I was reading some of the leadership material on this blog. Since I have seen Mike in action mentoring young leaders at a National Conference on Ethics in America (and was pretty impressed with his results), I thought I would see if I could write a short message at a macro level that may be useful to other readers then talk about a subject or two at the micro level.
In my case I can be referred to as an “experienced” leader. As the head of my organization of high achievers it can be quite competitive for assignment of key tasks and appropriate recognition of accomplishments. In younger days it was fun to get into the details and solutions for the tasks, but now I am needed more in the management mode. So what I try to do is keep the organization vibrant with new and exciting work, appoint task leads in a fair manner, and turn them loose. I don’t call what I do leadership, although leadership does take different shapes and forms. From my perspective, I call it “steermanship.”
When the work comes to you as a manager or task leader, assess the starting status and the end state that is needed. With education and experience you also get a feel for the complexity of the work and key scheduling and/or decision points that you may have to assess along the way. Although you may have a way you would do the job, I have found it enlightening to give someone the job and desired end state and have them come up with the plan, needed resources and desired end state. What I find unproductive or missing at times for those with less experience is 1) the selection of personnel who can get the work done but not necessarily within a team concept and 2) having intermediate checkpoints to assess and redirect effort if needed. I let the task lead chose whom they want with them but hold final approval of their selections as there may be conflicting jobs requiring the same key personnel. I also have them put in some intermediate checkpoints for themselves to check their progress. I give suggestions when needed but not in a dictatorial way. Thus I don’t over-supervise but “steer” when appropriate.
As a result, I am constantly surprised by new ideas and use of technology that simplifies solutions and also provide growth in new work areas. For example, several years ago one young engineer devised a simplistic way of accepting data in different formats, reformatting the data and then distributing the reformatted data to different users in near-real time. His technique is used today for integrated protection of naval vessels at sea and in our missile defense systems in operation on air, land and sea. Pretty neat stuff from a macro point of view.
Along the way managers, leaders, “steermen” have an inherent responsibility to train and develop their work force. Those that say they don’t have the time don’t really care about their people. You make time to help your work force succeed and grow in talent and experience. You have to make sure they have the technical skills or get them some extra training or courses to attain the skills. You also have to ensure they have the interpersonal (social skills) to work within an integrated team. This may be more difficult to develop in some of your work force but it is necessary for the long term morale of your organization. Lastly, you need to train them in management skills – leading people, program management including cost, schedule and performance, all within the context of sound ethics and the core values of your organization.
I have found that you need to have some of the above written down and can do this annually when you have do performance ratings that may be tied to bonuses and raises. I have been more successful in having the employees rate themselves and establish goals for the coming year. Within that context you can also identify extra training that is needed in the future – then follow up and make sure the training is planned, resourced, and conducted. It is human nature to generally not look forward to these annual appraisal sessions. However, if you conduct them in an open, honest and helpful manner, it will be well received. Your employees and your organization will benefit greatly when they see you honestly care about their development as worker and future manager.
SOME BACKGROUND ON BILL:
Bill Malkemes attended West Point, participating in intercollegiate tennis and squash. He was All-East in tennis with an Eastern ranking of 5th and an All-American in Squash with a National ranking of 10th. Upon graduation in 1970, Bill served in command and staff positions in Armor, Calvary and Aviation assignments in Germany, the US, and Viet Nam.
He earned a Masters Degree from Georgia Tech in Operations Research and Systems Analysis, an MBA from Long Island University and a Masters in International Relations from Salve Regina College. After 26 years of active service, he retired at the rank of colonel.
Bill continued contributing to the defense of the nation as a Program Manager for Camber Corporation and then for Northrop Grumman. In 2005 he became President of DMD, LLC. He is active in ethical forums within the defense and civilian communities.