I once thought that inspirational things inspired people, but I've realized that people are inspired by inspiration itself. Inspiration can be born of many things - a great idea, strong leadership (especially in difficult times), the opportunity to contribute or make a difference, or simply realizing that by taking action you can make things better in some way. As a soldier for many years, I had occasion to encounter circumstances that could quickly demoralize people and whole organizations. It was during those times that I discovered a key that worked time and again to keep people engaged, effective and enthused. The key is the power of perpetual optimism.
I’ve seen it time and time again in my ten years as a strategy development and implementation consultant: “Excessive Management Syndrome.” Let’s call it “EMS.” The higher up in the chain of command, the harder it strikes, and entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible.
What is it? It’s a leader’s overwhelming inclination to take everything upon his or her own shoulders – solving all the problems, making all the major decisions and playing the hero. Symptoms can include severe cases of “nothing getting done,” or worse, “complete failure.” There are just too many actions that must be devised and implemented for one person to be able to singlehandedly address the needs of an entire organization.
The U.S. Army underwent a significant transformation during my 30-year career as an officer. Although many different programs and technologies enabled this transformation, one of the most significant was the After Action Review (AAR) process. The AAR was practiced across the Army, and it led to significant and lasting performance improvement at all levels.
My appreciation for the AAR has transferred over into my career as a business consultant. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it as useful in the boardroom as it was on the battlefield.