Melissa (soon to be Petty Officer 3rd Class) and a Damn Good One,I am sure
First thanks for taking the time reach out to me. I spent 13 years in Europe working the Germans, Belgians, Dutch, etc. So I have spent some time around your military forces but in reality all military organizations run on the same foundations to a large degree and we are all people with the same issues to a large degree.
A little background about myself. I was 6 years old when my Dad returned from Vietnam. I did not remember him because he was deployed most my life. One of the first things he did was to take me to an Armed Forces Day celebration. It was there that I knew I would become a Soldier. I went on to spend 3 years in a military program in high school. I rose through the ranks of the Army quickly and I like you faced significant challenges as I was dealing with issues I have never dealt with before, leading people much older than myself, and even when I had doubts I had to be in charge.
Now why did I share that with you. Because all of us have doubts. Leadership in a military that allows its members to think is a difficult place at times. But allowing people to think and find solutions are one of the best gifts we have as leaders because collectively as a team we can find a solution. Leaders that lead through fear do not lead they destroy.
My goal was to observe my people, examine their personalities, find out what they were good at and what they struggled with. Then I employed them as to their capabilities. If time allowed I would discuss issues with my team by asking thought provoking questions. They in turn some times without knowing would provide me the information I needed to make educated decisions. When time was not available I made the best decision I could based on the information I had and did not look back. Because in a crisis people need leadership not second guessing a situation. It is better to make a wrong decision and move forward then look over your shoulder and constantly second guess your previous decisions.
You cannot spend your life looking over your shoulder. You will never move forward, you will never be able to think strategically. Look forward, plan forward, look over your shoulder and recall the past for a moment to gain lessons learned. Then make your decisions and move out. Everyone of your fellow service members has the same challenges. Truth be known the loudest among your crew is probably the most insecure in the decision making process. The quiet people tend to be good thinkers and problem solvers while the loud ones tend to leap into to action without thinking. Sometimes a leap is a good thing, but usually a little thought before you leap makes a better plan.
I was required to help select Soldiers for a special unit at one point in my career. They had to undergo numerous test before they could even begin training to see if they could become part of the special unit. The thing I found most unusual was that the loud ones, and the ones that look like they would have no problem usually failed or struggled to get through. The quiet ones tended to do much better. I believe this is because the quiet ones were more flexible in their mind. They understood failure was not destination but an experience to be filed away and learned from. They grew by learning from their failures and not focusing on them. They only looked back to gain lessons learned and then looked forward to achieve the goal. Your as good a leader as anyone else in your unit. What you have to do is accept that fact and understand that no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are…you will never always make the right decision all the time, not everyone will like you and that is true no matter if you are a leader or a follower, military or civilian. We have saying in the Army. Lead, Follow or get the hell out of the way.
Never surround yourself with yes people they are dangerous. You need people you can trust. People that will speak up and say what’s on their mind and defend their positions with a solution set. You are the final authority in your world. When you have the time listen. When you have time for advice listen to it and evaluated it. Then make the call.
Enough of the speech. I would like to share with you things I think I learned as a leader and these are the things I wish my leaders would have told me when I was younger,.
Here is a list of my lessons learned as a leader. I hope you find some useful nuggets of knowledge in them:
1. If you are going to stay in the military know what they can and can’t do to you!
a. This information was provided by a young SSG when I was a newly promoted SGT. In those days we did not have the internet so I took a regulation home and put it in my bathroom. Anytime I was in the bathroom I read the AR, FM, TM, or DA PAM. This gave me a good understanding of how the Army worked. I was able to prevent senior leaders from making mistakes that could have gotten them in trouble and I was usually ahead of an issue. This was perhaps the best advice I ever received as it paid great dividends.
2. Understand Exception to Policy
a. I was a stickler for treating everyone fairly. As a Master Sergeant (HRC Assignment Manger) I had a not too pleasant conversation with a very senior officer regarding what I perceived as favoritism because a Soldier knew someone and wanted to get out of an assignment. When this incident was over a senior LTC I worked with said Master Sergeant let’s talk about exception to policy. Basically this means that in some cases exceptions need to be made based on circumstances specific to the situation or individual. I thought about this and when I returned to the field I used the exception to policy clause as much as I could to help deserving Soldiers. Make sure you document your decision and facts. In some cases you may need someone else’s approval and always get the approval on the next higher leader.
3. You have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason
a. Listen Twice as much as you speak.
4. If you want to know what’s going on Listen to your Soldiers
a. I usually never had to ask my Soldiers what was going on in the unit as I would simply make myself available to listen. It could be in the motor pool, DFAC, etc. All I would do is during the course of the day as I did my work was listen to Soldiers talk. You could find out who was on the outs and why, who was having problems, etc. Once a commander asked me “Sergeant Major how do you know all of this stuff?” I told him to meet me at the DFAC in civilian clothes the next morning for breakfast. As we sat there and ate we listened. When we left the Commander looked at me and said “Wow, I had no clue”. During that breakfast he learned of several issues impacting his command just by quietly eating breakfast. The Soldiers may not talk to you directly but they do talk to each other so listen.
5. Find a way to say “yes” before you say “no”
a. No is an easy answer to a problem….no one has to do any work. Individuals that find a way to say yes are problem solvers. They have initiative. When you solve problems you get recognized and you make the job of your boss easier. You may get abused sometimes by a boss because you become the go to guy…but use this as an opportunity to grow your subordinates by having them help you solve the problem.
6. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.
a. Find a way to do more work in a shorter amount of time. Use templates, Find classes already built, tools that will assist you. This allows you to work quickly and do a quality job. If you have to do something more than once find a way to do it quickly and efficiently. This gives you more time to spend leading your Soldiers or with your family. Also find quiet time before or after your day that you can work without interruption of your time. As a leader your time is your most precious resource as everyone wants it.
7. Know the difference between an Honest Mistake and an Unforgivable Sin
a. Soldier will make mistakes the question you must ask yourself is was the mistake an honest one? Who did it impact? Why did it happen? Who is responsible? Who was hurt by the mistake? Is it a common mistake made by an individual of that age, experience, rank, etc? Sometimes even an honest mistake will get you fired for example: You may accidentally pull the ejection handle on an aircraft. While it was an honest mistake….you are still leaving the aircraft. However most honest mistakes can be dealt with in a mentoring process, corrective training etc. So what is an unforgivable sin? Any action that is illegal, unethical, immoral, or unsafe. These actions get you fired the first time because everyone knows better for example: DUI, Adultery, Lying, Cheating, Stealing, etc.
8. Treat others as you want to be treated
a. Bad Karma hurts. By treating people as you want to be treated you are seen as a fair and just leader. Enough said.
9. Careful of loud, rude, crude, and obnoxious behavior
a. Okay I am a type A triple plus leader. That means I am wide open all the time and I don’t like “No” for an answer and I when I “THINK” I am right I will fight to the death. Notice I said “THINK”. I won many tough battles in my career because I dug in and fought for my Soldiers. Sometimes the win was worse than a loss. If I had my career to do over again I would try to be more diplomatic and look for ways to bring superiors on to my side of the argument without offending them. In life there is more than one way to solve a problem. It is not an individual win….it is a Team win. Develop a team approach to problem solving so everyone feels like part of the solution. It does not have to be your way but a way that achieves the desired outcome. Some of the best leaders I have had the opportunity to work with are Type A leaders but their personality was Type Z. They came across calm and cool even if they were “Ticked Off”. They understood that loud talk, personal attacks, and one way solutions would not solve the problem and even more you would have an enemy in the end. Do your best to be seen as a problem solver that looks at the issue from all sides and is always looking for a fair and just solution in a calm a professional manner.
a. No one can take your integrity your away from you….you have to give it away. Once you give it way….your done. Would you ever trust someone who lied to you again?
11. Never give an order you can’t enforce!- that nugget came from my Dad when I joined the Army.
12. Observe and Learn from Good Leaders and Bad Leaders
a. Watch other leaders and pick out what you like in them and what you don’t like. Ask yourself Why do I like this leader? Why do I dislike this leader? Believe it or not I learned more from bad leaders than I did from good leaders. I also found myself doing some of the same things I saw bad leaders doing. I had originally I said I would “NEVER” do these things. Lesson in this: be careful you may not understand why a leader is doing something but later in life when you do it, you will feel a big smack on your reset button, followed by the growth of an additional knowledge knot (Reset button: located on the back of your skull just above your neck, Knowledge knot: little bumps on the back of your head you get from being hard headed) as you catch yourself doing something that you swore you would never do because the leader you saw previously doing it was a bad leader. Either the leader had a good reason for doing it or it was a poor thing to do. Either way you just joined the club
13. When in charge take Charge…When not in charge let those in charge be in charge.
14. Read- read everything you can get your hands on about leadership, tactics, forward vision. Your military should have an institute of higher learning for officers that publishes educational papers read them. If you don’t understand it read it again. You must become the best you can be by action, experience, and knowledge.
a. Read everything that you can get your hands on about leadership, tools, methodology, and anything that can help you get your job done faster. Okay this is the part where I try to sell you something (Close Q&A Now if you don’t want to see the commercial )
b. Seriously we provide products designed to help leaders do their jobs better, faster, and more efficiently based on your current grade I believe you might find the following products of great assistance to you:
i. Asktop.net Arms room: 1,000’s of free documents. Will be opening in the near future.
vi. Wear It Right Army Uniform Book
vii. Wear It Right Army Uniform Tool
viii. Tools of the Trade Volume 1
ix. Tools of the Trade Volume 2
x. Counsel Quick Volume 1
xi. Counsel Quick Volume 3
xii. Rater Quick NCOER
xiii. Award Quick
xiv. Move Out Leadership Guide
xv. Women On Your Team
xvi. Appraisals Ratings and Review
xvii. The Hover Trap
Now in all seriousness these are good resources that I in most cases have personally developed or assisted the author in developing. Don’t buy them because I recommended them to you. Take your time and see if you believe any of them will truly help you do your job better if so, give us a shot and try one or two but this list of 17 products would be the list I would recommend to new leaders. The knowledge contained in these products will most likely set you apart from your peers and some senior leaders. If you do decide to make a purchase I only ask two things:
1. use this coupon code Q421Q1Y to get 10% off a GiPubs.com Purchase Enter it at checkout
2. provide me some personal feedback on the product your purchase. I always enjoy hearing from Soldiers. I can’t fix something if I don’t know it is broke…your feedback helps us create new products and make existing products better.
Melissa, also understand that typically women have a more difficult time overcoming leadership issues because some males do not feel they can lead. Let me assure you some of the best leaders I ever worked with were women and Damn good leaders. Leadership comes from inside regardless of sex, age, experience, or maturity.
Remember, everyone around you does not want to screw up when there in charge. They feel the same way you do. Everyone not in charge can second guess you all day long. but when your in charge…you are in charge, take charge, be responsible for your actions and inactions. Learn from you mistakes…
I have faith in you because you are seeking ways to grow as a leader. It is leaders that fail to think and fail to grow that cause the most damage. Congratulations on your future promotion, you will do just fine in helping to shape, grow, and mentor the service members under your charge.
Send me an email when you become a Sergeant Major or an officer!
Thanks for giving me a chance to share this information,I sincerely hope you find something in this you can use.
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