28 May 2007

Memorial Day: The Courage to Serve...

Today is Memorial Day in the United States and Spencer is on his way to Airborne "Jump School" in Ft. Benning, GA as a proud member of the US Army. He gave up going to a nice University of California campus and a few years of fraternity fun to serve his country and took a risk by joining a life long fraternity of men and women who have defended our country. Simultaneously Keith is risking his life serving the US again for the "nth" time in Afghanistan as US Army Lt. Col. (Ret) on another important and vital mission. He gave up a hunting, fishing and teaching lifestyle to help secure certain important real estate utilizing his diplomatic and training skills learned from decades of real-time experience in South East Asia with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Having spent some time with both of these brave and courageous men makes you wonder what they both have in common. What are the attributes of a person who makes a selfless sacrifice to protect and to serve? Whether it's in the military or in public safety, there is something that is in their DNA and not yours. It's something that many of us think about and end up not doing anything about it. When you fill up your gas tank this week or stroll down the outdoor mall you might ask yourself who made all of this possible? The answer is those who have served and those who are serving right now.

Millions across the country will pause Monday afternoon to honor the sacrifices of the American military in observance of the National Moment of Remembrance.

Crowds at Major League baseball stadiums, NASCAR tracks, train stations, malls, stores and even the astronauts aboard the International Space Station will participate in the “National Moment of Remembrance,” which is observed at 3 p.m. every Memorial Day.

"The national Moment of Remembrance is a time for Americans to contemplate those things that bind us together by remembering the legacy of those who died to better our country," Carmella LaSpada, executive director of the White House Commission on Remembrance, said.

"We encourage all Americans, no matter where they are and what they are doing, at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to stop and give thanks."

The observance is an initiative of the White House Commission on Remembrance, which Congress established in 2000.

The commission encourages Americans to remember the sacrifices of fallen troops and the families they left behind.

So when you return to work tomorrow after your Memorial Day holiday, hopefully you will have had a chance to say a prayer or to at least acknowledge those brave individuals. And it's also a time to evaluate your own work ethic or duty serving as leader of your organization. Are you putting your employees in harms way? What steps or measures are you taking to make sure that they are training and preparing to mitigate operational risks on a daily basis. To have the courage to do the right thing and to keep the organization out of jeopardy. Beware of the cowboy.

From Leadership Lessons of the Navy SEALS

The Cowboy

Neither of us knows if such a thing has ever been tolerated in modern commando teams. Yes, sometimes you need to charge forward. But, there are simply too many potential casualties and too much political currency resting on commando missions to entrust one to a cowboy. Authorization for an operation depends on the accurate calculation of operational risk. This requires an assessment of proven forces ability to perform a task. All this is contrary to the cowboy philosophy of depending on experimentation, pluck, and luck in order to succeed.

"The problem with being a cowboy is that your bosses won't employ you if they can't trust you, and they can't trust you if they don't know what you'll do. And then you're stuck with the reputation." --LT. CMDR. Jon Cannon

Believe it when he says that people who try to be cowboys in your organization are operating without regard to risk. Now multiply the number of cowboys by the number of people that they surround on their team who think that this is the way to operate. It doesn't take long to find out that these are the root causes of many of the operational risks in your organization. And it starts out with the basics:

> Revenue is not booked according to the rules. Products sit in the warehouse yet revenue ends up on the sales reps commission report because (s)he had a signed order.

> Assets are not valued correctly. Bank accounts are not validated to make sure they actually exist and accounts receivables are inflated.
These are just two of the many facets of fraud that starts with a few cowboys who have little regard for managing risk and all the incentives to line their pockets with new found cash or bonuses.

You might think that the reason is greed. However, the real motive may not be so clear. More than likely, the motive is fear. And that fear is something that grows until it gets to the point of creating harm, loss and destruction. You have to find the cowboys in your organization and you have to follow the mantra of quality gurus from years past, "Drive out Fear".

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