Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some good advice for Commanding Officers counseling their Junior Officers

"I continue to be amazed by the number of junior officers who do not receive counseling on their career and performance. That is one of your most important responsibilities. Explain the fitness report and its im­portance in an officer's assignment and promotion. Give them some insight into various assignments, the importance of a "service reputation" and taking advantage of opportunities. Make sure no officer is surprised by their fitness report. They should know where they stand, all the time. And, I expect total honesty in how we evaluate our people - we simply must be more effective in this area."

Jim McFarland
Rear Admiral 
Commander, Naval Security Group Command


The  nice thing about this is that the problem was solved in 1987 and we no longer have to worry about these issues.  I have been told that all officer counseling: (1) is done on time, (2) provides insight into various assignments, (3) explains "service reputation, (4) is totally honest and (5) includes no surprises.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ages old problem

Remember that officers are people, just as the men and civilians are people.  Among their numbers will be reflected to some degree, the weaknesses, as well as strengths, of the general public.  But officers are most carefully selected before they are appointed.  As a group, they should be FAR better than a cross-section of American citizens.  We are well advised to remember that fact.

Some of the faults of these officers received prominence.  We should candidly admit these faults.  Unfortunately a few officers abused their positions, regarding their commissions as a means to personal gain and not as a means of greater service.  Some were greatly inefficient.  During the Navy's expansion, the selection process could not be airtight.  Unduly rapid promotions placed some officers in positions of responsibility beyond their capabilities.  Some were lazy and indifferent.  The sum of such individuals would be a very small percentage of the many thousands of officers in the Navy.  But the effects are serious and fine officers have suffered in the eyes of the general public.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Remembering my friend, mentor and lunch partner
Back in 1981, the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Lando W. Zech Jr. made a very wise detailing decision.  He sent CWO3 Wallace Louis Exum to teach celestial navigation at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.  I was one of hundreds of his students.  Both men influenced my Navy career greatly.  VADM Zech signed off on my first set of orders in June of 1982, sending me to Atsugi, Japan to fly with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE.  Thirty years later, both men were still in touch with me and we developed into great friends.

Sadly, Vice Admiral Zech passed away two years ago this month and is no longer with us, except in spirit.  The last time I saw him, he was in good spirits.  He was ill and weakened from his lengthy hospital stay - but his spirits were high. We talked a little bit about the USNA honoring him and a few of the other guys recently for being Captains of their varsity baseball teams over the years.  He was very proud of his years at the United States Naval Academy.

Besides being an athlete, he was very much an old school submariner and later a surface warfare officer. My goodness, how he loved the Navy and his family.  After his retirement from the Navy, he was Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  He leaves behind a wonderful widow - Jo, 5 beautiful daughters and many grand children.  And a very sad Shipmate who still grieves deeply and tries to keep his memory alive in all ways that he can.  Farewell Admiral Zech.  Those who knew you - loved and respected you greatly.  Those who didn't - missed out on a great experience.  I said my good-byes at Arlington National Cemetery but they were in no way - final good-byes.  You will remain fresh in my memory.

Monday, January 28, 2013

For my mentors and "mentees"

"The greatest trust between 
man and man 
the trust of giving and receiving counsel."

Sir Francis Bacon

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Second Commanding Officer Fired in 2013

Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge, Commander, Submarine Group TWO, fired Commander Luis Molina, commanding officer of USS PASADENA (SSN 752) on January 25, 2013 due to "loss of confidence in executing his duties as the submarine's commanding officer."

The admiral said, "I have lost confidence in Commander Molina's ability to effectively lead USS Pasadena through its maintenance overhaul."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More advice from JOs from a 'seasoned' Navy Captain with more than a few years at sea

The worst two chains of command (or leadership interactions if you will) I have had were AFTER my command tour. In both cases there was enough blame to go around - on my end on theirs - but I ended up in the "senior has the personality" realm because I was junior.

The basic takeaways as I look back are these:

1. Don't assume your senior sees everything you are doing.
2. Don't assume your junior knows your rule set or boundaries.
3. Early, early, early and non-confrontational discussions can solve most problems before they are a real problem.
4. If a senior lets something slide once, the junior should not expect all is forgiven and forgotten.

Anyway, DHs need to give guidance early, and positively if they way to have an impact. NEVER assume that a DivO knows what the rules are, what to do, or how to do it. Don't assume they are idiots either. Find the middle ground, that's your job as a leader. If you can't hit the right note with that DivO, talk to his peers and see if they can help. Either by helping you understand, or by translating to that DivO.

DivOs need to look, listen, read, and learn. And ask questions. Lots of questions. And know what the books say. And not be afraid to say to their DH "but..." even when the DH tries to crap all over them.

DivOs, if your DH is one of those "crap down and forget" types, go find another DH as a mentor that you can talk to. NOT another division officer, no matter how salty that LDO may seem. Another DH.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Today matters

Some questions for Today from John Maxwell:
  1. Is your attitude a plus or minus?
  2. Are your priorities keeping you focused?
  3. Is your health enabling you to succeed?
  4. Does your family situation provide support?
  5. Is your thinking more mature and productive?
  6. Have your commitments been kept?
  7. Have your financial decisions been solid?
  8. Has your faith been active?
  9. Are your relationships being strengthened?
  10. Has your generosity added value to others?
  11. Are your values giving you direction?
  12. Is your growth making you better?
How you answer these questions today allows you to plan a more successful tomorrow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

'Taking' versus 'accepting' responsibility

Excuses for failure or negligence are always unacceptable. Officers should take responsibility for their failures and not depend on alibis. If at fault, they should readily accept blame and the consequences.

Bootlicking, a deliberate courting of a senior's favor, is uniformly despised in the Navy. Seniors may temporarily mistake such tactics for a sincere desire to please and to do a good job. However, through long experience with such behavior, they in time recognize this false sincerity. However, junior officers must make a genuine effort to be friendly and cooperative to succeed.

Officers with a continued willingness to undertake any task assigned and perform it cheerfully and efficiently eventually gain a reputation for dependability. They also ensure their professional acceptance by fellow officers. Continued complaining has the opposite effect. The satisfaction of having done a good job should be sufficient reward in itself. The junior officer should not report each personal or divisional accomplishment to the senior officer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

National Handwriting Day

Today, 23 January 2013 is National Handwriting Day.  This day is meant to honor the birthday of John Hancock.  John Hancock, as nearly everyone knows, possesses one of the most famous signatures on the Declaration of Independence.  His signature is the original john hancock.  This day is also meant to highlight the notion that hand writing nearly anything is a lost art.  

Years from now, people will wonder who John Hancock was and will only be able to imagine the skill involved in hand writing anything at all.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Now I am beginning to understand

Hypengyophobia or Hypegiaphobia – Fear of responsibility 

Hypengyophobia is an overwhelming, irrational fear of assuming responsibility. This person is usually self-indulgent, neglecting all responsibilities, at the expense of others. Some individuals coping with this phobia simply refuse to accept responsibility for anything and blame others when their failure to take responsibility leads to mistakes.

This phrase derives from the Greek hypengyos, meaning responsible and phobos meaning fear. 

What Causes Hypengyophobia? 

An individual suffering from hypengyophobia may have taken responsibility previously and failed. In that failure there may have been severely unfavorable consequences. This person may experience anxiety and emotional turmoil that is very disruptive to their ability to function at any professional level. 

What Are the Symptoms of Hypengyophobia? 

The signs of Hypengyophobia vary greatly from person to person. Some people, when confronted with responsibility, may begin to perspire, feel increasingly uncomfortable and may actually develop into nausea. Other individuals may be so severely compromised by this phobia, that they might experience crippling nervousness and/or panic attacks. 

Your command is in a serious jam if your Commanding Officer or Executive Officer are suffering from this malady.

Monday, January 21, 2013


The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth—that the error and truth are simply opposite. 

They are nothing of the sort. 

What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one. 

H.L. Menchen

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The problem

From the mouth of babes...

In a mentoring session with one of my active duty Lieutenant Junior Grade proteges, I was assaulted with this gem:

"The real problems with Navy leadership in my view are Navy leaders."

Saturday, January 19, 2013


“If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.”
― Kingsley Amis,  
Lucky Jim

Friday, January 18, 2013

Look backward to see our way ahead

The term leadership can mean the body of doctrine that has been formed in regard to an area of human conduct, or it can refer to the sum of actions employed by one person dealing with others. It is often used as a summary term to describe the level of success of a command, of a unit, or of a person. In this instance achievement of a mission, high state of readiness, and productivity all indicate a high level of leadership, while unsatisfactory or mediocre results indicate poor or average leadership. In other words, from an evaluation of the results, it is possible to reason back to the probability that “leadership” was responsible for the results. Hence, the term “leadership” covers many actions over a period of time.

In the Navy, leadership is the execution of the sum total of the Navy’s laws, regulations, and customs as they govern the relationships of superiors to subordinates. These in turn have been derived from the United States Constitution, our national laws, the missions of our Armed Forces, and the customs and traditions of the Navy. Where the individual naval officer is concerned, “leadership” consists of his development of the human influences surrounding his position through the sum of his beliefs, knowledge and skills. These are, of course, derived from his education, training, and experiences as a member of the United States Navy.

NAVPERS 2932-3 (New 7-62)
The Navy had some very strong and sound leadership programs such as "General Order 21 Leadership in the United States Navy and Marine Corps" from 1 May 1963.  As we move forward, I recommend we take look back five decades and review some of our leadership doctrine - and then move forward.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Information Dominance Corps (IDC) Considerations for the FY2014 Captain Selection Board

The IDC was established in 2009 in recognition of Information Dominance as a modern warfighting discipline. Comprising officers of the Oceanography (180X), Information warfare (181X), Information Professionals (182X), and Naval Intelligence (183X) communities and the Space Cadre, the IDC was created to more effectively and collaboratively lead and manage the cadre of officers, enlisted, and civilian professionals who possess extensive skills in information-intensive specialties. 

The Navy needs officers who are agile, flexible, and fully .capable of leading across the range of functions associated with the IDC. This must be considered when evaluating officers within IDC communities. Evaluate the officer's potential to be an IDC leader, as a priority attributes and milestones within communities are secondary to this consideration. As such, board members should view an officer's performance in leadership assignments as an indicator of his or her ability to lead diverse organizations across the range of IDC missions and functions. 

In 2010, the IDC held its first combined commander and captain Command and Leadership Screen Board to select those officers for leadership in the most significant community assignments. However, some officers currently in zone for promotion have not had the opportunity to be screened for combined IDC milestone or command tours. As such, board members should view an officer's performance in leadership assignments as an indicator of his or her ability to lead diverse organizations across the range of IDC missions and functions. 

RDML Willie Metts and Captain Justin F. Kershaw sat this year's board as the IWO representatives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


“If you want to change the Navy, pick up your pen and write.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why We Write

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

― Ana├»s Nin

Monday, January 14, 2013

Look out for your Sailors

It is really important to develop your leadership skills by looking out for and being interested in your Sailors. One piece of advice for leadership that I've always given people that I would give to a junior officer is, always look at your present job through the eyes of your immediate superior. 

The people who can only look at it from their own perspective will top out pretty early. But, if you can, understand why your superior is differing with you on why and how you're doing your job. You've got a responsibility to your Sailors, so if your boss may be asking you to do something that is bad for your Sailors, you may fight that, but fight it understanding why he's doing that. 

Even if you decide to still fight it, you may not understand that there really are bigger reasons for doing it his way. They what you have to do is try it in a way that will accomplish his objective, not to undermine it, but at the same time protect your Sailors, if that is an issue.

Admiral Stansfield Turner

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Phil Harkins - Powerful Conversations

Phil Harkins
Back in 2000, a small group of naval officers were populating the leadership portal on Navy Knowledge Online while it was in its infancy.  I was privileged to be a part of that effort.

I just found my notes from a book summary I wrote for Phil Harkins' Powerful Conversations.  Here is just a snippet from his final chapter.

Chapter 10 – The Voice of Leadership 
  • All great leaders develop and cultivate a distinct voice of leadership.
    • Strive to bring about top performance or realize the power of strategic, organization-wide alignment. Crystallize the organization’s vision. 
    • The leader’s voice should forge a coordinated effort and make the daily action steps happen.
    • Leaders should constantly look for new ways to utter the simple words that reflect their mission, vision and values.
  • The leader’s message provides a framework for thought and a conduit for action.
    • Daily touches – use every means possible to communicate with as many people in the organization as possible in as many different ways as possible. 
    • Your message should permeate the organization.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Leadership remains our most important task

Chief of Naval Operations
Washington D.C.
2 January 1959

There is one element in the profession of arms that transcends all other in importance.

This is the human element.

No matter what the weapons of the future may be, no matter how they are to be employed in war or international diplomacy, man will still be the most important factor in naval operations.

The need for good leadership, therefore, is the constant factor, and in this lies the officer's greatest opportunity for service to his country and to the cause of freedom throughout the world.

As leaders, naval officers are the example to whom others look for guidance, for inspiration, and for standards upon which to base their own conduct and beliefs.

In the eyes of the world, wherever the naval officer may go -- indeed in the eyes of his own countrymen as well -- the officer represents the finest in the manhood of our great nation.

Arleigh A. Burke
Admiral, U.S. Navy

Our Sailors are counting on you for leadership.  Public criticism of your Sailors is leadership dynamite.  Handle it with great care.  If you are not up to the leadership task, stand aside. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What ought to be done remains...undone

"If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant;
if what is said is not what is meant,
then that which ought to be done remains undone." 
Time to get to work.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

iSAILOR - the killer app

One of the Navy's 'disruptive thinkers', LT Ben Kohlmann has a nice article HERE titled "Technology Is Good but People Are Better".  

Back in 2000, one of my former bosses at the Naval Technical Training Center Corry Station, Captain Ron Wojdyla coined the phrase "Sailors are the Navy's killer app."  He always said that the Navy could introduce any new concept, program, idea, suggestion, challenge or opportunity and our venerable Blue Jackets would find a way to make it work.

So, Navy, introduce all the new weapons systems, information systems, networks, and programs you want to.  But remember, our Sailors are the ones who make them work.  Technology is good but our Sailors are the best!

I see today that some enterprising company has adapted "iSailor" as their navigation program.  So "iSailor" is a real application for your mobile device and is available on iTunes.  Ron should have copyrighted the term when he had the chance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Common Sense Tips for Junior Officers

BE AN ACTION OFFICER:  Do what your Dept Head or superiors tell you to and get things done.  Be effective and help others.  Do it right the first time.  Seek the sage wisdom of your senior enlisted and listen to your Chief if you are fortunate enough to have one.

  Go to bat for them when they need help. Talk to them before you sign anything.   Don’t give them an easy “yes” when you know that “no” is needed.  Show that you actually care about them; the job they are doing; and the adversity they face.  Sincerity and honesty are the fundamental building blocks of solid divo leadership.  If you do not care than neither will they.

HELP YOUR DEPT HEAD:  Give them proposed solutions to problems you bring them. Take the load from them when they are struggling.  Put yourself in their shoes and try to anticipate what they will need.

WRITE AND ROUTE MESSAGES:  Learn to write GENADMIN msgs and formatted ones as well (casreps, sitreps, etc.).  The Divo should route msgs for the division whenever possible, especially if the CO is going to release them.

SUBMIT AWARDS FOR YOUR PEOPLE:  You get paid more because you are supposed to be college educated---learn to  write solid awards and evals.

STAND WATCH AND EARN YOUR  QUALS:  Do a little every day and set target dates for boards.  Be aggressive but not cocky.  Competency is much more valuable than expediency.  Seek out the experts and ask them lots of questions.

WALK YOUR SPACES:  Break away from the log room, Combat System Office or Ops office and walk your spaces.  Go to a different outlying space everyday.  See what is really going on during the day.  Do you know where your chief and LPO are?  How about your maintenance people?  Be the eyes and ears of the Dept.

PUSH HARD TO CLEAR CASUALTIES:  Your goal should be  to identify broken equipment in your division, document it on the csmp and 8s; and figure out a way to fix it.  Always, always tell your dept head early if you have broken gear and don’t have the resources to fix it.  Know what you own.

LEARN FROM YOUR CHIEF AND YOUR SAILORS:  They will always know more details than you—so ask them questions.  Make them teach you.  Demonstrate a sincere hunger to learn.

If you are not sure of your role in your dept;  ask your boss.  The question might kick start him or her into action to clarify what it is you are supposed to be doing day to day.

  You will never have more time to do the job than you do right now.  Prioritize your work and your life.  Work harder than you party.  Stay late one night a week and work on your quals, trace systems and clear out your in box.

SET THE TONE FOR YOUR PEOPLE:  Lead by example—look good in uniform; always maintain a professional attitude, demonstrate an eagerness to learn.  Be consistent and positive.  Have a sense of humor and don’t complain about things in front of your Sailors.

ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS:  Know who your people are and what their goals and aspirations are;  ask about how gear works and really learn your systems—you should know more about your stuff than your dept head.

WRITE STUFF DOWN:  Take notes, make to do lists and ensure that others do.  Track your division’s schedule and understand what will need to be done not just today but tomorrow, next week and in the months to come.  Make yourself a gouge book or binder on your ship.  Take good notes and use it to study from.  Keep it after you leave as a memory aid---some day in the future you will be grateful you did.

LEARN HOW TO DRAFT & FOLLOW A POA&M:  Whether you use excel spreadsheets, a palm pilot, or a word document; when you get a big task that requires others to do things:  draft a plan with those who will be working with you; assign deadlines and tell individuals to be responsible for each item.  Update this list often and distribute it.  Most importantly, follow it yourself and hold people accountable.   Plan effectively and look down the road.

READ THE GOVERNING REFERENCES:  It is so easy to research references on line now there is no excuse not to have an idea what is in the reference.   You--the divo-- should do the research, read the references and bring them up the chain if need be.

  Don't wait until O call to be told what is hot, read your email and traffic early in the morning and anticipate what your dept head will task you and your division with.

   You are all going to get "Ps" on your fitreps so don't let competition drive a wedge between you and your fellow officers.  Your Sailors will know if you only care about yourself and your future and not theirs.   Make the needs of your division and or your department your priorities.   Points are awarded for being a team player---CO's like that a lot!!!!

You will be the corporate knowledge a year from now.  Learn your ship, its capabilities and limitations.  Trace systems, keep a gouge book, learn from all the technical experts every day you serve.   You should want to learn how to fight your ship so that you & your shipmates can win battles and save lives.

LEVERAGE YOUR STRENGTHS:  Whether its your knowledge of computer local area networks, foreign languages, electrical engineering or playing the guitar you bring a unique skill set to your ship.   Use your unique skills to benefit your division, department and ship.  This will bring you and your Sailors great satisfaction.

COURTESY OF Commander Tony Parisi, USN

Monday, January 7, 2013

A few ideas for your consideration

1.   Things are never as bad as they appear, and will always look better in the morning.
2.   Get angry at the right person at the right time and then get over it.
3.   Do not link your ego to your position; remain open-minded
4.   Never say never.  The glass is half full.  The job can be done.
5.   Be careful what you wish for as it will likely happen.
6.   Do not let negative facts drive good decisions.
7.   You can not make someone else’s choices; don’t let them make yours.
8.   The devil is in the details so check them—you get what you inspect; not what you expect.
9.   Share credit when you get a BZ, and take the heat when your division, dept, ship, or organization goons it.
10. Always remain calm and be kind; its nice to be nice.
11. Have a vision and be demanding but not condescending.
12. Lead by example and try and establish good, self-sustaining habits from the get go.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
14. When in doubt step back, take a deep breath, ask for help and get the big picture.
15. Make all tasks and tasking fun and maintain your sense of humor even in when times are tough.

Courtesy of Commander Tony Parisi
Adapted from Colin Powell's list

Sunday, January 6, 2013

First CO firing in 2013 a holdover from 2012

Commander Winter assumes command.
The commanding Officer, USS MONTPELIER (SSN 765)  was fired on 4 January 2013 after a lengthy investigation into a collision at sea that occurred off the Florida coast last year.

Commander Thomas Winter was relieved due to loss of confidence in his ability to command, the Navy said. He has been reassigned to administrative duties at Submarine Force Atlantic in Norfolk.

The Norfolk-based fast attack submarine collided with the guided-missile cruiser USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56) during routine operations on the Navy's birthday last year.  

The main cause of the collision was "human error, poor teamwork by the USS MONTPELIER watch team, and Commander Winter's failure to follow established procedures for submarines operating at periscope depth," 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

PCOs must write an essay - I like it.

Before officers assume command across the Navy, Prospective Commanding Officers (PCOs) must head to Newport Rhode Island to complete Command Leadership School. For the first time, in 2013 moving forward — in a continued effort to forge better leaders — the school has added an “examination” as part of the two-week course. 

PCOs must complete the Prospective Commanding Officer Examination. PCOs are given a case study and must write an essay to help them gather and evaluate their own thoughts on command.

Commanding officers can’t really fail the exam, or flunk out of the school. (Big question mark here)

Captain Michael Slotsky is the Director of the Command Leadership School. I recently sent him some additional Command Excellence materials for his consideration.  I am looking forward to his response.

From a Navy Times report by Josh Stewart.