Category Archives: Marine Leadership

Marine Corps. Leadership: Seek and Take Responsibility

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

It has been said, that if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got. But I want to alter it slightly. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been. You can’t ever be more than what you are currently if you don’t expand yourself beyond what you are currently doing.

What is more, if we are not expanding ourselves, it is safe to assume that our subordinates are not either. People will mirror what they see, not what they hear. We must take time to look beyond where we are, and what we are currently doing to ask the question, where do I want to go, and what do I need to do to get there? Once we identify those tasks, those responsibilities, we must take action.

When we take those actions, when we stretch ourselves to make our team or organization better, we will be able to encourage those  we lead to follow our example as we coach them through the process.

3 Checkpoints To Taking Greater Responsibility:

1. Learn what is next – If you were to grow, or move forward what would it take to successfully exist there? Like wise, if you were to promote a subordinate, what would it take for them to succeed in that position?  If they wait to learn  that once they get there, it will be too late.

2. Partner with a subordinate on a task – While this seems minimal, it serves a greater purpose than the accomplishment of the task. This exercise will help you see how the subordinate works, and how you can better lead and coach them. Like wise, have your high performers do this with piers to hone their leadership skills.

3. Push for excellence – As leaders, if we cannot excel in what we are currently doing, what makes us think that we will excel in the future? The bad or disruptive habits we have now will still exist in the future, unless we do something about them now. If you have a subordinate who excels in what they do currently, rather than promoting them and giving them a whole new set of responsibilities, give them a portion of that position to see how they would handle it.

What are some other checkpoints towards greater responsibility? 

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Employ Your Command With in Its Capabilities

Could you list your team's strengths and weaknesses?

Could you list your team’s strengths and weaknesses?

“There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men.” – Lee Iacocca

If our teams are going to succeed, it is because they have been set up for success. When a leader is not aware of a team’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, they are less likely to employ them accordingly, increasing their potential for failure.

When teams or individuals experience failure because their abilities and limitations were not first considered, it causes even more frustration and angst, which leads to decreased motivation and poorer performance. This is not to say that a leader can not give them a task that is beyond their capabilities, however this should be communicated and expectations should be set accordingly. In order for leaders to avoid these issues, they must first assess their teams strengths, areas where they will naturally excel; assess their weaknesses, areas where they experience greater difficulty; and then take measures to increase ability, training in areas of strengths and management of weaknesses, as well as reviewing and working through possible, future situations.

Assessing a Team’s Strengths:

  1. Strengths Finder 2.0 – This tool allows you to gain a perspective into a persons top five strengths. While the list of themes (strengths) is broad and general in listing, the assessment creates a unique report for each individual. Meaning two team members may have the same strength, but how those strengths are used and reported will be different.
  2. Myers Briggs – This assessment helps identifies a team members personality. While this may not seem like an out-right strength, knowing their personality will reveal in which situations they will most likely excel.
  3. DiSC – This assessment is another form of a personality test, however rather than sharing an individual’s personality type the DiSC assessment reveals how a person will operate and interact with in a team.
  4. One on One & Performance Reviews – While this tool will cover a multitude of needs, a one on one will allow a leader to assess where the team member is excelling and where they are falling behind. An aware leader should be able to decipher  an individuals area of strengths through these meetings.

Assessing a Team’s Weaknesses:

  1. Identify repeated areas of struggle – If a team member is struggle to complete a certain task, it is likely there is a component of that task that is a struggle for the team member. Do not automatically assume that the given task is an area of weakness, but rather seek to pinpoint the area or areas of struggle. Doing this will help you better understand where to employ team members, where not to employ, or even to cut a member if their areas of weakness are a team’s core competency.
  2. Review personality assessments – Generally speaking, one personality is no better than the other. However, there will always be trade offs with a given personality. A person will be able to stay secluded and focused on a task, but will appear to be less of a team player. When we better understand team members personalities we will ultimately understand who they are, and who they will not be.

Take Measures to Increase Ability:

  1. Have a goal/growth plan – This will allow leaders and team members to set desired objectives and map out actions to be take to achieve growth.
  2. Identify possible hurdles – No path is paved with perfection. If leaders and team members can identify possible problems before they are problems, they will be able to create solutions to over come those  issues, once they arrive with relative ease.

What have you done to effectively assess strengths and weaknesses, as well as increase overall ability?

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Develop A Sense of Responsibility Among Your Subordinates

Develop a sense of responsibility by delegating opportunities

Develop a sense of responsibility by delegating opportunities

“Responsibility is  the price of greatness.” – Winston Churchill

It has been said that trust is gained over time but lost in a moment. The amount of  time it takes to earn a leader’s trust is determined by the leader.  Before you start calling me Captain Obvious, really think about that sentence. How long it takes for trust to be built is really determined by you, the leader.

If your subordinates, employees, team members, etc. aren’t at the level of competency to where you can trust them it is because of 1 of 2 reasons. Either they are not capable of being competent of the tasks you desire for them to accomplish, or because they have not been given the opportunity to develop that competency, simultaneously earning your  trust.

This is not to say that once you delegate a task to a subordinate they will automatically and competently complete the task assigned to them. Building competency, trust, and ultimately a sense of responsibility will take time and effort. Andy Stanley, in his new book Deep & Wide, says that they don’t do any type of formal leadership training, rather they promote too soon so that the person will rise to the level of the opportunity.

3 Keys to Creating Competency and Responsibility:

  1. Provide a clear vision and objectives – Most subordinates are not initially inclined to seek out the vision and objectives their boss or leader has for them. In order to develop this sense of responsibility, we must initially provide them with our “picture” of winning.
  2. Involve them on projects – When subordinates are invited to join their leader on a project, there is sense of appreciation and pride they get from being recognized as one who is worthy of the task.
  3. Give them the opportunity to fail – If you’re waiting for a subordinate to be 100% ready, you will always be found waiting. Express your belief in their ability to adapt and rise to the challenge. This will encourage them preform in a way they’ve never have for you before.

As always, this list is not comprehensive, but it is a good start.

What other ways, or methods would you add for creating a sense of responsibility?

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Make Sound and Timely Decisions

When  there is more than one option, how do you choose?

When there is more than one option, how do you choose?

“Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired… Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.” – Colin Powell

It is easy to play “Monday morning quarterback.” As a leader, you will have many second guessing your decisions, even those decisions that were effective and successful. While it maybe unfair for others to second guess decisions after the fact, especially while we were making them in the moment, the truth is it happens from a 20/20 lens.

As leaders we must develop a sense of hindsight during, or even before the moment we make the decisions.

4 Ways to make better decisions:

  1. Focus on what is important – When presented with a variety of choices, our ability to recall stated goals and values, and then match our current options to those values and goals will allow us to weed out which choices are not conducive to our objective.

    Related: Why Older Minds Make Better Decisions

  2. Gather Information – Making informed decisions requires being informed. Leaders should be asking pertinent questions to those who will have the answers they need. Even if the first two questions are: what questions should I be asking, and to whom should I be asking them?
  3. Know your knowledge limits – The world “leader” is not synonymous with “smartest in the room,” much to the chagrin of many autocratic leaders. As leaders people often want us to make the final decision regardless of our knowledge in the area. When this happens seek council from someone who had the necessary skill set to make an informed decision.

    Related: Company Decision Making Doesn’t Need To Start At The Top

  4. Prepare for the decision before you have to make it – As leaders we must be purposeful to set aside time to think forward about possible hurdles; how those hurdles could hurt us; and what actions we need to take to before, during, and after the hurdle pops up.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, but rather a solid start to improve your decision making.

What helps you make decisions in the moment? 

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Train Your Marines as a Team

A group of people is not a team. A team is a group of people collectively working towards a common vision.

A group of people is not a team. A team is a group of people collectively working towards a common vision.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

We’ve all heard the cliche’ sayings about team work: “team work makes the dream work,” or how about “T.E.A.M. – together everyone achieves more”? But the reality is many organizations don’t really understand what “teamwork” is. There are ideas of departments sacrificing for other departments for the greater good of the organization, or meetings where team members tell other team members about the good they’ve seen them do, as well as areas where they could improve.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with those actions, there is much more to teamwork. In order for team work to exist a foundation for team work must be built, then communicated!

In order for team work to exist there must be:

  1. An Unified Purpose: As elementary as this may seem, it is worth stating. Teams must have a purpose to rally around, and work towards together. The key is working towards the goal together. When the vision isn’t made clear, team members will freely work towards their own ends rather than the goals of the organization. There will be times when team members will work towards their own ends regardless, but with a clear vision it is easy to identify those who aren’t moving the team towards its goal.
  2. An Individual Purpose: No, this isn’t a contradiction, rather this is to solidify that individual team members must have an understanding of their own responsibilities. A successful team has different parts. In order for those parts to work together they must know how they individually fit in the scheme of the team.
  3. An Execution of Purpose: Once a team knows its over all objective, and members know their individual objective, there must be an expectation of how all the pieces are going to fit together, moving the team towards the goal. This is accomplished through an understanding of core values, and establishing a culture that makes it difficult to operate outside of those values.

These three pieces are just the foundation of creating and executing teamwork. There could be a month long series on establishing these three, as well as building its frame work. 

How are you establishing unified purpose?

How are you establishing individual purpose?

How do you establish and communicate expectations?

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