The Importance of Tact and Timing

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I keep relating experiences that happen at work to my blog posts, but most often they are relevant and pertinent to the topic. Often times these experiences fuel my ideas for posts. The following situation definitely sparked the subject and relevancy today.

Yesterday, I took a record PT test for my Company. With me taking the test was the Battalion Command Sergeant Major and I was being graded by a Sergeant First Class (That part is neither here not there, just some background information to help you better understand the environment and situation). I pride myself as any other passionate officer to do my very best on the PT test, and in turn beat the score I got from my last test. During the test this time I completed 100 sit-ups, a milestone for any officer os soldier. After getting up, and high fiving those around me, I was feeling a strong personal high. My Commander immediately pulled me aside saying she wanted to talk. She told me that my sit-ups were not to standard and would not pass in the Army School House. She told me I needed to work on it and that none of my sit-ups on this test would have passed.

Now, I immediately went from being on a personal high to an all time low after reaching a benchmark in my personal fitness goals. I was pulled aside and basically slapped int he face for my achievement.

Don’t get me wrong, I am always open to advice and will in turn evaluate my sit-up posture, but I don;t feel my Commander exercised tact and timing. She could have approached this issue wildly differently. Instead of using timing and tact to develop me, and find a later time to mentor me, she used it against herself. Her timing was de-motiviation and her choice of words were poor. She expressed disappointment at a time that was meant to be congratulatory.

Often I’ve come across this leadership miscoming. Many leaders are so quick to impart advice and wisdom that they sometimes don’t evaluate the other person’s environment at the time. Take a moment to evaluate the situation in this sense:
1. How would I come across if I say this at this immediate moment?
2. What setting am I in?
3. Who else is around us?
4. Is there a better time to discuss this?

In my situation, the timing made her presentation seem a little vindictive and highly de-motivating. I had just reached a milestone and instead o congratulating me, she in turn embarrassed me in front of all my subordinates by telling me my form was poor immediately following my sit-ups.

Secondly, always be aware of your tone of voice. The way you speak and the way you project is 100% reflective of your emotion at the time. When you come across as biting and aggressive at an inappropriate time, you will not achieve your desired effect.

GIRLS IN GREEN, I heed you to find good ways to motivate each other instead of beating each other down!

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Moneyball- Creating Something Out of Nothing

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Moneyball- Creating Something Out of Nothing.

Moneyball- Creating Something Out of Nothing

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So tomorrow I have to go to an officer professional development session and lead discussion on the book Moneyball  by Micheal Lewis.  Great book, I actually read most of it in order to write my final paper in econometrics my senior year at West Point.  For those of you that don’t know the plot, the Oakland A’s were a struggling team during the early 2000’s…they had the lowest budget of any baseball team in the United States and their best three players just got drafted for bigger paychecks to high rollers like the Yankees and the Red Sox.  Billy Beane, then General Manager of the A’s felt that he needed to “adapt or die” and find another way to score big on no name players, bring them into the league with little money, and find a way to put them in the right positions to promote the overall victory of the team.

Beane decided to look to statistics, specifically sabremetrics the art of using baseball statistics and econometrics to determine a player’s value on the field using specific formulas.  Beane’s stat guru found that a team is not made up of “Home Run Hitters” or “All Star Players” where one person on the team carriers the rest with their star status, instead the on base percentage was the most important statistic to determine a player’s worth.  In short, it didn’t matter how much of an all around superstar the athlete was, but could they get on base….stats showed that if you found more than one player with that potential, and you eventually had every one of your hitters find a way on base, you would score runs.  In the end, the A’s had a $38mil budget, and broke the baseball record for most consecutive wins in baseball history.  Amazing huh?  But how did this all work.

My actual homework assignment for OPD was to find ways in which the lessons from Moneyball could be applied to the military.  So here goes…(and you can judge for yourself whether I’ll sound impressive in front of the other officers or not tomorrow!)

What I took out of Moneyball is finding an a way to succeed in an imperfect environment with many varying factors.  Specifically finding a way to utilize the personnel you have by playing to their strengths.  We all know that not every ball player is the “best of the best” especially not on the A’s, but what Beane did was introspective: he did his research and studied each of his personnel, and by doing that he found each of their strengths.  Instead of using them as all around players, he honed in on their strengths and forced them to play of their strong side in order to better the team.

To compare this to our Army, I knew specifically that not every one of the soldiers in my Platoon, was perfect and disciplined, knowledgable and well rounded.  In turn, I also knew that some of my leaders were not the best and the brightest either.  But I found ways to communicate with them and put them in positions where they would play off their strengths and therefore better the team.  I knew each of my soldiers very well; though they did not notice, I took note of their daily actions and found their strengths and their weaknesses.  I used this to my advantage.

For example, when I had arrived at my Platoon, I recognized that it was slightly disorganized.  When we moved Forward Operating Bases and acquired new equipment, I used the opportunity, as Billy Beane did with a new season and obstacles in his way (ie: budget cuts), to reorganize my Platoon to ensure that every person was playing their strength in order to lead the team to victory.  I found that the team leader that was in the middle of the patrol knew the routes in Afghanistan better than any other one of our non-commissioned officers in the Platoon.  Meanwhile, our lead truck with our first squad leader had a cool little gyrocam camera on his truck that he often used without my knowledge and reported up information regularly.  With this in mind, I took my squad leader, who was in the lead truck and moved him to the middle of my patrol, and took my team leader and moved him to the front.  Result, we never got lost or off track on route every again while on patrol, and we consistently has a 360* view of our surroundings with timely reports from my squad leader.  The squad leader was able to focus on his strong point, my team leader on his.

There is no one person that is perfectly well rounded.  It is the leader’s job to find his or her’s subordinate’s strengths and weaknesses and use them to the team’s advantage.  Every single person is good at something, whether it may be a ball player who gets on base by consistently getting walked every at bat or a soldier who can’t drive for his life, but shoots expert on the range.  First and foremost, you must know and learn the personalities of your team, and then assess their potential.  Reorganization is a process, and most people are opposed to change, but with a little introspection, the team will overall become better off.

Go read Moneyball, or if short on time, watch the movie!  Love Brad Pitt!  Go GIRLS IN GREEN!

Finding a Hobby

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During my Officership class my senior year at West Point, one of our last lessons was based off of Gen MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” speech to the corps of cadets.  If you are interested in listening to the speech yourself and making your own opinion before I start my discussion on it, you can find it at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lWm4iLLOKg.

The tone of voice in his speech is eerily solemn and sad.  My teacher made note that just before this speech, General MacArthur was forced into retirement and lost all that he had dedicated his life to.   He had us not just listen to the “hallowed words” of his speech, but his tone of voice and it’s reverence for the past with almost no hope for the future.  General MacArthur dedicated his entire life to the Army, and though his dedication was highly commendable, once he had lost his career and basically all that he had dedicated his life to, his sorrow and depression facing the real world speaks multitudes in this speech.

COL Stafford, my teacher at the time, did not intend to degrade the history behind this speech or General MacArthur and his greatness, but to teach our class a very different lesson.  He taught us that although we are to put our whole heart and body into our duty as United States Officers, we also must find other things in life that make us happy.  We need to find our own personal hobbies that take us away from the “Army world” that skews us from reality, and find something that draws us into our personal lives.  Find a hobby that we find comfort in and that distracts us from the stresses and the realities of war.  Being able to find something that makes you tick outside of the military world is vital to your personal health as an Army soldier and will help sharpen your ability to become a well rounded human being.

My personal hobby is volleyball.  Any post that I move to, I try and find my niche with a volleyball team in and around post.  Playing volleyball at the end of the day, usually with civilians, takes me away from the stresses of work and gives me something to look forward to other than waking up another day and going back to the daily grind.  Volleyball helps me feel whole and has always been a part of my life.  I know that when I leave work at the end of the day, I can put all of my stress from the work day into my game and turn my stress into success.

Find your own hobby and your own personal niche…Go GIRLS IN GREEN!

Workouts with a Partner!

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So these past couple of weeks I have decided that it was more motivational to get with a workout buddy and do some functional fitness workouts.  I do not agree that the Army’s “PRT” program is helping soldiers get fit, but I do believe that functional fitness workouts are better for your overall soldier fitness.

Me and my favorite workout buddy designed the following workout. Try challenging yourself and hit the gym with a motivated chica!

There are two workouts to every set.  One partner will be doing one workout while the other is completing the first.  Then you run to the next station.  You complete all sets and then run through the whole workout 4 to five times in total.

4-5x through workouts 1-4

1.  Ropes (swing alternating or up and down) for 30 seconds while partner does plank to pushup position for 30 seconds.

2. Tire roll for ten rolls while your partner does high skips until the ten tire rolls are done.

3.  10x GI Janes (burpee pullups) while partner completes wood choppers with a medicine ball until all GI Janes are complete.

4. With one side of barbell on floor, use the other side and rotate side to side with a lunge for 10 times on each side while partner completes 50 toe touches on each foot on a box.

This exercise is a SMOKER!

Good luck Girls in Green!Image

Networking with Other Officers

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So this past weekend I attended a wedding in Atlanta, Georgia for two of my fellow USMA grads. The bride played volleyball with me and the groom played baseball at USMA. Almost the entire wedding party had attended or had some close relationship with the West Point community. All the groomsmen were officers and three of five bridesmaids attended the military academy as well.

First and foremost, the bride was absolutely beautiful and I thank her and her husband dearly for the kind invitation to share in the next step of their long life together. The wedding was beautiful and filled with tradition.                       

Now, the real reason why I tagged my friend’s wedding in this post is to discuss the importance of networking in the military. For those of us that were West Point grads, the network of alumni is large and far reaching. Many of my classmates have yet to reach the benchmark where they are forced to make a decision to either keep the military a career, or leave for the civilian world. With that in mind, the West Point alumni network becomes extremely important, regardless of which avenue you decide to take. Being surrounded by so many alumni, young and old, reminded me of how important it is to maintain your relationships and consistently work on making new friendships within the officer corps. All of us are so diverse and have so many different backgrounds that if we dare to dream of a future outside the military each of our friends can help us strive to reach for the stars. Each of my friends has a different background and a different view for their future, and all of them are aware of my aspirations. We keep in touch not only because we have such a strong history, but also because we share like visions for our life in the future. We all know that none of us will survive without the help and support of each other.

I learn more and more about others experiences and how they differ from mine and realize that if I ever do decide to switch my path, I have friends with similar experiences to keep me from veering off. Keeping your contacts and your friends close will aid you in the future.  Never turn down an opportunity to be with your close officer friends and always cherish the few reunions we get once or twice a year.  Remind yourself of all the memories you shared with your officer buddies, most of which you will never be able to relive with your civilian friends…the first time you shot your weapon, maybe the first time you failed at qualifying (oopsies haha), the buddy who helped push you up a hill when you were falling backwards with a ruck on, or a friend to remind you that even if you felt you couldn’t push out that run or the field exercise, that you weren’t alone.

Stay true to your friends and hold your relationships close to your heart!  Go GIRLS IN GREEN!

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