Who’s Your Chief?

When I was just 23 years old, fresh out of submarine school, I was given my first leadership job.

I was assigned to lead the team of sailors who maintained and operated the complex systems that controlled the nuclear reactor on the USS Tennessee. It was a small group led by a senior enlisted sailor, a Chief Petty Officer, who had come up through the ranks.

The Chief Petty Officer was not only skilled, but he was also highly experienced. He had been in the Navy for almost as many years as I had been alive. He was older than me and had infinitely more knowledge in the maintenance and operation of nuclear reactor controls. And the team looked to him for guidance.

Yet, I was in charge.

Many new leaders find themselves in this exact situation. They are asked to lead teams of older, more experienced employees.

Many new leaders find themselves in this exact situation. They are asked to lead teams of older, more experienced employees. Click To Tweet

So, how can you be an effective leader if you’re young and inexperienced? It’s simple.

Find your Chief and learn from them.

You’re probably thinking – How do I find my Chief? In the Navy it was easy but how do I find my Chief in a business environment? Look for the person in the organization who is the opinion leader. Usually, they are a senior employee and a technical expert.

Find out who the team naturally goes to for all the answers.

Find out who the team naturally goes to for all the answers. Click To Tweet

That person is your Chief.

That’s the person you want to build a relationship with and learn from. In most cases, they don’t want your job, they are happy being the senior, technical expert. If you show them respect and learn from them, you will become a more effective leader for the team.

Deep Leadership PodcastListen to my conversation with retired Chief Petty Officer, Chuck Whitworth on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast to understand the important relationship between the Leader and the Chief.

And, if you need more ideas on how to be an effective leader, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas on how you can become a more effective leader.

 

Photo: USS Key West Chief of the Boat Master Chief Nicholas Harr (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger)

Have you had a “Follow Me” Moment?

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

It could also be put another way, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”

If you’re anything like me, you can’t stand inaction. I have a low tolerance for people who talk more than they act. Maybe that’s why I always say, don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just do it!

I became a leader because I wanted to get things done.

My answer to the question of “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” has always been to lead. And, if you subscribe to this email and listen to my podcast, you probably feel the same way.

I talked about this issue with Air Force veteran Mitchell Boling on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast. We talked about the time he first realized he was a leader. He called it his “follow me” moment.

He relates the “follow me” moment to something like an Army Sergeant who jumps up and beckons his troops to follow him to take a hill.

In Mitch’s case, as a new team leader, he agreed to take a weekend assignment to give his team some time off but he needed someone to help him. When he asked for volunteers, every hand shot up. He said, “it gave me goosebumps.” It was at this point, he realized he was the leader and people were willing to stand up and follow him.

How about you?

Have you had a “follow me” moment yet where you realized you were the leader – where everyone looked to you for direction?

Did it humble you to know that a group of people were now depending on you to lead them effectively? Did it send chills down your spine knowing you were now responsible for the success of your team?

If you haven’t had this experience yet, you need to ask yourself – Are you really a leader or do you just have a fancy title?

As John Maxwell says, “If you think you’re leading, but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk.”

“If you think you're leading, but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk.” John Maxwell Click To Tweet

If you’ve been assigned to lead people, do it. Be the leader they need, don’t just go for a walk.

 

If you need some ideas on how to be an effective leader, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas on how you can become a more effective leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Gilbert]

The Most Important Thing to do as a New Leader

The lady in seat 2B had my attention.

I was flying home from Minnesota on a business trip when she struck up a conversation immediately after boarding.

And since she was talking about her boss, I perked up.

I love stories about bad bosses because I’m always amazed at what some people think is acceptable leadership behavior.

My seat-mate was heading out on a vacation to get away from her boss. She needed time to consider whether she was going to quit or not. The story she told me was unbelievable – a new manager who destroyed an organization in just one week.

She worked for a non-profit organization and they had just hired a new director. The director was a seasoned executive who had run several non-profits before and everyone was excited to have her on board.

But the excitement ended after a few days.

Before even meeting with and talking to employees, she began telling everyone how things were going to be done under her watch. She began cleaning out offices and throwing away files. She deleted documents on the server and discarded financial and operation reports.

When questioned, she told the employees, “I know what I’m doing.”

When my seat-mate suggested they sit down and review how payroll was processed, her new boss said, “I don’t need you to show me anything. I know how to do payroll.” My travel companion said, “She treated me like a child.”

Then, there was this red flag, my seat-mate said, “I don’t trust her.”

From what I can tell, this new director violated three cardinal rules of leadership in the first week:

1.    She never asked for any advice from her senior employees
2.    She broke the trust of her people
3.    She frustrated good employees to the point where they wanted to quit

Three strikes in one week? That’s like a world record.

The truth is, this boss failed to properly lead in the first 100 days.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a new leader, every time you take on a new leadership role, everyone will be watching you. The first 100 days are critically important. This is when the new leader sets the tone. There is a small window of time when you have the full attention of the workforce so your actions need to be carefully considered.

Yes, it’s important to have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself but you need to do so much more. On the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast, I explain the ten things you should do in the first 100 days.

But, spoiler alert, this one activity is the most important!

Have one-on-one meetings with all employees. 

Don’t assume you understand the problems and challenges facing your team. Have one-on-one meetings and ask the following three questions:

1. What’s going right?
2. What going wrong?
3. If you were in my shoes, what would you do first?

You will be surprised at how similar the responses are to these three questions. At the end of this process, you have a deeper understanding of the people and conditions in the organization.

And if you really want to be a leader worth following, take immediate action on one of the issues you learn from these interviews.

Don’t be like the bad boss in this story. Get to know your team and issues facing the business before you dive into fixing them. You will gain instant credibility and the feedback you receive will help you to make better-informed decisions.

If you like this idea and want more, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.