Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Are you excited by GMT?

 Last month we conducted Command Financial Specialist training for our command. We had over 400 people show up, and the Command Training Team (which I own as the Training Department Head) was overwhelmed:

- We weren't prepared to sign in people quickly, and our setup wasn't organized. As a result, 400 sailors walked into a room and had no idea where to go.
- We didn't have the correct powerpoints from NKO, because we waited till the last minute and then had issues downloading them.
- The projector display failed because we didn't test it out until that morning, and we couldn't get it fixed before people arrived.

In short, we sucked, and everyone knew it. Big disappointment.

Afterwards, I put a lot of thought into what had happened. It would have been easy to give a list of excuses, but I knew that it wouldn't fix the problem, nor would it give the XO any reason to trust us in the future. We had to give the training again in September to catch up everyone else, and it needed to not suck the second time around.

Our Command Training Team was, sadly, the butt of quite a few jokes at the command.  This wasn't the first time they had dropped the ball.  I sat down with a few members and we talked about it, and after the initial onslaught of excuses (which I quickly dismissed), I realized that the problem wasn't technical, or even organizational.

It all boiled down to one simple fact: no one wanted to be there.

Not a single sailor.

Then the realization hit: if WE weren't excited for GMT, why should any other sailor be?  That had to change first before we could ever hope to get better.

The first thing I did was bound our problem and figure out exactly what we could and could not do with GMT.  Turns out that the Navy Powerpoints are simply a guide and not gospel.  I asked my team "If you could do redo this with no boundaries, what would it look like?"

Everyone was quiet, then Chief said "A financial specialist gameshow."

I was immediately skeptical.  It sounded corny and stupid...but I kept my thoughts to myself and said "OK, do it, but we test it out the week prior on a group of junior sailors before making the rest of the command sit through it."

Chief and his team labored for about two weeks, and I joined a crowd of twenty 3rd Class Petty Officers and watched as Chief blow us away with CFS training formed into a gameshow similar to "The Price is Right." The sailors LOVED it, provided great feedback, and off we went.  They delivered it today to our command, and it was well received.  With that hurdle crossed, Chief and the Command Training Team got the chance to redeem themselves, and have already started working on next months training.

I realize now that what I hadn't done was set the specifications correctly.  I had said "Deliver GMT," and it WAS being delivered, just not effectively.  Simply saying "Deliver good GMT," isn't enough, just as "git r done" doesn't work.  I gave my team more room to play with by saying "What would entertain and train you?", and suddenly the ideas started to flow.  Getting the spec right was my job, and once I did that right, things fell into place.

I also got excited.  It's hard to get excited about GMT...something about Navy mandated training just makes people want to bury their head into their smart phone and ignore it.  But if you as a leader aren't excited, how are your people going to get motivated?  Why should they want to be better if you don't encourage them?

There is a terrible tendency of good leaders to insist that showing emotion is a bad thing.  I couldn't disagree more.  You shouldn't be showing emotion like a teenager, but your team, whether it's your division, department, or command, should see when you are happy and when you aren't.  They feed off of that.  They get excited when you get excited, and they go "meh" when you do too.

The best thing you can do as a leader is be the example you want your sailors to follow.  Get excited and challenge your sailors to be the best at whatever it is they do...you might be surprised at the results.