I’ve learned a lot in my tenure at the Pentagon so far. Here are three of the most important lessons I’ve taken in. These are especially important for leaders and business owners, but #2 and #3 are universal.
1. Meetings are expensive. They stop every participant’s work, which can cause delays in their projects. If their time is billable, they are charging for attendance. If their time is not billable, you are taking their time away from them. In either case, every minute each person sits in a meeting with nothing to gain or contribute is a huge waste.
2. Adapt to your environment. You are different from most other people. Not everyone communicates the way you do, has the same motives or shares your values. The people around you don’t share your experience and your expertise. But you need them to understand you and you’d better understand them too. You need to learn how to gain their confidence and trust, and learn how to motivate them. Unless you want to fail.
3. When the going gets tough, the tough keep smiling. Some leaders become threatening and unapproachable when things don’t go well or they are under stress. I knew one officer here who acted like a momma bear until something slightly bad happened or she got under a deadline, then she became a rabid grizzly. It worked against her. People avoided her at all costs. Because they were so afraid of getting chewed out, they waited for direction to comply with instead of taking initiative and using their ingenuity. She was often out of the loop on status, especially if the news was bad, and her people laid low waiting for their marching orders instead of owning their process and making it better.
It takes a tough person to show confidence in their team and be the leader they need under pressure. Weak leaders don’t have the fortitude to withstand the heat so they redirect it to their team.