Leading (and loving) in times of turmoil

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I haven’t written a blog article in quite some time – so please forgive me if it’s not my most eloquent.

I suspect a typical reaction to the title of this article (in the context of a blog about leadership and executive coaching) would be to think about a business leader dealing with a turbulent business environment (volatile market, sales/profit down, retention challenges, etc.) and trying to lead his people and her organization through the turmoil. Very reasonable assumption … but not what I want to write about today.

Stressed manTo say we’re in tumultuous times, both domestically and internationally, is putting it lightly in my opinion. Those who grew up in earlier generations might argue they had the same or worse and they may very well have – but regardless, I think reasonable people would agree we’re in quite a bit of turmoil today. Domestically, we’re seeing almost daily reports about someone being killed violently and a particularly nasty presidential election. Internationally, we’re hearing the same in the form of terrorism, war, and atrocities. I have opinions on all those things (not the point of this article) and I don’t claim to have all the answers (also not the point) … So what is the point? I do think that business and other organizational leaders can contribute to helping people cope with the stress and uncertainty created by the chaotic current events bombarding us.

I’ve written in the past about leading from the heart in the context of business leadership. I’ve also written about how I dislike the phrase, “it’s not personal,” often stated in the context of a business decision. My point is that leaders lead people … and the people we’re leading are experiencing all of the things mentioned above. And I would submit that many of those people (myself included) are struggling to cope and focus. People might be able to compartment some of these issues but eventually something will strike a little too close to home (or maybe even impact them directly). Case in point, the reason I’m compelled to write this blog article is that I was particularly troubled yesterday to hear that a priest was murdered and a nun very badly injured in church in the Normandy region of France. For me, as a Catholic, the thought of a priest and nun being brutally attacked in a church (reportedly while celebrating the Mass) is particularly devastating – it literally makes my heart ache. I don’t claim these people’s lives are any more important that others’ … my point is that this particular travesty affected me substantially because of my own circumstances and beliefs. To the point of this article, it affected me at work – I had trouble concentrating on the tasks of the day. And I suspect that many people that went to work yesterday, today, or maybe when they head in tomorrow will be affected one way or another and to one degree or another by the events dominating U.S. and international news. So what’s that got to do with leadership and leading from the heart?

Maybe today when you see a colleague in the hallway, at the coffee machine, or even online, and you ask, “How are you” or “How’s it going,” you can take an extra few minutes to listen and talk. I know some folks, especially in a work environment, are more remiss than others to “open up.” But who knows? Maybe someone on your team today would benefit from a chat with you about something other than a monthly report, or those revenue numbers, or the next deadline. SJDBSK6K29Maybe they have a family member in Orlando, a police officer in the family, a friend who’s been treated unjustly, a military spouse deployed overseas … and maybe knowing that the boss is genuinely interested when he asks, “What’s going on?” or she asks, “How’s your family,” is that little ray of light that gets them over the hump and through the day.

So consider leading from the heart today (I know many of you already do). I leave you with this from two prominent business professors and authors on leadership (Kouzes and Posner): “And what sustains the leader? From what source comes the leader’s courage? The answer is love. Leaders are in love – in love with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with their customers.”

Copyright © 2016 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of Master/freedigitalimages.net

 

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I don’t know …

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I read today a transcript of an interview between Pope Francis and journalists as the Pope returned to the Vatican from his recent trip to South America. I noted with great interest his response to a question. The context of the question is not particularly relevant to my point but in short, the journalist was asking the Pope to respond to criticism of his statements about capitalism (among other economic issues). I found the Pope’s response to be a great reminder for leaders (hence my post in this forum). Here’s what the Pope said in response to the question (I’ve bolded the sentences I found very relevant for leaders):

Pope Francis:  “What I said, that phrase, it’s not new. I said in Evangelii Gaudium. This economy kills. I remember that phrase well. It had a context. And I said it in Laudato Si’. It’s not a new thing, this is known. I cannot say … I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States. I heard about it, but I haven’t read about it, I haven’t had the time to study this well, because every criticism must be received, studied, and then dialogue must be ensue. You ask me what I think. If I have not had a dialogue with those who criticize, I don’t have the right to state an opinion, isolated from dialogue, no? This is what comes to mind.”

The reminder I took from this is that as leaders we don’t always have to know the answers on the spot. I think leaders often feel compelled to answer every question at a moment’s notice – whether we simply want to be responsive or whether we feel “weakened” or vulnerable by not having an answer at our fingertips. I’ve certainly had those moments where, in my haste, I answered a question or made a statement I later had to clarify or regretted. The lesson for me is that it’s alright to admit I don’t know something (or that I’ve not even taken the time to form an opinion) but I’ll look into the particular issue further and follow up (of course, we have to actually follow up!).

I also sensed a great deal of humility in the Pope’s response. Whether you’re Christian or not, whether you agree with his world view or not, most would agree he’s a pretty educated person – he could easily have rattled off his views on the issue and moved on. Rather, he admitted he wasn’t familiar with the particular criticism and needed some time to think about and formulate a response. (I suspect the Pope is likely more aware than he admitted … but that’s not my point in this post). From my perspective, it was very humble and also showed respect to his critics – and in my studies and experiences in leadership I’ve found humility and respect are great traits for leaders (and anyone else for that matter).

So, leaders … take it from the Pope: It’s ok to say “I don’t know … but I’ll get back to you.”

What do you think?

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Sshh … be quiet

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I recently read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. For this off-the-charts introvert it is a welcomed study of introversion. Welcomed because it is a nuanced piece of work that goes well beyond the stereotypical characterization of the “quiet guy” and the “shy gal” label that is plastered on those of us that are often “highly sensitive” (easily overwhelmed by stimulation) in Cain’s words.

I carried the quiet guy stigma well into my late 30’s. And it’s not that I’m now a boisterous person and life of the party but rather through experience (work and life), professional development, coaching, successes, and failures, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin and also more knowledgeable about what it means to be an introvert and highly sensitive. Because I have a body of knowledge and experience to draw upon, I no longer let being an introvert serve as an excuse (ok, maybe sometimes I do) for taking on a new challenge or stepping outside my comfort zone (like publishing a book and authoring a blog). Rather I embrace it as a part of who I am … one part of me that is both empowering and frustrating … but it doesn’t solely define me.IMG_1543_SENTIER_2C_1L_NB

So what’s my point in all this? As I’ve had the privilege to engage with leaders at many levels, I’ve noticed that “we” as leadership development professionals and coaches do a good job assessing people’s personality types and strengths … we perhaps fall short in making clear that a person’s particular characteristics shouldn’t be viewed as immovable objects. Rather they are just parts of the larger picture of who we are as individuals. They are also often situational-dependent. As these characteristics evolve or we become more aware of them through experience and education we can embrace, manage, or even counteract them in certain circumstances.

Marshall Goldsmith writes about a particular behavior he encounters in his behavioral coaching of senior executives. He calls its “an excessive need to be me.” In the context of leadership, he often sees leaders who are very self-aware and have decided that’s who they are … others can take it or leave it. Goldsmith notes this behavior as a major de-railer in leaders aspiring to even greater levels of leadership in their organizations. I often find this behavior in leaders who have been through many assessments and personality inventories … but not really coached or mentored.

ID-100266483I think this “need to be me” can be a particularly limiting behavior for introverts. If an introvert comes to accept that’s “just the way I am” they are significantly stunting opportunities for future growth. It’s one thing for a more extroverted person to stay the way they are … they’ll get attention by the nature of their personality. There are of course upsides and downsides just like most situations but at a minimum they are more likely to be noticed. An introvert however that just accepts that he or she is quiet and shy is likely to be overlooked and written off especially in more high-paced work environments. (Note: This is just an opinion based on my experiences, lived and observed.).

So … those of you (us) who are introverted or highly sensitive … don’t let that define you or more importantly, don’t let that limit you. Learn about it, study it, embrace it, and use it to your advantage.

To leaders of the above … invest time in these “quiet” folks. They may turn out to be some of your best thinkers and leaders. I benefited from leaders who invested their time in me and helped me balance being more assertive in my communication and leadership style while remaining authentic to who I am (by the way, these things aren’t mutually exclusive but rather can be incredibly reinforcing and complementary).

As Cain writes so thoughtfully: “Why shouldn’t quiet be strong? And what else can quiet do that we don’t give it credit for?”

Copyright © 2015 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of placardmoncoeur/morguefile.com

Second image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

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Lead with Mercy Video

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My publisher created a short video to publicize the book. Take a look!

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Lead with Mercy – The Book!

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LeadWithMercyVery excited to announce my first book, Lead With Mercy: The Business Case for Compassion, is published! Click HERE to visit my author page.

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Engage others

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So I’m about two months late on this final post to close out the DARE framework for veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce. My apologies.

As a reminder, DARE is an acronym that summarizes a framework of key considerations for veterans transitioning from the military (whether one tour or an entire career) into the civilian work force. As I mentioned in my first post on this topic there are many aspects of veteran transition … education and training, finding a job, transitioning into the job, and performing successfully in the job to name a few. The focus of the DARE framework is the veteran who has accepted a job offer and is now faced with the task of transitioning into a new work environment and culture.

D: Define success
A: Adapt to the culture
R: Recognize your strengths
E: Engage with others

In previous posts I’ve elaborated on D, A, and R. In this I’ll wrap up this topic, for now at least, with a discussion of E – Engage with others. Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape (1)

Perhaps the first thought that comes to mind when you hear “engage with others” in the context of professional life is networking. Indeed networking is generally an important component of any successful career, military or civilian. According to www.entrepeneur.com networking is:

“Developing and using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact. For example, a sales representative may ask a customer for names of others who may be interested in his product.”

That’s a reasonable definition but I think reveals the understandable bias for a site about entrepreneurship toward business development (and there’s nothing wrong with that … business development is a key component in the professional services firm for which I work). I think for the transitioning veteran, however, this definition from www.businessdictionary.com is more apropos:

“Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question ‘How can I help?’ and not with ‘What can I get?’”

HandshakeThis definition sums up well why “engaging with others” is so important for veterans (for anyone really) transitioning into the civilian workforce. By creating a network you have resources to whom you can reach for a wide variety of questions, which will not only aid your transition (make it more smooth) but may also open up new opportunities for you down the road. We have a saying in my firm (it’s been attributed to many wonderful people but I’m not sure who said it first): “There are two sins here. One is to not ask for help when you need it. The other is to not give help when you’re asked.” It too captures well why engaging with others is so important.

There are many other benefits to engaging with others: brainstorming ideas, venting frustrations, and enjoying yourself more at work (we spend a heckuva a lot of time at work … we might as well get to know the people we work with!) come immediately to mind. There are doubtless many others.

So let me wrap up by saying to the veterans faced with transitioning into the “civilian world:” good luck, thank you for your service, and be confident in the many lessons and positive habits you’ve developed in the military because they will serve you well in your new journey. Godspeed.

Copyright © 2015 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of FlashBuddy/morguefile.com

Second image courtesy of adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

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Don’t forget about now

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IChristmas-decoration‘ve been remiss in posting since Thanksgiving … but I enjoyed the break! As we are a couple of days away from what for Christians is a wonderful day and season of hope and joy, I wanted to share a short excerpt from Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There:

“ … Don’t look ahead. Look behind. Look back from your old age at the life you hope to live. Know that you need to be happy now, to enjoy your friends and family, to follow your dreams.

You are here. You can get there! Let the journey begin.”

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I have found that professionals tend to focus so much on what’s next that we lose sight of what we have now and where we are. I heard a great quote the other day (since I can’t find it on the web I’m sure I’m misquoting it): “If you’re always focused on the future, you’ll never get there.”

Here’s to the now. Merry Christmas from my family to yours and happy holidays to all of you.

Images courtesy of morguefile.com

 

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Recognizing your strengths

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One of the Army’s more recent mottos is, “Army Strong.” Those of us that grew up with, “Be all that you can be,” took a while to warm up to it … but Army Strong, or in this case Veteran Strong, is certainly apropos for this post.

Last week we talked about adapting to the culture as a part of the veteran’s transition into the civilian workplace. I ended the blog post with a comment that adapting to the culture is not the same as abandoning the experiences and strengths you bring to your new organization. So this week I’d like to elaborate and discuss the R in the DARE framework: Recognize your strengths.

I acknowledge that generalizing the characteristics of a group of similar people is not the most refined way to talk about them. That said, in my experience as a veteran and in working with many others I do think it’s safe to say that many military veterans have some common traits they’ve gained in the course of their military service. And when blended with recognition of the culture into which they’re entering, these traits can translate into strengths that the veteran brings to their new civilian career.

Here are few examples along with some thoughts on how these traits can benefit your new employer:

Discipline: The same discipline that led you to follow orders, shine your boots, align your “gig line,” get up at 0’dark thirty, and excel at many other tasks is a trait that will serve you well in the civilian world.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Many civilian work places are less regimented than the military. The good news is you have more freedom and flexibility. The bad news, if you’re not disciplined, is that you may not have folks telling you what to do all the time or you may not always have standard operating procedures upon which to rely. But with discipline you can quickly gain a reputation as a team member with initiative, who is reliable, and shows attention to detail. Such a reputation will get you started off on the right foot along the path of success in your civilian career.

Selflessness: Selflessness in the military can be as mundane as taking on a buddy’s duty so he or she can visit a sick family member or spend some additional time with family; or it can be as ultimate as sacrificing your life for a brother or sister-in-arms. It’s about considering others and the institution before your own needs and desires.

This selflessness that often becomes second nature in the military is not something that comes naturally in the civilian world. It’s not that civilians aren’t nice people, it’s that the civilian work environment doesn’t generally thrust people into challenging and demanding situations (from basic training to combat) where relying upon one another is a necessity and sacrifice for others is the norm. (Obviously civilian jobs like law enforcement and firefighting are exceptions where team members develop similar bonds and traits).

In civilian environments, especially those that thrive on competition (professional services and sales come to mind), your willingness to put others before yourself may be a trait that makes you stand out. A word of caution – you have to balance your selflessness with adapting to the culture you’re entering or you may quickly be taken advantage of or fall to the wayside in the wake of more aggressive colleagues.

Courage: Much like selflessness, courage in the military can manifest in very extreme ways that threaten life and limb. You will likely not have to risk bodily injury or worse in your civilian job … but the character trait of courage can serve you well even if you find yourself in a white-collar job

In the military your courage may have been a physical courage; in the civilian unknownsoldier_graveworld your courage may be more emotional. The aspect of courage that I think can serve you well in the civilian world is the willingness to take the hard right over the easy wrong. In the civilian world this may take shape in the form of decisions with legal, moral, or ethical implications. You generally don’t have to look further than the front page of the newspaper or your favorite news website to find examples of people who lacked the courage to do what is right, be it legally, morally, or ethically. As a veteran entering the civilian workforce, take heed in your courage and bring it to your workplace … you, your colleagues, and your organization will be better for it.

Resilience: Military life is full of ups and downs. Training scenarios are intended to test your physical and mental stamina and they generally place you in the worst possible situations so that when it’s no longer just training, you’re ready. Service members must quickly learn to become resilient; to put failure or set backs behind and move on to the next task or mission. In combat, resilience may mean compartmentalizing the loss of comrades or quickly recovering for the next mission. In short, service members must be able to “bounce back” quickly

Like the previous traits, resiliency in the civilian world may not come in the form of physical recovery or overcoming traumatic situations. But failure in the civilian world can be difficult to overcome in its own right. Business, be it a small general contracting company to a large corporation, is tough … competition for business, revenue, and profits is fierce. And you will fail in small projects and in larger pursuits. But civilian leaders and organizations value resilience just as much as the military. The team member that can “dust himself or herself off” and quickly focus on the next project or the next opportunity will quickly become a valued member of the organization.

I’ve run through these strengths rather quickly … and I could list several others like respect, initiative, and loyalty … but, regardless, I hope this has been of some use to you. What I hope the veterans take away from this is that you have a lot to offer a civilian employer. What I hope the leaders reading this take away is that veterans have a lot to offer your organizations!

Next week we’ll wrap up the DARE framework with a discussion about the importance of engaging with others. As always, thanks for your time.

Copyright © 2014 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of pfflyer/morguefile.com

Second image courtesy of revwarheart/morguefile.com

 

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Adapt to the culture

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Last week we introduced the DARE framework as a guide for military veterans transitioning into a civilian job. As a reminder:

D: Define success
A: Adapt to the culture
R: Recognize your strengths
E: Engage with others

We also elaborated on the first aspect of the framework – defining success –especially the idea of having conversations with various stakeholders to define, communicate, and measure your (the veteran’s) success as you transition (as well as your success beyond the transition) into the civilian workplace.

This week I’d like to discuss the “A” in DARE – Adapt to the culture. Most veterans will recognize terms like intelligence preparation of the battlefield or battlespace, cultural awareness, and information environment. To one degree or another, these terms have culture as an aspect of analyzing, training, or understanding a foreign or adversarial environment. Just like you learned about cultural norms and language before you were deployed or stationed overseas, you should take the time to learn and adapt to the culture of the organization of which you are becoming an employee.

Organizational culture can be very obvious in certain areas. Standards like dress code (shirt and tie or dress; or jeans and flip flops?), work hours (0800 on the dot or do folks wander in anywhere from 6am-ish to 10-ish?), and work location (is telecommuting an acceptable option?) are some of the more obvious aspects of the workplace culture. If these things aren’t obvious in your workplace then you shoulDiverse businesspeopledn’t be shy about asking about them (this goes back to last week’s discussion about communication and defining success).

Other aspects of organizational culture may be less obvious. Take time to take note of these cultural distinctions (or, again, ask questions). Some examples are:

– Do people call their boss, Mr. or Ms.? Do they address them, sir or ma’am? Does everyone use first names?
– Are employees called employees? Staff? Team members? Associates?
– Are terms like subordinate and superior used or are they frowned upon?
– Are people generally expected to do just do as they are told? Or is debate and conversation welcome (or even expected)?
– Is there a strong culture of teamwork and collaboration? Or do individuals, teams, or groups fend for themselves?

These are just a very few examples. The point is that it will serve you well to learn and adapt to the culture of your organization. You’ll fit in faster which is generally a good thing (granted, sometimes it’s good to stick out but that’s a different conversation). The other aspect of learning and adapting to the culture is to get a sense of whether the organization is a good fit for you. If there are aspects of the culture that you are unable or unwilling to adapt to then you should consider the long-term implications of this. The implications may be a minor hiccup or nuisance; or the implications may be that this isn’t the place for you (it’s not a good fit).

In wrapping up this post I’d like to end with a brief discussion about one more aspect of culture that will affect your transition from the military to the civilian world. Namely understanding how the military culture you’re used to affects your behavior in the workplace and the perceptionsACU w flag (and perhaps some misconceptions) of others about you. A few things to consider in this regard:

– Be aware that in some organizations giving and taking orders is not part of the culture; it may viewed as harsh and unprofessional
– Quick decision-making may not be the norm; rather the organization’s leaders may prefer to take their time with decisions and may make decisions by consensus (I admit this was one of the aspects of organizational culture to which I had trouble adapting)
– Some organizations may be very hierarchical (like the military) but others may not
– Calling people “sir” or “ma’am” may be too deferential in some organizations
– Some people in your organization may have little or no exposure to the military prior to meeting you … so take into account they may have accurate and inaccurate perceptions of the military and of you

In sum, I believe it will benefit you greatly to take time to observe, learn, and adapt to your organization’s distinct culture. But … this doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t bring your own strengths and experiences to the table. After all, the culture to which you’re adapting became that way because of the people that shaped it year after year. In other words, you’re not just adapting blindly and throwing away the distinct characteristics you bring to your new organization based on previous life and professional experiences. Join me in my next post and we’ll talk more about the “R” in DARE – Recognizing your strengths.

Thanks for your time and I hope this has been useful.

Copyright © 2014 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Second image courtesy of taliesin/morguefile.com

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Do you DARE?

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If you read my introductory post you know that one of the “other” topics I’ve considered chatting about in this blog is veterans transitioning from the military into the civilian workplace. I’d like to begin that discussion in today’s post with the intent of sharing some thoughts on this topic in my next several posts.

Why do I feel compelled to write about this? 1) I am an Army veteran and would like to share lessons learned with my fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms. 2) My transition into private industry over a decade ago was a fairly smooth one … some of that was blind luck, some of that was circumstance, and some of that was a little more deliberate. 3) I’ve also assisted veterans of different ranks make the transition into our firm. I certainly don’t have all the answers but think I have a few useful observations and recommendations on the matter.Bald Eagle

But why write about transitioning military veterans in a leadership blog? The connection to leadership is two-fold. For the veterans, their leadership (and other) experiences and skills gained in the military can aid their transition and performance in the civilian world. For the leader that’s hiring and working with veterans, their leadership approach has a significant impact on the success of a veteran’s transition and that veteran’s contribution to the organization.

There are many aspects of veteran transition … education and training, finding a job, transitioning into the job, and performing successfully in the job (and others I’m sure). My focus today and in subsequent blogs is the veteran who has accepted a job offer and is now faced with the task of transitioning into a new work environment and culture.

As you may have noted in my most recent post, I tend to over-simplify matters. True to form, I offer the acronym – DARE – as a framework for what I believe are the essential elements for successful transition. One could easily argue these are essential for anyone’s transition into a new job … and I agree … but I’ll offer a few nuances distinct to veterans as I elaborate on the four main elements. Here goes:

D: Define success

A: Adapt to the culture

R: Recognize your strengths

E: Engage with others

So let’s start with the “D” in DARE. What does it mean for a transitioning veteran to define success? In short, it means understanding what success means to you (the veteran), to your colleagues, your clients or customers, and to your supervisor(s) … and having a conversation (this is key) about those understandings that results in:

  1. A common view of success
  2. A few goals or objectives intended to make you successful (a word of caution here – you can easily go overboard with a laundry list of goals).
  3. How to measure whether or not you’re meeting the goals or objectives intended to make you successful.
  4. A plan for how often you will review progress against your goals or objectives.

US flagAbove I noted that “having a conversation” is key. Just like a successful relationship, the key to a successful transition and work experience is communication. Communication makes it more likely that you and your supervisor, clients/customers, and colleagues are “on the same sheet of music.” It also makes it more likely that anyone involved, but especially the transitioning veteran, will identify early if he or she is not meeting the agreed upon definition of success. If all parties are communicating effectively on a routine basis then the transitioning veteran should only have to make minor course corrections as opposed to major shifts in behaviors and attitudes (unless the job “fit” is just a mismatch … but even then with good communication you will realize this sooner rather than later).

A final note before I wrap up this post. I’ve been out of the military for about ten years but I suspect the phenomenon of inflated evaluations stills exists. For many transitioning veterans, your first civilian job evaluation may be much more frank and less “walk on water” than you’re used to. This may not be the case in all industries but it can be a rude awakening if you’re not prepared for it. This is all the reason more for you, the veteran, to define success (and how that success will be measured) early in your transition.

That’s it for now. Next time I’ll elaborate on the “A” in the DARE framework: Adapt to the culture. Would love for others to join this conversation and share their experiences.

Copyright © 2014 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of AcrylicArtist/morguefile.com

Second image courtesy of pippalou/morguefile.com

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