The team with whom I currently serve is made up of Sailors and civilians. We have far more Sailors than civilians, but our civilians are equally valued and critical to our success. Civilians bring much specialized expertise to the team and the continuity they provide is vital to our ability to grow and strengthen relationships outside of the command, as well as competency inside. At the same time, they are able to serve as the foundation for “The NIOC Pensacola Way” so that the command’s culture does not ebb and flow too much based on the personalities that enter and exit through the Navy’s revolving Permanent Change of Station door.

At the outset of my tour as Commanding Officer, I made it clear to all that 100% retention is not an objective for neither Sailors nor civilians during my tenure.  Though I am committed to giving every member of our team reason to stay, I do in fact hope they aspire for more than even we can offer.  At the same time, I told the civilian members of our team that there was no upward mobility within our command and that I would do whatever I could to help those who felt they have peaked within the organization to find employment that allowed them opportunities for more personal growth or a larger paycheck elsewhere.

20 months later what has happened?

  • Some very talented civilians have voluntarily left our team for greater opportunity
  • One civilian left the team because, as he put it, “the organization had outgrown (him)”
  • More than a few very strong Sailors have decided not to re-enlist

I am certain that more civilians are looking for employment elsewhere and provided the rationale behind their planned transition is excitement about additional opportunity vice frustration with their current situation, I celebrate that fact and stand ready to write letters of recommendation. At the same time, I welcome more separation/resignation/retirement requests from members of our team, uniformed or not.  Some might wonder what such a statement says about my commitment to the institution, and that is OK by me.  My answer is that I firmly believe…

  • Life is too short to be doing something other than what you love
  • What we do to make a living needs to be about more than a paycheck
  • We all have a right, and a responsibility, to reach our potential
  • A scarcity mindset that is focused on retention kills creativity and weakens the team

A few months back, our Executive Officer told civilian members of the team that none of our civilians would realize their potential as members of the NIOC Pensacola Team. I personally loved the statement and couldn’t agree more. At the same time, I was taken aback when a few members of the team took it as an insult. They didn’t seem to understand that it was high praise and a testament to both their demonstrated abilities and unrecognized capacity. They didn’t realize that though we know their contributions are critical to ensuring we realize our collective potential, 15 years in the same job is not helping them to realize theirs.

It may sound odd, but I hope everyone on our team outgrows the organization. In fact, I would be disappointed to come back to the command in five years and see more than a couple of familiar faces at the same desks. The rationale behind such a statement is aligned with the three reasons I am not retiring when I reach the 20-year point this May:

  1. People – I love the people with whom I serve (military and civilian) and in some cases, I want more for them than they want for themselves
  2. Experiential Diversity – The opportunity to contribute in new and exciting ways every 2-3 years ensures life doesn’t get monotonous
  3. Personal Growth – The continual challenge of leaving each tour a better person and making each command better ensures I make the most of each day and that stagnation is not my reality

I am sometimes guilty of mirror-imaging. Wanting more for others than they, in fact, want for themselves may not be fair, but that is how I am wired. Though I continue working to develop a more empathetic mindset, I won’t stop helping others to want to realize their potential.  Even if it means they shed the uniform or leave the command in search of greater opportunities elsewhere. I remain committed to doing my part to give everyone reason to stay, to refrain from changing anyone’s mind to leave, and to facilitate the transition for those most deserving of some additional momentum.

That’s no recipe for the Golden Anchor Retention Excellence Award, but life is not about retention. It’s not about doing the same thing today as you did yesterday, and it’s not about staying within your ever-shrinking comfort zone.  It’s about fulfillment!  Are you fulfilled with your current employment?  If not, please consider what fulfills you and move on.  As my parents taught me long ago, settling is only cheating yourself.  I’m not willing to cheat myself and I refuse to silently watch others cheat themselves.

  • How have you grown over the last five years?
  • Where will you be five years from now?
  • Are you cheating yourself by staying in your comfort zone?