Saturday, April 29, 2017

LtGen Wissler Leadership Lessons 170429

US Marine LtGen. Wissler is a man I look up to and a leader of Marines. 

When I was in Iraq, I had the privilege to provide briefings to him on a daily basis.  He was always very thorough in his comments and questions following our briefings.  We knew right where we stood and how we could improve our position with him. 

He would go on key leader engagements on a regular basis and provide us what he could from the meetings, many times updating our briefings with newly gleaned information. 

Later on in our careers, he would move on to be a Deputy Commandant and I would be recognized as a member of the National Military Family Association's Marine Corps' Family of the Year in 2010.  He would represent the Commandant in presenting us the award.  In so doing, he took the time to mentor us and just poor into our lives a little bit. 

He is a very wise and experienced leader. 

As we are both getting set to move on, I had an opportunity to receive 15 leadership lessons from him.  I won't editorialize on here; everyone could learn from the application from the below just as they are. 

1.  Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
2.  Provide environment to excel.
3.  Be forthright, honest and direct with everyone.
4.  Improve effectiveness to gain efficiency.
5.  Cherish your time and those of others.
6.  Find ways to make your organization better.
7.  Describe problems simply.
8.  Never stop learning.
9.  Encourage constructive criticism.
10.  Once you delegate a task, get out of the way and let your people do it.
11.  Make ethical standards more important than legal regulations.
12.  The team wins; it should not be about individual success.
13.  Emphasize capability versus organization.
14.  Find metrics to determine how well you are doing.
15.  Core functions equals balanced excellence.  Focus on the basics and what is truly important.

Semper Fi,

Saturday, January 28, 2017

170128 Be, Do, Have

I really like who I am becoming in 2017. 

I have always heard that you Be, Do, Have. 

Set SMART goals for yourself... and I will just talk about two of the attributes from the below as I see them.  The goals should be measurable so you know when you have achieved them and should have a timeline.  You never achieve a goal you cannot measure.  Goals without a timeline are wishes. 

Most of the goals we have revolve around possessing things; let’s face it, having things is measurable.  Having things is also a way to measure ourselves against other people.  Things can be positions, or titles, or objects.  You know, all those nouns that are not people or places.  Some of our goals revolve around running faster or lifting more or walking longer. 

Conversely, most Americans also look to lose things as goals.  Especially around the first of a year, we are trying to lose pounds of fat!  Again, this is measurable and you can certainly assign a timeline to it.

Ok, back to Be, Do, Have…. 

If you want to have the thing that your goal revolves around, you need to be the person who would have those things.  Being the person means being disciplined, being responsible, being accountable, being faithful.  It means changing your habits to become a person that would achieve that goal.  These things that you be are not necessarily measurable or noticeable on the outside without the Do.

What you do is the fruit of what you be!  (To all those critiquing my grammar, I apologize…).  The apple a tree produces is evidence that it be an apple tree!  That you walk for 45 min every day is fruit of your discipline!  That you get to the gym and lift and sweat and cry and strain under increasing amounts of lead and steel is fruit of your persistence.  That you give to charity is fruit that you be generous. 

As you do, repeatedly, you develop habits.  Habits take you where you end up.  Habits are the reason you achieve or don’t achieve your goals. 

My bride and I have developed some healthy habits of eating cleaner, limiting our calories, exercising daily and drinking more water.  We weigh ourselves daily.  As you can see, I am writing about what we did.  We are disciplining ourselves to these habits. 

These are not obsessions.  We allow ourselves sweets now and again, and after we reach our goals, we will continue the above with the goal maintaining a healthy weight.  We are simply disciplining ourselves into a healthy lifestyle. 

As of today, these habits have us losing 35 pounds (combined) since Jan 1, 2017.  We plan on maintaining these habits for the rest of our lives.  I will let you know how it goes!

Semper Fi,

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tradition.... Comradery 161103

I sat down with about a dozen of my Marines today and asked them who among them was attending the Marine Corps Ball in two days. 

Only one of them said they were; and, they were volunteering as a part of the ceremony. 

I asked them if they believed carrying on our traditions and remembering the history of our Corps was important to them.  They came back with a resounding, "YES!"  I asked them if comradery, brother-hood, and the close nit family they have in their unit was important to them.  Again, "YES!"

"So why aren't you going to the ball?" 

I got at least a dozen different reasons why they were not going to the ball, ranging from money (they would pay about $35.00 per ticket), to couldn't find a sitter (lots of Marines are going who have teen-aged kids at home), to ... bottom line, they didn't want to. 

In one breathe they want the closeness of the family but don't want to do what breeds that closeness.

How much history or tradition or family do you see in this picture?  From the rank insignia to the ribbons, from the ceremony to the flags, from the various experiences of each Marine to the detailed parts on the uniforms themselves, this image is rife with tradition. 

In the ceremony itself, the oldest Marine gets the first piece of cake and passes it to the youngest.  This symbolizes the passing down of not only traditions but practices that make the Corps still one of worlds most elite fighting forces. 

Ceremony and tradition are critical to keeping the Corps what it is. 

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Roles 161101

We play many, many roles in life, whether we like it or not. 

I am a father, son, uncle, friend, Marine, Master Gunnery Sergeant, brother, deacon, student, teacher, mentor, advisor, husband, business partner, and many other roles at any given time.  As such, I need to fill the right role at the right time. 

If I am acting like a friend when I should be parenting or leading Marines, I am going to act inappropriately.  Conversely, if I should be acting like a friend and am in parenting mode, I am again, wrong. 

I am watching the World Series of Major League Baseball as I write this blog.  Consider preparation for our differing roles. 

If a batter goes to the plate with is fielders glove on, he is not prepared to fill his role of batter.  When we start filling our various roles, are we prepared?  Have we set ourselves up to succeed at the roles we want to fill? 

If your mentor were not active in your life, consider the impact that could have.  What happens if you refuse or fail to fulfill your role?  Just looking at the kids growing up without active fathers or mother in their lives sheds some light on that question. 

Where would we be if William Gilbert hadn't studied electricity or Ben Franklin hadn't made the connection between electricity and lighting or Michael Faraday hadn't invented the electric motor?  If those innovators had not filled their role, we would be in a very dark place (pun intended). 

Figure out what role you are supposed to be filling and fill it!

Semper Fi,

Monday, October 31, 2016

Who Am I? 161031

It was the Greek philosopher Socrates who said, "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." The irony of that statement is, I am not completely sure he even said that; I just know that is what I was taught. 

The famous French philosopher and mathematician RenĂ© Descartes, also known as the Father of Modern Philosophy, said the words "I think therefore I am”. Again, while I also agree with this famous quote, I am not sure he said that.

So at this point, I know I am because I think; I am convinced I know nothing; and, I have no idea who really said those things first.  

Don't miss this.  I am at a juncture in my life as I transition out of the Marine Corps where I have to figure out who I am and what I am all about. 

What I know about the world is completely changing.  My very identity will be altered as I become Mark again. 

I have learned 24 years worth of life in the Corps and 18 years worth of life as an Air Force dependent.  I have been in some sort of military life for all but 7 months of my life. 

That said, I am more than the sum of my experiences, my mistakes or successes. 

I have also always been taught to put others first.  I am a servant at heart.  Serving others, taking care of them and living up to their expectations is very important to me.  I set my thoughts, actions and therefore habits up to ensure I am living up to those expectations.  Is that how I am supposed to live, to please others? 

Leave it to me though to take things to the extreme.  Having spent nearly all my life trying to live out the expectations of others and basing my identity on either expectations or my profession, I have lost who I am.

When I am not a Marine, a dad, a stereo-typical 'good-wholesome-guy', who am I?  Do I really want a tattoo or a drink of beer or a cat?  Finding myself in all this stuff is more important to me at this point.  Who am I really?  Do I like to bake or fly planes or fix cars? 

I realize most of that stuff is normal, but I haven't done any of that because I am trying to make everyone happy... live up to their expectations... serve them better.  Is that what I should do?  Should I care what you or anyone else thinks?

I do realize that my actions or inactions have consequences.  I know that just because I care or don't care what people think, doesn't mean they won't react to what I do.  The question goes back to do I care. 

I don't mean to offend you, but this isn't about you.  I don't mean to ignore your input, but I need to listen to my own input and the input of my God.  If you want to be a part of who I am when all this is said and done, just support me in this healing process and love me through it. 

I am challenging a lot about what I believe and what I value in my life right now.

Semper Fi,

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Double Standards 161027

We silly humans seem to have a lot of double standards. 

In some cases, we feel others should do things we don't feel the need to do.  Every time my kids turn the car I am paying attention to the turn signal they did or didn't use.  That said, I know I don't use it nearly as often as I should. 

In other cases, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the one to which we hold others.  We feel that we shouldn't make the mistakes others get a pass on.  We demand perfection from ourselves or families while good-enough is ok for other people.  Some parents absolutely require "A's" on their academic report cards. 

Watch a volleyball game.  When a player misses a pass or ball, you know that inside their heads they at least scold themselves about how they should have done something different.  Their team-mates immediately come over and encourage them in order to help them shake off that feeling.  The shorter their memory, the easier it is to recover from that error. 

Their team-mates don't hold them to the same standard as the player does themselves. 

These double standards often exist because we know what "right" looks like and for one reason or another, it wasn't achieved.  Sometimes the reasons are beyond our control.  There are antagonizing forces that produce results that are not favorable to us. 

When my football team loses, sometimes it is that they didn't show up. Other times, it is simply the credit of a really good opponent. 

I know Marine leaders that hold themselves accountable for every single loss from their units; they don't hold other Marine leaders accountable for the same losses from their respective units.  It is as if, they expected perfection from themselves but understand that someone else's unit would take combat losses.  Count on the fact that there are no Marine leaders that set out to take a loss. 

All you can do is all you can do.  If you have done all you can do, you may need to consider outside influences. 

In cases of combat, there is an enemy whose mission is to kill you and your Marines.  Sometimes gear fails or malfunctions causing fatal results. Sometimes accidents cause fatalities.  Stuff happens.

Granted, sometimes it is the fault of the leader.  Sometimes the leadership should own their failure and then get beyond it.  That said, we should hold ourselves to the same achievable standard to which we hold others.

Semper Fi,

National Anthem 161027

Athletes and people at athletic events are in the news a lot lately for not standing or kneeling during the national anthem. 

People have asked me what I think of this as a Marine and patriot. 

Point 1: My brother's-in-arms (including the ladies I served with) and I have shed blood or died to give people the freedom to stand, kneel or whatever, during the national anthem.  They should have the freedom to do as they wish as long as it doesn't affect the freedom of others to do as they wish. 

Their freedom means I don't get to demand that they stand or sit or whatever. 

Point 2: That said, I have the freedom to say and do as I like as well, or in response to the actions of others.  

When I see them do that stuff, I am free to change the channel.  I am free to stop paying attention to them and their team or buying merchandise that supports their activities.  

Point 3: Just because they are a player of a team in a national level professional athletic league doesn't mean they are a patriot. 

At this point though, I would like to make a topic transition:  I have to remember that Firefighters don't milk cows; milking cows is the job of farmers.  I don't expect law enforcement officers to give financial advice or financial planners to enforce laws. 

Athletes are not paid to be examples of good morals or ethical behavior.  They are paid to play a sport.  If you are silly enough to put them on some pedestal on which they don't belong, then you are silly. 

Watch in awe as they make some one-handed catch behind their back.  You can use their sideline antics as teaching points to show your kids what not to do. 

If you want to make a positive difference, set an awesome example of how you want your kids to act.  Show them what reverence and respect look like.  Show them patriotism and courage and discipline and joy.  They will model your actions before they remember your words.  Live how you want them to act.

We Americans are free to speak, think, and do as we like.  We just need to be understanding when we are judged by people who are free to speak, think, and do as they like as well. 

This plays into the whole Black Lives Matter movement as well.  Yes I am going to go there, but just barely. 

Protestors, please protest.  If you have an issue, there are legal ways to protest and get your voices heard.  I respect you and your point of view. BUT, don't commit a crime.  Once your protests become looting or trespassing or assault or destruction of public / not-your-private property or whatever, there is an issue. 

You don't have to respect my point of view; remember you are free to think as you like.  I am choosing to respect your perspective regardless of whether or not I agree. 

Semper Fi,

Monday, October 17, 2016

Foundational Beliefs 161017

I had a running conversation over a few weeks with a very influential mentor in my life.  We discussed the five foundational beliefs that we hold in life.  How we approach these beliefs forms the foundation upon which we base our thoughts and eventually actions. 

Security / Safety: So if you believe you are generally safe, you don't think about making yourself safer; you focus on other things.  On the other hand, if you don't feel safe, you can take becoming safer to a dramatic extreme.  Becoming safe can become an invasive, emotional endeavor that completely overwhelms your thoughts. 

Control / Power: Do you have control over ... what you feel you should have control over?  Do you have the power to be productive and make changes where you feel they should be made?  If you answered yes to the above questions you are probably comfortable in this area of your life. If not, gaining control over what you think you should have control over can become an obsession.

Trust: Trusting yourself and others is another important foundation in your life.  If you believe you can trust yourself, you exude confidence.  It is easier to act without double-checking yourself.  If you trust others, you are not always looking over your shoulder, expecting someone to be plotting or acting against you.  It is much easier to befriend people if you generally trust them.

Intimacy: Speaking of befriending people, how close do you let people get when it comes to getting to know you?  Do you let them in on who you really are or keep them at a superfluous conversation distance?  It is absolutely healthy to share who you are with people you trust.  It is healthy for them to share with you as well.  Loving and being loved are critical to living a full life; and, being intimate is part of that love.

Esteem: It is also healthy to esteem others and yourself.  Lifting up people you respect honors them; you should hold yourself in a high esteem as well.  You are important as a person.  You are valuable and should be honored and esteemed. 

Each of these beliefs are intertwined.  It is hard to be intimate if you don't trust.  It is hard to feel secure if you don't feel you have a sense of control over at least some of what is going on in your life. 

Over time, after events, through our experiences, our personal beliefs about these five areas can change....  So my 16-year-old daughter just got her drivers license.  I used to feel safe in the passenger's seat of a car... my belief of my own safety in that seat has changed! 

Seriously though, she is a great driver, but I never look at the car the same since she and her two older brothers started driving. 

When I first arrived at 2nd Intel Bn in April of 2004, I was in a unit of Marines.  We were a unit going to Iraq.  After 7 months in Anbar Province, supporting numerous combat operations and actions under fire, that unit came back EXTREMELY intimate.  We were brothers in arms with trust forged in the fire of combat.  We trusted each other far more after the deployment than before.  That said, we probably trusted others far less after the deployment. 

Take inventory yourself on where you are with these five beliefs.  Then challenge why you hold that stance on your foundational belief. 

If your reason for not trusting cars now is because you know my teenaged driver may be behind the wheel... remember she is only one of the hundreds of millions of drivers out there; and, most of them have far more experience than she does.  Challenge that belief; and, maybe consider changing the conversation you have with yourself about cars. 

Once you figure out where you stand on those five foundational beliefs, challenge each one and make healthy changes.  Adjust your beliefs and your thoughts and actions will change automatically.

Semper Fi,

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Leadership Responsibility Spectrum 161011

As a general rule, we as a society hold our leaders accountable. 

We hold them accountable for what happens during the time they were in charge.  We hold them accountable for what their organization does or doesn't do.  We hold them accountable for what their members do or don't do.

We simply hold our leaders accountable.

So where does personal accountability come in?  At what point does one start getting held accountable for their own actions? 

True Story: Two men are traveling from New York City to Jacksonville, North Carolina.  The driver starts getting sleepy, so he asks the passenger to drive.  About 30 minutes later, a state trooper pulls them over for speeding.  Who should be issued the ticket? 

The person driving the car at the time; and, he did. 

So the two men finally arrive in Jacksonville, NC.  The next day they go to work on Camp Lejeune (the one who got the ticket is a Lance Corporal and the one who was sleeping next to him was a Corporal, a non-commissioned officer, one rank higher than the Lance Corporal).  Who did the command, and by extension the Marine Corps, hold responsible for the speeding ticket. 

The sleeping Corporal got reduced in rank and fined two half-months’ pay.  The commander held the Corporal responsible for allowing the Lance Corporal to speed. 

So instead of just pushing through while tired and risking both of their lives, the Corporal has the licensed driver and rested Lance Corporal drive.  The Lance Corporal makes the decision to speed and the Corporal is punished by the Marine Corps. 

The Corporal was a higher rank, the leader of the Lance Corporal, and held accountable for his followers actions. 

This true story is just an example the Marine Corps assigning responsibility of a follower or unit’s actions on its leader.  This happens throughout our society.

The U.S. economy is always blamed on or credited to the president at the time… who often has very little to do with it.  Should they get the blame/credit even though they have little to do with the economy?  The economy has far more to do with the Fed, commodity prices, employment opportunities… even congress. 

Familial leaders seem to get blamed or credited for their kid’s doings, successes, failures… even years after they are out on their own.  Should they? 

At what point do we adults start acting like adults?  At what point do individuals start owning their actions and being held accountable for what they do?

On the other hand, at what point do some of us STOP taking responsibility for the actions of other individuals? 

Just because I am successful in my Marine Corps career doesn’t mean I should feel guilty because others won’t or don’t succeed.  Maybe, just maybe, their success or failure is because of, wait for it, THEM. 

Maybe the speeder should get the ticket; maybe the adult kid should get credit or blame for how they turn out; maybe the leader should treat adults like adults and the follower should identify their own short-comings, own them, and fix them like an adult. 

I think some things should be blamed on/credited to leaders.  Other things should not. 

More to follow….

Semper Fi,

Monday, March 21, 2016

Words Have Meaning...

What does THAT mean?

Well, when you refer to someone as your mentor, your old lady, "that guy", you either intentionally or unintentionally paint a picture, for anyone paying attention, about how you feel about that person.  Sometimes that picture is flattering ... other times, not so much. 

My bride and I have been married for 23+ years now.  Her nick-name is Beautiful. 

You can tell how I feel about her just by looking at how I refer to her.  She is my best friend and the love of my life.  We have been through a lot together and through it all, we still love and respect and honor each other and our relationship. 

We really listen to each other's words and that means we don't have to use superfluous volumes of fluff.  We say what we mean and mean what we say. 

On the other hand, we have to be careful with the words we choose.  We intend for them to be impactful.  Stray words then can really hurt. 

Don't lose the phrase above, "for anyone paying attention".  Words only mean things if the person listening understand them and take to heart their meaning.  You could speak Greek to me all day long and I wouldn't get your meaning.  You could speak American English to me, but if I didn't pick up on your intended meanings, your message would be lost. 

Communication then, is a two-way street.  Both participants in the conversation must be engaged and picking up on the meaning intended for the conversation. 

Semper Fi,