Veterans’ Day: It’s about the Others…


Some served out of patriotism.  Some served for education.  Some served to get themselves out of bad situations, or simply for the job opportunities. And some served because it was just “what you did.”

Some served in peacetime.  Some served in wartime.  Some served in wartime, but it peaceful settings.  Some served on the battlefield, while others served well behind battle lines in support of those under fire.

All are veterans.  All are worthy of our praise and respect.  But will we always receive that?  No, and that too is why we served.

ES-3A_CAG_bird_VQ-5_over_CVN-72_1998As a military veteran, I often pause on Veterans’ Day to think of my service, my comrades who have slogged through the jungle, flown the long flights, and stood in the freezing cold beside me, those who have faced hardship and sacrificed with me.  They were ordinary people, mostly asked to do ordinary things, but always willing and ready for the extraordinary.  They were my brothers and sisters, and will always be part of my family.

They weren’t all heroes, and that’s okay.

They weren’t all flawless, and that’s to be expected.

They weren’t all like-minded, and that was a good thing.

And they weren’t all even good at their jobs, and that’s real life.

As we reflect on yet another holiday dedicated to all those who have served, voluntarily or not, with the discounts and special deals offered by so many businesses and establishments in our communities, I all too often hear veterans themselves deride those who protest, those who do not openly thank them for their service.  And I become angry also…but not at the protesters, not at the business that do NOT offer veteran discounts, or those for whom this is simply another day.  I grow angry at the veterans themselves.

A solution to the impending Talent WarWe did not serve for the accolades.  We did not serve for glory.  And we did not serve to become entitled.  Those may come from our service, but those weren’t the reason for it.

We served because we valued selflessness.  We served because we valued the bonds of shared sacrifice.  And we served because others could not or would not.  We served for the ideals of free speech and equality, even when our society hindered it.  We served for those unable to protect themselves and without a voice, in hopes that they would someday.

We didn’t serve so that we would have a platform on which to criticize those who didn’t.  We didn’t serve so we could preach our superiority over those who choose not to.  And we didn’t serve to get free dinners, haircuts, or tickets to a ball game.

So, take advantage of those rewards that come from your military service.  Get that free haircut.  Watch that free meal.  Fly your flag proudly.  But don’t do those things because you’ve “earned” them, and don’t criticize those that do not offer either accolades or discounts.  Do what you’ve always done.  Stand tall and be proud of your service.  Remember your own past sacrifices and the ongoing sacrifices of those still serving and still deployed.  But don’t expect the praise and don’t deride others who you feel disrespect you and your sacrifice, for that’s the right that led you to serve in the first place.

This Veterans’ Day, don’t look for praise for your service.  Look to the reasons FOR your service.  And celebrate those reasons.  Commend the expressions of those who disagree with you or perhaps even who look down on your service, for those who protest and even for those who burn the flag.  For that’s what your service was all about.  It was about those others.

At its core, our service is about the other people, whether or not they know it.  Our service was not about us.  It was about and for them.



Veterans’ Assistance: Boots-to-Briefcases

nored06Resume-writing assistance. Aided job searches.  Lists of veteran-friendly employers.  Nope, I don’t do any of those.  Oh, I’m asked pretty frequently.  But it’s simply not my sweet spot, nor of a lot of interest to me.

Seems rather harsh, I’ve been told.

Not really, though.  For starters, there are dozens and dozens of firms out there who specialize in just such services.  Besides, from my perspective, while there is value to providing veterans with such services, I’m better equipped to help out in other ways.

You see, that’s pretty tactical service.  It’s positioning work, getting the veterans to a point where their description of transferrable skills are being honed in a way that speaks the language of the “non-military” work world and pointing a direction in which veterans can look for work.

But you see, while it’s possibly (and maybe, likely) a mass-produced service provision of significant value, it’s not my value proposition.  Let me explain….

thinker1I’ve spent much of my careers working with leaders in all industries, developing their skills, helping them with transitions, raising their self-awareness of their leadership tendencies and matching those with particular organizational settings and cultures.  I stress the word “particular,” because that IS my sweet spot with leaders.  I’m not interested in providing off-the-shelf leadership development or coaching.  My interests and passions lie in the particulars, the contextualized and customized world in which individual leaders operation.

So, too, the coaching I’ve done with veterans over the past several years has focused not on economizing general approaches and monetizing them for the masses.  Again, there’s value to doing some of that.  It’s just not the value that engages me personally.  Nope, the veterans whom I have coached come to me with specific goals…some of which have been focused on transitioning from their military career to a new civilian leadership role.  Others have focused on exploring career avenues outside the mainstream “veteran-friendly” organizations that attract and recruit many talented veterans.  It’s that customized “exploration” that lights my fuse!  That’s what gets me going!

Some have suggested that my approach seems to denigrate the contributions of other professional organizations that have built services, processes, and structures to leverage economies of scale in the area of “veterans’ services.”  Wait, let me reiterate.  I love any organization (or individual) that is providing assistance (of nearly any kind) to the millions of veterans we have in this country.  I’ve partnered with quite a few of these organizations over the years, and I continue to refer individuals to these service providers.  Again, it’s not that I think what they are doing is poor business or exploitative in the least.  It’s simply that it’s not my area of expertise, nor my area of particular interest.

Keeping a Sense of PurposeSo, if you’re involved in a firm that provides employment services to veterans, let’s connect!  Let’s collaborate!  Let’s jointly serve this wonderfully deserving constituency group!  Together, doing those things and providing those services where we each have distinctive expertise, we can help the hundreds of thousands of transitioning veterans ease into the next phase of their working careers.  Let’s make the move from boots-to-briefcases a seamless one together!

Returning Veterans: Understanding Their Reintegration Experiences

images (7)Over the past decade, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in attention to and funding for research dedicated to myriad veterans’ issues.  PTSD.  TBI.  Suicides.  Veterans’ employment challenges.  Family reintegration difficulties.  The list simply goes on and on. It’s both impressive and a bit discouraging that our young warfighters face so many hurdles when they return from combat deployments.

The research and efforts that are now being carried out follow on a substantial and rich foundation of previous studies conducted after World War II and increasingly in the decades following the Vietnam War.  And while it would have been nice to have “figured it all out” long before we sent the latest waves of GIs into the mountains and plains of Afghanistan and into the desert and cities of Iraq, the reality is that these issues are complex and growing more complex, it seems, with each passing conflict.

2297464788_23df454da3When I began my research into veterans issues, namely the experience of workplace reintegration by Reservists and National Guard servicemembers following extended combat deployments, I saw my efforts as a way in which I could, in some way, extend my own service to this particular population of Americans.  After all, I’d spent the entire decade of the 90s serving in both the Army and Navy.  Whether on patrol with my infantry scout brethren or flying onboard reconnaissance flights off North Korea and the Russian Far East, I had a front-row seat to many of the challenges facing our servicemembers as they returned from deployment, combat-related or not.  The intensity of the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan make reintegration infinitely more challenging for those who continued serving when I returned permanently to civilian life.

While most of the attention has focused on the physical and mental disabilities so many veterans are now encountering, as well as family health related issue like domestic abuse, anger issues, etc., far less attention has been paid to the ways in which Reserve and National Guard servicemembers are being reintegrated into their civilian work roles after months away.  This can be an extremely isolating and emotional time for these returning veterans, and most organizations are both unequipped (programmatic standpoint) to support these individuals in the weeks and months following their boots-to-briefcase transitions and unaware of the psychological (even at a non-clinical level) challenges of undergoing this type of cultural change.

going-away-soldier-desertBy more deeply understanding the emotional and intellectual journey of these returning veterans, we will be able to better facilitate a quick return to the productive, positive contributions by these veterans.  It’s part of what they want….a return to normality.  And it’s clearly what their civilian employers also desire.  My research will hopefully help bridge the divide does exist here.

As I wrap up my data collection, if you know any individuals who deployed as a Reservist or National Guard member to either Iraq or Afghanistan, please have them contact me at:

Trevor Nagle, M.S., ABD


It’s Your Path….

confused-face2I’d seen that look before, that quizzical cant of the head, the furrowed brow, and yes, the poor attempt to hide a frown of disapproval.

“That doesn’t sound like a good plan at all,” she stated.

I had to chuckle (a response I have since learned only solidified her belief that I was simply being self-centered and irresponsible).

“Well,” I replied, “If it was your choice, it might very well be a poor plan.”

You see, each of has goals, ideas, plans, and yes, dreams.  They are individual concepts of where we want our lives and our careers to go.  For some, it’s the endless pursuit of wealth and financial security.  For others, it’s chasing the dream of balance between work and family life.  Still others dream of travel and adventure.  And you know what?  None of them are wrong, just different.

Career counseling and coaching often runs into these differences in a rather abrupt manner.  The individual seeking a chance sees their future very differently than the coach might.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that.  After all, I can’t be in someone else’s mind, and they can’t be in mind.  But what we each can do is to spend some time upfront calibrating and co-discovering each other’s perspectives before we attempt to problem solve.

Let’s look at it in a workplace (leader-follower) realm….

MotivationSeveral years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a fascinating discussion on the issue of performance appraisal and motivation.  Leading the discussion was a leading researcher, author, and renowned scholar in the area.  He maintained a position that extrinsic motivation (in particular, monetary reward) does nothing to promote greater performance or higher levels of motivation.  His perspective was driven by considerable empirical evidence on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

And all things considered evenly, I would agree with that premise.  Self-drive is long-term a much more powerful source of motivation.  The problem, however, lies in the situational nature of motivation (which drives goal setting and pursuit, I would argue).  At times, an individual may indeed focus on attaining more money, more prestige, more balance, or more of any single thing that might better fulfill them at that moment in time.

Think about it…..for an unattached, 20-something financial analyst in Manhattan, financial rewards may indeed be more powerful than for a recent college graduate building irrigation systems with the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso.  What about when that same former Peace Corps volunteer becomes a the single parent with kids nearing the college tuition age?  Think that individual may be more motivated by money at that life stage than they were 20 years before?

creative_career_path_crop380wYes, we each have our goals and our individual motivations.  So, take a moment of hesitation before you express criticism or doubt about another’s “path.”  Realize that each of us is on our own journey.  What may be right for you may not fit into my “plans,” and what you would choose would not necessarily be what I would choose for myself.  Whether you’re a leader, a follower, a coach, a manager, a parent, or a child, it’s an important perspective to keep in mind.

Angle of Attack?: Hiding Insecurities With Jargon

images“How about a cross-country flight instead of a typical check-ride?” Lieutenant Ganser suggested, grinning as he knew the answer before he even asked.  The way my eyes lit up only confirmed the presumed response.

You see, in the Navy, before you can fly as a qualified aircrewman aboard any aircraft, you first must complete a check flight – a thorough applied examination of all the assigned aspects of one’s potential role on the airplane.  That means not only knowing your own equipment for your specific job, but also, in most cases, all the circuit breakers and emergency procedures on the plane.  It’s a wealth of knowledge that can take months to complete.

As I completed my qualification to fly on carrier-based ES-3s, an electronic intelligence collection platform that is now extinct in today’s fleet, I had anticipated with some trepidation my check flight.  Not that learning the electronic safety measures was all that challenging; I’d long ago figured out the art of memorization.  Nope, it was the “rite of passage” that went along with the check ride that worried me.  The actual “exam” portion of the ride, you see, wouldn’t probably last more than 15-20 minutes.  The balance of that flight, however, usually consisted of the pilot demonstrating his skill not only at aerial acrobatics, but his egoistic ability to make the novice aircrew puke.  Rumor had it that Lt. Ganser was unusually adept at that particular competency.

ES-3A_CAG_bird_VQ-5_over_CVN-72_1998Yes, I jumped at the chance instead for a cross-country flight.  That meant: 1) a fairly straight and level flight, and 2) an expense-free weekend at an airshow, where one signs autographs, talks about the plane, and generally receives celebrity status.  Hmmm….where do I sign, right?

So, early the next morning, we climbed into the four-seater and off we headed from Naval Air Station Coronado, California enroute to Missoula, Montana.  And what a weekend it was!

Of all the interactions in Missoula, however, one has stuck in my mind for the past fifteen years.  A young man walked up wearing a faux letter bomber jacket over a Top Gun film t-shirt.  As he swaggered over, peeling his mirrored sunglasses from his face, he looked skeptically at our Shadow aircraft.  Lt. Ganser glanced over at me and rolled his eyes.

“What’s this plane’s angle of attack?” the young man asked.

Stone-faced, Lt. Ganser responded, “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

The young man repeated himself.

“Nagle, this one’s all yours,” my pilot chuckled as he turned and walked away.

I stared at the young man.  Oh, he was completely serious in his question.  No sarcasm or wisecrack intended on his part.

Now, “angle of attack” for an aircraft has several different applications, none of which are specific to that type of aircraft.  Regardless, as I attempted to explain the term to the young man, he simply wasn’t buying it.  Finally, in total dissatisfaction, he about-faced and marched away, frustrated by my seemingly irreverent answer to what he believed was a fairly straightforward question.  As he departed, I could hear Lt. Ganser laughing hysterically on the other side of the plane.

I was reminded of the Missoula Airshow experience last week when listening to a group of business leaders “talking shop” at a local coffee shop.  Oh, they new all the business jargon. ROI. Adhocracy. Bandwidth. 360. Bleeding edge. Peer management. Transformational.  And yet, in the 10 minutes I overheard, very little of substance was expressed by any of them.  Instead, they were simply throwing around terms to sound knowledgeable and erudite.

thumb-Jargon_Madness_-_Forbes-804873c80d7ccae44e1b9ee3e87c7e00You see, we’ve all been in situations in our lives where we allowed our interest in learning to be overshadowed by our fear of revealing how little we knew at the moment.  That’s what prompted the young man in Missoula to ask his question and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge he had misused a term.  Same with the coffee shop business men last week.

So, the next time you aren’t confident about a particular topic, don’t simply resort to “term-dropping.”  Instead, simply ask a question.  A simple question.  And even if you think you’ll look like a fool doing so (which you likely will not), realize that true knowledge is gained through acknowledging where our own experience and intelligence end and new information can be acquired.

HUB Boulder: Veterans and the Outdoors

I’m going to break from the norm here and share a notice for a particularly exciting upcoming program for veterans.

For those unfamiliar with HUB, here is a description of their global purpose:

HUBs are open across 29 cities (and growing) on five continents, each a home for a community of people who embody the intention to create a better world. We have set out to create places that borrow from the best of a member’s club, an innovation agency, a serviced office and a think-tank to create a very different kind of innovation environment. Places with all the tools and trimmings needed to grow and develop new ventures. Places to access experience, knowledge, finance and markets. And above all, places for experience and encounter, full of diverse people doing amazing things. We call these places Hubs. In many ways we’re just getting started. And we’d like you to be part of it.

Greg Berry, Managing Director and Co-Founder of HUB Boulder, has been involved for the past two decades in efforts aimed at enacting positive social change. This program is just one example of that. Click the link below for more about HUB Boulder’s upcoming program.

An Amazing Resource For Change: Veterans And The Outdoors, An Evening With Stacy Bare, Director, Mission Outdoors, Sierra Club