Leadership: Finding Diamonds in the Pig Slop!

Knowledge Check!Have you ever noticed the many writers pouring billions of gallons of ink into leadership guides, books, articles, and so forth, and leadership is still a problem?  As a kid, we kept pigs.  Not many, just seven or eight, had a couple of batches of piglets, and the pig slop grew the best tomatoes ever.  One day, someone visited and saw the pigs when they dropped something flashy in the pig slop.  I forget what was dropped, but we kids were told to find this item for this visitor — launching a marathon of several days crawling through pig slop all to no avail.

I saw those pigs eat snakes, squirrels, and they even ate a wild dog who got injured inside their pen.  These eating machines never ceased to amaze me, and the slop was the best place to “lose” anything.  Bringing us back to leadership and the search for diamonds in pig slop.  I am not castigating the authors of leadership books, tools, guides, etc., as creating pig slop.  I am claiming that leadership is learned, and in learning, there will be failures and success.  The books on leadership do represent a clamoring quagmire for attention, where finding that one diamond to help your particular situation is going to be difficult, if not impossible.wild pigs in pen - YouTube

What is a Leader to do?

I am a practical-minded person.  Give me information, and let me chew on that information until solutions can begin to appear.  As a leader, I have found some basic principles helpful in producing an atmosphere and culture worthy of passing along.  Use; do not use, doesn’t matter to me.  I offer some suggestions and leave the rest to you.

    1. Create a learning culture. I do not care how many degrees plaster your wall; I do not care how high your GPA is or was in academia.  If you are not a committed lifelong learner, you will not retain the data you learned and treat yourself or others properly.  Read a book!  Investigate topics of interest to you!  Read out loud to children!  Reading has a power over the mind that no other force can match.  Pick up a book!
    2. Never forget, “a leader is a teacher, and a teacher is a leader.” If you are not teaching, you are not leading!  Yes, it truly is that simple to identify a leader from a manager.  Teaching comes in many forms; use them all.  As you get to know your people, you will discover the need to use different teaching styles; don’t be scared not to know something, suggest learning it together.
    3. Delegate, delegate, delegate, and then wash, rinse, and repeat. A leader will not keep everything on their plate.  Recognize the talents around you, take those talents and grow more, using the first two principles and the power of delegation.  The best leader I ever knew never seemed busy.  He delegated as much as possible and spent his days going around to those he delegated to for updates.
    4. Know the value of emotions and use them sparingly! A military commander I served with understood this principle well.  When he got upset, change happened.  But he did not get upset often and was very selective when he showed any emotion, except humor.  When this commander showed he was upset, people respected his emotional displays and worked twice as hard to right the wrong.
    5. Humor! Know some jokes, use them often!  I was working in a call center, the VP of customer relations saw I was logging off for a break; he comes hurrying over to me, acting all important and officious; he says, “Do you know what I just heard?”  “Not a clue.”  “Elvis, he was singing a melody of songs to fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.”  Not a good joke, but I remember it.  Knowledge of humor and application of that knowledge is preeminent to leadership.

Why the discussion on leadership?

Andragogy - The PuzzleLet’s face the 800# gorilla in the room; America, and the world, are in desperate need of leaders.  We have too many managers and people who claim to desire leadership but want nothing more than a manager.  We have people all around us who have become content with management and cannot tell you the difference between a manager and a leader; worse, these same people will try and claim leaders are born, not made.  Plus, a thousand and one other excuses, diatribes, vent spleens, egoistic manifestations, and straight lies.  Worse, politics gets involved, from the government to business; the politics of wagging tongues reminds me of geese in a pen.  Hissing, biting, honking, making tons of noise, and not making a lick of sense.  Chickens cackling in a yard is almost musical compared to geese in a pen, and I think the chickens might be smarter, even without brains, than geese!

One of those authors who write about leadership but could not lead a platoon of sailors into a bar after a long deployment was recently quoted as having said something others claim is essential to leadership.  Leaders need to embrace the C’s of leadership.  The C’s of leadership include:

    • Calm. Employees and customers look to Leaders to project a sense of calm through an uncertain situation.
        • This is a true statement, but if the employees have been appropriately trained, uncertain situations are diminished proportionally to quality, value-added training as part of being lifelong learners.
    • Confidence. Being calm, but not still-water calm. Employees and customers rely on the confidence a Leader brings.
        • Calmness is a projection of inner thoughts onto situational awareness.
        • Confidence is the sum of training, plus experience and the desire to excel — all of which the leader does not control and can only influence. Thus, we have a confusion of terms and ideas that do damage when confused.
    • Communication. Relentlessly communicate and communicate more clearly. This is to avoid rumors developing the muddy waters.
        • Muddy waters will always exist; people gossip like mad. But leadership communication can only go so far when people choose to ignore communication.  Hence, again, we confuse roles and responsibilities being passed off as a leadership principle.
        • Communication is a two-directional street and requires both parties to be listeners and speakers in their due order.
    • Collaboration. Call on the resources and capabilities of ALL your team and bring them together. Have a role for everyone in which they can contribute.
        • NO! Contribution is nothing without training, training requires delegation, and delegation is only useful if you include a return and report requirement.  Collaboration has a role, but not in leadership as described.
    • Community. All of us live in communities.  It’s important we set an example, and model behaviors that are supportive.
        • Would someone please tell me how modeling behaviors is part of living in communities?
        • Modeling behaviors is essential in the leadership toolbox, and I would never implicate otherwise. However, the community is left with a choice to exemplify the modeled behaviors or not.  Worse, those outside the company cannot be controlled except through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned — all tools a leader needs to be promoting in followers.
    • Compassion and empathy, during and post a crisis are critical in leadership.
        • Every time you see the word empathy, remember it is an emotional road to ruin. Worse, add sympathy to the mix, and the speed to ruin increases dangerously.
        • Compassion is not empathy; compassion is not sympathy; it is simply recognizing pain in another person and rendering support without participating in that emotional crisis.

FAIR AND BIASED: STAY OUT OF THE HOG PEN!Thus, we have the pig slop and the diamond hunt.  Unless an author provides principles, many leadership books, guides, and articles are just noise, pig slop, where the person desiring to improve individual leadership skills is hunting for diamonds. At the same time, fighting through a gaggle of geese that are hissing, honking, and clamoring for attention.

How does a person avoid the diamond hunt in pig slop?

Gaggle of geeseThe following is not an all-inclusive list.  However, it is the beginning of a list of tools helpful to leaders in all situations:

    1. Start being a leader by being a good follower. Even if being a good follower requires you to be the loyal opposition.  “Yes,” people are managers looking for a leader to pin their star to and never understand the power of being the loyal opposition.  I have never met a leader who was not first a good follower, even if they had to be the loyal opposition.
    2. Not just books on leadership, as this is only going on a diamond hunt in pig slop.  Read books on every topic you can think of, for when you read; you discover principles for future application.  I found how to understand complex theories in biology and how to use these complex organizational systems in how the human body interacts with its disparate parts and systems.
    3. Never stop learning! Going hand-in-hand with reading, never stop learning is a principle and motto for life.  If you need or want information, go to a subject matter expert and beg lessons.  I had a boss who did not know the industry, did not know the company and had no clue how to build the team.  He was hired for a specific set of skills and discovered his collateral duties one assignment at a time.  He went around to every long-term employee and asked them to teach him their jobs.  Six months into his tenure as leader, he was the best leader many had ever experienced.  Never stopping learning means being willing to learn from anyone.
    4. Leaders are trained, not born. Leaders do not magically appear.  Leaders are carefully taught, built, and never stop!  Are you carefully building yourself mentally and physically?  In the US Army, I was taught physical fitness, and with the number of mistakes I was constantly making, I learned a lot about physical fitness.  But, until I was injured, I had not taught my brain to meet my body’s strength and made more mistakes because the strength of my body excelled the strength of my mind.  In carefully building your leadership skills, abilities, and talents, do not forget to keep the body and mind equal in strength.

Andragogy - LEARNNo single person has all the answers on how to be a good leader.  I know I am still learning, and the more I learn, the less I know, and I have been studying leadership, becoming a leader, and working as a leader for the majority of my adult life.  I have led teams in dangerous work, I have developed people in all sorts of industries, and I still fall back on these time-honored principles because they work.  Thus, I ask you to put down the diamond hunt, get out of the goose pen, and simplify your life so you can learn easier and practice better the principles of delegation, learning, reading, and using humor.

© 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.

NO MORE BS: CHANGE! – Let me Explain

Bird of PreyAs a fourteen-year-old, I was wandering around an office supply store in Belfast, Maine, and came across a bookmark I thought had an interesting statement on it:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I thought that saying was pretty neat, and it helped me begin a process in my own life of learning how to learn and challenging change.  Over time, I began to suspect something out of place in the pattern that quote/prayer was claiming; I do not believe there are things I cannot change!  I know that if a person refuses to change, I can do nothing until that person chooses to change.  But, I remain convinced that there is nothing man has made that cannot be changed.Leadership Cartoon

As a building contractor, I learned that the same tools I am using to destruct a building are the same tools I will employ to construct a building.  An important point where change is concerned, structures can come down, structures can be built, but the human element rests upon their own decision to change or not.  However, many times the structures can influence the individual to change.

Detective 4In the US Army, I noticed something powerful; when living in a Korean War-built Quonset hut, my fellow soldiers and I had moral problems, experienced depression, and struggled.  But,  when we moved into new barracks, many of these problems ceased almost immediately.  Thus cementing a lesson, the environment plays a role in personal feelings and influences desires to change.  In the US Navy, this was more poignantly learned.  I slept in Crew Berthing Three, the rest of the engineering department slept in Crew Berthing Two, and I hated going in there.  Between the smell, the lackadaisical attitude towards maintenance, and the general disorderliness of the compartment always left me feeling depressed.  So, even though I slept in the same berthing as Deck Department, which included the Boatswains mates, the berthing spaces were neater, cleaner, and better all around.  Environment matters and influences personal desire to change or not to change.

As my injuries have worsened with age, my ability to rebuild engines, build or destruct structures, and operate heavy equipment has been reduced dramatically.  But, the lessons taught have remained, there are people I cannot change, but there is nothing that I cannot change.  My wife asks me all the time why do I write articles for a blog.  My answer is rooted in the Serenity Prayer quoted above; there is nothing I cannot influence to change.

Andragogy - LEARNToolsThere are people who I have met who will never change.  One comes readily to mind, I was homeless on the streets of Auburn, Washington, after leaving the US Army in S. Korea.  I had a job but no place to stay.  One night while wandering to keep warm, I met a homeless man who refused to change.  He was homeless by choice, not because of any drinking or drug problem, not because he was not smart enough to get a job and improve his living conditions, but because he chose to be homeless.  He said, “I am who I am, and I refuse to change just to please society.”  A very intriguing thought occurred to me then and has repeated often, am I choosing to be homeless, or am I choosing to grow?

I choose to be a lifelong learner; this commitment sprang from this conversation with this homeless man in Auburn, Washington.  I committed to several principles knowing that I could more greatly influence my environment as I changed myself.

      1. Be Curious
      2. Focus on Active Looking
      3. Review and Redraft
      4. Improve memory and recall
      5. Change your perception

Because there is nothing I cannot change, I know the power of small pebbles in a landslide.  I know the power of tiny snowflakes in an avalanche.  I understand how a small rudder can turn an enormous ship for good or ill.  Nothing man has made that man cannot unmake, remake, fix, correct, or influence change.  There are people no one will ever influence due to moral agency, individual perception, and the valuation of consequences.  But, the environment around that person can be changed, and opportunities provided to encourage a different mindset.

GearsCase in point, an engineering shipmate of mine, was kicked out of Crew Berthing Two for smelly feet, which led to smelly shoes, which upset a lot of people in Crew 2.  He was forced to come live in Crew Berthing Three.  Why did he have stinky feet, a fungus was growing on his feet, and he had never been taught how to care for his feet.  He could wash them 100 times a day, but because he did not know how to care properly for his feet, nothing would change, and his feet would stink.  When my shipmate chose to change, we taught him about foot care, he went to medical and got some fungal cream, and he purchased new shoes and socks.  Why were his feet not a problem in Crew Three; we had better, and took better care, of the ventilation system than Crew two.Courage

Those engineers in Crew Two could not understand that the environment influences behavior, and the influence of behavior led to negative consequences.  The move to Crew Three changed the environment physically and led to an eventual change in mindset for the person.  Could Crew Two have had better ventilation; absolutely, if the members living there desired it.  Since they individually decided not to have better ventilation, the consequence was a smellier and more nasty berthing space.  Environment plays a role in behavior and influences people for good or ill.  We can affect the environment, but we cannot force change upon people who refuse to change.Behavior-Change

Leading to the final thought, why do we need “wisdom to know the difference?”  I  can change the environment around me.  I can change me.  I cannot change other people, but I can change other things and influence the people after changing those things in the environment, causing problems.  Let us examine this from the viewpoint of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The administrators (people) are causing moral issues and distress in the employees.  Some of the employees like being morally repugnant. Others are ethically obtuse because of job security. Others remain true to themselves and stay in the system to help affect change.

Life ValuedHow does a person change a system built by man; start with the environment, which in this situation are the processes, procedures, and methods of conducting work.  A leader arrives and begins influencing people through how they perform their work.  Then begins the fundamental operations of training to new standards, including ethical, moral, and logical processes and procedures written down.  Then, that leader begins holding people, not written processes, accountable for their actions.  Shortly every person will be faced with a choice, change or leave.  Hence, cleaning and correction become a natural function of the environment, and change is made where many have claimed; change will never happen.

Knowledge Check!As an industrial and organizational psychologist, I know this is the path forward as I have applied these lessons in my own life.  Changing people, like destructing and constructing buildings, does not occur magically.  Plans are made, planning is carried out, and fundamental change occurs through the environment.  Use the pattern:

      1. Be Curious
      2. Focus on Active Looking
      3. Review and Redraft
      4. Improve memory and recall
      5. Change your perception

Watch what happens!  It is amazing to see and possible to change.  Nothing cannot be changed; only people choosing not to change cannot be changed.  But people are not the environment, and the environment can influence people!

© 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.

Leadership and Kipling: 7-Kipling Quotes to Consider

The following is a reflection on life lessons learned at the feet of a great writer, Rudyard Kipling. Below is the quote; then the life lesson. While not a post intended to be read alone or all at once, this message is designed for pondering, thinking about how these words impact your current life, how they echo deep in your mind, and relate to others the personal meaning. Consider this a week-long journey of thinking and pondering, a mental exercise and an imaginative journey.

 1.  Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. – Kipling

  • I first came across this quote during a difficult period where my choices and reliance upon words and phrases was creating the problems experienced. Long had the lessons of my youth regarding proper English, pronunciation, annunciation, and word choice were giving me problems socially, but I could not understand why. The words we choose become addictive. The experience of using those words to achieve communication provides a positive feedback loop sustaining word choice, and very carefully the mind closes, the heart congeals, and we begin to attract those just like us. Breaking the cycle requires choosing different words, expressions, and raising our consciousness to the power of expression. Make the choice to choose words more carefully and specifically, and then see where that choice takes you.

2.  We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse. – Kipling

  • I had a football coach in Altamont, UT who said something very similar. When I discovered this quote several years later, I remembered that coach. More importantly, the lessons of working, striving, achieving, and failure came to mind as well. Failure is to be expected, anticipated, and even appreciated. Not for the excuses, but for the lessons, failure can either be a teacher and builder or ultimate destroyer. The choice to build or destroy remains lodged in the one person who can choose; you. Choose wisely!

3.  For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. – Kipling

  • This could be the ultimate team quote, but I refuse to think of this quote that way. This is the ultimate society quote, as society must always remain cognizant of the power of the individual and the collective fit that individual has in society. As my injury and disability has grown year-over-year, the realization of this statement from Kipling drives ever more powerfully home. I have had the pleasure of working with some amazingly talented disabled people, who have been shunted to the side, abandoned, forgotten, but their power to impact lives was not diminished. I firmly belief our society or “wolf pack” is stronger for those struggling with disabilities. Embracing the philosophy that all can contribute empowers, supports, strengthens, and builds the wolf pack.

4.  Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. – Kipling

  • The best leaders I have ever been privileged to know never inspire people to engage in long tasks, but short bursts of power. Consider the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. In this movie is a scene where he asks the militia forces under his command not to fight for the whole day or even fire three shots, but simply fire two shots, implying the need to stand and act just long enough. This is the essence of the action discussed by Kipling. Large events hinge upon small acts, small efforts that were made by people filling 60-seconds of life with full effort and purpose. Leaders must remember to only ask enough and no more; enough is most often simply filling 60-seconds of life full to the brim.

5.  Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade. – Kipling

  • Acknowledging the “Power of Work” and the “Law of the Harvest,” which are two powers that change the world one engaged person at a time. Hard work is the investment upon which harvest is born. How often does a person refuse to do the work and then cries about harvesting bitter and useless fields? We see this in a lot of different places, people engaged in sowing hate, envy, strife, and discontent, then complaining that their harvest of bitter crops is too great to bear and wants a new harvest of honey and milk. Leaders must exemplify the need for hard work and the patience required to harvest fields of good crops to their followers. In training, the answer to understanding work comes and delivers its own lessons to be appreciated.

6.  I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble. – Kipling

  • Do we understand the power and conviction of this choice? Choosing to believe the best in another requires preparation and a desire to have the best in us be trusted, believed, and seen. Leaders, who personify the quote as internal characteristics, form the backbone of change, the foundation of good society, and reflect the courage needed in difficult times to thrive and build. The time for choosing is today, the need for choosing apparent, and with this single choice, America will never be stronger.

7.  If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. – Kipling

  • The human condition is a condition of storytellers. Through stories, we teach, learn, and relate. The choice of words we use in telling the stories teaches values, ideals, and heritage in a most influential way, and most importantly our culture is relayed. Historical events are stories, Hollywood tells stories, books tell stories. Through these stories memories are kept, attraction to or detraction from the storyteller occurs, and language is preserved.

James Allen reports in “As a Man Thinketh” (1903) about thought and purpose claiming, “Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment.” Continuing to further claim, “They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pitying’s.” History provides the link between thought and purpose; stories of history are the mold the character of a person is poured into. Hence, both the need to learn history and the requirement to tell history as a story for others to learn requires serious consideration.

Why undertake a week-long mental exercise, the answer lies in the words of James Allen:

“Mind is the master power that moulds and makes,
And man is mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: –
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking glass.”

Contained in these words is understanding, leadership in the current world requires both understanding thought and a commitment to preserving thought in those who follow. Consider and ponder upon these gems of intelligence. The power of these words from Kipling to guide, mentor, and build others cannot be understated. There is great need for leaders in America; leadership continues to be a choice. If we keep this in mind, the world would be a much better place!

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved