Friday, July 7, 2017

Getting Respect: Differentiating between people

You would think the phrase "I treat people all the same" would be a good mark of true equality, but when I hear someone say it, I shudder. You're not supposed to treat people the same. In fact, doing so is a key reason why junior personnel are losing respect for the chain of command.

Let's start with giving mentoring time. Personnel that have lots of problems tend to consume our time. You have to write counseling chits, which get stored in a binder. Then when you realize a Sailor isn't going to last, you have to bring in legal, which involves more paperwork. Then, since Sailors have rights, you have to give them time to talk to the defense legal people, even when it is painfully obvious that the Sailor is in the wrong. When it's all said and done, you've dumped a lot of time on a crappy Sailor, only to have them swear at you in a final form of disrespect on their way out the door.

Yup, been there, done that. And good leaders will continue to do this.

The trick is balance. Once you start going down a legal separation road with a Sailor, you have to start off-setting the time you spend with that person. I try to make sure I walk around more often, talk to more high performing Sailors, and focus on fixing their issues and helping them do better. It's not perfect, but it helps.

And to go back to the beginning, does this count as treating Sailors the same? Nope. You apply rules in the same fashion, but you spend more quality time with good Sailors, and try to limit the time you have to spend on Sailors that aren't contributing (and probably won't).

How about awards? Why do we hear people rail against the "awards by rank," yet we see very little to change it? It's because we treat people the same. And it's garbage. On my submarine I had a Second Class Petty Officer that was lazy. I mean, extremely lazy. The guy destroyed every program and collateral duty that he touched. Every time he turned over, whether it was a set of logs, the PMS program, or whatever, it was garbage.

He did one tour and was leaving the Navy. My engineer asked for his award writeup, and both the Chief and I said he wasn't getting one. The engineer darn near demanded it, and we both refused and said he was welcome to write it up. He didn't, and the petty officer detached with a CO's letter...which was far too nice for him.

Good leaders treat people differently. They give better workers more slack and leeway, plus they spend more time mentoring those people. While applying rules equally across people, they cautiously guard their time from the poor performers that will try and drain it whenever possible.

What this does is create continued incentive for people to do better. Most people don't want to let down the boss. They want the boss to be happy and to think they are doing good work. Even the saltiest among Sailors like being told they are doing a good job. Sailors are also incredibly competitive, and having better performers rewarded while poor performers get very little continues to incentivize good productivity.

If you're worried about respect, try sharing more time with good performers and less time with poor performers. The shift in attention will probably get you more than any demand you make concerning your collar device.