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Stalwart
04-26-2014, 04:52 PM
A lot of my terminology is Navy-centric ... but this is probably applicable regardless of your uniform:

If you’re considering a course of action calculated purely to show that you’re in charge, you’re about to do something stupid. In most cases, you’ll just be making a fool of yourself and that will be the end of it. In the worst situations you may be mismanaging the division or endangering the ship. In any case, your decision is based on something other than management or watchstanding prudence, and this will be apparent to everyone affected by it. If you find yourself in this situation, you should ask yourself how your authority came into question in the first place.

You will learn more from your LCPO/senior enlisted than you think possible. The absolute best thing you can have as a new officer is a good senior enlisted to learn from. This is multifaceted, your Chief will teach you about being an officer and in charge of people; they actually do most of the ‘nitty-gritty’ running of your small unit – DO NOT BE OFFENDED BY THIS. This will allow you to complete whatever qualifications are expected of you. Ask their advice, ask their opinion -- they probably have seen the situation before. If you go a different direction explain (when time allows) why.

Your LCPO may be the bottom 10% of the barrel too. The absolute worst thing you can have is a bad senior enlisted. What is bad? Chiefs are more than tactical proficiency, they are leaders … they are supposed to be. If your Chief has not led the division, has an ethical or integrity issue you will have a problem on your hands that you have to be comfortable confronting. Don’t accept “but he is a good guy” – we are all good guys. Your Chief gets paid to lead Sailors – those Sailors assigned to you, the ones you are responsible to your commanding officer for.

“This is the way we have always done it.” Have you always done it the right way? In accordance with regulations or instructions? Are you not doing it how it is supposed to be done because of expediency or because the right way to do it just doesn’t work? If you aren’t doing it the way it should be done how do you input a process change to make procedural compliance match the ground truth?

Your LPO can probably fill in for your Chief, treat him as such. That motivated 1st Class who is your LPO can probably generate the watchbill, get the maintenance for the week done, conduct quarters and the other activities needed to run the division if your Chief if gone; don’t try to do it all yourself if the Chief is gone.

If you are prior enlisted you have a lot of learning to do. Whether you were enlisted 1 year, 4 years or 10 or more … you didn’t know everything when you were enlisted & you don’t know everything now. Also, you don’t know how to be an officer yet; get involved with your Wardroom and get to know your new peers even if they are much younger than you. You chose your path, don’t confuse yourself or others by still acting like you belong in the 1st Class or Chief’s Mess. Read this: http://forums.militarytimes.com/showthread.php?1597283-The-Prior-Dilemma

Remember that your people have lives too. Are you married and like spending time with your family? So do your Sailors. Are you single and like to go out for a drink? So do your Sailors. Are you single and just want to sit on your couch on a day off and eat nachos? So do your Sailors. Even if you don’t have a life outside of work, don’t think the people for you don’t. If you have to keep people late or work on an off day explain why, what has to get done and let your people go once they are done. If you have 4 hours of extra work and they have 2, they don’t need to share your pain. Conversely, if they have 4 hours of work and you task them to get it done, don’t leave before they do, don’t stand over their shoulder but let them know you are not throwing out a bunch of orders then going ashore; there is probably something you can do to keep yourself busy. Also, keep in mind that your people have families and things like the first day of school, a birthday or anniversary may not have been or be a big deal for you but it may be to them. Also, don’t shaft the single folks for the sake of the people with families; single Sailors are just as entitled to off time as those with families. Be fair and balanced in assigning duties.

It’s all your fault. Did you make a bad call based on a bad recommendation? Then you made a bad call. Did you fail an inspection because your training guy lost the records? Then you failed an inspection. You can delegate authority to get things done, you cannot delegate responsibility. Whatever has gone wrong, your attitude toward responsibility will be scrutinized and remembered. Everyone senior and junior to you will be paying attention, making inferences about your character. The worst, weakest, most damning words you can ever say are “it’s not my fault.” We humans are susceptible to something called the self-serving bias -- we tend to perceive reality in ways that protect our self-esteem. Confronted with failure, we can become amazingly shitty judges of truth. Does this mean you should turn every negative report into a gratuitous display of self-loathing? No. Nobody wants to see that garbage. Stand tall, unemotional. Report facts and propose a course of action. Take your hits like a professional.

Enjoy yourself. For all the hard work (yes, it is hard work) enjoy yourself. Being away from family is not fun, but make the most of duty days, underways or deployments. You may not change the world, the service or your ship but one day you may get a letter or email from someone saying you changed things for them. You may participate in an operation that goes down in the history books. You may do none of that and only have the satisfaction that you gave 100% of what you could. However it works out it can be fun, if you let it.

Chief_KO
04-27-2014, 12:43 PM
Awesome post and applicable to all branches!!

Chief_KO
04-27-2014, 12:45 PM
And each officer should re-read and re-apply this advice every year!!

FLAPS, USAF (ret)
04-27-2014, 01:56 PM
Outstanding post!

Rusty Jones
04-28-2014, 01:18 PM
If you’re considering a course of action calculated purely to show that you’re in charge, you’re about to do something stupid. In most cases, you’ll just be making a fool of yourself and that will be the end of it. In the worst situations you may be mismanaging the division or endangering the ship. In any case, your decision is based on something other than management or watchstanding prudence, and this will be apparent to everyone affected by it. If you find yourself in this situation, you should ask yourself how your authority came into question in the first place.

This one right here is the biggest one of them all, and it's not just new officers who are guilty. Probably every Sailor in the Navy can tell you about the command that they just got to that didn't have command PT, and *boom* - after the change of command, you've got a new CO and now there's command PT. Of the five commands that I've been attached to, only one had command PT when I got there - it was the current CO at the time that implemented it.

I've heard a story from someone in the Air Force about how whenever they got a new base commander (a Colonel), the speed limit on base always went down 5 mph. This was from one my undergrad professors who was in the Air Force back in the 70's.

LCPOs are just as bad. Especially the freshly pinned Chiefs, or the ones who just transferred in. I find that a lot of the ones who just transferred in seem to have the mentality of "Y'all got it too easy! Things are gonna change 'round here!" I remember one example on shore duty, where we had "duty," that consisted of staying after work for two hours and cleaning, and then opening and locking up the building. The weekends were "dogged," or kept by Friday's duty section and turnover on Monday. Well, we got a new senior watch officer (who was a Chief) who decided that that was "too easy." So... he un-dogged the weekends, resulting in Sailors having to come in on Saturday and Sunday mornings in order to turn over. Sure, he can speak of how people on sea duty have it harder; but there's an operational justification for the way things are done on sea duty.

Another shore duty command I was at, something similar happened... duty was staying after work for two hours to clean. After I left, I kept in touch with my friends, who informed me of a new senior watch officer they got (he was an SCPO), that had the duty section staying after work for FIVE hours!

Seriously, if I was there at the time... I could see myself bringing a futon mattress and blankets to work on my duty days. Why even go home if you can't leave until 9:30?