An amazing leader and patriot lost

Just this week on the day after Veterans’ Day, I called to speak to an old friend of mine, Jim Hamilton, who was the First Sergeant of the Special Forces Company I commanded in VietNam. Jim and I had formed a life-long bond of friendship and respect. Our work together was never forgotten by either of us. Over the years we connected by phone and also had the opportunity to spend time together when Jim came out to WA for a few days. I was so happy to have him stay in my home and we shared what was going on in our lives.
This time, my conversation with Jim was not to be, as I was informed by Ruth, his wonderful wife of 68 years, that he had passed away after a short battle with cancer at the age of 89.
Our country has lost a truly remarkable leader whom I was honored to have known. Jim served in the US Navy as a young man and after his enlistment, he returned to Pennsylvania where he worked in the steel mills until he was stricken with polio at the age of 23. He was told by doctors that he likely would never walk again. Jim defied all of the odds and with his will and determination, won the battle and enlisted in the Army at the age of 32 and became an Airborne, Special Forces soldier, who was on his third tour of duty in VietNam when we met. He went on to serve until 1979, when he retired as a Sergeant Major. Jim’s motto for everyone was,“be a leader, not a follower.” He certainly lived that motto and set a standard that only a few can ever match. Jim, Thank you for all you have meant to me and the soldiers whose lives you influenced. You are an inspiration to me every day of my life. I love you and I will never forget you…you are the embodiment of LEAD with COURAGE.

There is more to Horse Racing than you think…

During the 2014 Thoroughbred Horse Racing season at Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA Paul Roggenkamp, LEAD with COURAGE, met Jeff Metz, the leading Trainer at Emerald Downs for the past two seasons. At their first meeting, it became evident that they both shared not only a love of horses and the athletic competition of training and preparing the equine athletes for racing competition, but also the passion of leadership and team building as a part of the responsibility of trainers at the track. Their interaction carried over into the 2015 season and continues to this day.

Race horse trainers are not only skilled at preparing the horses to compete, but must also be leaders of their teams consisting of: assistant trainers; grooms who care for, feed and prepare the horses daily; exercise riders who ride and guide the horses in preparation for racing; the jockeys who actually ride the horses in the races; owners who have hired the trainer to prepare and race the horses; veterinarians; farriers(horse-shoers); pony persons; and any number of other people involved in the operation of the racing industry. These people must work together efficiently and productively to produce the desired result of winning races with healthy, happy horses. Teamwork and enthusiasm must be a daily part of all that people bring to their jobs in order to achieve the goals of the team.

Jeff and Paul meet and discuss on a regular basis the importance of balance and consistency in interpersonal relationships with the team as well as in life and the other aspects of the business; incentives, inspirational and emotional connections necessary to produce winning horses. The two have become friends as a result of their professional interests and mutual passions.

Following one Thursday evening dinner at Paul’s farm, Jeff Metz raced horses in six races on Friday and won each one…a fete which had not been accomplished before at Emerald Downs. Jokingly, they decided that Thursday evening dinners should probably be scheduled every week of the racing season to continue that level of performance. In the 2015 season Jeff Metz Racing achieved a record tying 66 wins and a third consecutive Leading Trainer Title. The Metz Team is back in action shooting for another trainer title for the 2016 season at Emerald Downs beginning with a horse running in post position number 1 in the first race on opening day.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski Presentation at JBLM May 9, 2013

Coach K at Ft LewisLt. General Bob Brown, Commanding General of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was a cadet member of the US Military Academy basketball team coached by Mike Krzyzewski (Legendary coach of the Duke Blue Devils to 4 NCAA Championships amd more victories than any college coach in history), while he coached at West Point prior to his hire by Duke University. Lt. General Brown invited Coach K to come to Ft Lewis and speak to all of the officers and senior non-commissioned officers of I Corps and Ft Lewis. Members of the West Point Society of Puget Sound were also invited. Paul H. Roggenkamp, Founder and Principal of LEAD with COURAGE, was an enthusiastic attendee.

Coach K’s presentation was entitled “Building a Team” based upon his experiences coaching the 2012 US Olympic Basketball Team to the championship and the winning of the Gold Medal. The team included such superstars as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala, Tyson Chandler, and Anthony Davis. Coach K referred to these players as “individual international corporations” because of their reputations, statures in the professional arena and world-wide recognition of their basketball talents.

So how does a coach take such a group of individuals and mold them into a successful, undefeated team which wins the Olympic Gold Medal?  In the coach’s own words, initially this group is merely a collection of individuals, which must be developed into a team.

Rather than a political approach including diplomatic, sensitive, complex dealings with the team, Coach K’s approach was to meet individually with each player and come to an understanding of how players should function within the team. In the one-on-one meetings Coach K clearly explained five points to each player. The first: We are going to communicate with each other and our teammates. We will not be communicating by text, email, twitter, or cell phone, but when we communicate, we are going to talk to each other, face-to-face, looking into each others’ eyes.   Second: When we communicate with each other, we are going to tell the truth all of the time. Third: We are going to take responsibility for ourselves and all of our actions and hold ourselves and our teammates accountable for all we are required to do. Fourth: We are going to care for each other and cover each others’ backs. Fifth: we are going to take pride on all we do, and do the very best at all that we do.  This is the approach of a real leader at person-to-person level with his team. It is fundamental and reaches the heart of the individual.

The next step of the team building was to meet as a team and discuss such how the team will focus on the goal. Coach K asked the players who among them knew their school fight song. Naturally, some of the players had some idea of their fight songs either from high school or college, but questioning looks were prevalent. So Coach K asked, “OK, what is our fight song?” After some discussion, it was decided that the Star Bangled Banner( a Marvin Gaye version of one of the lesser known verses was chosen to be the team fight song) should be the fight song of the US Olympic Basketball Team. This upbeat song was played during practices and whenever the team was focusing on an upcoming game and it served as inspiration for all the players.

The “icing on the cake” to bind the team together and focus the players’ hearts and minds was an activity at Arlington National Cemetery coordinated by Coach K and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey. The activity included a day at the national cemetery, featuring a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, exchanges of war experiences and basketball experiences between the 12 players and 12 military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The culmination of the emotional and inspirational day was a simple ceremony involving the basketball players and the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. The 2 groups lined up facing each other – one player facing one military member. The military members wear an American flag on the right shoulder of  their uniforms fastened by Velcro.  As the final act of binding the US Olympic team together and focusing them on the reason for which they are playing, was for each soldier to remove the flag from the right shoulder and present it to the player opposite him/her. WOW!! How can anyone not give their very best following that amazing display of why and for whom the team is playing in the Olympics? In Coach K’s own words, everyone was crying like babies with the emotion of the monment.

Naturally, the team went on to win the Olympic Gold Medal and hear the refrain of the team’s fight song, the National Anthem, played immediately after the gold medals had been placed around the players’ necks. There are many lessons to be learned from this story, but the most important lesson I took from it is that even at the highest levels of a profession involving the most accomplished participants and leaders in their field, the teamwork, commitment and inspiration is gained by an engaged leader reaching into the heart of each team member and inspiring him to achieve more than he could do by himself for the goal of the team…in this case, The USA.

I will write about many other gems of wisdom and valuable lessons from this amazing presentation by Coach Mike Krzyzewski in later blog postings.

 

 

 

 

Why do we need leadership in today’s high tech, cyber-world ?

Is leadership still necessary in today’s high tech, cyber-world of instant multimedia global communication, social networks, texts, email, Skype, etc. and in exceptionally flat corporate management structures where unstructured collaborative groups seem more important than organized departments?

YES!!! is the very emphatic answer. Our working world is starving for true leadership. Many managers and persons in upper and higher level positions of responsibility do not have specific training or background in leadership, and therefore tend to confuse the use of IT and application of metrics for the application of true leadership. Too many upper level managers believe that their positions or titles give them complete control of the team members or employees under their management and that they are obligated to serve the leader’s needs and desires.

Every organization, team or group of people which is formed to accomplish some goals or to participate with success in business, sport, education, and daily life must have a clear leader to guide, support, influence, motivate the team to achieve the goals. People look to leaders for direction, support and encouragement as they do their best to do their part of the team’s work. Unfortunately, the very technological capabilities which have allowed us to communicate with others world wide instantly have also caused inordinate, unexpected, unproductive stress in our working lives. This ease of communication has resulted in unrealistic expectations of instant response to the each email message. Years ago, I personally managed a large portfolio for a company that unrealistically required its managers to respond to every email within two hours. The result of that directive was paralysis and loss of productivity, because the sheer volume of email messages caused managers to spend most of their time reading and responding to emails rather than actually doing the many real requirements of their jobs.  Leaders understand that it is their responsibility to create and maintain an environment in which their teams can perform at their very best without unnecessary outside influences or frustrating roadblocks to project accomplishment.

Leadership is personal, involved, dynamic and practical. It is consistently applied to all areas of team interaction and effort to clarify and communicate the vision and to illuminate the pathway to accomplishment of the goals and support and reinforce the efforts of the team. Leadership is a continuous process which requires commitment and involvement of the leaders in the activities and well-being of the team.

Lead with COURAGE!!

Can anyone be a leader?

Can anyone be a leader? The answer is, “No.” Not everyone can be a leader, either because not everyone has the capabilities required to lead, or everyone does not have the opportunity to be in a leadership position…..even simpler, every team, organization or business needs followers for the leaders to lead. In fact, our world is comprised of more followers than leaders.

That answer may seem very simplistic or insensitive.  However, anyone who has the desire, motivation and opportunity can learn about leadership principles; everyone can study and understand the application of leadership. Each of us, including all who are not in leadership positions, should learn, practice and apply all that we can learn about leadership. Earning trust and respect, setting goals and mapping a course of action to accomplish the goals, building relationships, conflict resolution, motivation, accountability, discipline, and authentic communications should be high priorities for all of us to make part of who we are and how we operate in work and in life. Preparing to be a leader will make a person more successful and capable at the time when an opportunity to lead is presented.

As part of a team, as an employee in a business, as a member of a class in school, we all should strive to be the best team member we can be and practice the good principles of leadership at our level in the organization, so that our contribution to the team’s success will be maximized. By doing this we will prepare ourselves to be a leader when the opportunity comes our way. Prepare to lead with courage!