Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Closing Another Chapter

It's time to move yet again and like every other time, we leave thankful for the experience and equally excited about the next adventure. Personally, my family and I learned the Memphis area has much to offer in the way of recreation and even culture (took us a while to figure that out). More importantly, we met many wonderful people and established some great friendships. On the professional side, I learned a great deal about manpower, human resources and continued to refine the art of being a staff officer (though there remains plenty of room for improvement). That said, when I look back on my tour as the Information Dominance Corps and Information Warfare Officer Community Manager and ask myself the same questions I do after each tour (as well as of juniors with whom I serve as they depart), I feel good about answering "YES" to both of them:

1) Are you leaving here a better person (personally and professionally)?
2) Are you leaving a positive legacy with the command (i.e. is it better because of you)?

Parting thoughts:

For my friends in BUPERS-3...What we have done thus far is akin to a start-up company. When we commenced down this path, we had nothing more than a building, no tools to do our job, few established processes (and even those were inherited), a hodgepodge of billets and no real organizational structure. Under the leadership of a few Captains (SWO, CEC and a retired Deck LDO) who were detailed to Millington to do other jobs, as well as deliberate efforts from some wonderful military and civilian professionals from diverse communities (past and present) who contributed well beyond their original job description, we have grown into a team that is effectively executing our charter (despite being under resourced like so many others). Admittedly, we are far from the "World Class Community Management Organization" to which we aspire and the Navy deserves, but we will get there (Mr. Fair will see to it!). Serving with a team represented by almost every community in the Navy is a unique opportunity and one from which I have gained much wisdom. Thanks for all of the tutorials over the past two plus years...I had no idea!!

For my IDC Brethren...The formation of the IDC has given us an incredible opportunity to feel good about questioning just about everything we do. It is our responsibility to validate the current vector that made so much sense in our "Cylinder of Excellence" or deliberately shift course given the "Cloud of Dominance" perspective. In the business world, it is said that great people create the market, but as that good market changes, mediocre people fail. Whether it found us or we found it, the marketplace for the IDC is strong and we are far from mediocre. Because it is continually evolving, it's incumbent upon each of us to demonstrate the fact that we are prepared to both shape the marketplace and dynamically respond to it. We know all too well that we have plenty of room for improvement at the individual, command, community and corps levels. It's our personal responsibility to make the time to continually improve ourselves and those with whom we serve. It remains a pleasure serving with you.

For the IDC Family within the BUPERS-3 Family...We were "enabling enterprise behavior" long before it became the norm (and maybe even helped it to become the accepted practice). By putting our small egos aside, creating the "NNFE (now NIDE) OCM Alliance" and embracing our roles not as community lobbyists, but strategic readiness advocates for the enterprise (Big Team, Little Me) we accomplished much on behalf of those whom we represent, but more important did right by the Navy. Thanks for all you continue to do and for making me better in the process...peer feedback continues to be an essential piece of professional development. I am also most grateful for the Master Chief Mentorship Sessions with the IDC Enlisted Community Management Team.

I have often said that second to command, the greatest privilege in our Navy is representing your community in Millington. The fact that I am leaving one privileged position for the other (NIOC Pensacola) is extremely gratifying and a situation for which I am grateful. Thanks to all of you who contributed to this journey and especially my "Personal Board of Directors." None of this was planned, but the path continues to be far better than any of the many plans I have developed over time, as I attempted to manage my career.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Letter to Me

It's spring and with it comes nice weather, baseball and much happiness for those of us not fond of winter. Those of us in the Navy also recognize it as the season of promotion board results. Last week, many good friends received news, both positive and other, about their promotion to Captain status. I was not up for promotion this year but shared conversations of gratitude and condolence inspired me to write a letter to "Sean of 2012" (when I expect to be hearing the news about my upward mobility)...

"Sean of 2012" - I hope you are receiving the news regarding your promotion status with humility, acceptance and gratitude. No matter the result, take a few minutes to reflect upon the journey that has led you to this point, as the journey is for what you should remain grateful. You have always prided yourself on finding the jobs that forced you to grow in meaningful ways, about which you had great passion and that added value to the lives of those around you.

A promotion does not validate your efforts. Validation comes from the person you have become and the people whom you have helped along the way. You are no better or worse than any of your peers who were also considered; because, as you well know, the result is more about who was on the promotion board, what senior officers chose to creatively write about you on your fitness reports and how people perceived you over the years. Whatever the result, be happy about it. I say this with some ambivalence as I can visualize a scenario where not being promoted might make you happy. If you are pleased, congratulations. If not, get over it! Every year many great people are not promoted and, often times, a few knuckleheads sneak through. You have never aspired to rank, but to adding value, as it is all that truly matters. Regardless of the collar device you are authorized to wear, continue to contribute at a level well beyond that. As you have often stated, collar device and competence never have been directly related. Now get on the phone and call each and every member of your peer group, starting with those who were not listed on the promotion message.

Making Time,
"Sean of 2010"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Life: A Succession of Plan Bs

I recently listened to yet another PODcast (Getting to Plan B) from one of my favorite PODcast sources (Stanford's Entrepreneurial Though Leaders). In what is an obvious oversimplification of the message, the most successful business plans are executed as Plan B. Likewise, so are the most successful of personal life plans. Being one who enjoys and appreciates the importance of self-reflection, I started thinking about my personal journey. It didn't take long for me to see that my life continues to be a succession of Plan Bs, Cs and Ds with very few As.

The point is that we should all commit to clearly articulated goals and identify a Plan A to get there. As we pursue Plan A, other opportunities will reveal themselves that may very well be, and in all likelihood are, better than our self-defined Plan A. My personal life, as well as my professional life is not unveiling as I had planned, it is far better. Call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it great mentorship...I choose to believe nothing happens by accident.

I did not attend the college I originally intended...Plan B was far better
I did not marry the first girl I thought I would...Plan B was far better
I did not pursue the first career to which I set out...Plan B was far better
I did not get my first choice in duty stations but once...Plan Bs were always better
...The list goes on...

Thankfully, I am where I am by executing Plan B, as I pursued Plan A. As they say, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." A corollary might be, "If you know where you want to go, there are many roads that will take you there, so don't be overly concerned by detours; consult the map and identify a new route, you just might find a better destination in the process." I have a good idea of where I am going, but my head is on a swivel ready to pursue other opportunities as they enter my field of view.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"The Whole Person"...Spirit Vs Execution

Over the past few weeks, I have had varied involvement in two selection boards considering potential Naval Officers for selection into our active and reserve components of our Total Force Wardroom. In the process, our prime directive has become "The Whole-Person Concept." That model is intended to overtly encourage all of us to acknowledge applicants who may not have achieved high standardized test scores, attended prominent universities or enjoyed a stellar grade point average because they were busy overcoming other obstacles in their lives. Unfortunately, not all hold to the spirit of the concept, but instead to the underlying agenda.

As a devoted father, I am a bit concerned with our current trajectory and feel as though my personal situation, largely based on deliberate choice, is stacking the cards against my son. Because my wife and I chose to wait until we were married to start a family, we choose to take our commitment to family seriously, and we work hard to deliberately nurture our son, we may very well have provided him the greatest obstacle of all, an opportunity to develop at his own pace relatively free of unnecessary distraction. With good reason, "The Whole-Person Concept" has always been there, but by making it the prime consideration, children like my son will likely be placed in the category of "overprivileged" and his accomplishments through young adulthood will be measured by a different standard. Rather than acknowledge those who have accomplished much by a singular standard and then acknowledge the subjective level of adversity they might have had to overcome in the process to meet/exceed that standard, we choose to knock perceived "overprivileged" people down a notch just because we believe they have not had to work as hard as others to enjoy their high level of accomplishment.

Though recent examples at work bring this to the forefront of my mind, unnecessary qualifiers surround us and undermine accomplishments...

- Billy is a good football player, but it's only because he is 6'6" and his Dad played in the NFL
- Sally is really good in biology, but that's because her Mom is a Doctor
- Mr. Johnson runs a very successful business, but he inherited the company from his Dad and didn't build it himself

Which two would you choose to join your workcenter (please excuse the omission of other important variables)?
- "Jimmy" has a 2.2 GPA from "On-line University," but he's a single dad and has overcome much adversity
- "Suzy" came from a broken home, cared for her younger siblings, held down a job yet achieved academic greatness and is a wonderful communicator
- "Johnny" graduated from an Ivy League University with honors and grew up "privileged" from both a parental and monetary perspective

Suzy is an easy choice, but "Jimmys" seem to be rising above "Johnnys" as the "The Whole-Person Concept" replaces the "Best and Fully Qualified" standard used for years. I submit the two models are not mutually exclusive, but instead "The Whole-Person Concept" is an input to deciding who is "Best and Fully Qualified." When used properly, "Suzys" will always rise to the top and "Jimmys" will be valued over "Johnnys" when appropriate (but we are beginning to make it the default response). In essence, the spirit of the concept is being undermined in its execution.

I ask that we all continue to stack the cards against our children in the minds of those who have hijacked "The Whole-Person Concept." We must give our children the advantage of what was once considered our parental responsibility, but is now considered by some creating an "overprivileged" environment. Likewise, We need to continue to do our part to help others achieve their full potential, regardless of the perceived advantages they enjoyed in adolescence, as we celebrate high standards without unnecessary qualifiers.

Note: I write this the day after the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship, where Butler and Duke competed for the title. These two programs exemplify the spirit of "The Whole-Person Concept," whereby the barrier to entry into the respective university is personal character and demonstrated commitment to academics, while basketball prowess is what allows them to represent their school on the court. Unfortunately, this is not the norm in college athletics and our public sector is arguably following suit.