Digging your heels in…or digging yourself a deeper hole?

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BLUF – The Truth needs no defense, it simply is.

Being a second time commander lends some new perspectives and points of courage I probably didn’t have my first time around. I recall being very concerned about every decision I made and feeling I needed to make every decision. I recall chatting with my predecessor and he asking me when we needed to schedule a handover meeting, and I said “I remember you said you had some extensive notes, I can probably read those and be good.” He was surprised and double checked to make sure I knew what I was going, and I confidently stated, “Bro, I trust what you did to lead the team and I will get to learn everything I need over time.” What I also knew in my head is that I knew the Director of Ops and would rely on him to keep the day to day business running and I would focus on getting to know that team. My early decision to not do the “normal turnover” may have seemed unwise, but my confidence levels were strong enough in myself, what my team could do, and where we needed to head together.

After being in the seat for a year, I’ve found a comfortable (yet increasingly frustrating) place to professionally question the norm. Keep in mind I said professionally, which infers I complete research to have an informed discussion. My position usually takes the form of asking for clarification of guidance, which usually is in the form of retaining our team’s equities and to keep everyone moving forward. I also am not a fan of meetings that waste my time, and my peanut gallery comments are often sarcastic…but based on some truth. If we are at a meeting where we are just reading slides, why have a meeting? Send some readaheads, invite the necessary only, and shrink the meeting down to the decision points. Everyone’s time is valuable, and my filter on keeping my mouth shut about it has eroded completely.

Having an exercise where we go through the motions without any unity of effort is a missed opportunity, so I have after taken matters into my own hands and advanced scenarios with or without permission. My changes can be self-contained to where we are “sandboxed” from higher objectives, or we will ask purposeful questions to prompt changes above us so that they must catch up to us. Even if the latter doesn’t result in changes for the immediate exercise, we plant the seeds to have follow-on discussion to analyze upcoming challenges we need to practice before it hits us in the real world. I mean, that’s the point of exercises, right?

My point to share is how often do you disagree with guidance and ideas? I’m not talking shallow “thumbs down” voting via social media. I’m talking healthy debate with peers, subordinate, and leadership that may challenge present thought. Debate is necessary for growth, as the end will result in optimal growth. Important to note is that an objective discussion seeks to preserve the team as a whole, as opposed to “winning” an argument as an individual. Be advised that people may misconstrue your actions as selfish, so tread lightly (or 100% own your decisions with no regrets). Dealing in truths can be emotional for some, so if you choose to leverage the path of disagreement you need to ensure you can shed your emotional biases and enter the discussion to deal in truths only. The truth needs no defense, it simply is.

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