New Project: MillennialLeader.com

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Hello fellow Techies. I am excited to announce the go-live of my latest project (the reason I have not been providing new content).

MillennialLeader.com

I started Techie Takeover because I wanted to write about supervising a team of software developers. As an idea, it seemed pretty straight forward. However, I underestimated how much I really wanted to write about leadership. Specifically being a young professional and trying to lead members of the corporate community. That is why I am transitioning to this new site. I don’t know the future of Techie Takeover, but at this point, I am going to focus my efforts on Millennial Leader. I will always be a techie at heart, so I don’t plan on fully abandoning it. I just don’t know how far in the future it will be until I start updating this site again.

This has been a great first experience but I am ready for the next one. So if you would like to follow my efforts, become a leader, or understand young professionals, please check out my new site:MillennialLeader.com. I’m excited!

It’s been a good one!

-Shaun

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The Rebel Leader

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My assumption is that everyone is aware that a new Star Wars movie is coming out this week. If you’re not…I am somewhat speechless, but either way ill briefly explain (don’t worry, no spoilers).

The movie appears to take place in the early stages of the rebellion (A precursor to Episode 4). In many of the trailers, you see the construction of the Deathstar and the new protagonist saying “This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.”

The trailer gets me amped up every time I watch it, but it does get me thinking about what it is to rebel. I mean, this person is going against an established order, yet I and others like me, automatically assume she is the hero of the story. But is that how rebels are always treated? In the stories…probably, but in the real world, it’s less likely.

Rebels don’t typically get the hero label because, in the real world, it’s in the form of someone initiating a change at the community or office level. It’s someone with the attitude of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.” And even though they might have achieved their outcome, the act may not be recognized as a hero’s action.

So how can we increase our chance of success with this philosophy? When it comes to business, there is a practice known as rebel leadership. It’s a role that many people have tried to pull off, but much like other leadership styles, it’s an art that requires study and courage. If you don’t know what you are doing, you might not be a leader for long.

In my career, I have both followed and played the role of the rebel leader. I’m writing this to share my perspective on the style. It is a style that is not always necessary, but when it is, it can be extremely difficult to navigate. I hope to give you some guidelines and expectations from my experience that have helped me and those around me be successful in this role.

Guidelines

  • Being a rebel should not be your default option. Ever. This option should only be considered a last resort as it will be disruptive to your organization. Make sure you are 100 percent sure this is something you want to take on.
  • Being a rebel is not an attitude, it’s a movement. Rebel leaders walk a fine line when leading a rebellion, and attitude is usually the differentiator. Remember, if you are just complaining, you are not leading. Rebel actions attract followers; rebel attitudes deter them.
  • Don’t be forceful. The second word in rebel leader is “leader.” Make sure you are leading others. down the path you want them to go. Find what it would take for others to be your followers and capitalize on that.
  • Rebel leaders only sacrifice themselves. Any choice that is made in a rebellion can have serious consequences, and that should be at the forefront of a leader’s mind. Never force the risk you wish to take on others. A true leader accepts all responsibility for things that go wrong and passes acknowledgment for things that go right.
  • Don’t be reckless. Just as you don’t sacrifice others, you also need to be sure you are putting the company first. You want to maintain the strength of your professional relationship and pick your battles wisely. I recommend studying and practicing “Crucial Conversations” before you start the effort. There is no point in taking steps forward in an area if it’s at the expense of taking steps backward in either company standings or relationships.

Lessons Learned

  • Being a rebel is hard. It will be stressful, and you will more than likely engage in a lot of conflicts. Stay patient because the longer you keep forward motion, the more followers you will attract. And if you don’t attract enough followers, it might be time to pivot away from your initiative.
  • Be prepared for a negative perception. Challenging the status quo is never popular. If you are the face of the change, you will also be unpopular. Depending on the size of the change or the number of changes you have made, this perception could stay with you for some time.
  • Important: Understand that you are possibly slowing down your career progression. If you choose to rebel against higher-ups, regardless of the outcome, you are challenging an authority of some kind. With that comes the real possibility of damaging relationships with those responsible for recommending your promotions/raises along the way. This is something to be mindful of.

Wrap Up

After reading the lessons learned, it probably seems that I have painted a grim picture. My goal isn’t to deter anyone from doing what they think is in the best interest of their company. My goal is to prepare those for realistic outcomes of your choices. I don’t want anyone’s rebellion to turn into a regret.

Most rebellions are really small in nature. It might be changing an out of date process, or recommending a new software. If these are your initiatives, understand you have chosen something that is meant to be hard. You have replaced your path of least resistance, with a path of resistance. But don’t let that scare you. Great things are built upon movements and rebels can be the best change agents to an organization, whether it is ever recognized or not.

So, if you have a cause worth rebelling over, I hope this message helps achieve your desired outcome. If you have any thoughts/stories you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below. Keep making others around you successful, and may the force be with you. Watch the trailer below to get excited about the rebellion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frdj1zb9sMY

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My Experience with OfficeVibe, and How It Addresses Employee Engagement

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I feel like I should start this post out stating that I am in no way affiliated with the OfficeVibe product. I simply want to write a review because it’s a pretty cool tool that is currently helping me identify areas of improvement with my team morale. In this article, I go over what the OfficeVibe service is, how it works, and how my team is using it.

What is it?

OfficeVibe is a software service designed specifically for measuring employee engagement. It has all the functionality you would expect. The survey asks specific questions geared towards topics like Health, Economics, Camaraderie, Overall Happiness, etc. And once the data has been collected, the results are packaged up and delivered through customizable reports.

employee-engagement-report
Pulled from OfficeVibe Website

How Does it Work?

OfficeVibe can be used through email, but it also has a plugin for the communication platform Slack. If you are unfamiliar with Slack, that is another post for another time, but in a nutshell; Slack is a persistent messaging platform built for quick collaboration and efficient communication.

Slack also allows for Bots (Artificial Intelligence) to interface with it. This means independent software companies can program tools into the communication platform. That’s how OfficeVibe built their system. The bot they designed helps users take the quick survey by interacting with them inside the Slack platform. So, when I open Slack to interact with my team, I may see a message pending from the OfficeVibe bot containing my survey question. Having a native interface like this makes the survey questions easy to respond to.

slack-leo-landing-og-image

If you don’t have slack, the email version works similarly. Instead of reaching out through Slack, the questions are emailed to the employee with a link to respond.

What makes this service different from other engagement services, is that OfficeVibe is set up to track a persistent and near real-time pulse of your team. It’s designed to address one of the biggest pitfalls typical Engagement Surveys have: Time/Cost (See my previous posts about short comings).

It does this by giving smaller surveys (1-5 questions) on a more frequent basis (1-2 weeks). This helps the person responsible for team engagement know what the team engagement level is at any given time. You can now monitor your teams stress levels throughout the year.

An added benefit of the near real-time results is that you now get instant feedback on engagement efforts. Previously it was difficult for me to experiment because I was trying to answer questions like, are the changes we implemented having the desired outcome? Are they making things worse? With this style of feedback loop, I feel like I have more flexibility to experiment and make adjustments quicker.

How we use it

We have OfficeVibe set up to ask 5 questions to everyone each week. The results are anonymous, and the survey is always optional. The questions are given at random, meaning not everyone gets the same questions as their coworkers that week. This provides a healthy spread of engagement area results.

We also have it set up to allow for commented feedback. The anonymity on this section is optional. We have found that the commented feedback is one of the most helpful parts of the survey. So much so, that all team administrators have banned together to respond to every piece of feedback we get. Even if the feedback is short, one of us will reply through the OfficeVibe tool with either clarifying questions or appreciation for the feedback. It’s always good to reinforce positive behavior. The tool helps ensure anonymity throughout the process, so there is no conflict.

We have our custom reports broken out into teams, where we can compare our engagement against the benchmark of other OfficeVibe users. Trophies are given for the level of engagement at any point in time. This gamifies the process and welcomes goal setting. As an organization, we have decided that we are going for Champion status (Top 10%).

benchmark2

Wrap up

For me, OfficeVibe is the answer to the question, “how do I keep a pulse on the happiness and engagement of my team?” I have only been using it for 3 months, but the results have been awesome. Coming from a system where we received engagement results every 2 years, having daily feedback has made this process so much easier.

We are starting the process of experimenting with custom questions as well as going through OfficeVibe’s library of improvement resources. I believe this is going to help my team and me substantially.

I hope this has peaked your interest enough to at least check out the site. If you choose to try it out, I look forward to competing against your team in the benchmarking J. As I said, I’m aiming for their champion trophy, and I am currently at Diamond  (Top 20%).

If you have experience with OfficeVibe or have a different system you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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Less Than 1/3 of American Employees are Engaged with Work…Where Do You Fall?

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You may be able to tell by now that I truly believe that a leader’s first responsibility is to put their employees in a position to be successful. However, being put in a position for success and being successful is a two-person job. It doesn’t matter the number of opportunities leaders give their people; it’s all for nothing if they lack the motivation to make the most of it. In this article, I plan to discuss the way you can achieve motivation through employee engagement. I also plan to leave you with a few pitfalls I have found with my experience.

Why This is Important

Earl Nightingale said “We are at our very best, and we are happiest when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” Its hard to find a quote that could better sum up a “why” than this. Simply put, an engaged employee is a motivated employee. Even better, the motivation is intrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation can be way more powerful than motivation out of economics or fear. Intrinsic motivation is the reason why there are so many “it started in their garage” stories in the world. If you want a great example, read about a man named Samuel Pierpont Langley.

A short sum up of the story follows: Samuel Pierpont Langley was trying to build the first machine capable of attaining consistent flight. He was a renowned inventor with a large financial backing, and the best research team money could buy. His competition, two men working on a farm. They were not near as funded nor did they have the team Langley did. Their names were Wilbur and Orville Wright (the Wright Brothers).

The reason most of you know the Wright Brothers instead of Langley is because the Wright Brothers won. They defied the odds and beat out the “top dog” team. This story highlights the power intrinsic motivation has while in the arena against fame and money.

1903_first_flightThis is exactly the reason that companies are caring more about the engagement level of their employees. It’s even to the point that companies are hiring independent consultant groups to come in and conduct thorough Employee Engagement Surveys. They are taking the chance to invest in employee engagement because they know the potential benefits they will see in return.

Speaking on behalf of the employee for a second, my company conducts employee engagement surveys, and even the act itself is a motivating force. Just the display of caring gives me a small sense of happiness.

Some Problems I’ve Ran Into

Now that I have talked up Employee Engagement, I need to switch gears a bit and share a few pitfalls that I have seen with some employee engagement efforts.

There are two main problems that I have with standard Employee Engagement Surveys; Closed door action item lists, and the overall cost of the survey. So first, I’d like to explain what I mean by closed door action items.

When we have received these surveys in the past, the responsibilities have been separated by data submission (the employee) and data analysis (the supervisors/executives). When the results are published, the data analysis begins at the highest level to come up with an action plan to increase engagement across the workforce. Despite the best intentions of management, the resulting list will usually be a list of our most thoughtful guesses.

We sometimes think that since our employees took the time to give us the feedback we need to respond with a decisive plan to show that we are listening. The problem with this tactic is that we may have missed the mark. There is no guarantee that the correct diagnosis was made.

For this to work, we need to start building the action plan with the ground floor employees, to make sure we are on track. Otherwise, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to wait until the next survey to see if we were successful in increasing engagement at a significant level.

This brings me to the next issue, cost. Because these surveys require both time and money, they are typically only given annually, bi-annually, or even less frequently. So if you did your closed door session, it might take years for you to know if your actions worked. Because of the time and money needed for these surveys, it’s not practical to experiment. So it’s possible to have wasted years of effort because there is not a cheap way to get feedback along the way.

Wrap up

Despite these two problems we have run into, we are actively finding ways to build action plans by working with the ground and giving lighter weight engagement surveys at a faster rate. My next post will talk about the software we use and how it is helping in our effort. This is a very important topic and one that I hope keeps growing.

If you have any experience with employee engagement, please feel free to use the comments to share. I hope you enjoyed the content and make sure to look for my next post regarding some of the things I’m doing to increase my team’s engagement.

 

Further Reading:Top Eight Reasons Employee Engagement is Important

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4 Reasons I Recommend the DevIntersection Conference

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The big Dev Intersection conference is a few weeks away. If you’re not familiar, it’s a development conference sponsored by several large software companies. They bring industry experts together to conduct a 3-day learning session about mostly everything relevant in the development world today. The tracks range from Visual Studio, SQL, SharePoint, Azure, Office 365, etc. If you are considering the conference, I would like to share four things that I experienced when I attended.

1) The Keynotes

The 2016 Spring Conference keynotes were Scott Guthrie (Exec VP of Microsoft), Scott Hanselman (Microsoft Principal Architect), Douglas Crockford (Helped develop JavaScript), and Dan Holme (CEO of IT Utility). And this lineup was truly awesome. Each speaker was prepared and had something relevant to say. Almost everyone had a demo that was designed to inspire and excite. For example, Scott Hanselman installed the new Visual Studio on the computer of an attendee. It only took 60 seconds, and the entire room started cheering (If you’re not familiar with Visual Studio, it usually installs for hours). Each speaker brought something unique to the conference and truly represented as experts in their field.

2) The Dozens of Speakers

The conference is mostly breakout sessions, so aside from the Keynotes, there are a lot of speakers to talk about a wide variety of topics. I went to 10 different sessions and saw 7 speakers total. And I though each speaker was well prepared with great content. Each session was designed for the time slot, and all speakers left time for thorough QA. I was able to get contact information from each as they all welcomed follow-up questions. I felt the conference picked qualified professionals that were passionate about their topics.

 

3) The Workshops

Workshops are an extra expense to the conference, but if you can do these, I would recommend them. They are all day sessions where you get to dig deeply into a development practice. The teachers bring great examples as well as “code along with me” exercises for those who brought their development machines (which was everyone at the conference). I was able to attend two sessions, The Zen of Architecture by Juval Lowy and Making the Jump to Typescript by John Papa and Dan Wahlin. They were great, but they had more than a dozen to choose from. Some of my biggest takeaways came from these two workshops, so if you have the funds to go, I recommend spending the money. You won’t regret it.

 

4) The Sessions

I have spent a lot of time talking about the speakers and their ability to create good content, but I should mention that there are nearly 100 different sessions. The topics span from SQL development to new Angular 2 interfaces. In back to back sessions, I went from a Project Management topic to a UX session that not only talked about how to identify good UX, but how to convince your company to let you invest in it. It would be very surprising if you were unable to find something of interest at this conference.

Wrap Up

As I stated in the title, I completely recommend this conference. When you plan your yearly training, it’s easy to get seduced by the Microsoft Ignite or Build conferences, but Dev Intersection deserves consideration. Don’t get me wrong, Ignite and Build are great too, but there are differences in these conferences. One difference is that even though it isn’t a Microsoft event, it’s mainly geared towards developing on or within Microsoft tools. But I would say the biggest difference between Dev and Ignite/Build, is that everything Dev talked about can be done today. Where Ignite is more about the future, when you are learn something at Dev, you can go to your hotel and start programming that night.

I hope you enjoyed the review. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

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CEOs…Please Read

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Normally when I write, I share topics that I have either read about or done myself. Today, I want to talk about something from the perspective of a front-line employee. This was something I witnessed from our new CEO, and how he interacted with a risky innovation that my boss (not the CEO) was involved in. This is an amazing real life example of how I hope to model my leadership, simply because I know how it made me feel as a follower.

Story

For context, the company I work for recently changed CEOs. It is going extremely well, yet everyone is still taking the necessary time to adjust to the new regime.

Earlier this year, my boss and several other colleagues started a community around a companywide initiative. At a high level, their goal was to start a monthly platform where employees could come together to share ideas (see Share Your Ideas for more info on what this looks like). This was an employee-driven effort, so the team didn’t have sponsorship from senior staff yet. Senior staff had awareness, but not all members bought into the idea. In fact, some were completely against it at both the senior staff and employee levels. So, the pressure for success was higher than usual.

Our CEO had very little knowledge about it. He asked my boss to schedule 30 mins of his time to talk more in depth. In that meeting, they discussed the history and what they plan to do with the idea moving forward.

Immediately following the meeting, the CEO wrote an email to my boss stating his stance on this particular initiative. He was in full support of the idea and in turn, encouraged more employee-driven initiatives. The most powerful part of the email, however, was the way he ended it. The last words before his signature were, “I’ve got your back.”

Something awesome happened following this email. That sentence meant so much to my boss that he decided to share it with his team and colleagues. They then went on to share it with their teams and so on. That sentence was obviously very powerful to have permeated through the company so quickly. I am three levels removed from the hierarchy, and I have shared that story on multiple occasions. The reason it was so powerful was that everyone believed it. He instilled trust in the platform team, and everyone gave it back.

Wrap up

I wanted to tell this story to highlight that actions matter. They ripple throughout the company, and when kept positive, you just might see positive results. I mean, look at what one sentence has provoked. He didn’t even say it to me, yet it meant so much that I wanted to blog about it. From the bottom looking up, CEOs set the tone of the company. Their words and their actions simply hit harder. When a CEO can show trust and positivity, their message has a deep motivating quality. As someone near the ground floor, I can vouch that it works.

Recognizing there are many ways to run a company, I only wanted to share my experience with our new CEO. If you would like to share your experience, similar or not, please leave them in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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5 Ways to Structure a One-on-One and Why It’s Important

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I have always been a big proponent of spending time with your employees. In my last post, Gift Your Time, I went into reasons for considering your time as “not your own” when it comes to leading employees. In this post, I plan to define the One on One, talk about why it’s useful, and give some tips on how it should be structured.

What and Why

So what is a One on One? A One on One (or O3) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s time set aside for a one on one meeting between supervisor and employee.  Subject matter can vary from employee growth to home life. It’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships and provide career coaching.

If you are a leader, it could be the most important tool in your toolbox. Here’s why: in a 2014 study conducted by LeadershipIQ, over 32,000 employees were surveyed with regards to the time they got to spend with their leader. In this study, it was found, time with their direct supervisor had a direct correlation with the employee’s engagement. More specifically, the study showed that employees who got more exposure with their direct supervisor felt 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative, and 15% more intrinsically motivated. In other words, this study is proof of ROI should you decide to invest your time in your employees.

How

1)      Frequency – The frequency of these meetings are up to you, but there should be a frequency. Make sure to schedule a reoccurring meeting, and make it a priority. I can tell you from experience, if you miss these meetings, your employees will notice and remind you. I schedule with my employees every two weeks, and on the rare occasion I need to reschedule, I always make up a missed session.

2)      Duration – This is also up to you, but make sure this time does not feel rushed. Meeting with your people should feel like quality time, not a task. I started off with 30 mins but quickly learned that my group wanted to talk longer. I now hold 1 hour O3s, and we seem to cover mostly everything.

3)      Structure – Build a structure around the meeting. I usually open up by asking if they have anything specific to talk about. After that, I ask them about their home, work, and their home/work life balance. I like to end with something that promotes their career growth and development by coaching them on a particular behavior. Yours may vary, but this is a good starting point.

4)      Preparation – I always come prepared with talking points for each of my programmers. As the leader of the team, I am also the coach, so I like to make sure I can use this time for professional coaching if needed.

5)      Engagement – I ask all of my developers to be engaged during this time. I request that they bring items to me as this is a mutually beneficial meeting. Rarely do I have instances where they don’t have something to discuss.

I truly believe that this practice is a fantastic way to promote growth for both you and your employees. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my last post. What are some of your success stories? Please leave them below. Now, go put someone in a position to be successful!

Link to referenced study: Optimal Hours With the Boss

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Gift Your Time

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What if I were to say that I gave a local charity one thousand dollars? What would be the response? I imagine people would think it gracious, give me a pat on the back, and go on with their day. Now, what if I said that I spent a full day tutoring kids at a homeless shelter? Once again, I think I would get the same response, but it might end with a feeling of motivation. A sense of maybe “I should do something.”

This is interesting because, on paper, these two efforts are not equal. My time is nowhere close to being worth one thousand dollars. In fact, with that money, they could have hired a full-time tutor for two weeks. So why would the second scenario invoke the same, or possibly greater, emotional reaction than the first?

The answer is that time is a non-renewable resource. People recognize that money comes and goes, but time is a gift that can’t be regifted. That’s why, in the office, it is so important to be available to your employees. Your presence/absence doesn’t go unnoticed. It plays a role in the daily culture of the team. It impacts moral, happiness, comradery, etc. If you want a productive, happy, and passionate team, make yourself available.

I do this in a couple of ways:
Interact Face to Face – This is priceless. My team works in an open office environment, so I make sure my desk is right in the mix. When I’m onsite, I encourage my group to interrupt me at any time. When I’m offsite, I try to converse via video chat. This is much more intimate than email or traditional phone calls.
Schedule Time Regularly – Every two weeks I set aside an hour for every team member to get a pulse on the team. I use this time to get to know the individual as well as provide coaching as needed. My next post will dig deeper into this platform.
Provide Undivided Attention – When I am talking with one of my employees, I make sure to stop doing anything else. I don’t check emails or flip through my phone. I make them the priority. If you don’t do this, they will see that they are not the priority, and that will change your interactions in the future. If you need to finish what you are working on, it is much more respectful to ask them if you can finish. It has been my experience that no one will have a problem with that.
Don’t Appear Busy – This is probably the hardest one. Being a good leader means you are busy. However, if your employees are constantly exposed to how busy you are, they may feel hesitation about disrupting you. I recommend that if you want time for zero disruptions, use your calendar and block off time slots for focus. All other time encourage interruptions. Your team will be very responsive to this.

Time is the best gift you can give to your team, but it’s also sometimes the hardest commodity to come by. Time is scarce but the real truth is there wasn’t more of it yesterday than there is today. There is still the same number of minutes today as there will be tomorrow. The difference isn’t time, it’s priority. If you want to make time for your employees to raise morale and happiness, you need to make it a priority. Can that email wait until tomorrow? My guess is that it probably could.

Thanks for reading. If you have any experiences you would like to share, I would love to hear about them. Please leave them in the comments below.

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Share Your Ideas

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Sharing ideas at the office isn’t as easy as it seems. Despite the many modes of communication, without a formal “brainstorming” or “Idea Generation” meeting, most ideas won’t get discussed. This increases the likely hood that ideas will be reactive, decreasing your odds at innovating. I’d like to talk about some ways that you can encourage these types of discussions regularly in your organization, changing the conversation from reactive to proactive. In this article, I will go through an example and some lessons learned as we set out to solve this problem.

Example

TED is the obvious front-runner in idea sharing. Their slogan is even “Ideas Worth Sharing.” They invite influencers from every industry and broadcast the talk for all to see. But what makes TED so successful? Is it their presenter line up? Don’t get me wrong; the presenters are nothing short of amazing. But why would already renowned industry influencers choose to use TED to communicate their message? The answer is that TED is a platform designed to be a megaphone to the world.

So what can we learn from TED at the office? Simply put, build a platform. If sharing ideas is a value to you, then make this a priority. You could start by setting aside 15 minutes at your weekly meeting to allow for an employee to educate the group on something they learned this week.

This is how the company I work for started. Fast forward 3 years and we now have a 1-hour time slot every 4 weeks for 6 presenters. The megaphone we built goes to the entire company including a live stream to two of our offsite locations. My last post Leader-Leader is a presentation I gave at our last platform (we call it Tech Faire).

Lessons Learned

Start Small – to build something for an entire company can be very expensive. The risk is much less when you can build it up with a smaller team (especially if individuals are passionate). We started with about 15 people and it slowly grew to a company-wide platform.

Create Creative Boundaries – Content for your platform needs to have quality. You don’t want speakers talking about a topic for 30 minutes. People can lose interest. TED has a presenter rule of 18 minutes. We took it a step further and limited speakers to 6 minutes and 40 seconds (20 seconds per slide). We require all our presenters to present in a 20×20 format or PechaKucha. This keeps things flowing and people engaged.

Build up the Presenters – Don’t only choose people who present well. Everyone has an idea that can bring value to the organization. If someone is uncomfortable with presenting, offer options like practice runs or a mentor. The presenters are investing their time in the audience so they should also feel invested in.

Bring in guest speakers – See if someone from outside of your direct team or organization will share something with you. Outsiders bring a fresh perspective and energize the room a little bit more.

Expect Naysayers – Like all change initiatives, there will be opposition. It usually comes in the form of concern with time and how it’s being spent. My advice is to mitigate the risk by “Start Small.” Grow your tribe and invite the naysayers to an event. You will be surprised at the turn around some will have on the idea.

Wrap Up

It’s been my experience that everyone has something interesting to share. My company has been doing this for over 3 years and every month is more impressive than the last. This has been one of the most rewarding initiatives I have been a part of and I truly believe there is a potential platform in every organization. If anyone has an experience they would like to share, please feel free to comment below.

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Leader Leader

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I gave a presentation to Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. Aug 26th regarding a topic I have become very passionate about: Leader-Leader. The recording of the presentation is below. I got the story from 2 books. Leader’s Eat Last by Simon Sinek and Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet. The sound quality isn’t 100 percent so I have a transcript below for those who would rather read it. Enjoy.

Background

Our story starts with a man named David Marquet. He was a career submariner who finished top of his class in almost every category. One area that David Marquet excelled in was Leadership. As such, he worked his way up the promotion ladder until he received the greatest honor a navy man can receive, command of his own ship.

The now Captain David Marquet was to be command of the USS Olympia. This was a very prestigious sub. To prepare, he takes the year prior to his command and dedicates it to learning every component of the sub, including the crew. He believed that in order to gain the respect of his crew and to do his job well, he needed to know as much if not more than the crew themselves.

However, two weeks before taking command, Captain Marquet receives a call. In that call he learns that he will no longer be taking command of the Olympia, but instead the USS Santa Fe. The Santa Fe was a newer sub but not extremely different. The crew however, was another story.

The crew of the Santa Fe ranked last in nearly every readiness and retention category that the US Navy had. It was so bad that real life scenarios from the Santa Fe were used as bad examples for general Navy training. But that was ok. Captain Marquet was confident in his abilities and was up to the challenge. The Navy had shown him that Marquet would be a leader because he was given control. So it was easy for him to believe that if I give good orders, I will have a good ship, and if I give great orders, I will have a great ship. So Captain Marquet took control of the Santa Fe in January 1999 knowing that he had an uphill battle.

Fast forward a few months…Captain Marquet, after getting more comfortable with his command, decides to run a drill while out at sea. The simulation was a reactor failure (basically an engine failure). It was a standard drill, nothing out of the ordinary.

Everything was going well. The sub was running on battery power and all the crew was working on restoring the reactor. So Captain Marquet decided to shake things up for the crew. He looks to the officer on deck (the most experienced officer) and says “Ahead 2/3” meaning move forward at 2/3 the maximum speed. This would drain the battery faster and increase the urgency of the crew to get the reactor fixed.

“Ahead 2/3” the Captain said

The officer on deck confirms by saying “Ahead 2/3” to the Helmsman.

Buy nothing happened. The direction of the sub and the speed remained the same. So the captain looks at the helmsman and sees him sitting very uncomfortably in his chair and asks, “Helmsman, why did you not execute the order?”

The helmsman replied, “Sir there is no 2/3 setting.”

The ship that Captain Marquet had studied for had a 2/3 setting. The ship he was on did not.

Caught off guard by this he turns to the Officer on Deck and asks “Did you know there was no 2/3 setting?”

The Officer on Deck replied “Yes Sir.”

Caught even more off guard the Captain asked “Then why did you issue the order?”

The officer simply replied “Because you told me to.”

It was at that moment that Captain Marquet realized that he was trained for another ship and his crew was trained for compliance. In a sub this was a problem with dangerous consequences. He was getting comfortable issuing orders and his crew was getting comfortable blindly executing them. He was reinforcing a hierarchy that he questioned his entire career. He refers to it as the Leader – Follower.

In the leader follower dynamic Captain Marquet started to see a truth. He States that those at the top have all the authority and none of the information and those at the bottom have all of the information but none of the authority.

Solution

From this point forward Captain Marquet vowed to keep his mouth shut when he was on board. He wanted to turn the dynamic from 1 commander barking orders at 135 passive followers, to 135 active passionate and engaged leaders, proud and motivated about what they were doing. In order to do so, he needed to change from leader-follower to Leader-Leader.

In his book, Turn the Ship Around, David Marquet describes several practical steps he took to get here. One major step was to ban the phrase “Permission to”.

“Sir, permission to submerge the ship?”

“Premission granted. Submerge the ship”

He replaced this phrase with “I intend to”.

“Sir, I intend to submerge the ship”

The shift here is a psychological one. The chain of comman is still in tact but when initiating the command, the person that is performing the action now feels a stake in the outcome. It’s now coming from an area of intent instead of a passive task to be carried out.

Captain Marquet even took it a step further as he too didn’t blindly approve all “I intend to.” He would often find himself asking several questions before approval. So he started asking his crew to not only come prepared with what they intend to do but why they intend to do it. What he found was not only did he not have to object to many proposals, but he was correct in his assumption that the crew had the knowledge needed to make these types of decisions. They just needed a chance to vocalize them.

As an added benefit, this change caused all his crew to start thinking at the level above them. The officers on Deck had to think like the captain and so on down. This was important because the crew were literally acting their way into their promotions. This turned into a very effective leadership program.

Outcome

Trust and cooperation of the crew improved so much that once the lowest ranked crew in the Navy, now they became the best ranked crew in Navy History. Before Captain Marquet took command, the reenlistment rate of the Santa Fe was 3. After he took command, it was 33. The Navy average was 15 so there was an obvious morale spike.

As for the leadership program, on average 2 to 3 commanding officers typically get promoted on a ship after tour. The Santa Fe promoted 9 of 14 officers to go on and Captain their own ship.

So what did we learn? Captain Marque was able to do this by resisting the temptation to absorb more power. When faced with the decision, he decided to not be the smartest person on the ship rather empower those around him, letting his crew feel responsible for the success of the ship.

If this topic is interesting to you, I would like you to remember 2 questions:

  1. Do I typically ask permission or do I make recommendations?
  2. If I am in a position of power, do I typically solve my people’s problems or do I empower them to solve their problems on their own?

I hope you enjoyed the presentation. If you have any feedback or stories of your own, I would love to hear them. Feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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