Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What I told my CO. Ensigns don't try this at your command. My boss and I were the same paygrade.

This is a summary of my 360 degree feedback to a former commanding officer. Skipper, there's no doubt you're going to be a leader in the community; these things may help you.
  • You are a great speaker. Be careful not to lose the feeling behind the words. Words have meaning; actions have con­sequences. Ensure your actions match your words. Some Sailors actually listen to every word. They can sense any hint of insincerity. 
  • Your command philosophy should be written down and distributed widely in the command. This is a huge reason for the CNO's success in the Navy. We all know where he's going and we talk about it. The command wants to follow you. Tell us where you want to go. 
  • Respect our time. Typically, ten or more people are always awaiting your late arrival at some function (staff meeting, wardroom meetings, dinners, graduations, etc). If people believe that you are willing to consistently waste their time, they will stop feeling guilty about wasting yours. 
  • Be consistent with your administration of military justice. It's easy to punish junior members in the command for trivial violations. Applying the same standards across the board does not always work. In fact, the more senior the individual is, the more accountable they should be held for their action or inaction. Everyone is watching and judging. 
  • When senior officers visit the command, maximize their exposure to the junior Sailors of the command. They will benefit the most. 
  • Take your junior officers, Chiefs, and Sailors to lunch or simply go have lunch with them in their mess. Everyone will learn a lot, especially you. 
  • Invite your key command leaders to your home for a social event so they can see how it's done. Juniors need to see how their seniors do this. It's part of the learning process. 
  • Share information with your department heads. It is astounding how much information a commanding officer is exposed to and that is not shared with the department heads. Distributed information is enormously powerful. Your department heads can keep a secret if there is a requirement for secrecy. Trust them. 
  • Don't play favorites with members of the wardroom. It hurts the wardroom and it hurts you. 
  • Focus your calendar on the command 's mission. Ceremonial events and public relations are important, but your time should be spent on those areas the commanding officer can directly influence for the greatest benefit to the command's mission. 
From my January 2007 PROCEEDINGS magazine article "360-Degree Feedback: Can We Handle the Truth?"  You can subscribe to PROCEEDINGS (the professional journal of the U.S. Navy) HERE.

You can read the latest article about this in Navy Times HERE.

Stay tuned to this blog for the 360-degree feedback I received from everyone following my command tour. It's a very interesting and eye opening experience.


HMS Defiant said...

I think you consistently leave the most important trait of all out of your view on leadership.
If you aren't having fun, you're not doing it right. If you, as the CO, have to spend more than 5 hours a day at work, you need to work on training your subordinates. If the work doesn't get done when you're not around as the CO, you failed. If you have to edit a message or report before you sign it, you failed or you just started at a new command and haven't taught the drafters your writing style which ought to be the standard navy correspondence type writing style.
I felt nothing but pity for the poor guys that had geo bach COs or insecure ones that never left.

Sean Cooney said...

If five hours is the benchmark of good leadership, then I totally agree that I need to spend more time training my team...or they need to train me better :)!
I know as XO I'd routinely spend time in excess of five hrs a day doing such training....training that others would rarely pledge such time to. Though this is not a dig at the comment (more a reality in my experience), I have never had a CO who spent less than 5 hours at work.
-I totally agree that fun is another benchmark. However, if fun, then, is the goal, then one could argue that any CO at work for only five hours is missing out on the other hours (say 3 ++++) of fun on a daily basis!
-I certainly believe in the work getting done when I'm not around. The last thing my crew wants me to do is stand over them and micromanage. They do an excellent job without me! Totally agree with the point about the CO who may be around too much...life and work could be Hell! :) - Cooney

HMS Defiant said...

I must have done it wrong. I worked my ass off as a division officer on a ship homeported in Bahrain 30 years ago. I worked even harder as a CHENG on two ships. I didn't have to work all that hard as XO but I was a fortunate one. I had outstanding department heads and the most amazing office staff. I could have done it wrong and not counted the hours I spent at home going over Evals and Fitreps since that seemed easier at home. Happy bachelor that I was back then.
The two COs of the ship in Bahrain were #1 and #2 best. The work they did was out of sight for me except at Captain's Mast where I was always there too. We all lived and worked on the ship and liberty call went down in port IAW the POD. One worked until one was done or reached a point where it could be resumed the next day. #3 best CO was on his 3rd command and it showed. 5 hours inport for him was pretty much the rule. The nervous soul who took his place worked 20 hours a day doing things that made no sense to anybody.
As CO I didn't have all that much work to do myself. Most of it was done by the time it got to me. I laid out what I wanted done and the crew did it.
Do I know COs who performed their own Tag Out Log audit every other week? Yes. Know CO's that routinely sent things back and forth to admin or radio a dozen times after carefully proofreading the same thing 11 times? Yes.
The thing about the 3 best COs out of the 25 or so I had was that they were the most blazingly competent naval officers I ever worked with and they were Decisive.
This was from a pre-computer navy that was not only a bunch of disadvantaged users but had no connectivity at all beyond HF. We didn't get admin taskers or stupid irrelevant demands from home when at sea or deployed.
One of my colaterals was Legal Officer and mess treasurer, Mail/Post officer, voting officer. It was fun! Got to watch the skipper work himself into a lather and then shout at the MA to bring the little rat in!