Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Recognizing your people

Good leaders spend considerable time complimenting and thanking the people who work for them. It is quite an art to do this in a way that conveys sincerity, compliments people who should be complimented, and subtly leaves out people who do not deserve to be thanked or commended.
This is contrary to some of the common platitudes we often hear:
  • "You are all doing a great job."
  • "I'm extremely proud of all of you."
  • "Every one of you is a hero."
  • "Every Sailor is a leader."
Leaders should be sensitive to the great advantage of im­mediate recognition. They should have compliments, awards, bonuses, and medals at the ready, so when someone does something extraordinary (or something ordinary in an extraor­dinary way or with extraordinary results) immediate recogni­tion can result.

Compliments can be a very powerful tool in motivating people to perform at higher levels of excellence and cooperation. This is especially true of the compliments that are well timed and well phrased. Conversely, the absence of compli­ments can be devastating to an organization. Too many leaders take the attitude that their people are "only doing their job" or "but that's what they get paid for." The hidden price that these leaders pay is low morale and a reduced level of performance.

Major General Perry Smith


Jason Knudson said...

I had an experience recently that shows the misunderstanding of this. During a recent watch evaluation the grader and I got into a an argument (in the proper place at the proper time.) During the watch, I had complemented a watchstander on doing a good job on the watch. It was something I had identified as a weak point earlier. The grader told me that there was no place for that on watch, that it was not professional and did not show good leadership. It is unfortunate that people in command believe it is unprofessional to complement a sailor. It is always acceptable to recognize good work. In fact, it is essential since people will naturally repeat an effort if it is recognized and rewarded. We try too hard in the Navy to rule by position and fear. That is not leading, that is herding.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Actually what you are doing is leading (influencing) whereas the other way is managing (using authority to direct).

Rotorhead said...

Jason-regarding the eval, it sounds like classic shoe mentality. Be the change, Jason. Don't perpetuate the tyranny.

Jason Knudson said...

Thanks for your comments. Rotorhead, I think we agree on what my role is in this case. My goal is to be the rock against which the tyranny can either crash or go around. I can not change the Navy (in the short term), but I can have a positive effect on those I come in contact with.

Since I have had a couple of questions about the resolution of this, I had a conversation with the evaluator and her superior and we resolved that positive reinforcement is an approved training method. I am sure glad we were able to reference the training manuals to confirm this (sarcasm intended).

OIF/OEF Vet said...

When I was in the Navy, there was way too much politicking going on. My 3rd command was hell because I didn't dirty my nose for anyone nor pucker up. They actually sent me to Iraq to fail. Funny thing, I received my first JCOM on that same tour.

My last command had a E-9 who hated the lower ranks, and worked furiously to ruin many a sailor's career. On my 2nd to last PRT, I developed a hernia during the run, but he insisted it be counted as a failure. He refused to acknowledge the Doctor's report. I even went to JAG over this issue, but the person I spoke to there didn't want to touch it because I couldn't guarantee I was going to re-enlist. No one in the command wanted to do anything about him, so we all had to suffer for it. My last PRT, I aced the run, almost beating this PRC E-9. My Senior Chief came over, and as loud as he could, said "Wow! It's amazing what you can do when you don't suffer a hernia!" This E-9 had the gall to try to convince me to stay in, so I let him believe I was going to, right until I started my terminal leave.

General Quarters said...

Jason, you are correct to abide strictly by the voice of reason, common sense, and human decency that tells you to publicly praise good performance by your subordinates. Never stop listening to that good "voice in your head."

I commend you and RotorHead for correct use of the word "tyranny." Some may consider it hyperbole in this situation, but the banal evil of PC is perpetuated by refusing to call a spade a spade, disallowing use of certain impolitic terms and inconvenient data, and insisting that official policy avoid the obvious elephant in the room in favor of some official version falsehood.

Although, I've been retired for years, I can tell you that command is a snap if you use your innate common sense. I had exactly one standing order:
"At all times, use your best judgement."
You did exactly that. Well done, sir.

stephen said...

One problem I had was that you could do plenty of things to bad sailors.

Unfortunately there was little you could do for the really good ones.

Did manage to get a sailor from ET3 to ET2 on a meritorious once.

I think an overlooked tool is meritorious mast.