Introduction to Leadership – 22 Apr 16

Introduction to Leadership – 22 Apr 16

Motivation to write

Over the past several years I have been recalling and documenting my professional career and the strife, trouble and opportunities that presented themselves to me and just how I handled and learned from each of these situations. I have thoroughly enjoyed this task. It has brought back some great memories as I recalled the exacts of what actually took place during each of these adventures in leadership.

Some of the events were not hard to recall at all. I had found many opportunities to use the stories over and over all during the latter part of my military career and most of my civilian career.

Moose Stories, where they came from

These stories were tagged about one third of the way through my tenure in manufacturing as Moose Stories by a young man who worked for me in multiple capacities at several organizations. I discovered Warren Sanford as he jumped up and down and hollered at me from behind a production line during my time at Tandy in their Personal Computer Division in Ft Worth, Texas. Warren was just the guy I needed for a come-in-late—stay-real-late printer guy and PC (personal computer) specialist during a software implementation project converting Tandy from a homegrown system to a standard MRP system. Warren also worked for me again later as my Network Administrator during the time we spent at Sun Engine, a remanufacturer of automobile engines in Dallas, Texas.

During the twenty-eight years I spent working in numerous manufacturing assignments; I found opportunities to use what I had learned from the people and situations I had previously been associated with. Many of the learning points were associated with my experiences while in the Army. While they were military in nature, the situations were still all about people and easily associated with regular civilian workplace jobs and functions.

These adventures with people resulted in a much more basic understanding of those people and their thought processes. While most of those I was associated with in the manufacturing arena had little, if any, military experience; they all related to the characters and the predicaments in the stories. The people lessons that I took away from these stories helped in making both me and those around me understand better what we could do to improve our lot in life. People, their actions and the results of their actions are the major time consumers that take up the majority of most leader’s, manager’s and supervisor’s time; both good and bad people are the real players in the continuing story of our daily endeavors.

When a particular situation presented itself that I thought the relating (storytelling) of a previous experience with a core theme aligned with the current situation might be appropriate I would gather those on my staff and do just that. I’d say: “Guys, let me tell you a story.” And, I told them a story. Soon they knew what was coming and paid close attention; not because it was me telling the story, but because they knew what was to follow at the story’s end. We discussed the predicament that I had just related and through our discussion, I pulled from them the outcomes I desired—their understanding of the existing problems and their buy-in in developing a solution. They worked out the trouble and routinely were better off as a result. As it seemed to work each time I tried it, I continued to use this tactic more and more.

“They say I tell a great many stories; I reckon I do, but I have found in the course of a long experience that common people — common people — take them as they run, are more easily influenced and informed through the medium of a broad illustration than in any other way, and what the hypercritical few may think, I don’t care.”

Abraham Lincoln

(As told to Hon. Chauncey M. Depew, President of the New York Central Railroad. Taken from: Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time By Allen Thorndike Rice North American Publishing Company, 1886 – 668 pages Chapter XXIV, pgs: 427 – 428)

Usually after working with an organization  for some time and recognizing the need to relate one of these adventures, I might start in and then be interrupted by one of those that had been there for some time asking: “Is this gonna be another moose story Howard?”

“Maybe!” I would answer.

I should digress a bit here and give the reader some background.

How I began

During the earliest years of my career, I was serving in the United States Army and stationed at Fort Richardson (Fort Rich), just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. Initially I was assigned to B Company (Maintenance & Supply) in the 172nd Support Battalion of the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate & Light). In an attempt to improve operations, the platoon I was assigned to was detached from B Co. and attached to the 54th Transportation Company to form a Supply & Transportation unit; my first stint in a provisional//test unit—this remained a central theme throughout my entire military career. I started as the Section Leader of an element in the Supply Platoon. Having the dubious luck to follow two First Lieutenants who were relieved as platoon leader and petroleum officer; I, being the only Lieutenant remaining who had not yet wandered into tragedy and trouble, found myself as the Supply Platoon Leader with the additional responsibility of being designated the Accountable Officer for all supplies coming into and going out of the Brigade.

 

The platoon’s mission was to provide supply and service support in the areas of rations (food), petroleum (POL), ammunition, clothing, general supplies (tents and the like), construction and barrier material (building material, concertina wire and other like material), and major item re-supply (weapons, vehicles, helicopters, etc.). The only classes of supply not provided by my organization were repair parts and medical items; these came from two sister units within the Support Battalion. After almost three years of testing the organization the unit was designated as Delta Company (Supply and Transportation) and assigned to the Support Battalion. As a result, the 54th Transportation Company went away (deactivated). Change didn’t always come in a timely manner in the Army of the ‘70s.

The Moose connection

Oh yes, the Moose connection. During the four years I spent in Alaska, I experienced more than several sightings, encounters, confrontations, happenings, run-ins, arguments, disagreements, quarrels, rows, conflicts, clashes, and skirmishes with moose—many more with moose than any other animal in Alaska.

Any animal that takes up as much room as your run-of-the-mill Bull Moose and weighs in at as much as twelve to fourteen hundred pounds demands attention and most of the time, the right-of-way.  In the far, far woods, as my son would come to call the area adjacent to our quarters, I would frequently find myself during the deepest part of the winter playing tag with a bull or cow moose in and around Ship Creek which passed just one hundred yards or so behind the home the US Army was so grateful to allow us to utilize during our stay. Ship Creek is, by the way, the closest productive salmon fisheries to Anchorage, emptying out on the north side of the downtown area. These moose encounters would routinely make my wife furious as you might imagine—at me, not the moose. Tapping a moose on the nose and dodging behind a tree was akin to the same game we would play with a bull or mean white-eyed momma cow back in Texas during my teen years.

These encounters might also involve a run-in with a moose in the morning formation just outside the Battalion’s barracks area. Or maybe the incident might take the moose through the glass doors into the building itself. Once observing a confrontation between a moose and a VW Bug on the highway into Anchorage gave me a real healthy appreciation for these antlered obstructions. We even experienced a hungry bull that had crawled on his knees under our back porch in order to get to the only grass available that winter just outside the dryer vent coming from the basement of our quarters.

The real truth

Well, not everything revolves around a moose experience, it’s the people who work with and for you that step into, instigate, or cause a problem that makes up a manager’s day. During the forty years I spent in leadership positions, accomplishing my mission in management, supervision and consultation of operations, both in manufacturing and the military; I continually found myself in the study of these people who caused the troubling situations to happen to and around me. While a good deal of the stories are somewhat military in nature, largely due to the fact that I spent time at more than sixty posts, camps and stations; they are primarily just stories of people, the situations they find themselves in, what got them there and how we//they sometimes resolved the dilemma(s) that we found ourselves in.

Remember Warren?

Eventually I realized that often I really had to watch out for that guy, Warren. Knowing that I enjoyed telling the stories maybe even more than they enjoyed listening and learning from them; during routine meetings he might say something like: “Tell us another moose story Howard.” This, he was sure to lengthen the meeting’s duration, shorten his workday and keep managers and supervisors away from their intended responsibilities. My task was to keep this fact in mind and not fall prey to his misdirection.

True Adventures

The adventures I have documented in “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack” are all true. I know that for a fact. I was there when they took place and often was the one to whom they took place. The adventures usually had reasonable endings; some more reasonable than others. The situations I relate in the book taught me more than I could have ever learned in a management or supervision class tucked away somewhere on a college campus or a one-two-or-three day seminar taught by the very successful practitioners of that type material. Just like many of you out there; the lessons of life are much more real than the case studies that professors and instructors will ever cause you to study. You all have been involved in just as many as I have and through this volume of work I endeavor to spur just the slightest amount of memory and realization that you may know more about what leadership, management and supervision is all about than you previously thought you may have.

I hope you find the stories and information to be enlightening, helpful, sometime even humorous, and at least interesting—the original cast and their actions were just that. Some of the names will have to be changed, but please remain assured that the stories are true and the dubious names may be factious only to save embarrassment; a point you, the reader will subsequently understand.

The challenge

A better understanding of people and their reasoning is what I took away from some very interesting, sometimes humorous, sometimes stressful or physical demanding; but always memorable people experiences. I hope you do also and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

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