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Scott Eblin

What It Takes to Be Ready

by Scott Eblin on September 9, 2011 10:38am

in The Next Level

There are a lot of memories coming to the surface as the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches. Of course, some of the most vivid memories are of the first responders who showed so much courage and skill in the minutes, hours and days after the attacks. Even though they had never dealt […]


Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post
called Can
This Marriage (Customer, Team, Leader) Be Saved?
in which I
referenced a book called The
5 Love Languages
and riffed a bit on how
those might be applied at work.  A couple of days later, I got a
nice email from Dr. Paul White letting me know that he was co-authoring
a book with Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of Love
, on how they could be applied in the

It’s out now and is called The
5 Languages of Appreciation in the
.  I spent some
time talking with Dr. White yesterday and, with his permission, recorded
the call so you could listen in. He talks about what the research says
about motivating through appreciation and the top ways in which most
people want to be appreciated. Here’s the interview:


He was also nice enough to share his
top ten easiest ways to show appreciation to almost anyone. 
You can download that here

This stuff is easy to do and likely to make a difference, folks. Think about it:

  • What kind of difference does it make for you when your boss or a co-worker expresses their appreciation?
  • What
    kind of difference would it make for your team members if you expressed
    your appreciation in a way that works for them (hint: 
    something beyond the “great job everyone” email)?
  • What
    is your number one idea for anyone who wants to do a better job of
    showing appreciation to others at work?



Potus-tv There’s lots of speculation
about what President Obama will say in his jobs creation strategy speech
to Congress on Thursday night.  Will he be bold? 
Will he be meek?  Will he seek compromise? Will he draw a line
in the sand?

Perhaps the most important question
is will he offer a viable strategy for creating jobs and reducing the
unemployment rate? Lately, I’ve been reading a book that will help you
and me answer that last question.  It’s called
Strategy Bad Strategy
  by UCLA business
professor Richard Rumelt. Back in December 2008, Rumelt wrote in the McKinsey
  that the great recession was
not the typical downturn, but a structural break that would require
difficult fundamental changes to get the economy back on track. Almost
three years later, it looks like he called it.

Since one of the basic jobs of leadership is to define a strategy
that can lead to success, Thursday’s speech provides an opportunity for
an evaluative case study.  In Good
Strategy Bad Strategy
, Rumelt says that there
are three key elements that represent the kernel of any good strategy.
Conversely, there are three signs of a bad strategy. 

So, building on what Rumelt offers, here’s your
viewer’s guide to whether the President is offering a good jobs strategy
or a bad jobs strategy on Thursday night. (The guide just might help
you in your next strategy conversation as well.)


Long term readers of this blog may have
noticed that I don’t write nearly as many posts as I used to that are
based on politics. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, I try
to keep this blog in the ballpark of leadership news you can use and
there just aren’t that many good examples coming from our national
political leaders. That leads to the second reason I’m not writing about
them much anymore. What they’re doing is just flat out

So today’s post is a bit of a combo
platter. On the one hand, it’s a cry of frustration. On the other, it’s
one of those learn what to do by not doing what they’re doing

Before Congress recessed for summer
vacation and the President left for Martha’s Vineyard, the two sides
(Why is it always about the two sides anymore anyway? Ah, but I
digress.)  took each other and the country to the brink by
locking horns over the debt ceiling. Historians may well look back on
that fiasco as the tipping point into complete dysfunction. I guess it
was too much to hope that as our leaders took some vacation that they
would step back, reflect on what happened and come back ready to do
things differently for the good of the country.

Yeah, that was too much to hope for apparently. In scheduling his
much anticipated speech on jobs creation (the New York Times has the
), the President asked for a joint session of Congress on
the same night as the first Republican debate to have all of the
current candidates in the field. Of course, the White House press office
claimed that this was a mere coincidence and that they had never
considered big footing the GOP. Not to worry, the Speaker of the House,
in a historically unprecedented move, rejected the President’s request
for a joint session. After an afternoon of naming, blaming and stare
downs, the White House relented. The joint session speech is now
scheduled for the next night, the start of the new season of the NFL.
Great solution.

So, what’s the leadership lesson
in all of this? There aren’t any good ones. So let’s look for the
counterfactual lessons: 


Irene1 The turmoil and damage caused
in the Northeast last weekend by Hurricane Irene is just the latest
reminder of how much we rely on first responders like the U.S. Coast
Guard in times of emergencies and natural disasters. There was some
dramatic video released yesterday of a  Coast Guard helicopter
rescue of a boater in distress off the Rhode Island coast during the
storm. provides a nice summary of the Coast
Guard’s Hurricane Irene operations in this article

definitely a lot of courage displayed by first responders in emergencies
but there’s also a lot of preparation and training on display as
well.  As I wrote here last week, I recently had
the opportunity to spend the weekend at sea with the crew of the USCG
Cutter Venturous. The patrol that I was on was the first time on board
for about a third of the 80 person Venturous crew. The training started
immediately upon departure. Once we were under way, a series of drills
were executed to get the crew prepared for emergencies that might arise.
First up was a man overboard drill. You can see some highlights from
that in this video:

The first afternoon at sea ended with an
abandon ship drill and the morning of day two started with a migrant
onboarding drill. Members of the crew were given the opportunity to come
up with a plan for rescuing migrants from a raft, bringing them on
board, securing them, processing them and sheltering them. 
Here are some video highlights of the drill:

Not surprisingly, because it was the first
time doing this for many of the crew, there were some kinks and
bottlenecks in the process. It was a very fortunate thing, however, that
the crew had the chance to run and debrief the drill. Twenty minutes
after it ended the commanding officer announced that he had just gotten
word that the ship would be bringing 15 Cuban migrants on board in about
three hours. He wasn’t joking. A drill had quickly turned into the real

Next week, I’ll share a video of the crew
preparing to bring the migrants on board but, for now, here are three
things I learned about how the Coast Guard prepares for


Stevejobs1 There’s been so much written about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO this week. As an Apple fan and a student of business leaders, it’s hard to disagree with the many, many tribute articles that have sung the praises of Jobs. Anyone who changes multiple industries – computing with the Apple II, Lisa (remember that?) Mac and the iPad, music with iTunes, telecommunications with the iPhone, movies with Pixar – is a genius. When the history of innovation is written, Steve Jobs will be up there with Henry Ford and Walt Disney.  

There’s a lot of speculation that Apple will fade without Jobs on the scene. Is it possible, though, that the company might do even better in the future?

Based on a very limited amount of personal experience, I think it might be. Here’s the story.


Eathquake So, the big question on the
East Coast yesterday evening was where were you when the earthquake hit?
I was in a large conference room in Baltimore leading a group coaching
session for rising leaders at a client company. They were working in
small groups when I noticed the image on the screen jiggling crazily and
saw the projectors hanging from the ceiling shaking back and
forth.  We moved outside into the courtyard pretty
quickly.  When the building was evacuated, we decided to call
it a day. Definitely the first time I’ve ever ended a session early
because of an earthquake.

What a great reminder
that if you ever think you’re the one in control, you’re not. 
In a way, that turned out to be the theme of the day. Just a half hour
before the earthquake excitement, we had wrapped up a lunchtime
conversation with a company executive who essentially said the same
thing. She began her talk by holding up a sheet of paper with 75 names
and pictures on it.  She told the group that this was all of
the directors and above in that sector of the company in the year
2000.  “How many, she asked, do you think are still
here?”  The answer was 23.  Then she showed a photo
composite of the top 15 executives from 2004 and asked how many of them
were still around.  The answer was one and he’s the current
sector president. 

Her point was not
one of those, “Look to your left and look to your right; one of you
won’t be here,” kind of deals. Rather, she was making the point that
there are so many things outside of your control in your career that you
have to be prepared for change and make the most of the opportunities
you have while remaining true to your values. In her case, that has


Coastguard1 For the past few years,
I’ve had the opportunity each Fall to talk leadership with the newly
promoted admirals of the U.S. Coast Guard and their Senior Executive
Service counterparts from the Department of Homeland Security. I’ll be
joining the group again this October and will be bringing a new
perspective to the conversation. That perspective comes from a once in a
lifetime opportunity I had last weekend patrolling the Florida Straits
with the captain and crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Venturous.

year, I wrote a similar post to today’s titled What I Learned on an Aircraft Carrier.
Some of the lessons from the Venturous are in the same ballpark, but
there are a number of new ones.  I attribute the dichotomies to
the difference in scale (The USS Harry S Truman has 3,000 to 5,000 crew
members and is 1,092 feet long.  The USCGC Venturous has 80
crew members and is 220 feet long.) and mission. As they patrol the
Straits of Florida and the Caribbean, the crew of the Venturous may be
intercepting drug runners one day, rescuing boaters the next and picking
up Cuban migrants the next.  I was only with them two days
and, by the end of the second day, the crew had picked up a raft full of
Cubans. I was in email correspondence with the executive officer, LCDMR
Blake Novak,  a few days ago and he wrote that by the end of
the week that started with my stay onboard  the Venturous had
picked up a total of 80 migrants. For Coasties, it’s all about being
prepared and adapting to the current reality.

today’s post, I’m sharing a few of my high level lessons learned and
this overview video of my time with the crew of the Venturous.

In the days and weeks to come, I’ll post
more videos of specific tasks (or, as the Coast Guard calls them,
evolutions) and additional reflections on what I learned onboard. For
now, here are the headlines on some of my leadership takeaways from
Venturous Commanding Officer Troy Hosmer, XO Novak and their


The Lost Art of Killing Time

by Scott Eblin on August 16, 2011 11:30am

in The Next Level

Keywest1 This past weekend, I had the
great opportunity to spend a couple of days with the crew of the U.S.
Coast Guard cutter Venturous on patrol in the Florida Straits. 
I’m organizing my thoughts, pictures and videos from the trip and will
have more to share on that in the days and weeks to come.

Today, I’m writing about the end of the trip. For
operational reasons, the Captain needed to drop me off in Key West early
Sunday morning about 10 hours earlier than the original plan of late
afternoon. I stowed my bags at the Coast Guard station and set out for
the day with my wallet, my cell phone and absolutely no plan

By the end of the day, I


Caddies If you’re a sports fan (guilty
as charged), you’ve likely heard by now about golf caddie Stevie Williams’ interview after his new
boss, Adam Scott, won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last
weekend.  It’s the talk of the sports world this week.

Williams, in case you don’t know, was Tiger Woods’
caddie for 13 years and carried his bag for most of the professional
wins he had before Woods’ career and life imploded a few years ago.
Woods fired Williams a couple of weeks ago and pointedly ignored him on
the Bridgestone practice tee early in the week. It was an interesting
scenario, then,  when Williams’ new ride won the tournament in
which Tiger finished 37th.

Williams made it that
much more interesting when he – the caddie! – gave an interview to CBS
on the 18th green.    In an interview with
David Feherty, Williams said,  “I’ve caddied for 33 years — 145
wins now — and that’s the best win I’ve ever had.”  That was
on Sunday. On Monday, he apologized for going “over the top” in the

Still, it was great TV. Mainly,
because most of us can relate to the fantasy of sticking it back to
someone who stuck it to us. The fantasy and the reality, however, are
two different things. Williams needed to recognize that winning with
Scott was a good time to shut up. That can be hard to do when emotions
are running high.  Here are three signs that it’s a good time
to shut up. Steve Williams missed them. Maybe they’ll help you avoid
sticking your foot in your mouth.


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