I might have waited too long to write this. We are now underway from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands. We haven’t crossed the date line yet, but we’re getting close…just a few more days.
Anyway, my fifth week out here has come and gone, and I can hardly remember what I did that is worth writing about—“worth,” as in, haven’t written about it before. The week went quickly, and Andy and I both worked hard to get our qualification packets signed off (one has to demonstrate knowledge of the various aspects of whatever qualification being worked on). We’re doing well, but we have quite a bit left to learn and memorize before we’ll be ready to be watchstanders ourselves. It keeps us busy and takes a lot of time. We have to balance getting qualified with getting our other assignments (collateral duties) complete. It’s part of learning to be a junior officer (ensign, lieutenant junior grade, lieutenant). And just when we thought we had it with regard to being in port, we got underway. And that is a whole new ballgame (but I’ll write about that next week!).
I think I’ll keep this one short since my others have been fairly lengthy. But I have to put something of substance in here before signing off for a few more days. Let me think. Leadership lesson…ah, here we go, although, I suppose this is more about being a manager, but that’s something that leaders have to learn how to do and how to balance.
A leader, acting as a manager, not only should have the big picture (vision), but should communicate that to his/her people (that’s the leadership side of things). As a manager, it is important to set clear deadlines and give clear tasks. One supervisor said, “I want at least one project done this week.” To me, that’s not very clear. I think I understand what this leader was trying to do. From what I’ve heard and seen, the followers are sometimes hard to motivate and person probably doesn’t want to come across as overbearing and unnecessarily authoritative. By saying, “I want something done,” the leader is giving the workers leeway and autonomy with their work. The problem, however, is that in this case, when the workers are easily distracted away from crucial projects to do work on other necessary, but not-so-crucial projects and tasks, the result is that nothing gets accomplished.
I know now that when I’m in a management position, I will give clear direction as to what needs to be completed and by when. Checkpoint deadlines are good, too, and helps keep the workers accountable. As far as the autonomy piece, I will try (easier said than done, of course) to get input from the workers. I can ask questions such as, “What’s a reasonable timeline?” “Which projects should have priority?” And most importantly: “How can I best assist you in getting this done?” To me, this last question exemplifies a principle of leadership that I strongly adhere to. I want to be involved with the work that my team is doing. Yes, I may not have the technical know-how or the skill to be a huge help, but being there for some part of the process, doing what I can, shows that I care about the project, too, and that I haven’t just given my people something to do that I don’t want to do or don’t care to do. It also, I think/hope, communicates to my people that they can bring up concerns. When I’m there working on the project with them, they can say, “See, this is taking much longer than I expected.” From there we can reassess our goals. Now, I know that some people say that a good leader should be able to “disappear” and leave the team to complete the project or task on its own. Yes, I think that is good for a team—it’s empowering, for sure—but, I don’t think that means that the leader is completely out of the loop and inaccessible. I want to see leaders who are present and observing, even lending a hand if possible.
Wow, that got long rather quickly. Well, I shall cut it off for now. When I write again I’ll be at the beginning of the date instead of at the end of it (we’ll have crossed the international date line)! Cheers!
More about Justin.