stop_sign_pageI like to sleep well at night.  I have trouble doing that when I begin to question if I might be doing anything that may be perceived as not “walking the walk” (because I certainly do a great deal of talking).  I spend too much time at work not to give it 100% and not to have fun while doing it.  Wow, those three sentences break my pronoun rule.  Last week, I celebrated my 60th Day on my current team.  I didn’t celebrate with cake, I celebrated by announcing that the honeymoon is over.  I am no longer observing and I played my “new guy” card for the last time, I am all in.  I am no longer assessing the situation, I am part owner.  One of the ways I chose to make the transition known to more than myself was to share my observations and intentions with my leader (I would say “boss”, but I really dislike that word).  I offered the following e-mail to and enjoyed follow-on discussion with my leadership centered on the following.  Good news is he appreciated it, concurred with my assessment, and we are partnering to Stop it!

“Having been on the team for exactly 60 days, I wanted to offer you some of the observations I have made and offer you three things we need to stop doing in order to get us on track.  I say we because I see myself as a key partner in shifting the focus.

1) Stop Getting caught in the Whirlwind
Every day in the office is a whirlwind.  In many respects we are a completely reactive organization.  Our seniors drive our efforts and the taskers of the day dictate our focus.  We need to flip the model by shaping the priorities of our seniors and involving you as little as possible in the day to day tasking.  We need to allow you to lead up and across CYBERCOM and we need you to allow us to lead (our team) on your behalf.  We need to allow you to be the strategic visionary that you are and we need you to allow us to lead the team on your behalf.  We need to help you focus on the horizon and we need to give you reason to trust that we can put out the fire of the day.  In talking with some of my peers outside of (our team), we are perceived as a team that is not necessarily early to meetings and not timely with deadlines.  I don’t overly concern myself with perceptions that others might have, but I do acknowledge that perceptions matter and that we give people reason to perceive us the way they do.  We ought to care enough to give others reason to perceive us differently, as a team to which they would want to be a part and leaders with whom they would want to work.

– Ensure meetings we call start on time and hold people accountable for deadlines
-Ensure we show up to meetings others call on time and hold ourselves accountable for deadlines
-Delegate, communicate priorities (daily, weekly, monthly, annually)

2) Stop the Monkey Madness
Of late, we have been somewhat joking about the monkeys accumulating on your back.  Your approachability, open door policy, and willingness to say “yes” are attributes all should emulate.  Unfortunately, we have taken advantage of you by dragging you into our Action Officer world.  In essence, we pull you into the whirlwind and we give you our monkey, alleviating us of the responsibility and passing it on to you.  At the same time, your inclusive communication style and what some might refer to as shotgun tasking leaves many members of the team carrying the same monkeys and duplicating effort, not knowing what their specific contribution to the task really is, nor what level of ownership in its completion they should take.  We need to be deliberate about the monkeys we take on and to whom we give a specific monkey.

– (Organizational) Executive Staff to serve as Gatekeeper
– No one enters your office without our knowledge
– Notes about the discussions are taken and shared as appropriate
– Staffing that requires your attention is QC’d by us first
– (Organizational) Executive Staff to serve as tasking authority
– Federate tasks to the right Division(s)
– Enforce Deadlines on your behalf
– Prevent sub-par staff work from finding your in-box

3) Stop Sanctioning Incompetence
It is no secret that there is at least one member on our team who is not contributing in meaningful ways.  Whether it’s incompetence, a lack of effort, or a unique combination of the two, we need to address this shortcoming.  Given our growing portfolio of responsibilities, we cannot afford to overlook anyone who is not contributing, we cannot passively endorse their behavior, and we owe it to the rest of the team that is working extremely hard to visibly partner with them to raise the bar.  Working around this individual is hurting our credibility as leaders, fracturing the unity of our team, and negatively impacting morale.  Though it is easy in the short term to work around an individual in the name of accomplishing our tasks, we are overlooking our mandate as leaders to develop those around us.  In a perfect world, our teammates will respond positively as we create specific opportunities for them to contribute, hold them accountable for delivering value to the team, and help them to realize their potential.  Of course, the world is not perfect and we may raise the bar by giving someone reason to join another team that may not have such high standards.  Either way, the bar is raised.

– Counsel those who are falling short and provide them with a roadmap to help them grow into our expectations.  If they fall short, let’s encourage them to find opportunity elsewhere.
– Hold all accountable for their best effort (i.e. do not redo their work)

I like to think the measure of a healthy team is how it operates when the Leader is not there.  Though we have a great deal of talent on our team, I do not believe we are properly equipped to effectively run and represent (you) in your absence.  We need to be deliberate about developing the culture we are shaping, the behaviors we are endorsing (either passively or actively), and the structure we are lacking if we are to grow into the team worthy of your leadership and the status of Unified Combatant Commander (Organization).  I have scheduled a meeting to discuss this with you on Monday.  We become what we practice, and I have been thinking a great deal about the things we are practicing.”

Each of us has a responsibility to consult from within, to share our observations, and to offer our solutions.  If we fail to do so or fail to invite others to do the same, we are are failing the team.  Seth Godin recently wrote a nice post about adding value.  In it, he stated “Not adding value is the same as taking it away.”  When we join a team, we should arrive with the expectation that we will add value.  When we welcome a new member to our team, we should expect the same of them.

Not sharing my 60 Day Update would have been shirking my responsibility, not being committed to following through would make me yet another person unwilling to “walk the walk”, and not continually finding ways to create new and unique value would make more some sleepless nights (and I need my beauty rest!).

What are you doing to make your team even better than it is?