Leadership and Transition

I am in the middle of writing a series of articles and a book about transition, and about a month ago I created a survey about the military transition process to help gather information on the subject (and if you have not taken it, please do!  I can never get enough data points:  Military Transition Survey).  The survey revealed some very interesting data points, and one struck me as being particularly revealing about how those undergoing transition are viewed and treated by their organizations as they leave the service.

The question was: “How involved was your unit and/or unit leadership in your transition process?”

The answers ranged from “Very Low” to “Very High”.  See if you can guess where the bulk of respondents fell on the scale…

Well, a startlingly low percentage felt that their units were involved in their transition.  Only 8% felt that their unit and their leaders were highly or very highly involved.  For an institution that prides itself on being the gold standard of leadership that is a pretty dismal level of effort.

What is shocking is how poor the involvement was.  15% of respondents selected “Neither High nor Low” (which was the middle of the scale), but a whopping 76% stated that the involvement of their units and leadership was “Low” or “Very Low”.  Ouch!

Upon reading the results I had to think back to my personal experience with transition.  As a leader myself, I had always thought that I had taken care of those in my charge, including those who chose to hang up their uniforms.  After reflecting for a bit I realized that although I was very supportive of their efforts I certainly could have done a whole lot more.

I would sit down and talk with every Marine and Sailor who left my command.  The conversation that we would have varied depending on what was next for them as they departed the unit; if they were transferring to another duty station we would talk about what was in store for them and how it could impact their career and family, and if they were getting out we would have a discussion of where their lives were headed.  I would try to guide and mentor them towards pursuing an education by taking advantage of the GI Bill, and in cases where he had no interest in further education I would try to get them to at least formulate a plan for the way ahead.  After we spoke and shook hands we parted ways.

That was all well and good.  But I could, and should, have have been much more engaged.  As I learned during my transition there was a lot to do after I checked out of my unit, and I was pretty much completely on my own to get it done.  As a leader I should have gone the extra mile and actually followed their progress as they navigated the path of transition, but I didn’t.  I should have gone to the transition assistance classes to see what was being taught and how my Marines and Sailors were being treated, but I didn’t.  Shame on me.

As I discovered out during my own outprocessing there are a lot of bumps in the offramp from military service.  As I transitioned I found the process to be both difficult and annoying, and I was a senior officer with nearly three decades of experience.  If it was hard for me, how tough was it for a young man or woman who served only one tour?

The answer to that question is that it was a lot harder for them than it was for me.  Part of the reason that it was harder is because they were just cast upon the waters of transition without the guidance and oversight that they had experienced during their time in the military.

From the day that they met their recruiter to the day that they decided to leave the military each and every servicemember was under the guidance and tutelage of a concerned leader.  Recruiters prepared them for bootcamp, and their drill instructors molded them into Marines (or Sailors, or Soldiers, or Airmen).  They were trained by professional instructors in their military trades, and became valued parts of units and teams in the operating forces.  They became leaders in their own rights as they progressed up the ranks, and they were always under the wing of those who had been around longer than they had.

Unfortunately, when they decided to get out the concerned leadership of their units disappeared.  They (and I) were no longer valued members of the team, but instead guys and gals who were getting out.  To be fair, there certainly is a lot going on in the military these days with things like combat deployments, training exercises, and everything else that is part of the military experience.  That said, as leaders we failed to be there for the final chapter of military service for 76% of those who transitioned out of the military.

That is truly a shame, and something that should be addressed.  In my humble opinion, the most significant portion of the problem is how the TAP/TAMP and transition process is performed.  Those on the way out are centrally trained for transition, and the centralization of training removes the onus of oversight from the units that they came from.  They are out of sight and out of mind, and as such quickly become forgotten in the churn of daily military life.  The close bonds that they formed with their peers, subordinates, and seniors quickly fade during the time when they need them most: the incredibly stressful and uncertain transition from the all encompassing world that they knew to an ambiguous future in a world that they left years before.

Another telling statistic from the survey is how well the respondents felt that their transition process prepared them for re-entry into civilian life.  Sadly, on 12% felt that they were fully prepared for the jump.  That number should be much higher, and perhaps it would be if leaders were more involved in their people who are transitioning.

How many would have felt more prepared if their leaders had stayed as engaged with them during their last days in uniform as they were in the beginning?


Post from The Decisive Leadership Group about Roles in Successful Crisis Resolution

Since I transitioned from active duty, I have been fortunate to be able to earn my MBA from USC’s Marshall Business School and start my own company, which is called The Decisive Leadership Group.  So, in addition to posting about the wonderful world of military transition I will also be posting some of the things that I write for that site as well.  Here is something that I think applies to everyone:  Roles and Responsibilities in Crisis

Here is the post in case you don’t want to follow the link:

How to Successfully Resolve a Crisis: the Roles in Successful Crisis Resolution (RISCR) Model

By Mike Grice, Founder and President of The Decisive Leadership Group

Every organization experiences crisis, but not every bump in the road does a crisis make. Some crises, such as the sinking of the Titanic, are unique and existential while others, like power outages and supply chain interruptions, are of the small ankle-biter variety and can crop up on a daily basis.  What differentiates a crisis from any other problematic event is the effect that it can have on an organization; if the event is merely an annoyance, simply uncomfortable, or a predictably stressful part of the business then it is not a crisis.  If, however, the situation is both unexpected and threatening to the success of the the person or organization, then it is indeed a crisis.

A true crisis situation consists of three elements:

1)  It is unexpected

2)  It threatens the organization, team, or individual

3)  It requires timely and decisive action in order to be resolved.

At The Decisive Leadership Group we define crisis is an unexpected and threatening situation that requires decisive action to achieve successful resolution.  It doesn’t matter where a critical event occurs — on the assembly line or in the executive suite — because if it meets this definition then it is truly a crisis and it is a situation which requires action on someone’s part to correct.  But how do you know if you are the right person to make the decision?  Are you in the best position to fix the problem?  To help determine what you should do in a critical situation it is helpful to look at a historical case study and learn from the experience of others.  The story of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 is a great example of the roles and responsibilities that are necessary to successfully resolve a crisis:

          Late on a dark and cold December evening in 1972 a shiny and new widebody airliner took off from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.  Headed for the much warmer and sunnier climate of Florida, the Eastern Airlines Lockheed L-1011 lifted from the runway uneventfully and turned to the south.  Less than half full, the aircraft flew with 176 passengers and crew on board.  The modern three-engine jet had only been in service for four months and the crew that flew her was fully trained and rated to fly the aircraft.

       Captain Bob Loft commanded the flight that evening, with First Officer Albert Stockstill and Second Officer Don Repo filling the co-pilot and flight engineers seats respectively.  Also on the flight deck that evening was Angelo Donadeo, an Eastern Airlines technical officer, who by sheer happenstance sat in the cockpit’s jump seat as he returned home after completing an assignment for the company.  The cabin crew of ten was led by Adrienne Hamilton, an experienced lead flight attendant who led a tight-knit group of attendants as they tended to the passengers.

       Captain Loft was 55 years old, and had amassed nearly 30,000 hours behind the controls of various aircraft during his 30 year career.  With over 5,900 hours in the cockpit, 39 year old First Officer Stockstill was an experienced former Air Force pilot and flight engineer, and Second Officer Repo, age 51,  had almost 16,000 hours in the air.  They were all fully trained and certified to fly the then-new widebody L-1011.  They were a seasoned and experienced crew, flying a new and well maintained aircraft on an otherwise uneventful and routine run from one well established airport to another.

          The flight was routine until the aircraft approached the Miami International Airport.  As the crew prepared to land they went through the procedures necessary to complete the flight.  It was when the landing gear handle was placed in the “down” position, however, that the flight ceased to be typical.  A small green indicator light which would indicate that the aircraft’s nose landing gear was down and locked into landing position failed to illuminate.  The captain re-cycled the landing gear control handle, but the indicator light still remained unlit.

          In accordance with established procedures, the captain asked the Miami control tower for permission to circle the airport in order to get a green light on the landing gear.  At 11:34 pm, seconds after Captain Loft initiated his request, the tower directed the crew to climb to 2000 feet in altitude and to fly out over the Everglades in order to be clear of the landing pattern and to fix the landing gear problem.

          One minute later, at 11:35, the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 2000 feet and headed towards the pitch darkness that marked the Everglades.  A minute after that, copilot Stockstill engaged the autopilot at the direction of Captain Loft and changed the aircraft’s heading in accordance with the Tower’s instructions. 

          At 11:36 the copilot attempted to remove the indicator light’s cover assembly, but it jammed.  Unable to determine whether the indicator was at fault, the captain decided to have the Second Officer visually verify the status of the landing gear, and at 11:37 he directed Don Repo to go into the aircraft’s avionics bay (which contained a window through which the landing gear could be observed) in order to determine whether or not the nose gear was down and locked.  In that same minute of time the tower directed the crew to change their heading again, and the crew complied.  Also in that minute something else happened: as they wrestled with the light cover assembly one of the pilots nudged his control yoke, which despite being on autopilot placed the aircraft into an imperceptible nose-down attitude.  The aircraft, flying at only 2000 feet above the Everglades, began to descend at a rate of 250 feet per minute.

          As the pilot and copilot debated what to do with about the indicator light, the second officer left his station and proceeded to the avionics bay.   While he was gone, at 11:40, an audible “C chord” chime sounded for a half of a second to indicate that the aircraft had deviated from its set altitude by 250 feet.  With the flight engineer station empty and the pilots discussing what to do about the lightbulb, the warning chime’s sounding went unnoticed.

           At 11:41 Repo popped his head back into the cockpit to report that it was too dark for him to see whether the nose gear was in the proper position.  Technical Officer Danadeo then joined the second officer in the avionics bay to see if he could help determine the status of the landing gear.

          Also at 11:41, the tower controller asked how things were going, and in response the crew requested to turn to a new heading.  The request was granted, and at 11:42 the first officer turned to the controls in order to initiate the heading change.

           11:42:05, he announced to the captain that “we did something to the altitude”, to which the captain replied “what?”   The first officer responded with “we’re still at 2,000, right?” to which the captain exclaimed “Hey!  What’s happening here?”

          Seconds later, at 11:42:10, altimeter warnings began to beep only to be cut off by the sounds of impact as the aircraft disintegrated into the Everglades, killing 101 passengers and crew.

          What had happened?  How could a highly skilled and experienced crew allow a passenger aircraft fly into a swamp and kill two thirds of the people on board?

          The answer lies in how the crew responded to the unlit landing gear indicator light.

           In every crisis there are actions which must be taken to achieve a successful resolution.  Failure to take appropriate action invariably results in a less than optimal outcome, and in the case of Flight 401 the actions taken by the flight crew that dark December night provides us with a stark case to study how roles and responsibilities are a critical part of successful crisis resolution.  

          The crew of Flight 401 was confronted with a crisis when the landing gear indicator light failed to illuminate.  At that moment, the normality of a routine flight from New York to Miami became abnormal, and consistent with their training and experience, the flight crew responded to the problem.  Not having the nose landing gear in the down and locked position prior to landing the aircraft was clearly a critical situation that required resolution.

          The captain focused on the problem.  The first officer focused on the problem.  The second officer focused on the problem.  Even the hitch-hiking technical officer focused on the problem. 

          Unfortunately, in doing so, nobody focused on the larger situation: bringing 176 people safely to their destination.  Instead, everyone focused on the status of a $12 light bulb, which the investigation later determined to have been burned out.

          As it happened the night of the crash was moonless, and the swampy area over which the aircraft was flying was devoid of artificial lighting which could have visually alerted the crew to the change in altitude.  Even though the crew could not see outside the cockpit and see the ground due to the darkness, it was not as though there were no indications or warnings that the aircraft was in danger.  Myriad instruments such as altimeters, vertical speed indicators, airspeed indicators, pitch attitude indicators, and vertical speed selectors showed that the aircraft was not in level flight.  In addition to the visual instruments, the altitude change alerting ½ second C-chord chime announced the deviation in altitude.

          As experienced aircrew, the pilots and flight engineer were trained to scan their instruments routinely in order to see if there are any circumstances that require their attention.  Unfortunately, in this instance, the cockpit crew was so myopically focused on the nose gear situation that they failed to follow one of the basic rules of a pilot’s craft: keep an eye on your instruments.  They collectively failed to observe what their airplane was clearly trying to tell them.  Had just one of them paid attention to just one of the indicators and warnings the crash could have been averted.  Unfortunately, none of them did.

By solely focusing on the landing gear crisis the crew failed to accomplish their real objective, which was to bring the aircraft and the people aboard safely to Miami.  While they got pretty close to solving the problem with the landing gear, they utterly failed at landing the plane safely.  They did not perform the actions necessary to achieve a successful resolution to the crisis.

There are essentially three roles that must be filled in order to successfully resolve a crisis. A leader must take charge and define the successful resolution to the crisis, the crisis itself must be resolved, and normal operations must continue to be performed.  In a nutshell, successful crisis resolution relies on a triad of roles: Taking ChargeAttacking the Crisis, and Minding the Store.

Three Roles in Crisis

Captain Loft was the designated leader of Flight 401.  Among his other responsibilities Loft was singularly responsible for the success or failure of the flight.  As the captain, he had the duty to ensure that any emergent crisis would be resolved in such a manner that the passengers and crew would be safely delivered to their destination.  He was responsible for establishing the Resolution Imperative, with is the overarching purpose of the endeavor, and in this case the endeavor was landing the aircraft in Miami.

The leader exercises his responsibility for crisis resolution by ensuring that the resolution imperative is fully understood and by aligning the others in the organization towards meeting the resolution imperative. He or she also assigns the roles and responsibilities necessary to ensure that the resolution imperative is met: Attacking the Problem and Minding the Store.

Attacking the problem is self-evident.  Captain Loft clearly attacked the problem and also had the rest of the flight crew attack the problem too.  The problem with having everyone attack the problem is that only the emergent problem was addressed; the resolution criteria of landing the plane safely was missed entirely as they all worked on the emergent crisis by monkeying with the  lightbulb assembly or trying to visually confirm the status of the landing gear.  All of the cockpit’s eggs were in the “Attacking the Problem” basket.

None of the eggs were in the Minding the Store basket.  Minding the Store is the performance of duties required to keep the enterprise functioning outside the realm of the emergent crisis.  In terms of Flight 401, Minding the Store would have been to have someone cognizant and responsible for ensuring that the aircraft remained in flight.  In this case, the responsibility for flying the aircraft was delegated from the co-pilot (who was the last pilot to handle the controls) to the plane itself in the form of the autopilot, and with that assignment unfortunately came the abdication of responsibility of any of the crew to make sure that the plane remained in the air.

Flight 401 is a remarkable case study that clearly articulates the need for those in crisis to fill all three roles (taking charge, attacking the crisis, and minding the store).  By focusing solely on the status of the landing gear, all of the flight crew became decisively engaged in attacking the crisis.  With nobody taking charge and reinforcing the resolution criteria and with nobody minding the store the minor crisis, a malfunctioning $12 lightbulb, became catastrophic.

The importance of roles and responsibilities in critical situation is something that we can learn from the tragedy that was Flight 401.  From the lessons learned so painfully on that dark December night, you should ask yourself what you will do when the next crisis hits: Will you take charge?  Mind the Store?  Attack the Problem?

It is worth spending a few minutes to think about it.  After all, crisis only occurs when you least expect it, and you probably won’t have time to think about it when the next one erupts.

The importance of differentiation

There are many career paths that you can take in the military.  The obvious ones include those that involve fighting, but there are a whole lot of jobs that don’t.  For every infantryman who carries a rifle into harm’s way there are anywhere from three to ten or more men and women in uniform who make sure that the grunt on patrol has the ammunition, water, fuel, and everything else he might need.  Every tank has a crew of four, but before it rumbles into the fight dozens of mechanics and ordnance specialists and electricians perform hours and hours of maintenance to make sure that the vehicle is in tip-top shape.  For every naval aviator who catapults from the deck of an aircraft carrier there are thousands of shipmates aboard who do everything from chipping paint from the rusty decks to keeping the nuclear reactors on line to making and serving chow.

Those jobs are all crucial in order for the military to accomplish its mission of keeping the nation safe.  Interestingly, within the military itself, even though all of those duties are important there is a definite difference in the prestige associated with them.  In the Marine Corps, for example, the infantry is considered to the ultimate expression of the service; everything else as they say is just support.  In the Air Force it is the fighter pilots who have ruled the roost for decades, and in the Navy the ship drivers and aviators are those who wield the most power.  For the Army, it is the infantry and armor branches that hold the most distinction.

Unfortunately the most prestigious positions in the military are also those with the least direct corollary to civilian employment.  There are no civilian infantry battalions, fighter squadrons, tank platoons, or aircraft carriers.  There are, however, plenty of jobs in those support areas that are often viewed as second class within the military.  The civilian world does not need artillerymen, but it does need electricians.  It needs truck drivers, and mechanics, and logisticians.

In short, the civilian world needs people with definable and useful skills.

Skills, for example, that an employer can put to work immediately without taking the risk of hiring someone who may or may not know enough about the business to be effective.

Unfortunately, many of the skills that those in uniform who have spent the majority of their time at the pointy end of the spear have developed are not directly transferable to the corporate sector.  Being a leader is great, and undoubtedly the leadership skills that our warriors have gained in Iraq and Afghanistan are first rate.  That is great for the military because leading people to do amazing things is what the military is all about, and the best military leaders we have are those who are dedicated to mastering their craft and being the most proficient soldiers or sailors or Marines possible.

Leadership in the civilian world is leadership in a different context.  An infantryman can demonstrate his leadership through arduous training, bravery, and a consummate grasp of tactics, weapons, and equipment.  By being a first rate infantryman, he can lead by example and inspire his fellows and juniors to shoulder their loads and step out to meet the enemy.  The best leaders we have are those who are the best at what they do: they are the best infantrymen or tankers or pilots or ship drivers.

The civilian world is no different.  The best CEOs are those who have dedicated themselves to learning their businesses inside and out.  They inspire their people to great achievement by understanding their industry and markets and customers and then being able to align the company’s employees to meet their goals and objectives.  They challenge their people and recognize those who excel.  Instead of using medals to motivate their corporate troops, they use other things such as money and stock options and trips to the Bahamas.  They lead by example and are masters of their craft.

It is here that the perception that many military leaders, particularly those in the combat arms, runs awry.  I cannot count the number of conversations that I have had with my peers and friends in uniform in which we talked about how we, the combat leaders, had all the skills that would make us tremendous leaders and invaluable assets to any company that would be lucky enough to hire us.

How wrong we were.

Sure, corporations want great leaders.  Every company does.  They also want people who know their business or have a skill that the firm needs.  Therein lies the rub, and brings to mind a story from my days as a young and motivated Captain:

I once had an officer who was a student of mine at the artillery school.  He was a graduate of the Citadel, which is a renowned military college in South Carolina.  As a cadet there he rose to a high position of leadership in the Corps of Cadets, and he was without a doubt a fine leader.  That said, he was a lousy student.  When I asked him why this was so, he answered that he joined the military to lead men and learning about how to load and fire an artillery piece was interesting but not particularly relevant to his desire to be the next MacArthur.

I explained to him that leadership is not something that you have because of rank or position, but instead it is something that is earned through the respect of those you lead.  He would never be a good leader in the artillery if he did not show that he was a solid artilleryman, and to be a solid artilleryman he had to learn how to load and fire an artillery piece.  People who show up and start barking orders without knowing what they are talking about are idiots, not leaders.

That is the point that so many people in the military miss.  Sure, we all developed leadership styles that inspire young men and women to enthusiastically throw themselves into the crucible of combat, but those styles were largely based on our professionalism and mastery of our martial craft.  None of those same people would have followed us if we didn’t know what we were doing.

The lesson here is that if you, as a military leader, want to bring your talents to the civilian world you will need to more than just be a “leader”.  You will need to differentiate yourself and show that you can do more than just lead.  Can you read a balance sheet?  How about a profit and loss statement?  Do you understand marketing, or finance, or accounting, or any of the countless other things that make the business world run?

The corporate sector has lots of great leaders.  How would you feel, as an infantryman, if the CEO of a company was hired to become your battalion commander and take you into combat?  Would you follow him?  Of course not.  Why, then, do so many military folks drink their own bathwater and believe that they corporate sector is waiting for them to leave the service and take over their businesses?

To be competitive in the job market it is important for each and every person who transitions from military service to find something that they can offer a potential employer besides war stories.  Those who have learned a skill or trade, while maybe not being on the front lines and earning medals for valor, take those skills with them when the leave the service.  That is their point of differentiation that separates them from all of the other candidates for a job.

As a leader, what is yours?

The “traditional” job interview, Part 1: Getting ready

So the big day has arrived: your first job interview!  It is pretty exciting, scary, daunting, and exhilarating all at once.  The time you spent networking, writing a resume, crafting a cover letter, and getting it front of  human resources at a company where you would like to work has paid off.  You have a date with hiring manager.

Just like all dates, though, there is a lot at stake.  Instead of a peck on the cheek after a movie, however, you are looking for another date in the form of follow on interview or maybe a long term relationship in terms of a job.  Also just like hoping for a peck on the cheek you must make sure that you everything right, because if you don’t you will be back to square one with nothing to show for your efforts.

In order to make the best impression it is important to show up for the interview as prepared as possible – everything from how you present yourself to how you speak to how you think on your feet.  To make it a little easier, I’ve broken down the traditional interview into four segments: research, preparation the interview, the interview itself, and followup.

First off is continuing your research.  You have already submitted your resume and it resulted in a call for an interview- good job!  Now you need to refine your research into how to successfully complete the interview.  You can search the net for general interviewing tips, but you will be better served to go to a site that provides real insight into company-specific interviews.  My favorite is glassdoor.com because interviewees post their interview experiences, including the types of interviews, questions, and how things went.  It is well worth a few minutes of surfing to see what you are up against.

You should also ask around.  Use your network to see if there is anyone who has interviewed with the company you are looking to join or who has interviewed at a similar company or for a similar job.  They can provide a lot of insight into the process – especially if their interview landed them a job!

Next you need to prepare, prepare, prepare.  You will learn some valuable information about the interview process through your research, but now you have to use it!  What kind of questions do they ask?  How do they ask them?  You must prepare for questions ahead of time, even if you do not know what the specific questions will be.  Nothing ensures a life of continued unemployment like giving the silent stunned mullet look to the interviewer because you didn’t bother to think about the questions ahead of time…

Practice answering questions.  The questions can come from your research or from the items on your resume.  After all, the company called you in because they found your resume compelling.  You should study your resume and think about what an interviewer may hone in on, and prepare for questions along those lines.  Transitioning military folks always have “leadership” in their resume, so you had best be prepared to talk about it!  Whom did you lead?  What techniques or skills did you employ to get people to do what needed to be done?  How will your leadership experiences transfer to the company where you are interviewing?

Ask a friend to go through a mock interview with you.  Give them your resume and a printout of your research findings, and ask if they will be gracious enough to spend some time helping you practice.

If you have the time, I would recommend that you do a full blown rehearsal – including wearing your interviewing suit and sitting on opposite sides of a desk.  Rehearse the whole process, from arriving at the company to saying goodbye and leaving the building.  If you practice it all once or twice you will reduce your anxiety and be better focused on the interview.  Remember, the interviewer is taking everything in from your appearance to your habits to your level of anxiety, and if you are too uptight or nervous it will not bode well.

Now you are ready for your interview.  Before you go, however, there are some basic things that you should do.

In the military, you prepare for inspections in a disciplined and results-oriented manner.  When you have a uniform inspection coming up you spend a lot of time making sure that your uniform is correct; you measure out where the ribbons and badges are placed, cut off any spare threads (Irish Pennants for you old-schoolers), and press in creases so sharp you can shave with them.  Shoes are shined and the edge of the soles are dressed to remove any scuffs.  You get a haircut the day before the inspection to make sure that your grooming is within the required standards, and then you ever so carefully get dressed and present yourself for the inspecting officer or NCO.

You should approach your job interview with just as much attention to detail.  Get a haircut the day before.   Critically look at your clothes- they should be either fresh from the cleaners or at least have all of the wrinkles pressed out.  Your shirt should fit and your necktie should be professional looking, clean, and conservative.  Shine your shoes!  Even though society has largely moved away from shoe shining as a daily task, I know of one executive who was promoted over three more qualified peers because because he took the time to shine his shoes.  It shows dedication to your appearance and the discipline to do the little things, both of which are a big plus in any line of work.

Leave for your interview early.  Make sure that you allot enough time to be at least ten to fifteen minutes early.  I recommend going at least an hour early and stopping by a coffee shop near the company’s office.  That way you will have plenty of time to spare for traffic or to take care of things you may have forgotten (like putting gas in the tank).  When you get to the coffee shop you can review your notes, have something to drink, and get your mind right for the interview.

In the next post, we’ll leave the coffee shop and head over to the hiring manager’s office…


Lessons Learned:

1.  The interview is the result of all of your hard work up to this point- don’t wreck it with a poor performance!  Follow these four steps:  Research, Prepare, Attend the interview, and Follow Up.  We talked about researching and preparation in this post, and in the next post we will address the interview and followup.

2.  Treat the interview like an inspection- get the little things right and the big things will take care of themselves.  Look at your clothing as you would your uniform and square it away as you would for your Commanding Officer.

3.  Shine your shoes!!!

4.  Rehearse with a friend ahead of time by using questions garnered through your research as well as your resume.  Be ready to answer questions by practicing ahead of time.

5.  Head to the interview early, and use the extra time before you go through the company’s front door to prepare, reduce your anxiety, and make sure you are ready.

An interesting read…

Long before I retired from the Marine Corps I had another career of sorts.  Like millions of other young men and women I needed a job while I was in high school to earn a little money for the important things in life like a car, parachute pants, and new wave music albums.

So, like those millions of other people I looked for a job.  Oddly enough, I found that my qualifications as a sixteen year old high junior in high school precluded me from a lucrative career in wealth management or professional sports, so I ended up filling out a job application at McDonald’s.

It was a popular place to work –  lots of my friends wore paper hats and polyester uniforms there and I figured I could too.  To make a long story short, I was hired and spent quite a few years there as I worked my way through college in pursuit of my Marine Officer’s commission.

Fast forward a few decades and it turns out that a lot of the lessons that I learned at the Golden Arches proved to be invaluable in my successful career as a Marine.  So much so, in fact, that I was extremely fortunate and honored to be included in a new book that portrays the success stories of over 40 people who started out at McDonald’s.

The book is called Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers that Began at McDonald’s.  Here is the description of the book from Amazon.com

“What do 20 million Americans have in common with Tonight Show host Jay Leno, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, actress Andie MacDowell, and former White House chief of staff Andrew Card?

They all started their working careers at a McDonald’s restaurant, learning some of the most important lessons of their lives. Golden Opportunity is a myth-busting collection of 44 profiles of people who went from flipping burgers to building remarkable careers in business, the arts, politics, science, the military, and sports. 

Over the past six decades, millions of teens have earned their first paychecks under the Golden Arches. Whether they stayed for a year or a career, they learned work habits, basic skills, and the business principles that have made McDonald’s one of the best-run companies in the world. 

Their journeys remind us that at the beginning of every success story there is the first paycheck from the first “real” job. That first job is not a dead end, it is a young person’s rite of passage into adult responsibility. The author’s compelling personal story—growing up in modest circumstances with a strong work ethic—gives a unique voice to the experiences of leading entrepreneurs, entertainment figures, and others who represent a cross section of American enterprise. They recall what they learned in their first jobs at McDonald’s and how those lessons helped them build their remarkable careers. 

Including a foreword by Willard Scott—the original Ronald McDonald—and the 10 Golden Opportunity Keys to Success, this collection of stories will leave you wondering what today’s burger flippers will achieve tomorrow. “

It is a great honor to be included in such an impressive and incredible list of talented and successful people!  The book is newly released this month, and my part in it has been picked up by the media in press releases and stories about the book in Forbes, at Fast Company, and at CNBC:

Forbes Article

Fast Company Article


It is really an honor and I am thrilled to be a part of such a great project.  If you are interested in obtaining a copy, you can follow this link to the book on Amazon.com:

Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers that Began at McDonald’s

It is a great book with some very interesting stories as well as a host of valuable lessons about leadership, management, and life in the business world.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Striking a nerve…

This post has nothing to do with transition, but instead with a debate that been raging as a result of an article in the Marine Corps Gazette.

In addition to blogging, I write articles for various publications (such as the Marine Corps Gazette, the Armed Forces Journal, The Artillery Journal, and others) and recently was very fortunate to be brought on board as a columnist at the North County Times.  One of the articles that I wrote for the Marine Corps Gazette has really struck a nerve and the interesting bit is not so much the article itself, but the commentary that follows (although I am quite proud of the article!).

At any rate, here is a link to the article and the comments that follow:  http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/article/what-color-are-your-socks-it%E2%80%99s-time-leash-your-dogma

You may find it interesting.  If nothing else, you will see how passionately Marines feel about what color your socks are…..and I would love to hear your feedback!