Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Ripple effect

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."  ~Edward Everett Hale

As I mentioned in my article this morning I had two people in my career that stand out among many. The first was Michael Young.

The second one is James Anderson. Master Chief Anderson was a take charge and take care of the people kind of guy. I wasn't his biggest fan when I first started working with him, mainly because he pushed me hard. It seemed that no matter what I did, he wanted me to do it better. I remember talking to him about what I needed to do or improve on to make Chief Petty Officer. I was a First Class Petty Officer at the time. He told me, "Start acting like a Chief."

Now I didn't immediately get what he was saying. But over time I started to realize the premise of being what you want to be, even if your not what you want to be yet. When I did get it, Wow, did it ever make a difference in how I worked and my thought processes.

He taught me about grace and forgiveness. We had a major inspection going on board the ship. One of the teams that I led had to execute the submarine escape procedure. Unknown to me, one of my guys had calibrated the wrong gauge. Both gauges where side by side, it was an honest mistake. So, we were unable to complete the procedure in the time alloted. I went to Master Chief and told him what happened and that I took full responsibility for the failure in execution. I was expecting a royal butt chewing. Instead, he told me not to worry about it, that we would get another chance to execute other procedures and to just forget it and move on. I beat myself up about it for awhile, I had let the team down and more importantly I had let my command down.

Well, I got another shot, this time in demonstrating the man overboard procedure. We had done very well with it until we got to the point where the ships swimmer and I where topside to rescue the man. "Man overboard" was simulated by putting several 5 gallon milk cartons together. We got to the place in the procedure where I was to instruct the swimmer to enter the water. Now, I asked the inspector if he wanted me to actually have the swimmer enter the water. He made no indication not to do it (We were told by the inspectors to continue a procedure until they stopped us), So, I ordered the swimmer to enter the water. All hell broke loose. I quickly got the swimmer back on board. I also considered jumping off the boat myself. I didn't want to face Master Chief a second time with another mistake. He didn't look so happy this second time. But, he didn't blast me, he just said to forget it and move on.

At the end of the inspection, the inspectors debrief the Captain and other senior members of the ship. When it was over, the command had passed with an above average score. Master Chief Anderson pulled me into his office and said to me, "Several of the inspectors mentioned you by name to the Captain."
In my mind I started thinking, "I'm about to get fired."
Master Chief continued, " They all stated how professional you were and how well your training programs where. (Even though we had messed up two procedures.) The one even went on to say that your training program for the submarine escape procedure was the best he had seen." (Despite us messing up, this still amazes me to this day.)
I was floored, I had many different areas of responsibility within the command that I have not mentioned in this post. I had thought that I had not done well. I ended up receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal for my efforts.
He could have slammed dunked me over things going wrong, but he didn't. He empowered me by letting me know that he believed in me and my abilities as a leader even though things had not went as planned.

At the end of our patrol he was transferring. The boat had pulled into our home port and everyone was getting everything done, so they could get off the ship. He called me into his office once again. I was going to be taking the test for Chief Petty Officer in January of the next year. I didn't think that I had a shot, due to it being my first time going up for it. When I entered his office he said, "Your going to need these."
I looked and he was handing me a set of Khakis. At this time in the Navy, the only enlisted people who wore Khakis were Chiefs. Even more special to me was the fact that these were a set of his Khakis. I didn't know what to say, other than, "Thank You."

You never know how one small act can empower someone or help them. The fact that he had the faith in me, even when I didn't, still to this day is with me. I will never forget Jim Anderson and how he believed in me.
I hope that this post and my last will give you reason to reflect on how you are interacting with those you lead. Sometimes the smallest gesture can impact someone, just like a small drop of water hitting the surface of  the ocean and causing a ripple effect that goes on , long after the initial drop.

Has someone impacted your life? Please leave comments and share how your life has been changed by someone.


Steve Hady said...

I served with Jim on a previous ship, he was a Chief then... I knew he was going places. Last I saw him, he was retiring from the SEA.


Voices of Leadership said...

Thank you for the comment. Jim was a outstanding Mentor and Master Chief. He taught me so much about being a leader and a Chief. But, one of the most important things he did for me was that he empowered me. I'll never forget him. I appreciate you sharing.

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