Monday, July 5, 2010

(Another) Leader Business Update

Dear Friends,

Happy Belated 4th of July and Happy 234th Birthday to the US of A. Periodically, it is probably good if I can take a few moments to update you on some current and ongoing issues. This post is one of those occasions. There is so much to talk about so…where to begin???

As most of you know, I am in the middle of a major transition. Boy…does change ever suck! I gave up the reins of leadership of the Los Angeles District of the Army Corps of Engineers on July 1st. (The picture at the top of this post is from the formal Change of Command ceremony. What a sendoff this fireboat in the Port of Los Angeles gave us!) What a great team we had there. I was fortunate to be a part of a great organization, with great people, wonderful partners, and a fantastic, $1B+ mission. Never again will I likely have it as good as I did there – CEO for a company with that size and scope…and in a great place to do what I suppose qualifies as work. For the last 3 years, it felt like anything but that! :)

I am now off to Afghanistan, where I will lead another Army Corps of Engineers District. The Corps has divided responsibilities there into two districts, essentially split in half between North and South, and I will have the Northern District. Headquartered in Kabul and with offices throughout my Area of Responsibility, I will have the great opportunity to command a $2B+ organization for the next year. It is a daunting mission but I have confidence in the great team over there that we can get it done. I take command over there on July 8th. No rest for the weary!

I know many of you are interested in what I will be doing. The Army Corps is primarily doing the large construction projects – both for our own military requirements (command headquarters, airfields, etc.) and for the Afghan Security Forces (Army barracks, Police Stations, training facilities, etc.). We also have a growing portfolio of civil infrastructure projects (electricity, roads, and water resources) that we are doing in support of other government agencies. My team, consisting of military and civilians, is responsible for contracting with capable construction firms, most of them local, and overseeing their work. We also do designs, real estate acquisitions, and project / program management. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? The scope of the mission (again, $2B+ this fiscal year and next) is truly humbling. But it is a big part of how we will be successful in our overall mission and we need to be successful.

And so, I leave one great team and join another. For those of you who have changed jobs lately, you know the emotions, stress, and anxiety that goes with this sort of transition. It’s now time to take my own advice. As the leader, my new team will be counting on me – from day one! I need to listen to my new teammates, identify priorities, and keep the train moving despite the turmoil at the top. I need to look for gaps and fill them. I need to assess our strengths and weaknesses, meet our customers and my superiors, and acknowledge their ideas, issues, and requirements. I need to meet my employees and let them articulate their piece of the mission. I need to understand the culture – within my team and in Afghanistan – and learn how I can shape the former while being respectful of the latter.

It won’t take long. Working in a 24/7 environment will make an expert out of anyone pretty quickly. And, having been through a number of transitions, I know I am up for the task. The team is solid. It’s up to me to join them, to minimize turmoil so they can do their jobs, and to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I know I am prepared and I am confident that I can do the job.

So…now you will understand my next 365 days through this basic framework. I will keep you posted throughout. It is my hope that I can document my journey and, more important, look for leadership threads that I can share with all of you. Given that many of you are likely in transition yourselves, I suspect the lessons of the next few weeks will be worth discussing. Remember, the point of a blog is to generate dialogue so, if I hit on something that stimulates your own thoughts and ideas, please share them with me…and the Leader Business community!

Just a few final things worth sharing with all of you:

-- The book (Leader Business) is finished and off to the printers. It should be available in a few weeks. It will be available through the web and I will alert you to the site. You can see the cover in the top right of this website. If it was true that you could judge a book by its cover, then this project will be a home run! I love the way the cover turned out and believe it does a great job of capturing the premise of the book – the passing of leadership lessons from the military to other settings and the opportunity for each community to learn from the other. For those of you who enjoy the ideas and issues we explore on these pages, you should appreciate the deeper journey we take in the book. I think it will be a good opportunity to dialogue with your co-workers about what leaders DO. It will serve as a great introduction to the fundamentals of leadership and the broad range of responsibilities for new and emerging leaders, mid-level managers, and anyone with the desire to improve as a leader. I sure hope you like it (or know someone who might need it!).

-- The Leader Business blog was recently recognized as one of the Top 40 leadership blogs by the On-line MBA web site. Yea!! Visit the full list here. While I will keep working to be #1, I am happy to be #18 and know that all of the blogs on the list are full of wisdom and insight!

-- My last posting, on the firing of General McChrystal and the need for all of us to examine whether we have similar challenges in complaining aloud about our superiors, was selected to be a part of this month’s Leadership Carnival. Thanks as always to Dan McCarthy for the great collection of leadership and management issues that he collects at this site! Little wonder he is #1. For now!! Ha!

Finally friends, would you stay connected with me during this journey? I can honestly say that I know I need you more than you need whatever wisdom I might share through this blog. I know it will be an interesting next 12 months. I will do what I can to share some of it with you. In return, can I ask for your thoughts and prayers? An occasional note, or a post on the blog that lets me know you are out there, or share your thoughts on a particular issue, might just benefit both of us! Ask your friends to join us and let’s make this an on-line community that explores issues of leadership…and life!

Thanks to each of you for your time and your friendship. I don’t take either of them for granted. That’s Leader Business.

I’m also on Facebook (great for posting pictures!), LinkedIn, and Twitter (LeaderBusiness) if you want to be my “friend” there! I hope you will! Thank you! :)


Aridog said...

Col Magness said: "As the leader, my new team will be counting on me – from day one! I need to listen to my new teammates, identify priorities, and keep the train moving..."

Not much has changed since I worked for you. That's good. It's a major reason I enjoyed that time period.

You may have "scared" some chiefs, puzzled others, but for those who "got it"...that you would listen if one was not shy about speaking up and forthright with intelligent was a good time.

It's not the only important criteria of a leader, but it is one of the more important. So many do not have it.

It's a primary reason I am interested in this effort you are making here on the this blog and with your book. Some of the ideas are so simple, time tested, proven, that they can be ignored or thought "corny." They are not.

A leader who listens is a leader who can be relied upon. Not to parrot anything, but to make decisions. Informed decisions. asked for opinions, right?

Kim Warner said...

Caught your welcome video from Qalaa House on Facebook - welcome (again) to Afghanistan, sir! :)