As seniors at the Naval Academy in 1971, our superintendent, a three-star Navy admiral, would periodically gather the 800-member class together and offer some encouragement and insights on what to expect when we graduated to the fleet.
One particular session started with the admiral saying, “When you don’t like the cut of a man’s jib, you had better tell it to his face.” In layman’s terms, this means if you disagree with someone, have the courage to tell them to their face.
That discussion occurred almost 50 years ago, and I remember it clearly today. That advice served me well throughout my 24-year naval career and into corporate life.
For example, in the Navy, if, during discussion, you disagree with a senior officer, it is proper to say, “I respectfully disagree,” then present the facts that support your view. It is your responsibility as the junior officer to offer a fact-filled rebuttal when important decisions are being made.
There is nothing worse than a good plan that could have been improved had it been tweaked properly during the inception phase. Robust discussions build better plans.
Conversely, a senior leader must be prepared for – and receptive to -input from those around him or her. My naval and corporate experience proved to me time and time again that leaders who thought they had the perfect solution and discouraged debate were more likely to suffer poor results.
What does this mean to us today in our corporate world?
I believe many of us remember the classic children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It took a candid child to voice the truth that the emperor had been duped. Even the newest and youngest member of a team has something important to contribute.
So, as a developing leader, have the courage to voice your fact-based opinion to colleagues and senior leadership. Listen carefully. Be courteous. And, as we say at Academy Leadership, know yourself, know your team and know your stuff.
As a senior leader, listen to those around you and encourage their input. Encourage your reports to develop a sense of trust that you value their input. And prove to them that you can be trusted.
This is what teamwork and good decision-making is all about. Live by it in your personal life, as well as your professional life.
Pass it on! It might be good for our country, as well.
As always, your thoughts on this article are appreciated.
Ron works with emerging leaders, execs, entrepreneurs and managers who want to sharpen their leadership skills and inspire their teams to achieve a level of performance beyond their imagination. He does this by providing high-impact, energizing programs that give the participants an opportunity to learn and practice the guiding principles of leadership that are crucial to establishing a success-oriented environment. You already know a lot about leadership, Ron helps you to amp it up and put it all together so that you use your abilities in a disciplined fashion every day to achieve results?! His course participants are unanimous in their feedback, "I wish I had attended earlier in my career." He has also brought his Leadership Excellence Course to the Battleship North Carolina, where participants learn in a most inspiring environment how to motivate people, the power of integrity, the reasons for good feedback and many other defining leadership principles that help leaders and teams get to the next level and achieve results. You can check out some other course opportunities at AcademyLeadership.com. Look in the Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Wilmington areas.
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