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What got you here, won't get you there. The greasy pole.

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What got you here, won't get you there. The greasy pole.

Old 1st Jan 2015, 14:21
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What got you here, won't get you there. The greasy pole.

I thought this Havard Business Review generic piece about leadership and 'getting on' in an organisation might elicit some thoughts on a quiet day. At what point do you sometimes force yourself to change as you get promoted (if indeed you do) or is military management and leadership still too much of a different proposition with not enough parallels to civvy street for it to have relevance? What would you do differently?
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Old 1st Jan 2015, 15:08
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The military would probably term it "the art of delegation". A moot point whether that simply means chucking the thing over your shoulder for your subordinates and walking off; delegating, but then getting involved in every little nuance especially if something is being handled in a way that differs from your approach; or somewhere in between.

Some of the greatest advocates for delegation I've met have been civilian leaders of successful companies (as opposed to the average or poorly performing ones). Almost all have said that delegation breeds competence and responsibility, leaving them to manage the strategic stuff.
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Old 1st Jan 2015, 18:21
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Bigbux, I thought exactly that even before I read the article.

I would write a VI and issue it with every expectation that the competent adults responsible for things like Photography, MY, Flying Clothing etc would comply with the VI.

But no, my boss, an over promoted spec aircrew sqn ldr would insist I rang around on the day; to a man the SNCOs mad e their feelings known.

Me, I would have preferred a bollock to be dropped and the lesson learnt.
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Old 1st Jan 2015, 21:35
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Delegation [to whom, and how much] is, I think, a very big decision early in a new job at a higher level. It usually becomes necessary before you are fully up and running, as the personal "must do" list starts to get too long.
In a big organisation it helps enormously if you have met some of your new staff in a previous post. Some to trust, some to watch.
I rather think that I got lucky more than once, with some excellent deputies. And I spotted the sh1t before he did any damage.
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Old 2nd Jan 2015, 16:03
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Sqn Ldr in the RAF, Managing Director in civvy street. Don't know if that qualifies me to make a comment...but in for tuppence.

The biggest change IMHO is one of culture...

Armed Forces may be different to other part of the public sector, but they are still the public sector and, defacto, not motivated by commercial necessity (that would be "profit").

Commercial companies (in a capitalist free market economy/society) are entirely profit driven (let's not digress in a pointless discussion here...if anybody thinks profit is not the ultimate goal of a commercial entity, then they just don't get business...period).

So the leadership goals and priorities (and therefore applied techniques) of public sector and military leaders can look profoundly different. Case in point...

You have an underachiever in the public sector...leadership priority...make them better.

You have an underachiever in the commercial sector...leadership priority...sack em.

Too harsh...check out Karren Brady, CBE, Baroness, Managing Director of BCFC at 23. To quote David Gold "She's a sacker". She is also an incredibly effective leader (and I venture she would be in the military too)

But ultimately therein lies the common ground - Leadership is Leadership, and more often than not it's about taking the tough decisions, without fear or favour, that nobody else wants to take.

That's why tons of people talk bull about leaders when they themselves can't hack it.

As a leader you are invariably responsible to an organisation for the delivery of a task - quite often as the expense of the individual to the benefit of the larger group/crowd.

I did a fair bit of leadership in 27 years in the military...team leader, crew captain, detachment commander, Sqn Exec. I was well trained for the task and in the main everybody I led was perfectly capable of replacing me.

It was a far, far harder gig trying to protect the jobs of two dozen people in a recession. And "letting go" of two married guys with families to support was one of the worst days of my life. It was also IMHO, a true act of leadership.

PS Karren Brady was just an easy example to make a simple point - I can't stand the Apprentice or her on it either!!
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Old 2nd Jan 2015, 18:00
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I was well trained for the task and in the main everybody I led was perfectly capable of replacing me.
And that is the key to success TOFO. If you have shared your knowledge and experience with your team where any number of them can replace you, you are a great leader. All too often fragile egos and small penises prevent passing on the appropriate knowledge, just in case somebody realises you don't have to possess a massive intellect at all, you just have to be smart. Every day is the Emperor's new clothes in one way or another.

The article also stresses a vitally important aspect of work; flogging your butt off everyday without a break not only makes Jack a dull boy, but it makes him operationally ineffective. It's all to easy to get into a routine of extended hours and weekend working through habit or some misplaced sense of 'looking busy". There's a time for the 24/7 routine but don't do it when you don't need to. It takes strong leadership to make sure people are not at work if they don't need to be. Weak leaders thrive on long days and no time off, as it requires no moral fibre whatsoever.
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Old 2nd Jan 2015, 18:30
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It's all to easy to get into a routine of extended hours and weekend working through habit or some misplaced sense of 'looking busy".
Good friend of mine was posted as a SNCO to an engineering documentation establishment which was ostensibly an 8 to 5 job. On arrival he was told by his WO that hardly anyone finished at 5pm and some worked until very late to which my friend replied 'Why, aren't they very good at their jobs?' (He enjoyed the same quick wit and lack of career as I did...)

He used to finish at 5 promptly and got everything done that was asked of him. Apparently a lot of the guys he worked with just used to dawdle through the day and get everything done by 6 or half past because it looked good. The mind boggles.

I used to run the F4 CADC section at Sealand. The first thing the guy I took over from told me was to get myself a clipboard and if I had nothing to do to just wander around the section putting tickmarks on a blank piece of paper. It was good advice.
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Old 2nd Jan 2015, 20:16
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All very good points here - but I learnt more from poor leaders when serving than I did from the good ones. The poor specimens were countered (when possible) by reverse man management.
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Old 2nd Jan 2015, 21:08
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I always understood the military "Monkey Tree" analogy. Those at the top of the promotion tree looked down to see smiling faces looking up at them...those at the bottom looked up and only saw @rseh*les.
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Old 2nd Jan 2015, 22:33
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thing,

That is one of the biggest problems I've seen in the military. "Leaders" who believe that the only metric worth judging their subordinates by is time spent in the office!

The guys still working on plans or staff work at 1800 are often, in my experience, not very good at time management. But if you're very good at what you do and finish everything asked of you by 1500, it looks bad if you knock off early.

Flexible working has been an enormous success for some companies, but we're still in the stone age by judging people on how long they sit at their desks, not what they're doing while they're sat there.
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 11:57
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The guys still working on plans or staff work at 1800 are often, in my experience, not very good at time management. But if you're very good at what you do and finish everything asked of you by 1500, it looks bad if you knock off early.
5F6B,

I agree in principle, but in practice things are often very different. Sure, there are some that are inefficient - and a rumour I heard that Defence's head Info Mgr or whatever the job title is wanted to put FB on DII wouldn't help there either! - but for many it's simply a function of too much work and being under resourced. In my first HQ tour, on departure my 1-star said exactly what you said in response to my frequently being the last to leave. He failed to notice I was covering 3 roles after his re prioritisation of manpower in the HQ.

My last tour was a comd appt in a tri-service unit. Once again, manpower had been decimated so I ended up being the J4 and 6 focal point for the unit, neither of which are areas of expertise.

So to get round the lack of manning and expertise in areas I had to devise strategies to cope. I set my email to highlight those mails I was an action addressee and those I was only a Cc addressee; that meant I could prioritise what time I did have in front of the computer. Equally, I set my OOO to delete when I went on leave, having nominated people to cover the key areas in my absence. All the relevant contact details were in my OOO message along with details of how to get me in an emergency. Nobody once complained about me deleting stuff and it meant I didn't spend the first 2 days back in work ploughing through 200+ irrelevant emails. I also had my phone changed to one with a caller display so I could effectively screen my calls; you have to be careful there, but in this instance privilege of position meant I got away with it. There were some days however, where I just unplugged the phone and shut the door if I needed to concentrate on a particularly knotty problem.

Despite all that, with a 20% manning cut, most days I was still in until 1830 and not out of choice. You can have all the strategies you want, but if your in tray seems to be breeding like a rabbit in season and you are required to attend numerous daily meetings just to make sure things keep running (the combination of which often means much of your time isn't actually your own) it is very hard these days to do the traditional 1700 finish without things dropping off. And there lies the real problem for many in the military - a can do attitude and a desire to do the best you can not to let others down or the system fail - despite that very system often working against you.

Last edited by Melchett01; 3rd Jan 2015 at 12:42. Reason: Clarification
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 12:47
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And that is the key to success TOFO. If you have shared your knowledge and experience with your team where any number of them can replace you, you are a great leader. All too often fragile egos and small penises prevent passing on the appropriate knowledge, just in case somebody realises you don't have to possess a massive intellect at all, you just have to be smart. Every day is the Emperor's new clothes in one way or another.

The article also stresses a vitally important aspect of work; flogging your butt off everyday without a break not only makes Jack a dull boy, but it makes him operationally ineffective. It's all to easy to get into a routine of extended hours and weekend working through habit or some misplaced sense of 'looking busy". There's a time for the 24/7 routine but don't do it when you don't need to. It takes strong leadership to make sure people are not at work if they don't need to be. Weak leaders thrive on long days and no time off, as it requires no moral fibre whatsoever.
I agree with every single word of your post

Speaking only from personal experience, the best leader I have seen to date was a 22 year old slip of a lass who straight out of uni was store manager of an M&S in the rough part of Leeds. Leading 75 low paid, ethnically and educationally diverse staff on a daily basis, whilst hitting all sorts of tough metrics...not for me! (needless to say, she went on to great things).

Point is, leadership is p1ss easy when you are leading a great team and when all is going well. Real leaders show up, when the going gets tough and the team is...for want of a better word...mixed.

Last edited by The Old Fat One; 3rd Jan 2015 at 12:57.
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 12:52
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I would second TOFO, especially after recent experiences.

There is an article in the Economist The World in 2015 which predicts a move away from killer hours to a more balanced 9-5 regime. It's an interesting, if in UK MOD terms slightly wishful article given our Lords & Masters insistence at getting involved everywhere but not wanting to resource it, but it echos many of the points already in this thread and would be a massively welcome change if implemented.

If I can find a link I'll post it.

Last edited by Melchett01; 3rd Jan 2015 at 13:05.
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 17:35
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In my 36 years in the RAF I am still not sure if ANY of my many, many so-say aspirational Flight Commanders/Sqn Commanders/ Station Commanders "leaders" actually lead anything. More like, they didn't rock their particular boat to ensure that THEY climbed up their particular pole towards their higher pension and bollocks to the rest of us.

Since leaving, I detect that commercial life outside the RAF is more akin to real life.

So, is the RAF/Navy/ARMY quite simply a respectable way of dropping out of (real) society?
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 18:05
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^^ Absolutely no time for this sort of b****cks

I did 27 years and from the Cpl drill instructor that met me on Newark station to the Staish that bought me my last drink in the OM at about 5 am, 99% were great guys and girls and very competent managers and leaders...almost all with tremendous personal integrity and the best interest of their troops at heart.

What sort of sad loser are you if you did 36 years in a voluntary organisation with that sort of view of the leaders and people around you?

@ Melch...been banging on about this for two years...it's gaining currency all the time. People are waking up to the fact that the good ol rat race might just not be all it's cracked up to be. Funnily enough...I'm in the process of going professional on counselling this very idea. Would love to have the link (saves me buying the mag )
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 18:53
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Well said TOFO! I work with a varied bunch of lads and lasses, 99% of whom are brilliant. What's more important, that's been my experience throughout my career, including of my bosses.

What the hell happened to you OKOC?
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 19:07
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Since leaving, I detect that commercial life outside the RAF is more akin to real life.
In as much as commercial managers are far more incompetent and self serving in real life you mean?
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 20:48
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My Dad was a very senior bod in ICI. He said that he never considered people ready for promotion until they could do their existing job in normal office hours. I suspect a good number of military reporting officers can see right through their "face-time" subordinates too!
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Old 3rd Jan 2015, 21:57
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OKOC, interesting.

I can think of two examples:

In 11Gp procedures between stations were different for no logical reason. A sqn cdr, posted to BP sent out an order standardizing procedures - no consultation, no lead time. Bang, it happened.

Later, an Air Cdre at Strike tried to implement a wholesale change in training ethos. Rules were amended and sqns advised accordingly. Nothing happened.

As you say though, many just keep the boat steady and avoid catching a crab.
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Old 4th Jan 2015, 11:11
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It's funny that not rocking the boat is referenced by a few here. I seemed to spend most of my career cleaning up after those who changed stuff for the sake of changing it and to get noticed rather than them implementing change for positive reason.
Leadership is largely about change (you lead change, you manage the status quo) and very early on I worked out that I would only change things for 3 reasons:

1. It got the job 'done better'.
2. It improved things for the people doing the job.
3. Because I was told to.

Number 3, the military reason, was best avoided!
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