A story I heard today set my jaw, got my dander up, and got me to thinking what sort of incapable hands, and I am speaking of the enlisted Navy khaki community – have my Brothers and Sisters in the CPO Mess (Retired) left behind? In recent years, story after story of accidents, improper behavior (fraternization) and issues with ships, aircraft and installations continue to be reported. The Navy’s top enlisted Sailor, the MCPON, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, resigned due to allegations of improper leadership this year. And I heard today that a Sailor, who happens to be a career top performer and a person who shares my faith (and a member of my congregation), is being allegedly PERSECUTED by the unit CPO Mess for (allegedly) sharing values with another sailor. Honor? Courage? Commitment?
I have to wonder what has happened to the Navy I served for twenty-six years. For as long as people have put to sea, spiritual beliefs have gone to sea with them. For the last two centuries, members of a faith community have been guaranteed the freedom of expression, worship, and other rights, as well as equal protection under the law. I certainly understand that everyone is entitled – and in the military particularly – to believe whatever they want to believe – as long as the mission and the team performance are not negatively affected. A conscientious objector in charge of a weapons system is not expected. A polygamist or adulterer is not expected to respond to policies that define conduct which brings discredit the unit. A person with addiction, particularly to alcohol or prescription drugs, is not the model of reliability in a moment of necessary quick response or judgement.
A search online on the topic of faith and military duty will reveal articles that support that servicemen and women of faith make better and more capable members. And there has been at least one who was convicted at courts martial for refusing to obey orders to remove a display of religious quotes in her workplace. That conviction was based in part on disobedience to a lawful order, and failure to demonstrate that she had taken all the proper steps via the chain of command to remedy her particular issues.
In the case of the Sailor I heard about today, I know that conduct was not the issue. Disobedience and disrespect of a shipmate was not the issue. If good people of faith, technically capable and ethically sound, are forced out of serving in uniform, then the nation as a whole suffers. I do not expect all members of the military to share my Christian faith, nor even to have a belief in a supernatural Deity. But I have known men and women in positions of responsibility whose conduct and attitude demeaned their peers and subordinates. Some of those subordinates chose to leave the service at the end of their contracts.
Honor. Courage. Commitment. Leadership in the armed forces of the United States is a privilege. And respecting the spiritual beliefs of capable, ethical, and valuable members of the team is but one trait that an exceptional member of the Chief Petty Officer Mess can impart.
When I was a younger Sailor, traveling from foreign port to foreign port, I encountered a lot of outgoing people engaged as vendors, tour guides, shopkeepers and restaurant owners. Often their families were the wait staff that ran these places or made the things that provided their living. When your livelihood depends on people, there is an advantage in being a “people person”.
When I was a kid, I was actually an introvert. A gangling kid with poor eyesight, I was not the best athlete nor a glib talker and jokester. From several moves, a lot of activities that caught my interest, studying people, and experience in several professions from ranching to construction, furniture sales and auto parts counter work, I got to talking with and taking an interest in people. I worked as a bartender and waiter before I went into the military. One of my dreams, long before I became a technical worker in the telecommunications industry, was opening a bar or restaurant based on what I visited in foreign places. A kind of dive that had “atmosphere”. With all that experience of these exotic places and tourists from every part of the world I thought it would be fun. I had been working in bars and restaurants prior to my military service so it was somewhat familiar. I learned to speak, or at least communicate in three foreign languages, Spanish, French and Russian.
The service industry depends on people-skills as well as a strong work ethic. Marketing. Being a good listener as well as an observant and diligent service provider. And have a good memory for people’s names, their likes, and so on. In France in he early 1990s I saw the “smash sandwich” vendors – paninis as America now knows them – and thought it was a novel idea to bring to these shores. With the buxom women staffing these kiosks, the Toulon vendors served a lot of sandwiches. In Turkey, shoeshine boys mobbed visitors, appearing at the dock where our ship’s water taxis deposited them. These kids knew how to say “shoe shine” and make small talk about sports, whether you were an American sailor, a Brit, an Arab or perhaps even Chinese tourist. Even sailors wearing sneakers were not overlooked by boys with pats of shoe polish. In the markets, almost every vendor spoke some foreign tongue.
Interviewing, like selling, takes skill and people-smarts
Just as there are people who do not understand the difference between “selling” and “buying”, there are people who do not understand that the interview is a skill that one perfects. Preparation, listening, knowing what and how, to answer a question is part of the interview. Confidence, balanced with humility, and understanding the requirements of the job being sought as well as knowing something of you prospective employer, can win the interview.
Technical professionals I have coached have earned an offer of employment, not only from their preparation, but knowing how to “answer the question being asked” with sufficient detail, but not enough to get bogged down. It is a marketing opportunity to show that you will be an asset to those doing the hiring, but not telling them as much. And to win their trust, through your personality and likeability.
I know others who are successful gardeners, pool men, insurance agents and financial counselors. Some are musicians. Others are artists and writers. And still others with a love for and enough experience in hunting, fishing, camping or motor sports, they made professions as guides and teachers. And they connect with their clients and employers, with the same people-smarts.
Commitment and self-improvement
Practicing interviews, such as the “elevator talk” or meeting people in social settings, is valuable. Listening to people’s names and observing details about those you converse with, not only makes the other person feel valued, but aids in your ability to connect with your message.
Books I have read recently and recommend to everyone, engineer, actor, or military member in transition, include How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Gabor (Simon & Shuster), and the classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People , by Dale Carnegie. Another great read and short, is The One Minute Sales Person, by Spencer Johnson, MD, and Larry Wilson (Harper Collins). There are also many good books and websites on personal development, the interviewing process in the social media age as well.
In a job interview, a prepared and confident person builds a relationship and earns trust with the interviewer and the employer. Beyond the hiring process, as an employee or consultant, you continue being a student of the company, the people you meet, and learning by asking the right questions. There is also the times and places you can market yourself for new opportunities in the company, and by demonstrating value – increasing the bottom line, can use the same interviewing skills to ask for raises as well.
As a manager, you are still engaged in the sales profession. Whether as team leader, morale booster, mentor, recruiter or discipline agent, you still show the “customer” the value of the company and role that person fills, which provides their needs and their relationship to the team.
People do not want to be “sold” but they do want to “buy”
Just as someone who shops for a new vehicle, kitchen appliance, or bringing on a new team member, the skill is in recognizing what motivates, interests or is valued by the customer. A customer looking for the security of business insurance is not going to respond to the agent’s ‘hot buttons’. And an employer is not going to be encouraged by a prospective employee’s focus on pay rate, vacation earned or working hours.
Interviewing requires diligent effort and practice. But the military member also has what many other applicants lack. Focus. Endurance. Attention to detail. And maturity. As well as experience working under stressful situations and deadlines. So take charge and carry out your mission. Interview, interview, interview. And I have benefited from fifty years of practice. I am no longer gangling, nor introverted. I have been a recruiter and meet people everywhere I go. Though my best friends will tell me I am still not “glib”.
Fair Winds and Following Seas. – Senior Chief (Ret.)
* Wikipedia repeats the quote attributed to Ronald Reagan that a politician is the second-oldest profession. Prostitution is frequently quipped as the “oldest” profession.
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Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. Vince Lombardi
In the military, in business, school, one’s faith, family, and pursuits, leadership is a challenge that not everyone aspires. However, it is a rewarding opportunity for some who embrace it . While people may naturally recognize a person with the qualities that make a good leader, fewer know that leadership can be developed. Some confuse position with leadership, and other confuse management with leadership. Sometimes opportunity is looking for someone to lead, but fear, doubt, or improper motives get in the way of leading. What are the characteristics that identify individuals as strong leaders?
8 Characteristics of good leadership
Forbes magazine published research that examined what makes a good leader:
Sincere enthusiasm. Belief in a company, it’s mission, its employees and its products cannot be faked and have that person succeed.
Integrity. Giving credit where it is due, acknowledging mistakes, and putting quality ahead of the bottom line, is another.
Excel in communication. Great leaders are effective communicators. They instruct, listen, discipline and motivate those they lead. Weakness in these areas can demotivate and generate sloppiness.
Loyalty. Leaders are loyal to their people. It is tangible and benefits are seen in the employees having the tools and support to do their work. Leaders protect them in times of conflict or crises. And in turn, that loyalty is given back to the leader.
Decisiveness. Leaders make decisions, take action, and calculated risks. They know that consensus -building takes much effort, creates indecisiveness and perceived weakness, and results in applying band-aids instead of solutions.
Competent as managers. Good technicians, business people, or a skilled athlete do not translate into managing people to excel. Competence means people can inspire, mentor and direct others.
Empowering others. Leaders can recognize and foster in others to perform, possibly make mistakes, take some risks and be creative in achieving the objective.
Charisma. Good leaders are approachable, friendly, and sincerely care for those they lead. People follow those they respect and like.
The motivational coach who for more than twenty years has helped many succeed in business and life, Tony Robbins , adds confidence and positivity to these principles. A leader generates confidence in non-verbal ways as well, in manner of dress, maintaining eye contact when speaking to another, and practicing self-control (not fidgeting). A leader radiates positivity, focusing on that, and not negative “what ifs”.
The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. Ray Kroc
The mentorship I learned as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy underscores these principles. For more than a century, the Navy has relied on the most senior and experienced enlisted Sailors in their particular specialty, the Chief, and the wisdom and expertise of the Chiefs’ Mess, to execute the mission of the officers appointed over them. They were not only mentoring junior enlisted sailors, but also the green junior officers that were appointed in the command or unit. The training I received encompassed these mentioned characteristics. But it adds some important fundamentals:
When a Sailor was asked “when” he became a Chief Petty Officer (leader) and was confused by the question, the seasoned Chief responded that he, himself, became a “chief” when he decided to act and think as one. He just waited for the uniform (rank) to catch up.
A leader is not about his or her achievement, but fostering development and leadership skills in others. When a Chief empowers others, so that they succeed, this benefits that individual, the mission, and the community of leaders.
A leader still requires the mentoring and support from other more-seasoned and successful leaders, whether through study, personal relationship (mentoring) or community of peers. The Navy Chief’s Mess, including former (retired) and current Chief Petty Officers is a community that serves this function in perpetuity.
United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Creed
During the course of this day, you have been caused to humbly accept challenge and face adversity. This you have accomplished with rare good grace. Pointless as some of these challenges may have seemed, there were valid, time-honored reasons behind each pointed barb. It was necessary to meet these hurdles with blind faith in the fellowship of Chief Petty Officers. The goal was to instill in you that trust is inherent with the donning of the uniform of a Chief. It was our intent to impress upon you that challenge is good; a great and necessary reality which cannot mar you ─ which, in fact, strengthens you.
In your future as a Chief Petty Officer, you will be forced to endure adversity far beyond that imposed upon you today. You must face each challenge and adversity with the same dignity and good grace you demonstrated today.
By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been this day advanced to Chief Petty Officer. In the United States Navy ─ and only in the United States Navy ─ the rank of E7 carries with it unique responsibilities and privileges you are now bound to observe and expected to fulfill.
Your entire way of life is now changed. More will be expected of you; more will be demanded of you. Not because you are an E7 but because you are now a Chief Petty Officer. You have not merely been promoted one paygrade, you have joined an exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to you. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our feelings of accomplishment once we have attained the position of Chief Petty Officer.
Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print. They have no official standing; they cannot be referred to by name, number, nor file. They have existed for over 100 years, Chiefs before you have freely accepted responsibility beyond the call of printed assignment. Their actions and their performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors.
It is now required that you be the fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personal relations as well as in technical applications. “Ask the Chief” is a household phrase in and out of the Navy. You are now the Chief.
The exalted position you have now achieved ─ and the word exalted is used advisedly ─ exists because of the attitude and performance of the Chiefs before you. It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain these standards.
It was our intention that you never forget this day. It was our intention to test you, to try you, and to accept you. Your performance has assured us that you will wear “the hat” with the same pride as your comrades in arms before you.
We take a deep and sincere pleasure in clasping your hand, and accepting you as a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy.