Morale is the willingness to fight and to make the sacrifices needed to succeed and win. Many people confuse morale with mood. They think that if people are complaining or they are in a bad mood that automatically indicates bad morale. That may be the case, but not necessarily. In fact, people can be in a bad mood BECAUSE they have high morale. They want things to go better and are angry or momentarily discouraged because they aren’t. It’s up to leaders and key influencers to recognize this difference and to not let the momentary lapse get to them.

Signs of good morale:

  • Optimism
  • Realism
  • Cooperation and mutual aid
  • Hard work and sacrifices
  • Constructive criticism
  • Confidence in self and leaders

How is the morale is your team or organization?

  • Do you sense that people in your company have hope?
  • Is the language they use optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and despairing?
  • Are people making plans for the future with themselves in the plans, or are they instead making plans to abandon ship?
  • Do people have a lot of idle time, or are they working on ways to continually improve the organization and its performance?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Just about every routine or semi-routine activity and process in the military is turned into a drill. You’re advancing in hostile territory? There’s a drill for that. You’re entering a hide? There’s a drill for that. You’re under effective enemy fire? There’s a drill for that. The aim is to create standardized collective habits so that everyone knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
In the same way, businesses can and should create and implement drills for all routine or expected tasks and procedures. Potential areas for creating and implementing drills:

  • Calling and following up with prospects and clients.
  • Regular calls and visits to clients.
  • How many prospects and clients to call in a day, week, month.
  • Next steps with clients and prospects.
  • Regular follow up and feedback with employees.
  • Regular team meetings.
  • How to give direction and guidance to a team or a subordinate.
  • How to recruit and hire.
  • How to replace someone.
  • Etc.

As you can see, just about every procedure and process in a company or organization is amenable to standardization and transformation into a drill. In other words, you can make excellence a repeatable habit.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

One of the things I learned in the army on peacekeeping operations was that first information is usually (i.e., almost always) wrong, and to avoid overreacting. The worst thing you can do when you’re trying to keep a secure and safe environment for everyone is to believe everything you hear and then react immediately. This is why “ground truth” is so critical to a measured response.

Ground truth is what you learn by actually going out and seeing for yourself, talking to the people involved–on all sides–and then drawing your own conclusions. Just because one side says the other side did or didn’t do something doesn’t automatically mean it’s actually the case. Moreover, acting without optimal information and understanding can lead to unintended consequences. The key word is optimal. Perfect information is impossible, and trying to get it is extremely costly, in time and resources. On the other hand, shooting from the hip can work–sometimes–but there is usually something important you’ll overlook.

Get the ground truth, exercise reasonable skepticism, and try to look beyond the immediate effects of your decisions and actions to estimate intended and unintended consequences.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

There is no truth to the belief that great leaders are born that way and that you can’t really develop or acquire the competencies for leadership. This belief stems from a self-limiting, fixed mind set. The first leadership principle—to achieve professional competence—tells us what to achieve, the second leadership principle—to appreciate one’s strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement—tells us how to achieve it.

The growth mind set is essential for learning, growth, and development in any field of endeavour, and certainly this is the case for leadership. We grow by challenging ourselves and overcoming resistance and obstacles. The growth mind set as applied to leadership consists of what I call the Four Pillars of Leadership Excellence. These encompass the goal of development (objective standards), the power of example (role models), the understanding of objective performance and behaviour (self-knowledge), and the subjective awareness of performance and behaviour in action (self-awareness).

One of the most powerful concepts for leadership development is the “learning curve.” Learning occurs over time as we invest resources and effort in acquiring and honing new knowledge and skills. Learning starts when we become aware of a need for improvement or the potential to move to a new level. Learning itself is a cyclical process based on feedback. We need to act in order to generate results that we can then observe and assess against indicators. We therefore need objective standards and role models to emulate and to measure our progress. Prudent, calculated risks are the fuel of development. If progress is to continue on the road to development, then the learner must jump to a higher learning curve.

Just like an army on the offensive, you need a clear objective and mission. You also require a deep appreciation of your strengths so you can leverage them to the hilt, complemented by a realistic appraisal of your limitations so you can overcome or mitigate them. Your most powerful strength is your personal center of gravity. From the perspective of leadership, strengths can be any particular skills, attitudes, or elements of knowledge. Personality or character traits can also be strengths, as well as natural proclivities or talents, such as intelligence, visual and spatial abilities, and sociability. Strengths come at the intersection of things you do quickly and easily, you’re trusted and recognized for, and you’re passionate about. Once you’ve identified your center of gravity, you must then exploit it as much as possible, in concert with your other strengths, so you can achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness as a leader.

It’s not enough however to play offence. You must also be able to manage your limitations and weaknesses so they don’t overwhelm your strengths and make you ineffective. I talk about managing limitations, because it’s probably impossible to eliminate them completely. All we can realistically do is contain them and mitigate their effects so they don’t hinder us excessively. I call this playing defence, because we don’t always have the initiative or the luxury to concentrate on all areas at once.

Techniques to Energize Your Leadership Development

  1. Adopt and nurture the growth mindset.
  2. View your successes and failures as feedback for learning.
  3. Study the objective standards of your field, profession or organization.
  4. Observe and emulate positive role models.
  5. Acquire self-knowledge to assess your leadership against objective standards.
  6. Develop self-awareness so you can witness your behaviour, thinking, and performance on a moment-to-moment basis and adjust these accordingly.
  7. Create a vision of how you wish to lead in the future, and then determine what competencies and traits you will need to achieve that vision.
  8. Assess your past performance as a leader so you can draw lessons learned for now and the future.
  9. Identify where you are on the learning curve for the particular competencies you need in leadership. Are you at the initial awareness stage, making rapid progress, reaching diminishing returns, plateauing, or in decline? What is needed to move to the next stage of leadership competence?
  10. What is the next learning curve for you? What are the most likely risks and opportunities you face when making the leap to the next curve?
  11. What are your top leadership strengths and your center of gravity? Develop a strategy to exploit your center of gravity.
  12. What are your top leadership limitations and vulnerabilities? What is your strategy to manage these limitations, depending on the situation and the people you are leading?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

I just read an article in the Globe and Mail about how to manage so-called “Millenials.” Never has so much navel gazing led to such hot air with so little logic or evidence to back it up. But other than that I don’t feel strongly about it…

The problem I see with the whole Gen-X, Gen-Y and other assorted generation alphabet soup claims is that they are based on (re)discovering things that have always existed. Young people today supposedly need meaningful work and only respond to good leadership. When was it ever different? And moreover, isn’t that what all people want, at least in some measure?

As an officer in the Canadian Army from 1985 to 2006, I saw a transition to more meaningful and transformational leadership, but it applied to everyone, not just Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers. Someone in their forties or fifties was no more accommodating of incompetent leadership and asinine work than someone in their teens, twenties, or thirties. I know I always wanted meaningful work and a sense of belonging.

Anyone who has read Plato will know that elders have been harping about the supposed lack of respect for authority or their impatience with traditional ways of doing things of the younger generations since at least the 5th century BC. And it’s been going on ever since. Remember the Monty Python skit about the “Young People Today”? It came out in the early 70s, before they’re were Millenials, or Generation Alphabet Soup.

And what about all those previous generations of dreamers and rebels who wanted to change society and intergenerational relations? Weren’t they looking for meaningful work, a sense of belonging, and other intrinsic motivations? Didn’t they respond to competent, transformational leaders who sought to influence them through intrinsic motivation, the power of example, and challenging goals and responsibilities?

The sooner we get off this generational hobby horse, the sooner we can get back to sound principles of leadership, which I’ve written about extensively. People of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures respond to inspirational and competent leadership no matter what the circumstances. No one likes to follow an incompetent leader, except perhaps out of pure curiosity. I know, I’ve had the practical experiences leading soldiers and civilians, business people and managers, around the world in all environments.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Call this concentration of force, a key principle of war and strategy.

  • What strategies, initiatives, tactics are getting results?
  • How can you reinforce these to seize and maintain the initiative over detractors and competitors?
  • What are you doing now that is not getting results and that is taking up significant results?
  • Are these activities worth continuing because you’ve only just started them, or have you been putting in significant effort for piddling results?
  • What would be the impact of cancelling or transferring these activities in order to free up the resources so you can focus them on the successful initiatives and incursions?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

There’s a principle of defence that distinguishes between vital ground and key terrain. In a nutshell, vital ground is the position or ground that you must defend to the last man, and if you fail in that task, then the whole defensive line will fall apart. Key terrain includes all those areas and positions that allow you to slow down or channel an attacker or challenger and that make the defence of vital ground that much stronger. If you lose control of key terrain, then that jeopardizes your hold on vital ground.

Whether it’s with our followers, employers, clients, suppliers, or anyone else for that matter, it’s important to distinguish what is vital ground from what is key terrain. In some cases, you can give up key terrain by trading space for time, but it’s easy to confuse ego or a false sense of superiority for vital ground, when it’s just key terrain, or a way to put some distance between ourselves and others. If we confuse the two, we can get caught up in fighting battles we can’t win or using up all our ammunition in pyrrhic victories.

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.