You Forgot Your Socks… Again?! Leadership Priorities in a Time of Change

Leadership Priorities in a Time of ChangeToday’s post was written by How Gov Lead’s new contributing author, Amber Hansen.  Amber has worked in Government contracting for over nine years. She is currently a Project Manager working with Federal Government clients at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Watch this blog for more thought leadership from Amber.

Have you ever met someone who is really great at one part of their job and terrible at another?  I happen to be married to a man who for many years was a Navy Corpsman who loved his job but struggled with some of what comes with being in the military.  I once heard a leader of his say he was “an amazing Corpsman and a terrible sailor.”  To put it in very simple terms, that means he was really good at caring for his patients and training junior members of his team and not so great at keeping his uniform in order and being on time.  This leader understood clearly that my husband had significant strengths but like all of us, he had weaknesses, too.

What happens when forgetting to bring the right kind of socks for a uniform becomes a reason to be reprimanded at work?  That may depend on one’s leader.  Some of us are truly adept at handling the details of life; we might keep backup socks in the car just in case.  Others just do not think this way.  My husband is very bright, he learns things quickly, takes what he believes is useful and leaves behind what he sees as a bit of a waste of his time.  I suspect the things that may have made him a good sailor, like bringing the right pair of socks, were the same things that appeared to him to be a waste of time.  In my husband’s world, ensuring he had the right medical supplies packed for a mission ranked just a little higher than the socks.  If my life depended on him and I had to choose between socks and medical supplies I would be glad to have left the socks behind.

Some of the military leaders I have met would focus on those missing socks because they see that as the foundation to doing the rest of any job well.  They could not see past the socks to find a truly valuable and talented team member.  They allowed the socks to become the focus of their interaction with a Corpsman who by the end of his career was influencing the careers of junior Corpsman, helping them build their skills, improve their productivity, and learn to teach others.

Our military is dealing with stressors many civilians cannot fully comprehend.  From multiple deployments and Post Traumatic Stress to shrinking budgets and less time and resources to train; our military members work hard and they deserve leaders who are prepared to support and serve them. Our military and government leaders need to be innovative in this new world of looming sequester budgets and ongoing wars. And they must ensure their teams are able to fully realize their potential in order to bring the most value to the organization and to themselves. Empowerment is key!

When a team member can’t seem to remember to bring the right socks the leader must set him up to succeed anyway.  Helping that direct report remember to “bring the appropriate socks” may seem like a waste of time, but if it is a waste of time for the leader, perhaps that is the heart of the reason it’s a waste of time for the individual.  If a leader can show that helping that sailor succeed with his socks, the payoff is that the sailor will trust the leader to help him succeed in much more significant ways.

, , , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by David Carroll on September 25, 2013 - 11:51 am

    1. Managers have only a limited amount of time for interaction with an individual member of the organization. If the leader is using some of the scarce time to deal with the issues of uniformity then that time no longer available for the issues of mission accomplishment. 2. How many soldiers did I deal with in combat that were no longer capable of doing the mission because they did not take care of their feet, particularly clean socks?

  2. #2 by Alicia on September 25, 2013 - 12:02 pm

    As a marine wife I completely understand, they have a standard about their rolled sleeves, and n the drill field it even came down to the brand of green shirt. I think your point about the leader recognizing the strengths of the individuals on his or her team is key. After all it is the leaders job to support and develop his or her team, and that equates to a need flexibility in their own leadership style.

  3. #3 by ENNA A. BACHELOR on September 27, 2013 - 6:44 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 968 other followers

%d bloggers like this: