This is the 1st in my new series Random Musings. Periodically I will write about things that pop into my head. Since this is a new year I thought I would start with success. Success is different for different people. In my blog We Can Fly I use the term ‘flying’ as a symbol of success,Flying being defined as succeeding. Succeeding defined however you decide.
I love that I allow myself (and you should as well) define success on my terms. Honestly success is fluid for me. Some days it is simply getting out of bed. Other days it is completing a huge assignment, watching one of my students get that Aha moment, not melting down when everything is going wrong, or just being able to sit down for a moment and relax. I can add so much more to that list, but I think you get my drift.
I have been asked many times what my most successful moment was. I always have to think for a minute, but I usually say the same thing. It was a million years ago when I was a first lieutenant and platoon leader of the service platoon of an ammunition company composed of vehicle drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, and supply clerks. There were about 60 people in all. (I bet you did not see that one coming, did you?) Anyway, I had a platoon sergeant who basically did not respect me. I am not sure why the reasons could include the fact that I was a lieutenant, I was a woman, I was inexperienced, blah, blah, blah.
We had our weekly in ranks inspection. Prior to the inspection is it customary for everyone to break starch, which means to put on your best uniform fresh from the cleaners heavily starched. We also wore combat boots that were highly polished that looked like glass. Okay, you could not actually see your face in them, but you get the idea. While FM 22-5, the Army Drill and Ceremonies manual specifies that the uniform should be clean and serviceable and the boots clean and polished, it does not include ‘breaking starch’ or ‘shined like glass’ as the standards for the inspection. My platoon sergeant was known for teetering on the edge of those minimum standards. Well, during that one inspection I decided to inspect him. He looked dreadful.
I thought about my options. I could say/do nothing and allow the status quo to continue. I could pull him aside and explain my standards although we had that conversation many times before. I could admonish him in front of the soldiers which goes against the very fiber of my being plus my father a sergeant major told me to never do that. And I did it anyway. Not only did I do it apparently I did it loud enough for everyone on the parade field to hear me.
After the incident I immediately called my father (who was a 28 year Army veteran at that time) and told him what I had done. He then launched into his sermon that he only knew three officers who knew what the HELL they were doing and I better make number four and didn’t he tell me NEVER EVER to do what I just did. and yes, I was on the verge of tears. Then he took a breath and asked me why I did it. When I told him about the level of disrespect I was receiving and the fact that I had the ‘let’s look good for the inspection’ conversation over and over my dad simply replied “What took you so long?” That day I garnered the respect of my father a senior ranking non-commissioned officer as well as that of my junior enlisted soldiers, other platoon sergeants, and my fellow officers.
I do not advocate that you embarrass a person in front of his/her peers or subordinates. I am sure there are many books that tell us not to do it and I certainly would not want someone to do it to me. And truthfully I did not want to do it that day, I thought about it for what seemed like hours before I acted. I felt that I was being tested. Today, I may handle that situation differently or not. Regardless of any book answers or leadership expert suggestions on how to resolve conflict that day will always define success for me.
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