Monday, January 10, 2011

Respect and Gratitude

Undoubtedly, the best part of my job is interacting, sharing ideas and learning with fellow members of the NIOC Pensacola Team. One of many mechanisms to ensure we get the opportunity to exchange ideas, perceptions and experiences is by requiring everyone who joins or leaves our team to individually converse with each member of the Command Triad (CO/XO/SEL). A few weeks back I had a particularly enjoyable conversation with a young man who was both appreciative of his time at NIOC Pensacola and excited about the opportunity that heading to his first ship presented. We spoke of many things, yet there were two on which we focused more than the others...respect and gratitude. Neither of these topics are new, but their mere mention gave me reason to be more attentive to their occurrence in everyday life.

Respect

Keep in mind that as a Seaman this Sailor was one of the most junior on our team. When he spoke of respect his point was that respect from junior to senior was demonstrated without exception, however the "Golden Rule" was not always reciprocated. His comments made me hyperaware, as I firmly believe it is more accurate to acknowledge seniors work for juniors (i.e. giving them the tools they need to do their job in the form of guidance, training, mentorship, hardware/software, etc) than it is to blindly believe juniors are in place to serve their seniors. Since our conversation, and to his point, I continue to witness some of the same. Recently, I have had a senior pointedly remind me that I was his junior and my job was to do as directed, I have witnessed supervisors (elsewhere of course) be less than responsive to the needs/requests/recommendations of their juniors and I continually see parents yell, physically discipline and demand certain behavior from their kids. Being a senior, a leader or a parent requires that we set the tone for the relationship, and that tone is set by way of respectful and patient communication. I am continually surprised by people who feel they need to dictate WHAT and HOW specific action is to be taken. Few make the time to discuss the WHY that underpins a potential need to alter behavior or take certain action.

- As children, we continually ask WHY and in some cases such curiosity is fed while in others we are taught to outgrow it

- At work, we should not blindly execute without making a deliberate effort to understand WHY and help those around us to do the same

- As parents, we either make the time to re-enforce a passion for lifelong learning or we instill a "Shut up and color, you're not old enough to think for yourself" mentality

I must admit that I get a bit disappointed when my son doesn't care enough to ask me WHY (rarely happens, thank goodness), my Shipmates aren't given the opportunity to understand WHY and my seniors don't feel compelled to explain WHY. There is no greater demonstration of respect than to make the time to help someone else understand WHY, and no greater demonstration of passion than to demand that our seniors help us to understand WHY. As the young man reminded me during his check-out, I hope we demonstrate respect to ourselves, our Shipmates, our children and our profession by both questioning and explaining WHY.

Gratitude

The reminder of the importance of gratitude didn't hit me until a week later. We talked of mentors and the importance of mentorship and I asked him if he felt as if he had any true mentors in his life. He lit up and without hesitation identified a specific PO1 with whom I am fortunate enough to continue to serve (and who we will re-enlist in a couple of weeks). He smiled as he shared stories of this leader "showing him the ropes", demonstrating "tough love" and creating ways to make him better. After a memorable conversation, I asked him if he ever told this PO1 of the impact he had on him. He thought about it and admitted that he had not. A week later I ran into this young man's mentor and shared how highly the Seaman thought of him. The resulting grin was as big as I have ever seen (and this guy smiles a lot). He shook his head in wonderment as he had no idea of the impact he had on the Seaman.

Have you expressed gratitude to your valued mentors of late? I have previously written about the importance of understanding what it means to be a protégé and how important it is to create blockers over the course of a career. As part of my year-end ritual, I reached out to my most prized mentors to not only learn from them, but to express my gratitude. I did so not because I thought it mattered to them, but because it mattered to me.

Life lessons are continually learned and validated by those with whom we serve and live. The challenge is paying attention and taking note.

Thanks, Seaman! As you well know, and for the benefit of others, at NIOC Pensacola we acknowledge the fact that "We will each leave our legacy with the command and our Shipmates; The command and our Shipmates will leave a legacy with us." You have given me reason to pay a bit more attention to respect and gratitude in both my personal and professional life. I share your wisdom in hopes that others will do the same.

4 comments:

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

    I'm in a constant battle trying to balance convincing my children to love learning and not just hold their feet to the fire to do their homework. It seems every time I try to explain why doing their homework is important though, they make excuses how they'll never need that skill in "real life." It's hard not to say, "Just do it because I told you so."

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  2. I agree 100%. I have learned never to utter the words "because I told you so" or any slight variation thereof. If I can't explain WHY, I likely don't know WHY or have doubts about the action itself. I guess I have come to agree with with the kids' perspective. When I was in school, I didn't care enough to question, I just did...man, have I changed!!

    Here is a quote from my current favorite author's (Seth Godin) book (Linchpin)...

    "The sign in front of your local public school could say:

    We train the factory workers of tomorrow, our graduates are very good at following instructions, and we teach the power of consumption as an aid for social approval."

    Challenge is breaking them of that mindset as adults. People I enjoy most in life are those who question everything and live transparently. Hoping my son returns to homeshooling before too much damage is done.

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  3. When I was in the Navy -- way back in the early '90s as a CTI2 -- I made a point of explaining to my folks why I was instructing them to perform a task. Sure, I could have just said, "Do it!" and left it at that, but I had discovered previously that such a tactic meant I oftentimes felt I had to micromanage the task. (That got tiresome.) When a sailor understood the reason for doing the task, he was better able to take ownership of what he was doing, which meant I didn't have to sit over his shoulder. I carried that method into my civilian career. As an attorney it is oftentimes very tempting to just spill a load of red ink on a pleading and hand it back to the paralegals for correction. But when I take the time to explain to them WHY I am making a correction -- especially on a technical point -- I very rarely see the same error made again. Granted, practicing law is not at all akin to warfighting, and I realize that though I work on deadlines, time is rarely of the essence and people will not die if immediate action is not taken. But it strikes me that military leaders of any grade who make it a habit to explain WHY something is being done will find the going a little easier in those situations that require fast, immediate action lest lives be jeopardized.

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