Build People – Focus on Potential, a Leadership Task

ToolsWhile walking through Home Depot, my favorite aisles are those aisles with tools, power tools, hand tools, and so forth.  My mind always goes on imaginative wanderings, thinking about what those tools will go out into the world and do.  Will an inexperienced hand learn on those tools?  Will they build grand buildings?  Will they destroy?  What will those tools help accomplish?  The potential held in a tool is as much a mystery as looking at a babe in arms and thinking, what will that soul go forward and do?  I never become bored thinking about the potential held in a tool as part of the ongoing saga of humanity.

Without hands, a tool is useless; the tool cannot act independently.  Guns do not shoot themselves; hammers do not strike anything alone; thus, we can see that tools need someone to fulfill the measure of their creation.  For good or ill, the tool is only ever a force multiplier and requires intention through another party to act.  A critical point to understand is the person’s intention of holding the tool, who decides whether that tool will build or destroy, and the value to the owner.

Knowledge Check!But, this article is about people’s potential; why begin discussing tools?  To a leader, each person is a tool requiring training, delegation, trust, and motivation to achieve the measure of their creation.  Have you ever witnessed an unskilled manager use, or abuse, their people?  My first officer in the US Army National Guard was one of these unskilled managers.  The stories and experiences from this manager are legion, fraught with examples of what not to do and the hubris of a person placed into a position of power above their competence level.  I have long wondered, what did this officer’s boss think about this officer’s performance?

The first lesson in building people is this; everyone has someone they report to.  Do your people know who they report to, and are they comfortable talking to this person?  Consider the following:

Leadership is solving problems.  The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.  They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care.  Either case is a failure of leadership.” – General Colin Powell

In more than nine years of Military Service, I can count on one hand the number of officers I trusted enough and were approachable sufficient to bring problems to, and I won’t even need the pinky and thumb.  In talking to friends and family about this issue, their experiences are similar.  Worse, the same problem exists with the non-commissioned officer corps.  In my professional pursuits outside military service, I have worked with precisely one boss to whom I felt comfortable bringing issues.

While I strive to be the leader I wish I could take problems to, there is a realization that to my teams, I am being measured, weighed, and if found wanting, will never know I failed to be the leader to whom I would bring problems.  Consider this for a moment.  A leader could be solving problems and thinking, “My people bring their problems to me QED: I am a good leader.”  While never realizing they are detestable and hated by their people.  All because their people only bring work-related problems, and then only rarely.  In the US Navy, I experienced this exact issue more than once, and the officers all thought they were “God’s gift to their people.” Massive egos, compensating for being vile and despicable.

Leaders, take note:

    1. What are the preferred names of the members of your teams?
    2. When was the last time you shared problems and asked for input from your followers?
    3. What are you learning daily, and who is teaching you?
    4. Do you know your followers sufficiently to advise?
    5. What quirks, talents, skills, or abilities do your people possess that you appreciate?

How you answer these questions determines more than your destiny as a leader and your team’s productivity in achieving business goals.  When I begin a new project and select tools, I review what I know about my tools.  My hammer has a loose head, but I will not change it out because it has the smoothness of age and is the best hammer for finishing work.  This wrench has scratches in the head and a chisel mark in the handle that is exactly 6” and is handy in a pinch.  Thus, when used on soft brass, the head will leave marks in the metal on which it is used.  All this and more is reviewed, strengths and weaknesses, quirks and peculiarities, all known before engaging in a new project.  When you know your tools, their potential is declared, and in communicating their potential, how and where they can be best used becomes common knowledge.

Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character.  But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” – General Schwarzkopf

Ninety-Nine present of leadership failures are failures of character.” – General Schwarzkopf

Several of the worst people I have ever worked for had the moral integrity of a used car salesperson.  They could not be trusted, except to be trusted to stab you in the back.  No honesty, never forthright, always acting for the downfall of anyone they deemed was competition, and constantly engaged in stealing glory while meting out the worst punishments.  While the experiences fulfilled another axiom from General Schwarzkopf, the education was brutal to suffer through.

You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership.  Because you learn how not to do it, and, therefore, you learn how to do it.” – General Schwarzkopf

These experiences alone would qualify me to write this article; however, through a multitude of academic classes and degrees, I have gained more fundamental qualifications to justify what I am about to declare.  If you think a title makes you a leader, you are the problem in your organization’s leadership!  In working with newly minted, freshly commissioned, officers in the US Army and the US Navy, I have learned through sad experience too many consider the rank and titles their “Golden Ticket” to being abusers of people through “leadership.”  One particular example stands out more clearly from the others.

While serving in the US Navy, my first Chief Engineer was book smart and common sense inept!  This man was more dangerous with tools in his hand, even though he could verbatim quote pages from maintenance manuals.  Shortly before I arrived on the ship, the Chief Engineer had started a fire on board the vessel in multiple engine and auxiliary rooms by applying shaft brakes to an operating shaft instead of to the shaft that had been locked out and tagged out.  The Chief Engineer then compounded his errors by blaming the engineers who had properly locked out/tagged out the shaft needing maintenance.  This was a major issue that proved cream rises and trash sinks, and this leader was absolute trash!

The bitter cherry on this crap sundae, the example of the Chief Engineer, was a symptom of a greater sickness and moral desert in the Engineering Department.  Chiefs were force-multiplying the Chief Engineers example, and the senior non-commissioned officers were force-multiplying the chiefs example.  Who suffered, the lowest enlisted, and the rest of the ship.  Maintenace was rarely done properly, watchstanding was hit or miss, and the example plagued the Engineering Department for years after the Chief Engineer was summarily dismissed.

The only redeeming factor from this experience, I learned the lessons of what negative leadership does well.  Leaders take note:

    1. If character problems lead to poor performance or behaviors detestable in your teams, look no further than the reflection in the mirror for both an answer and a root cause.
    2. Your followers will observe what you do more than what you say. How are you acting?
    3. Stop looking up, you are a leader, and your first vision should be to look sideways and make sure your people are on the same level before you look up.
    4. Before embracing new strategies, first review character!

The following is critical to building people and promoting potential:

To be an effective leader, you have to have a manipulative streak – you have to figure out the people working for you and give each tasks that will take advantage of their strengths.” – General Schwarzkopf

Leadership is a balancing act between helping people take advantage of their strengths and training them to overcome individual weaknesses.  Yet, leaders often act like managers, never training, and always micro-managing to shave strengths preventing competition with the leader.  Which are the actions of neither a leader nor a manager, but a tyrant!  Petty authoritarians acting the role of tyrants produce more harm than war, poverty, and disease combined.

What actions are needed?  We conclude with the following:

TRUE courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job.” – General Schwarzkopf

The job of a leader begins with being a good follower; even if to be a good follower, you must be the loyal opposition standing like a rock doing the right thing in the face of adversity.  Moral integrity is critical to being a good leader and is foundational to building people.  Leaders take special note and act accordingly:

    1. What is your moral code?
    2. Why do you embrace those morals?
    3. Do you understand integrity is doing what is right, especially when you think nobody is watching? Do you have moral integrity?
    4. Do you know your identity, and are you comfortable with your identity?
    5. What character do you possess, and is that character tied to your morality and integrity?Exclamation Mark

When you are placed to influence people, build potential by first knowing, and then doing that which is the harder right, than the easier wrong.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Killing the Status Quo – Revisiting That Powerful Tool – HUMOR!

Deep PoetryDale Dauten authored “The Laughing Warriors: How to Enjoy Killing the Status Quo,” who, alongside Robert Fulghum, author of “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” have taught me much about the sword and shield of humor.  Humor is a tool; it is the best tool in a leader’s toolbox, and “Dad Jokes,” especially those that are “a parent,” work the best.  Interestingly, when killing the status quo, one must first become creatively useful.

Creative Usefulness

Creative usefulness is a term coined by Dale Dauten (2003), which reminds us of a quote by Conrad Schneiker, “You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get it to float on its back, you’ve got something.”  Humor creates creativity in other people, allowing that humor-inspired person to do a job. It makes them useful first to themselves and then to others. As a result, humor and usefulness break out like sunshine after a moonless night!

How does the man in the moon cut his hair?
Eclipse it!

Dale Dauten (2003) nailed creative usefulness by changing the language of success.

“The Old Language of Success:
Persistence, Goals, Numbers, Positive Attitude

Versus

The New Language of Success:
Smiling, Laughing, Feelings, Saving, Helping”

Mediocrity JokeDauten (2003, p. 10-11) went further and added that creative usefulness is also ambitious helpfulness; this motivates people.  When your employees creatively use their talents, skills, and abilities, they become helpful to the whole brand, the full organization, and guess what, you never have to talk about employee morale or engagement.  How many fewer meetings would executives have per day if they were not discussing just these two items; a lot.  Meaning they could be on the floor listening, helping, and enjoying what they created: ambitious helpfulness and people’s growth.  Just remember, mediocrity is okay!

What happens when you squeeze a smurf?
You Papa smurf!

Slaying Mediocrity

Plant JokeMediocrity is acting in a mediocre manner.  Mediocre is nothing special; in fact, mediocre happens.  Mediocre is indistinguishable, lacking quality, indifferent.  In being indifferent, mediocre becomes deadly.  Avoiding mediocre attitudes and mediocrity in actions is not a perplexing problem; embrace mediocrity.  Sounds absurd, doesn’t it.  The whole world wants us to chase quality, nag people into higher performance, and organize differently into success.  Guess what; none of those things will bring happiness to ourselves, success to our organizations, and fulfillment to the employees around us.  Our brains will go on full alert in embracing mediocrity because we have been taught that mediocrity is dangerous.  Guess what; mediocrity IS dangerous.  Why embrace mediocrity; because therein, we find the problem with hierarchies, organizational designs, and strategical goals; we forgot the people!  Psychologists and geneticists find that the best way to reach people and get the best out of them is to remind them of their weaknesses.

What do you call a belt entirely made out of watches?
A waist of time!

Mediocrity is the safe spot, and people and institutions will invariably fall back to this spot as a personal safety zone.  Thus, stop criticizing yourself and those around you for being mediocre.  It is okay to be shy and to tell the world about your problems with being shy.  Business organizations bring out the worst in people, be liberated by that knowledge, and you can then begin to understand how humor and a laughing warrior mindset can help.  Use eyes that encourage.

What happened when prison wardens allowed inmates to take pictures?
Cellfies!

Looking Through Eyes that Encourage

Pigeon RevengeDuring my MBA, the current buzzword for improving people was “Management by walk-around,” and this philosophy has been incredibly popular while also being fantastically useless!  Why; because getting out and taking a walk helps only the manager, not those managed!  Worse, management by walk-around brought out the worst egos from their offices, and employees tuned out, turned off, and fell into mediocrity as a shield of protection from “know-it-all” leaders.  Want to change that; embrace a “learn-it-all” mentality.  When you walk out your door, ask the first person you see to teach you something.  Repeat for as many people as you encounter.

There are three signs of senility.
Loss of memory is the first one.
… I forget the other two!

When asking for help, take notes.  The action of taking notes reflects the seriousness of your desire to learn.  Plus, with a notebook in hand, you can remember to tell that funny joke you just heard after training completes.  Never forget, in fact, teach this to your employees through example, “Empty hands; Closed Mind!”  Dauten (2003, p. 40-41) quotes Shashi Gupta:

If you want to implement an idea, you must be able to answer three questions.”
What are the three questions?”
“The answer: “NO ONE KNOWS!”  (By the way, this includes the boss!)

Moon Re-EntryWhich would be more preferable, employees who ask questions or know answers?  How you answer this determines a lot about you and speaks volumes about what a consultant will find in your operations, employees, and customers.  As a consultant (since 2004), the number one expression I have heard consistently across the lower 48-states has been “No Way!,” followed closely by “Impossible!,” and “You are out of your mind!”  Why; the first excuse, “That is the way we do things here.”  Announcing for the world that processes never change, procedures never flex, and customers never change, so why not just keep doing what we have always done, ad nauseam ad infinitum.  When reality bit, all of these organizations saw stars, all lost tremendous amounts of capital, shrank operations, and many went bankrupt!

Overheard in a bar.
Patron 1: What does “IDK” mean?
Patron 2: I don’t know.
Patron 1: I cannot believe this; no one knows!

Cow and Moon JokeLooking through encouraging eyes is refusing to do the same thing over and over, expecting no changes ever to result; not looking through encouraging eyes is a short bus to insanity!  Looking with encouraging eyes is all about asking, “Why Not?”  Repeatedly.  Consciously.  Then looking at the answers and still stepping into the unknown with confidence.  Why not; when faced with a problem, ask your employees for solutions, input, and ideas; this leadership style uses “Appreciative Inquiry” to the fullest extent possible.  Why not; shake off the status quo, laugh, and enjoy the human element as a tool for creating great people dedicated to your brand.  Why not; ask the impossible, explaining the why, and see how the results occur.

True Story:  Whenever I have a problem, I sing…
Then I realize that my voice is a lot worse than my problems!

Pin by Tara Bites on for school in 2020 | Clean jokes, Jokes, Clean humorI am asking you to choose to become a laughing warrior, slaying the dragons of status quo one idiosyncratic obstacle at a time.  Having fun, growing people, improving business, and being adventurous.  Never forget, dehydrated water, in a can and pet rocks, sold like wildfire!

What do you call Security guards at the Samsung Manufacturing plant?
Guardians of the Galaxy!

Dehydrated water | | thetandd.com© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Society Needs the Family – Knowing the Paradigms That Shape American Society

School of DarknessA colleague said I should read a book, “The School of Darkness,” by Bella V. Dodd.  As an immigrant in the early 1900s, the book is discussing coming to America, losing one’s belief structure with its tenets, traditions, and ties that bind, and discovering the emptiness of society, which tried desperately to replace the family and religion.  The author only discovers this emptiness and the need for family and religion after a lifetime of fighting against the influence.

The ideal family, found in many cultures, religions, and communities across the world is of one father, loving one mother, and raising children in what is called a nuclear family.  Early in the 1900s, the families with close ties as a family, who kept the traditions of religion, found in America plentiful opportunities and made strong the American Society.  Those nuclear families without strong ties to a belief structure weakened American Society, but not in ways or methods cognizant at the time, and only understood through historical observation and dissection.Nuclear Family

Consider, for a moment, James Hardy’s writings (2015) on divorce in America; in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, there was created a judicial tribunal that solely settled divorce matters in 1629. “This legislative body could grant divorces based on adultery, desertion, bigamy and in many cases impotence. In the North, the colonies adopted their own approaches that made divorce available, whereas the southern colonies did all they could to prevent the act even if they did have legislation in place.”  Notice the distinction between North and South that was apparent in pre-Revolutionary and Civil War society supporting both conclusions needed for a strong community, family, and a common religious belief structure.

Fast forward to 2020, and the current divorce rate is 2.9:1000 reporting from 45 states and the District of Columbia.  With the medium marriage lasting 11 years and falling, and around 30% of marriages suffering disruptions leading to divorce.  The future of the nuclear family in America remains grim, unless fundamental changes in, and desires of, people change; America is soon to disappear.  The American Civil War taught this lesson well, the need for strong families, based upon a core belief structure that lifts the human mind from pettiness, selfishness, and authoritarianism, remains the two keys an individual will control to keep the American Republic safe from enemies foreign and domestic.

Role of ReligionWhich religions lift the soul, I do not speculate; however, I can tell how you can tell.  The answer is the same from generation to generation, first know yourself.  Second, research the religion’s works.  Finally, seek religions that bring light to the world sickened mind.  I have known great and good people in all the different sects of religion in this world.  The key I have found comes in living the religion, not just professing that religion.  As one lives that religion the tenets of that religion will either inspire, uplift, edify, and grow the spirit and the soul, or it is time to find a new religious structure.  Regardless, before the traditions of religion, the traditions of the family must be understood and cemented together.

Religion QuoteThe Jewish religious tenets are deeply respected by this author for the blend of family and religion that is born from the belief structure.  Some Catholic tenets speak to the same family and religious mixture, several Christian religions also speak to this mixture of home-based family-centered religion.  The Muslim faith tends to support a community based around the mosque, and not as much on the individual family.  The religious foundations and actions of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints are very like the Jewish religious beliefs, the Amish, Quakers, Dutch Calvinists, and more who also carry a strong family first, religion second, approach to building strong communities through strong religious traditions, by first focusing upon the family and home-based religious practices, building into strong religious communities, and then to strong and morally upright citizens.  Yet, I have witnessed the same in Atheist communities, where the beliefs of non-belief led to strong families asking questions, seeking truth and developing the person through strong familial bonds.

Building a child, with strong familial bonds, which will then build a community, a state, and a country, is the work of two parents in a nuclear family.  But what supports the parents in the difficult job of rearing children, the local community and the extended family are helpful and needful, but most important traditions of belief.  Dodd in, her book, reflects this lesson as she taught freshmen in college, generally from tearing the student from improperly rooted belief structures and transplanting them into the heady and hedonistic thoughts of social families replacing nuclear families, shucking religious traditions in the process.

Religion Quote 2Why is Communism doomed; because it attempts to replace the family with the government.  Why is Socialism doomed; it expands the power of government until the government becomes Communist and tries to replace the family with the government.  Why has Capitalism been such a breath of fresh air to the world through the American Republic; because it leaves the family alone from the fingers of government intrusion.  Government intrusion, which chokes the agency of man for the mind control of the government.  Fascism was doomed to failure, for it worked hard to replace the family with social groups, social families, and corroded the human spirit until nothing but violence and rage remained.  Does this sound familiar; it should, for this is the same path being used in education in 2020, learned in the early 1900s, and dedicated to the eradication of America through slow corrosion.

Religious ThoughtAs an older child in a large family, with a large extended family, I once asked, “Why do we gather as an extended family with all the expense, the work, the travel, the hard feelings, etc.?”  The answer never made sense to me then, and makes less sense now; yet, there is a truth in the answer that is more felt than understood, “We do it for family.”  In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye sings about “Tradition” and how familial and religious tradition extends into confidence and strength for the individual to understand who they are in society, and by extension in a country.

From the nuclear family comes confidence in knowing one’s self.  Does this mean that non-nuclear families are inferior; no!  It simply means there is a larger role for extended families and the community to render assistance.  Yet, the extended family and community cannot replace or render invalid the responsibilities of the parents.

Consider two families.  Family A loses their father as the oldest is just entering high school, the youngest daughter is just barely 18-months.  The mother is left to raise the family having married her high school sweetheart.  Family B is a product of divorce, the mother has custody of the children, and she and her new boyfriend work two jobs apiece, leaving the children to fend for themselves except when the grandparents can “take the kids.”  Family A the children continue to heal from their father’s abrupt passing and are strong in family and faith.  Family B the children have no roots, and they struggle with the religion of the parents and grandparents.  They struggle because their mother has no religious connections due to both employment and lifestyle choices.  The children are good kids, but they are confused, and the person who could settle their confusion, has abdicated the responsibility, and the grandparents can only do so much as partial parent replacements.  While the extended families and communities surrounding both families help and support as they can, the lack of parental responsibility and awareness of the mother in Family B, and the awareness and devotion in Family A, makes all the difference between these two families.

ReligionsHaving traveled across America for the last 25years, and ¾’s of the way around the world, I have a few observations that can strengthen the family.  I share the following as a warning, for if the family is not supported, the actions seen by the domestic terrorists in recent days, as evidenced by the riotings and lootings will only grow until America is lost forever.

  1. How much is enough? America is a capitalist and materialistic country; yet, for all that, there remains much good in America worth preserving.  Answering this simple question determines where standards, limits, and lines are drawn.  For example, how much sports watching is enough?  How much money is enough?
  2. We sacrifice for that which we love. It is a simple axiom, but the truth in a simple sentence.  Do we sacrifice that which is good for the better?  Do we sacrifice that which is better for the more desirable right now?  Do we sacrifice the best in us to fill an appetite?  Consider Family B, the mother chooses to never marry again and remains quite vocal about her decision; but, what is the cost for the sacrifice and the consequences of the decision?  Of her children, the first two are girls, who are confused.  Her young son struggles between the men of her mother’s life setting an example, and what he sees of his grandfather’s life and social circle.
  3. Social societies cannot replace the family. Social prominence cannot, and never will, fill the emptiness at the end of life.  My wife played for the funeral of a man who was politically well known, so much in fact, that the governor of AZ came to the man’s funeral, as well as many in the AZ State Legislature.  A couple of mayors of Phoenix were in attendance, some people with ambitions for federally elected posts were in attendance, and more.  Yet, I wonder today, 5years after his passing, if these same people remember the man.  My wife is still in touch with his wife, but I cannot help but wonder regarding this man’s children and grandchildren.
  4. Allow religious belief systems to change you personally, and your family collectively, through living a religious and moral centered life. President Adams, in discussing the US Constitution stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Look from the 1900s to 2020 and one inescapable fact emerges, the loss of the nuclear family has led to a degeneration of social values, morals, ethics, and people.  While the law has attempted to curb this dilemma, President Adams’ quote becomes ever more applicable.  America was founded upon a Judeo-Christian foundation of philosophies and the loss of religion is tearing America apart at its foundational core.

Martin Luther King in discussing individuals and society, morals, and religion, stated the following, “… you have got to change the heart and you cannot change the heart through legislation. You cannot legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion.”  While the rest of the quote goes onto try and validate the opposite, Rev. King has a point, the law can only go so far in dictating behavior, legislating morals, and decreeing standards.  Without a moral and religious society, America has nothing, is nothing, and falls a failed experiment in improving the human condition.

moral-valuesAmerica needs strong families, which possess a core of religious traditions, practiced in the home, and acted upon in society.  The days of allowing truancy due to race, the communist teachings in schools and the lies that society can replace the family must be fought and won by families informed.  America can survive the current attacks but needs every citizen fighting for the survival of this set of ideals embodied in the US Constitution.  We need morality and religion to return as the core that motivates people to action for America to survive.  It is possible to win against the forces arrayed against America domestically and foreign, but we need nuclear families, and those families need a religious core; there is no other way.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury

The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.

All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/