Friday, August 6, 2010


OK...I have been delinquent! I know I have not posted in a while. Have no doubt that there is plenty of learning about leadership going on here in Afghanistan. I guess I have been too lazy to write it down and share it with others. No excuse! It is hard to believe that I have almost been here for a full month. Time flies when you are having fun!

We have an incredibly difficult, complex mission. This year we will do about $900M in construction payments and award over $1.3B in new contracts. Next year, somehow, we are looking at over $2.5B in new contract awards. Every job here is difficult with harsh terrain, a hostile enemy and, in many cases, construction contractors who just don't have the maturity that we would expect to work with in the Army Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless, we are getting it done. We don't have a choice!

One of the many leadership issues I have been working with my new team is on the issue of strategic communications. We get so busy doing our work that we forget that a major component of success is gained through telling others what we are doing. I use the analogy of -- If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make any noise? All too often, we miss out on opportunities to shape our message, to get the word out on the great work we do. And if we don't, very often someone else seizes on the chance to tell their own story. Often times, their motivations are counter to our own. We might finish the project, the tree may fall, but no one may know of the positive difference we are making and the contributions we are making toward our strategic goals.

Every action we take in business is an opportunity to tell our story. In construction it includes the award of a new contract, the breaking of ground, major progress or a major milestone, and the cutting of the ribbon. It is not so much the events themselves that matter but rather the chance each one provides to get our message out. We are not building roads, we are enhancing a nationwide transportation network. We are not building police stations, we are contributing to the security of the people. We are not building buildings...we are Building Afghanistan!

We all have a role in shaping our message, especially as leaders. Employees need to see that the company is making progress. Stockholders need to see that the company vision is being realized and their investment is a good one. Future clients need to learn of past successes and be informed on the potential to work together. Constituencies, whether inside or outside the organization, need to hear of what is happening...and how what is happening fits into the big picture.

What are the implications for leaders? We need to continuously think through who our target audiences are, what our key messages might be, and what opportunities we have to get strategic in our communication. We need to engage our key leaders on how each of them has responsibilities in this critical area. Every one of our tactical, daily events can be strategically critical. The chance to connect those targets with key messages will come and go. We can't miss them! When the tree falls...leaders make sure people hear it. That's Leader Business.

For those who have been wondering (I hope it is hundreds of thousands of you...Haha!), the book (Leader Business) should be ready for on-line ordering in about 10-14 days. I will keep you posted! :)


Tom said...


Excellent BLOG. I will use it since we are in the middle of a fight in the rhetorical battlespace here in Europe. It is an exciting place to be, and one that could mark a "tipping point" in use military and foreign policy strategy.

t clarke

Tom said...


Excellent article. Helps me here in Europe since we are fighting in the rhetorical battlespace that will have long standing implications for US Military and Foreign Policy.

T Clarke

John Magness said...

I have also heard this put another way in the title of a book: "If you don't blow your own horn, others could use it as a funnel!" Nice work, bro.

DeDe said...

As your favorite PAO (okay, maybe not favorite, but I must be up there!), I applaud your passion for transparent communications and sharing with the world all the good we're doing, not to mention sharing with the taxpayers all the good their money is going toward.
Thank you for leading the way in stratcom!