Happy New Year…? I know we’re almost a full two months into 2020, but since I didn’t write a blog last month, I figured I’d get a pass for waiting this long to pass on my salutations!
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I can be initially tough to approach and socially reserved until I get to really know someone. During my first big leadership job in the Navy, I quickly realized that to be a more effective leader, I had to work on what I wasn’t very good at, and that was to get out of my “quiet” zone. I had to put myself more out in front of people, make myself more “available” to the sailors who worked for me, and most importantly, open myself up to their feedback (both positive and negative).
Turn off your computer, leave your cell phone in your office, get up from your desk and make time to walk around and meet the people that work for you.
Opening up was extremely awkward and difficult for me, but over time I was able to become more comfortable and confident in both my professional and social interactions with the sailors (and families) of my command.
Coach’s tip(s) for this month:
Here are three courageous things I did to open up:
- To get more comfortable in front of large groups of people, I would take time every morning to “hold quarters,” ensuring all hands were present and ready for duty, and pass information on current events and other relevant unit information. Holding quarters forced me out of my social shell, put the spotlight squarely on me, and significantly improved my public speaking.
- Every week, I made time to “walk the deckplates.” During these walkabouts, I made it a point to meet all my sailors, shake their hands, and learn their names, their backgrounds, their families, and most importantly, the issues that were affecting them (and ultimately the unit). My sailors learned over time that my weekly wanderings were an opportunity for them to talk directly to leadership. I was always amazed at what I learned, and how positively my sailors responded to me because I was taking time out of my busy schedule to talk and learn about them!
- I was (and still am) horrible with names (especially first names). I wanted to change that name retention weakness, so during one of our seasonal uniform inspections, I made it a point to walk through the ranks of all my assigned sailors, shake their hands, look them in the eye and call them by their first name. Of the approximately 200 assigned personnel, I remembered the first names of all my sailors except for one. The irony of the story was that several months later that one sailor whose first name I couldn’t remember was selected as the command’s Sailor of the Year as my very best performer! How foolish do you think I felt??
Bottom line…. GET OUT THERE! Don’t be afraid as a leader to open up to the people that work for you!
Turn off your computer, leave your cell phone in your office, get up from your desk and make time to walk around and meet the people that work for you. They have the answers to any/all questions in whatever profession you’re in, but YOU as their leader must have the personal “courage” to put yourself out there and shake their hand, look them in the eye and talk to them. I can’t say it enough…. it’s truly unbelievable what you can learn, while also highlighting how much you don’t know!
That’s it for February! With my new commitments as a doctoral student, I’ll only be doing blogs every other month this year, so I’ll talk with you all again in April!