So I’m out of the Navy.
I’m also going through a divorce.
I’m also out of money.
Oh, and my lease is up on my apartment, so I have nowhere to live.
On the bright side, I managed to trade in an awesome BWM for a Fiat 500, and the seats reclined quite nicely, so I’m leaned back and contemplating life.
I HATE asking for help, and only a few people knew the exact depth of the shit I was in. What I didn’t know: help was on the way.
Let me backtrack a bit…for context.
Listen, as a Navy Chief, as a leader, I always prided myself on being fair and impartial. I tried to keep emotion out of decision making processes, and I wasn’t one to hold a grudge or not let someone come back from making a mistake. I’m also really fond of having fun and love to laugh while working.
But…I can be challenging to work for, and that’s putting it rather lightly.
One of my key leadership philosophies: You have to give your people what they NEED…and what they NEED isn’t always what they WANT. This means, that, short-term, people could end up hating you as you work to elevate them to greatness in the long-term.
If this sounds emotionally draining, it’s because it is.
With junior Sailors, this wasn’t too bad, as I believed in empowering my direct reports and the younger Sailors often had interaction with me that was generally positive (unless the REALLY screwed up). Nonetheless, everyone was required to be fully qualified, and knowledge of the technical aspects of the job, including extensive training and studying for examinations, was the norm.
However, with my first line leaders (First Class Petty Officers, for the nautically-inclined), things were a bit different. As my right-hand men and women, these were the people who were training to take my job. These were the people who would have no choice but to take my job if I were to be killed.
In a very real way, inaction or incorrect action on my part could be setting them up for failures in the future. I couldn’t allow them to be ill prepared.
I was BRUTALLY hard on them. I demanded a standard be set. I demanded excellence and accountability. I wasn’t abusive or tyrannical, by any means, but I was unwavering in my expectations.
Learning how far to push someone, both mentally and physically, is an art that needs to be learned through practical application – you can’t simply read about it in a management textbook, or learn it while getting a Personal Trainer Certification. If you don’t push hard enough, someone could never realize their full potential; push too hard and you could break someone, to the point of never regaining their trust.
Leadership is, after all, a privilege. Don’t be dumb enough to think otherwise.
Oftentimes I would lie awake, floating in the middle of the ocean, wondering if I was truly being effective.
Had I done enough for these people who were trusted to my charge?
How would I know?
I got my answer lying awake in my Fiat. I’m not sure who spread the word, but those same people I was so hard on were the ones to reach out.
The general theme: “You gave so much, let us give YOU something.”
Indeed, I was reduced to a blithering idiot while scrolling through all the text messages offering: couches to sleep on, beer (damn Sailors), meals, rooms to rent, or simply someone to talk to. It was overwhelming.
I’ve learned a lot in my life, and will continue to do so, but the lesson here is one that will stick to me forever…
GIVE. Give some more…and continue to give. This is especially true when you are entrusted with the development and well being of people. GIVE. YOUR. ALL.
No, it’s not easy, but by paying things forward, I was given a gift that I cannot place a value on. I was shown a tremendous amount of love by those who I gave a lot of love to, even if they couldn’t see it at the time.
My greatest moment…at my darkest hour.