this crisis. But, have you considered the consequences of this plan? VW, for example, will not only be investing in the research and development of new technology for their electric cars. They will also have to spend millions of dollars to build out an underdeveloped charging infrastructure in the U.S. Think about the long-term effects this new direction may have before moving forward.

As a leader you WILL be involved in crises – large and small. Just remember, never waste a perfectly good crisis! Knowing how to turn a crisis into a business opportunity may be the only way to save your organization.


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.