Winning After Losing: Building Resilient Teams
is an important book.
Resilience is the central theme of this book, followed closely by survival and ultimately success.
It asks the tough questions and provides the best answers:
- How does a person or an organization plan for the challenges ahead?
- How do leaders absorb an impact and bend but not break?
- How does an organization and its leadership recover rapidly from an impact, then adapt to become even stronger in preparation for a future challenge?
Resilience, the capacity to recover, is the cornerstone of this book. Winning After Losing is a book of stories and lessons about resilience; stories about how leaders and their teams learned how to bounce back even stronger after a loss, then learn how to win.
This book has been a long time in the making.
It represents the collected lessons of leadership I learned during my life of service in both the public and private sectors. It is a thank you to the many mentors who inspired and inscribed every step of my own journey and I hope it will serve as a guide to those current and future leaders who are walking the leadership path today.
Retired 3-Star General
I am writing this book as a retired 3-star General after thirty-eight years of service in the US Army. Over the span of my military career, I served in many leadership roles and each one taught me valuable lessons. Sometimes these lessons were learned when serving in the trenches. Sometimes while at the Pentagon. There were lessons learned in complex public-private-partnerships. And sometimes the most important lessons were learned during seemingly impossible missions leading a platoon of thirty soldiers whose greatest mission was to pass a maintenance inspection. And finally, some of my most rewarding lessons were learned while I was leading large teams of over 1M troops and 330,000 civilians as Director of Human Resources responsible for policy for the US Army to Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the largest public engineering organization in the world. Many of the lessons in this book are the result of many factors. They are the distillations of the lessons I learned alone and with others. They are the strategies our teams employed and the the tactics we tested. And finally they are the successes and even failures our teams experienced. That is the Army part of this leadership book.
I am also writing this book as a former C-Suite leader in the private sector where I served as the Chief Operating Officer of a publicly traded bioengineering company with multiple biotech companies and R&D divisions. These companies and divisions with over one thousand employees – 700 with advanced degrees, focused on health, energy, environment, and food. There, the goals were different and yet very much the same. The skills in leading teams to achieve success in fulfilling their mission are very similar whether it be in sales, in research, in new product development, or in mergers and acquisitions.
Based on my military as well as private sector experience, the lessons of leadership in this book apply to the public and private sector.
But there is an additional part of my personal leadership story that inspired me to write this book and sustained me through the months of research, writing, and re-writing. And that’s my background. My personal history. My first tentative leadership steps.
Like so many others I grew up in a unique family. My mother was born and raised in Japan. My father was an African American soldier from Brooklyn, New York. I had one sister and three brothers – five of us growing up as ‘Army Brats’ moving from base to base having to deal with change and learning to value every dollar. That is where my leadership lessons really began. My father, who was an athlete and champion runner, taught me the importance of self-discipline. Because there wasn’t enough money to send five kids to college, I learned to think creatively – and that’s when I first considered the military as the way to a career. That’s also when I was introduced to my first mentor – a man who showed me how to overcome seemingly insurmountable roadblocks and started me on a lifetime of mentorship – both being mentored and becoming a mentor. So in several ways, many of my earliest lessons were foundational to both my successful careers in the military and in private industry.
Inspiration – Lessons Learned
Writers are always asked what inspired them to write. For me the answer is simple. I have been teaching these lessons for a long time to small groups, large groups, and individual leaders. And each time I shared any of my personal lessons learned, the same request came up, “Wish you would write all this down.” And so I have.
I began this book to share the lessons I learned in my own personal leadership journey as a way to help other leaders. This book is not so much about specific situations, although there are many of those. But it is more about how to reach down, dig deep, and find success when it seems almost impossible. My anecdotes and challenges are different from yours. But what remains the same are the challenges and goals of leadership – to build strong teams, to forge strong organizations, to plan visionary goals, to achieve mission success no matter what that mission may be.
The lessons I learned and share in this book are lessons that are universal yet the stories that forged them are unique. They are lessons that I hope will inspire you to try a new strategy, to set goals that are seemingly impossible, to take a risk, to never give up on a losing team, to use whatever tools come your way, even if they are not what you expected, to listen not just to the voices from the top of the mountain, but to those voices shouting up from the bottom.
I began this book because I was asked to share what I learned not only when I succeeded, but when I did not. When I lost. And when my team lost. And when the mission failed. That’s why I titled this book “Winning After Losing” because that is when I learned you need to really step up as a leader, and that is when winning is the sweetest.
As I write these words today, the world is a different place than it was a few months ago when I first put pen to paper. Today we are in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus has taken lives, scattered teams, shuttered businesses, and decimated global economies. It has also put a massive strain on the leadership skills of virtually every organization around the world whether private or public, large or small.
Today I share these same lessons I learned over a lifetime of crises and challenges of every kind with some soldiers, spouses, families, civilians, and of our top leaders at the highest levels of government including the White House.
I am honored more than ever to share these stories with you.