Have you ever wondered what your people thought about your leadership style? Were you truly having the impact on the most junior personnel that you believed you were having? Were they simply going through the motions of their labors without fully embodying your vision or living up to your own core competencies? Are they performing just “because the boss said we had to do it”? Surely the job was “getting done” but was it meeting your expectations of safety and efficiency?
In 1983 I remember reporting aboard one of our nation’s juggernauts, and at the time, one of the most formidable war fighting machines ever to sail the seas. I was in fact, the most junior of approximately 5000 warriors on the ship and we were stationed off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon in response to the Marine barracks bombing.
My job at the time was to spend 12-16 hours every day, seven days a week, performing maintenance on the ships plumbing systems – commodes, urinals, sewage tanks, pumps, showers and sinks. I performed my job daily without complaint and with an earnest desire to be the best plumber I could be – it was after all, how my career soldier father mentored me. I also performed my job with little to no interaction from my leadership. Never a high five, never a thanks, and in fact it was a rare occasion when you actually even saw the mid to upper level managers.
Fast forward almost 30 years to yet another juggernaut. I served beneath a phenomenal leader who took the time out of his schedule almost every day to interact with his people. He spent a tremendous amount of time getting to know them, learning about their families and fully understanding what their challenges, stressors, and even what their achievements were. He remembered their names, where they were from, spent a great deal of time and energy ensuring that they understood the “why” behind major decisions and what the ultimate goal of the mission was.
I sometimes wonder how much more I might have achieved, how much more efficient I might have been, and how much greater an impact might I have had on my people had I been mentored and led like this leader at the start of my career.
Exercise servant leadership – Never hesitate to have a genuine conversation with your people, and always take an opportunity to thank the young person, burning the midnight oil and sometimes doing the less than desirable, but hugely important work within your organization.