I heard it again recently, two relatively senior Naval Officers talking about their personal involvement in helping someone be given the benefit of a “Get Well Tour.” Now those of us who have served or are serving in the Navy (and maybe other services have the same term) know exactly what this term means. For the rest of you, a “Get Well Tour” is a unique opportunity for someone who is no longer considered upwardly mobile due to personal decisions they made in the past or sub-par performance. If an individual is given a premier assignment for which they are likely not the best or most deserving candidate, they are benefitting from a “Get Well Tour.”
I don’t know if I am overly influenced by the term, but I see this action and the favoritism it communicates as detrimental to the team. Our promotion system and our slating process (e.g. placement in specific jobs) are such that checks and balances that prevent preferential treatment are plentiful. That said, there are still numerous decisions that don’t benefit from such impartiality. Don’t get me wrong, I have advocated for overt sponsorship of deserving individuals. And, maybe “deserving” leaves too much to question. A deserving individual is one who has a proven track record, clear potential, and necessary experiences for the next significant position in the career continuum. They don’t need “Get Well Tours.” Instead, we need them to take “Get Even Better Tours.”
Though it doesn’t roll off the tongue as cleanly, I like the messaging that goes along with “Get Even Better Tours.” These are opportunities where hard-charging, highly capable people are assigned to positions that they may not necessarily be ready for, but because they have gained our trust and confidence over time, we know they will grow into and beyond the position. Such jobs and circumstances are plentiful.
I don’t believe in a zero defect model and those who know me are well aware that I personally embrace failure (thankfully, my seniors have allowed me to benefit from my stumbles), while encouraging each of us to boldly go beyond our comfort zone. I also don’t believe in “Get Well Tours.” The talent on our team is abundant. The passion to contribute in meaningful ways, while realizing our individual and collective potential, is boundless. The sacrifices our best and brightest are willing to make in the name of service is mesmerizing. To those in need of a “Get Well Tour,” I ask that you prove yourself worthy of a “Get Even Better Tour.” To the two relatively senior officers who were looking to work the system to help a less than deserving individual benefit from a “Get Well Tour,” I ask that you think about the message you are sending. You are not helping anyone, you are hurting everyone…even that individual you are likely setting up to disappoint the team and himself/herself.
- How are you making yourself deserving of opportunity?
- How will you get even better?
- How are you helping others to get even better?