Bridging The Gap: Your Voice carries Weight. Use it to move things
Options position your voice to choose, your eyes to see, your ears to hear, and your hands to handle.
When I was a Lieutenant in the US Army, I served with outstanding Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and soldiers. They were my teachers, mentors, and so much more. Their professionalism and care empowered me to grow as a leader and advanced me forward in my military career. Our relationship positioned us to effectively perform our wartime mission.
A big part of my role was taking care of my platoon-my team. From sergeant to private, I had to meet them where they were in their walk as soldiers. This effort helped us to understand each other’s role as we performed fire missions and managed repair parts in field and warehouse environments, respectively. We were successful in our assigned duties because we knew how to work together as a team. They trusted me and I trusted them.
I remember a story when one of my Senior NCO’s got into trouble. It was a late night when my commander called me with some unfortunate news. He told me that SFC John Doe was detained by the military police (MP) because he was driving under the influence (DUI). I was shocked and surprised because the news did not fit his character. Nevertheless, this hand was dealt to me, and I had to check my bias to make sure I approached this situation through our relationship, not the DUI. Fast forward, I learned that he and his friend were celebrating his birthday off post. They drank too much and decided to take a risk by driving home (on base). Unbeknownst to them, there was an MP checkpoint on their route. They stopped them and the rest his history.
At that time, the command climate for DUI offenses was not good. Many people were being forced out of the military because of their poor decision to drank and drive. So, we knew his career was in question as he had this blemish on his record.
When SFC Doe’s annual evaluation was due, and I had to rate his job performance. I found myself at a crossroad. I knew he made a poor judgement on his birthday, but it did not mean he was a poor performer in this area overall. Whereas my commander wanted me to give him a bad score under the judgement category. Talk about conflict. I struggled internally but chose the option to build. My rating was based on his overall job performance, not a onetime bad decision.
Immediately, my commander and other senior officers questioned my judgement per the option I chose. It did not feel good to receive the feedback, but it did not sway me from my decision. I knew I was correct. As a result, SFC Doe was able to continue with his career and retire with honors.
Listen! You will hear many voices that will try to influence you to choose options that they think is correct. If you only listen to them and do it their way (which is easy), you will never develop your voice. But, when you take time to weigh all the alternatives, filter what you hear from others, and arrive at your own conclusions, then your voice will stand up and carry weight to move things. The option belongs to you, not someone else.
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