Sunday, July 15, 2018

Leadership - I have thoughts :-)

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About 1,000 years ago, when I was getting settled at my first big girl job, my dad sent me a list of advice from "an old Commander to a new Second Lieutenant." I treasured this list and read through it often. I know it's stashed in my desk somewhere still.

Just this week a long time friend is taking command of her own squadron and another asked me to officiate her retirement, and these two exceptional leaders have made me think a lot about what it takes to lead. What's on my list?

1. Be yourself. Trying to behave in a way that you think a good leader would, and not being yourself, will backfire on you eventually. It's hard to do when you are a bubbly personality (ahem) in a room full of stoic types, but soldier on. Corollary: It's far better to admit to your folks you are having a crappy day then leave them guessing that they've upset you in some way.

2. Don't pretend to be the smartest in the room (there is no way you ever will be). Leading an organization takes being on top of so many details, you won't know the answer to everything, and your people will appreciate knowing you trust them and their expertise.

3. Do the work...I'm sure you've heard "The Buck Stops Here." Sometimes things break down and some important task doesn't get done. You are the leader--you need to get it done. This is particularly true if the task has anything to do with taking care of your people (evaluations, awards, etc.)

4. ...but speak up when you need help. Yep, ultimately you are responsible, but your people are not mind readers. Ask for help early and often. Don't wait for it to become a crisis. And never become a single point of failure (aka, the only person who can sign or approve something).

5. Be there for your people...awards ceremonies, graduations, clean up days, holiday parties - make an appearance. Get away from the desk and visit all the work areas. Mingle and talk to the families too--their loved one spends a lot of time with you, be respectful of their support.

6. ...but not all the time. Do not fall into the habit of getting to the office early and staying late, and never taking leave. Extra long hours make you seem inefficient with your time rather than a super hero. Your people need time to work when you are not there, and you and your family will be much more resilient if you take time off from time to time. If the work is piling up, stuff it into your bag, go home, put on comfy clothes, have a nice dinner, a glass of wine, and then dive in to the bag. 

7. Phone a friend. Find a peer not in your chain of command that you can call or go to lunch with from time to time. This is the person you share stories with about your most challenging issues (likely having to do with your own boss or a serious personal crisis for one of your people). Having someone(s) as a sounding board, a confidant, and who will call you on your drama is invaluable.  This was often my husband, but also fellow commanders and those lifelong girlfriends that I was lucky enough to have.

8. Not all advice is good. Mine included. Be particularly leery of any advice that is "you must do X to succeed." It makes assumptions when every person and situation is different, and might keep you from outside of the box opportunities. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Building Resilience


A quick post as I am wrapping up college orientation with my daughter. She's our oldest, so we are all in on her school and trying to figure out how to parent (and pay for) a kid in college. A lot of the parent events were about how to help your kid be resilient and thrive at school, away from Mom and Dad. Dr Tim Davis gave a pretty compelling talk and I'd like to share his bullet points on building resilience in your child. I think this would work with airmen and coworkers, too:

1. Give them permission to struggle (translation for parents: park the helicopter :-))

2. Support a growth mindset - focus on effort, persistence and strategies rather than intelligence, talent and abilities

3. Foster optimism

4. Encourage life outside the classroom (or squadron, or office, or any other group you are part of...) 
    -- A stat he shared: highly effective leaders are 15% IQ (brains) and 85% EQ (emotional intelligence)

5. Hold on loosely, they need you, but don't over manage

The parenthetical comments are mine, not his. To see it yourself, you can watch his talk on Youtube. Dr. Davis is the sponsor of a student-run Resilience Project, I'm looking forward to following their posts.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Devils Roller Coaster and Other Good Things

For those with kids going through "that" phase, please read this post from Jen Hatmaker. I can only hope to remember to back off like she does..."I shall not partake of your horsecrappery."

A quick glimpse into 12-year-old, preadolescent mind matter: . Remy is just home from six days of camp having slept half as much as normal while carrying all the social anxiety of teen immersion without parents to help her navigate it or the respite of home half the day: . 1. She walks in the door an absolute nightmare. Like a child out of a horror movie. The leading role in Children of the Corn. No hugs, no reunion. Only angry drama and slammed doors and disgruntlement and fury and NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY LIFE. . 2. Mom knows enough to not touch this with a ten-foot pole. This is my fifth child. FARE THEE WELL PRETEEN DRAMA FUELED BY OVERSTIMULATION. I shall not partake of your horsecrappery. I shan't chase you in your state of exhausted angst and full blown meltdown. You want to lie down on your hardwood floor and order me out of your room? GOODBYE, BELOVED. MAY JESUS MINISTER TO YOU IN YOUR TIME OF NEED. . 3. Child stays in her room for two hours. Laying on the hardwood floor. Like a Lifetime movie. . 4. Child creeping out into the living room: "Why am I like this??? Why am I so rude?? Something is wrong with me, Mom! I am turning mean! Can you ever forgive me?? I don't know what to do! I feel so bad that I yelled at you! I wouldn't even hug you! I don't think you'll ever forgive me!" (insert fat, rolling tears) YOU'LL NEVER FORGIVE MEEEEEEEE!!! . 5. Mom decides that this roller coaster is not worth the price of admission. It is the Devil's roller coaster created to make moms lose their sanity. I hate this whole theme park run by hormones, booby buds, social insecurity, and underdeveloped brains. I want my money back. Where is the bar? . 6. Mom gives her a plate of microwaved pizza rolls and sends her to bed where she promptly falls asleep at 7:45pm. . The end. . Middle school is the worst stretch in the human life. May God bless and keep them. And their teachers. And their parents. And their youth pastors. And their coaches. And their own poor little mangled minds. BE NEAR US, JESUS.
A post shared by Jen Hatmaker (@jenhatmaker) on

Other good things from my much-in-my-car week:

I finished Just the Funny Parts and it was so different (and better) than I expected.  Nell Scovell is a comedy writer, and I expected the book to be full of behind the scenes anecdotes from favorite TV shows.  But it was also about what it's like being a talented writer in a workplace that is predominantly male. About how important it is to have different perspectives. And how she called out some big wigs in the business on the lack of diversity on their staffs. Nell shares a friendship with Sheryl Sandbuerg and helped write both of her books. Very cool.

Along the same lines of the unexpected is a 10-episode podcast series called American Fiasco, the true story of the 1998 US Mens World Cup team and how a promising team lost spectacularly at the  World Cup. It's hosted by Roger Bennett of the Men in Blazers pod cast, a family favorite. Even if you are not interested in soccer or even sports, it was a great case study on how leadership, communication, and management of subordinates, when done poorly, can sink you.

And if you want to know why I enjoy international soccer and the World Cup, this handy guide will help.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Finding Balance - a New Take


You would think with all my rhapsodizing about summer I would be contentedly swinging in my hammock with a cool drink in a mosquito free back yard. Wrong! Any mother can tell you that summers are even harder to stay on top of things. When the kids are toddlers and young elementary school aged, usually the before and after program morphed into summer camp. Yay! But then sleep away camps and summer sports teams and other things happen.

I was over at a dear friends Friday, celebrating the last day of school with other high school mommas, and taped to her kitchen cabinet were the next two weeks schedule covering summer baseball, summer jobs, and a couple other activities. "Summers are harder," she replied calmly (because she is fantastically well organized, and one child has his driver's license :-)).

How do you do it? How do you stay sane balancing it all while still taking care of your self? How do you find balance? Everyone has an idea. There is a new book (of course) out that I read about in a Wall Street Journal article, called Pick Three. The author, Randi Zuckerberg (yes, sister of Mark) says that we should strive to be "well lopsided" rather than "well balanced." "As she sees it. there are five major areas of life - family, friends, fitness, work and sleep - and each day she has to choose just three to focus on."

This is kind of in line with a concept I learned from Mel Robbins, when she was speaking at a conference (heard on a long ago pod cast I can't find the link for). She recommended keeping a notebook where at the beginning of the day you write down everything that you need to get done - a complete brain dump. Then go back with a highlighter and highlight the things that have to get done that day, and only focus on those things first.

Both concepts advocate for choosing some, rather than trying to do all. Like right now, I am choosing to write a blog post, and ignoring the mess on the rest of my desk. And then I choose sleep to focus on for the rest of today :-)

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

They Seemed So Happy


What do you say when someone, who appears to have everything going for them, decides to take their own life? It's impossible to know, because I agree with Jenny, depression tells terrible lies. Lies that only that individual can hear. She articulates the impact of mental illness so well, you should just read what she said recently


If you are looking for help, and are affiliated with the military, you can get confidential help at Military One Source. If you are civilian or prefer greater confidentiality, another online resource is Better Help. And definitely follow Jenny on Insta and Twitter or read her books. So Awesome.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Random Wrap Up of Goodness

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The family celebrations are winding down (see picture below for explanation) and I can sense that the slower pace of summer (ha ha!) is around the corner. I still yearn for the sweet delight of summers off from school, don't you? Sigh. Whether you are hunkered down at work in an over air conditioned office or you've gotten a chance to escape to the pool, here are some interesting reads:

NPR had a great interview with Jas Boothe, founder of Final Salute and the Ms. Veteran America competition. She was a fantastic panelist at this years Officer Women Leadership Symposium.

Need to see a breathtaking moment of friendship? Check out this video from a Minnesota high school baseball game. "Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated."

Good beach reads: A Gentleman in Moscow, Less, Shelter in Place, Match Making for Beginners and Just the Funny Parts. That last one has an interesting tie to Lean In you wouldn't expect.

Tired of your over air conditioned cubicle? Turn your GI Bill into a professional pilot certification with the Forces to Flyers program.

I just came across this fascinating online shop called Sword & Plough. It's run by female veteran entrepreneurs who re-purpose military supply materials and incorporate veteran employees into every stage of the business (design, sewing, management, fulfillment, sales and even modeling). Their line of jewelry made from .50 caliber brass is so cool!

So why the family celebrations? This. Proud of my girl, but my goodness, where did this poised adult come from when I was just bringing her home from Wilford Hall yesterday?


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Notorious RBG and the Air Force


Lately, I have been enjoying the podcast, It's Been a Minute. The Tuesday episodes usually focus on one topic or guest. Last week's episode featured the producers of a a new documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, and one of my favorite NPR commentators, Nina Totenburg.

The documentary sounds pretty amazing, but what was really cool about the podcast was a cool connection the the Air Force. One of the first supreme court cases Ruth Bader Ginsburg was part of involved a female Air Force officer. Naturally, I needed to know more. When I got a chance I googled up the case, and actually found two cases that she argued for Air Force women. 

The one mentioned in the podcast was the unequal application of dependent classification for women and men. Wives were automatically considered dependents, a necessary classification to secure medical coverage and other pay and allowances for family members. Female officers had to prove that their husbands were actually financially dependent on them (by at least 50%) in order for them to be considered a dependent. This was in 1973, and I had no idea this was the standard at that time.

The second case where RBG and the Air Force crossed paths was of a woman facing discharge because she became pregnant while on active duty. This 1970s era rule I was aware of - the options then were keep the baby and be discharged or terminate the pregnancy and stay on active duty. The captain in this case wanted to give her child up for adoption and remain on active duty. Ultimately, the court agreed with her. 

I love this line from the court's decision: "Is there any evidence that pregnancy has some effect on ability to function that is different from any other temporary physical condition? For example, is there any reason to believe that a female officer who has suffered a fractured leg is better able to perform her job than a female officer who is eight days pregnant? The former gets medical leave and retains her commission; the latter is discharged. Why? If this be rational, nothing is irrational!"

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a much beloved figure here in DC, and I look forward to seeing the documentary and learning more. You can connect to the podcast below.