Undoubtedly, the best part of my job is interacting, sharing ideas and learning with fellow members of the NIOC Pensacola Team. One of many mechanisms to ensure we get the opportunity to exchange ideas, perceptions and experiences is by requiring everyone who joins or leaves our team to individually converse with each member of the Command Triad (CO/XO/SEL). A few weeks back I had a particularly enjoyable conversation with a young man who was both appreciative of his time at NIOC Pensacola and excited about the opportunity that heading to his first ship presented. We spoke of many things, yet there were two on which we focused more than the others…respect and gratitude. Neither of these topics are new, but their mere mention gave me reason to be more attentive to their occurrence in everyday life.

Respect

Keep in mind that as a Seaman this Sailor was one of the most junior on our team. When he spoke of respect his point was that respect from junior to senior was demonstrated without exception, however the “Golden Rule” was not always reciprocated. His comments made me hyperaware, as I firmly believe it is more accurate to acknowledge seniors work for juniors (e.g., giving them the tools they need to do their job in the form of guidance, training, mentorship, hardware/software, etc) than it is to blindly believe juniors are in place to serve their seniors. Since our conversation, and to his point, I continue to witness some of the same. Recently, I have had a senior pointedly remind me that I was his junior and my job was to do as directed, I have witnessed supervisors (elsewhere of course) be less than responsive to the needs/requests/recommendations of their juniors and I continually see parents yell, physically discipline and demand certain behavior from their kids. Being a senior, a leader or a parent requires that we set the tone for the relationship, and that tone is set by way of respectful and patient communication. I am continually surprised by people who feel they need to dictate WHAT and HOW specific action is to be taken. Few make the time to discuss the WHY that underpins a potential need to alter behavior or take certain action.

  • As children, we continually ask WHY and in some cases such curiosity is fed while in others we are taught to outgrow it
  • At work, we should not blindly execute without making a deliberate effort to understand WHY and help those around us to do the same
  • As parents, we either make the time to re-enforce a passion for lifelong learning or we instill a “Shut up and color, you’re not old enough to think for yourself” mentality

I must admit that I get a bit disappointed when my son doesn’t care enough to ask me WHY (rarely happens, thank goodness), my Shipmates aren’t given the opportunity to understand WHY and my seniors don’t feel compelled to explain WHY. There is no greater demonstration of respect than to make the time to help someone else understand WHY, and no greater demonstration of passion than to demand that our seniors help us to understand WHY. As the young man reminded me during his check-out, I hope we demonstrate respect to ourselves, our Shipmates, our children and our profession by both questioning and explaining WHY.

Gratitude

The reminder of the importance of gratitude didn’t hit me until a week later. We talked of mentors and the importance of mentorship and I asked him if he felt as if he had any true mentors in his life. He lit up and without hesitation identified a specific PO1 with whom I am fortunate enough to continue to serve (and who we will re-enlist in a couple of weeks). He smiled as he shared stories of this leader “showing him the ropes”, demonstrating “tough love” and creating ways to make him better. After a memorable conversation, I asked him if he ever told this PO1 of the impact he had on him. He thought about it and admitted that he had not. A week later I ran into this young man’s mentor and shared how highly the Seaman thought of him. The resulting grin was as big as I have ever seen (and this guy smiles a lot). He shook his head in wonderment as he had no idea of the impact he had on the Seaman.

Have you expressed gratitude to your valued mentors of late? I have previously written about the importance of understanding what it means to be a protégé and how important it is to create blockers over the course of a career. As part of my year-end ritual, I reached out to my most prized mentors to not only learn from them, but to express my gratitude. I did so not because I thought it mattered to them, but because it mattered to me.

Life lessons are continually learned and validated by those with whom we serve and live. The challenge is paying attention and taking note.

Thanks, Seaman! As you well know, and for the benefit of others, at NIOC Pensacola we acknowledge the fact that “We will each leave our legacy with the command and our Shipmates; The command and our Shipmates will leave a legacy with us.” You have given me reason to pay a bit more attention to respect and gratitude in both my personal and professional life. I share your wisdom in hopes that others will do the same.

  • Do your mentors know how much you appreciate them?
  • Are you showing as much respect for your juniors as you are your seniors?
  • What legacy are you leaving?