I am the 2nd of six born to a career army officer and we got to travel the world by living in places like Seoul, Korea, Stuttgart, Germany, Okinawa, Japan, and a dozen or so states to include Hawaii, California, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina. This life certainly made a favorable impression on us as my older brother attended the Air Force Academy and became a pilot; I with my two other brothers and youngest sister attended West Point and my other sister attended the University of Florida on an Army Nursing ROTC scholarship. I feel very fortunate to have had a Catholic upbringing and coupled with my military experiences, I was given a great head start in life regarding being very goal driven, believing in a coherent set of virtues such as faith, family, integrity, responsibility, hard work, and discipline. My older brother regrettably died in a B-52 crash in 1983 but his impact on my life continues to this day. He embraced the fullness of life-was a poet, musician, athlete, scholar, leader and he would say most proudly, a lover as well. I have been married to Claudia for 39 years; have four children and three grandchildren and I am blessed to have extraordinary relationships with not only my family but many friends and colleagues as well.
When I was in 6th grade, my family moved to Oahu as a means to be closer to my father who deployed to Vietnam for his 3rd combat tour to Southeast Asia. I vividly recall the beauty of the island as well as the weather-seemed like it was always, “80 degrees and fair!” I walked to my school, Hahaione Elementary School, like my classmates, barefoot and seemingly carefree. One day I passed a house where the owner had put a small boat out with his trash, and I had the gumption of ringing his doorbell and asking if my friends and I could take the boat instead of throwing it out. He told us that the boat was not safe and would feel much better if we asked our Moms (there were three of us) if we could stop at his house after school and make a boat with him that we in turn could keep. As most of our houses backed up on canals throughout a neighborhood called, Hawaii Kai, this was an exciting possibility and we eagerly got permission. Why this man was kind and patient enough to teach us is a mystery, but over several months he showed us how to build an outrigger canoe and after testing it in the water, gave it to us. For the next year or so, we would take turns keeping the boat and we had some wonderful adventures on that boat!
Intention and discipline. I use intention to make create goals that not only include professional outcomes that I would like to achieve but also lots of personal goals regarding the quality of my relationships with my wife and family; the quality of my social life to include the names of friends that I want to make sure I am staying well connected to; the vacations that my wife and I are to take in the year; what I am doing regarding my spiritual growth in my life as well as keeping focus weekly on creative goals such as playing the piano, guitar and singing. The discipline is needed to make sure that my days, weeks and months are well filled with the activities that I believe will help me achieve my professional and personal goals. In any given year, I probably have listed at least 50 goals and outcomes that I have committed to at the beginning of the year. A good example is that I have two sons-in-law who live close by and my goal for the year is that we get together at least quarterly, just the three of us, to enjoy each other’s company and promote a good relationship. I just booked three tickets for us to attend an Atlanta United Soccer game in the weeks ahead and both were quite excited when I told them to hold the dates.
One of my intentions is to build a great meditation practice. This has been a big challenge for me in the past and so I am working on doing at least 10 minutes of meditation a day. I know that this is not much much but since January 1st I have only missed two days and so I feel like I am creating a good habit that I hope to expand. When I do meditate, I am very relaxed, especially my mind. I am also very relaxed when playing the piano and singing. The other thing that perhaps I am even more intentional about is exercise. While I have never been diagnosed with ADD, I know I am easily distracted and when I haven’t exercised, I sometimes feel pulled in a dozen different directions. Getting on my exercise bike or taking a brisk walk just calms me down and allows me to get re-centered.
I have to challenge what some say about first impressions as I don’t like to base my assessment of anyone on those. Frankly because in the past, I was often wrong. There is a ton of research out there that our first impressions are often wrong and yet can be so strong that we make terrible decisions about people. I also think that most human beings are wired to be liked and so I find that initial impressions are manifestations of that. Because I tend to be too trusting of others, if I let those first impressions be my main filter regarding connecting with another human being, I can be overly trusting and give others too much the benefit of the doubt. Conversely if my first impression is a rare bad one, I could let that unduly influence me as well.
Through the year when I meet people, I tend to be patient, get more data and have greater history before counting them in or out of my circle. I have found this works much better than relying on my first impressions.
My life has been filled with hundreds of people that have positively shaped and formed who I am today. Coaches, teachers, priests, nuns, brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, grandparents, great bosses, wonderful NCOs, extraordinary peers, incredible soldiers, friends, team members and colleagues. There are just too many people in my life who have given me a glimpse of what greatness and excellence look like. So many people have believed in me even when I didn’t and held me to a higher standard and all I can express is gratitude that I have lived such a rich and engaging life because of all the extraordinary people that have blessed my life.
-David Brooks in his new book, “The Second Mountain” speaks of those who see their second mountain as the opportunity to serve humankind in something much more meaningful than a paycheck or some award.
-Professor Clayton Christensen from the Harvard Business School recently died but he left a great legacy especially in a marvelous book her wrote, “How Will You Measure Your Life.” Which like Brooks challenges the readers to examine what is truly most important in life and to pursue that with deep intention and conviction. I am also deeply fascinated by how one’s character is developed and how the importance of that character in one’s life journey.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies the power to choose your response.” Viktor Frankl. Holocaust Survivor and Author, “Man’s Search for Meaning”
In life we are often presented with enormous possibilities for choice and yet far too many people cede their control and opportunity to others and other circumstances. I have found that quote to be enormously transformational in seeing that if I am more present and thoughtful, I can often make much better choices of what to say and what to do that inevitably lead to better outcomes.
My journey started when I attended the US Military Academy and followed in my father’s footsteps to be an infantry officer. After graduation, I served in one of the most prestigious infantry units in the Army, the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team stationed in Vicenza, Italy. I then served in the 82nd Airborne Division; followed that to the Harvard Business School where I prepared to teach cadets in Leadership back at West Point. I left the Army to join McKinsey & Company as a consultant. Got hired away into executive roles at BellSouth (AT&T) and eventually was an executive for a technology company, recruited to be an executive recruiter and eventually followed my dream to start a leadership development company that is now in its 19th successful year.
I would like to believe I am a thought leader regarding the importance of resiliency, happiness, joy and well-being as necessary components of effective leadership. Most human beings face or will face trauma in their lives as we will all lose loved ones and deal with our own mortality and humanness, But, just because we undergo great trauma does not mean ruin or failure. Instead there are scientific backed strategies and tools that we are learning that can help people rise from their trauma and difficulty to become even better versions of themselves. This is exciting and relatively new territory and I hope to be an evangelist for Post Traumatic Growth and Resilience.
No. It took many twisted paths. The first twist is that I thought I would serve in the US Army Rangers or Green Berets. However, with a young family of three small children, when the Army asked if I would like to get my MBA and teach leadership at West Point, I deviated. I left the Army after only 12 years of service when I had the chance to join one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, McKinsey & Company. I deviated again and joined a client and then left the prestigious client for a technology start up that I got to help build. I then deviated again and became an executive search consultant/recruiter and then took another plunge to start and run my own company right when my three oldest children were about to start college!
I have been very blessed to not only attend the US Military Academy but also spent six months as an exchange cadet at the US Naval Academy. During my junior year at West Point, I was selected to attend one of the Army’s more challenging courses, US Army Ranger School. After graduation from West Point, I attended a host of courses to include Airborne and Pathfinder schools, Infantry Officer’s Basic and Advanced Course and the Army Logistics and Supply Officer’s School followed by the Harvard Business School, followed eventually by McKinsey and Company where they too had extraordinary training and education. Also, being on faculty at West Point greatly affected the rest of my life in so many remarkable ways
· I am writing with a coauthor, a book on Post Traumatic Growth.
· I run several leadership programs for high potential leaders.
· My first book, “You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have” is being put on a Knowledge and Education Platform that will engage readers and learners through using breakthrough technologies that include gamification.
· I am working on a new leadership course, “Building Leaders of Leaders” that will focus on equipping leaders with strategies, tactics and tools that will better promote real and measurable growth and development on the part of their leaders.
Married for 39 years and have wonderful relationships with my four adult children; Selected for the Douglas MacArthur Award at West Point for Leadership; I was also a Distinguished Cadet finishing in the top 5% of my class; Was selected as the Distinguished Honor Graduate at US Army Ranger School; Was promoted below the zone (less than 5% of my peers) from Captain to Major; Selected for the Harvard Business School and graduated with Distinction (High Honors); Only assistant faculty selected to teach in the Eisenhower Graduate Program at West Point; Recruited by McKinsey & Company; Over the last 19 years, my company has had over 92% client retention and never unprofitable.
· Have a deep understanding of human nature, motivation and performance.
· Have a profound curiosity about human beings so that you listen intently to their stories and patterns that make them unique and interesting.
· See every human interaction as an opportunity for learning.
· See each human being as wanting to have a good, fulfilling life and if you can help enough of them get what they want, you will have everything you want in life.
Certainly make sure the dream is big and worthy enough of the great sacrifice and determination that new things require when being brought into the world. Understand your strengths and also your shortcomings (we all have them) so that you surround yourself with people who will compliment your shortcomings with their strengths. Take the time to build psychological safety so that trust and honesty abound, and you are intentional about building your product and solution as you are with building a culture to best support that product/solution. Finally, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but really a sign of great strength. Learn to ask for help and then actually do something meaningful with it.
Certainly leadership is about making things happen but it is also a team sport and so I strongly recommend that young leaders learn as soon as they can about how their preferences for communications, structure, pace, interactions, greatly affect how they work with others. Understand the difference between intelligence and emotional intelligence because emotions play a significant role in how people work together. The path to effective leadership is to deepen one’s thoughtfulness about people and situations and to have the versatility to shift behaviors based upon the most effective read of the situation and those involved in it.
Conscientiousness-Responsibility. Since the role of leaders is to make things happen, the senior leader must select well; make sure the right people are in place; align those people; keep them motivated and focused; track and celebrate progress and fix attention on barriers and obstacles on the pathway to success. All of these require leaders of significant levels of conscientiousness and responsibility.
As technology continues to grow in importance in every facet of our lives, I believe that real human connection will become even harder to achieve yet essential to our survival as a species. Machines will never replace human beings in the most important tasks of leadership: helping people have a great sense of purpose and meaning in their work; making people feel valued, affirmed, and supported; providing nuanced feedback when people are struggling to embrace new change and learn new skills that require human communication, intuition and real connection.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. It is a story of transformation of how a man can survive and even emerge from the deepest horrors of the Holocaust stronger, more purposeful, keenly empathetic and must more determined to live a remarkable life. I have read this book several times in my life, and each time is different and life changing.
It is a good place for leaders to share some of their most intimate thoughts about life and leadership.
I would not change the path that I journeyed. However, I would have been much more present and attentive along the way. I have missed so much by not fully appreciating the remarkable things I have seen and gotten to do. Pay more attention; Be Present. Ask lots of questions and be Curious. These are the tools that I wish I could have used in much greater measure earlier in my life.