Second Tirade

I was planning on only writing a positive “Here’s what I love about the military” Thursday Tirade this week. Then I was chatting with a friend and former co-worker, and I was (unfortunately) inspired.

So you get another Thursday Tirade, since the first one really wasn’t a tirade at all. Think of it like a Hobbit… you get Second Breakfast, or Rage Elevensies.

Today’s Tirade-word is “hypocrisy.” Here’s a hint: in a leadership position, you don’t want this word associated with you.

Seems obvious, but not everyone knows or understands this.

Servant leadership means – among other things – taking care of your people. One of the ways we do this is through open and honest communication. There’s nothing worse than playing “I’ve got a secret” with the members of an office or organization.

And some are smart as bricks too...
The old phrase is true of some leaders: “You make a better wall than a window.”

Open communication engenders trust. It aids with expectation management. The news may not be good for the person(s) affected, but at least they know what is going on. They can plan accordingly, and they know they can trust their leadership in the future.

Unfortunately, it seems like we often trade that long-term trust relationship and positive reputation in order to solve a short-term crisis. Someone gets deployed with little notice, and we tell them “You’ll be back in six months.”

Then, a month out, they get told they’re staying longer. Not only that, they and their spouse get told, “This was always the plan. You were going for nine months all along. You probably misunderstood.”

Congrats. You filled a short-term need and solved the huge “Who’s going out next month” problem. You did it at the cost of years of trust. Your people are not blind or stupid; they’ve seen what you’ve done, and they know not to believe you when it’s there turn to deploy or to fill a need. Not only that, but people talk. Your action seems to affect only one or two individuals, but those individuals are going to spread the story to others. Years from now, people are going to hear about you and immediately distrust your leadership.

What’s worse is when these “leaders” preach transparency and openness with their subordinates. “Don’t have a hidden agenda,” we are told, by an individual who is known for always having a hidden agenda. Did you think we weren’t watching what you do the rest of the year? Were we only supposed to listen to what you say today?

Open communication and a healthy relationship would mean that the person in charge gives the junior member all the information they need while both sides accept the fact that we’re in the military and plans can sometimes change.

I’ve had to call home from training TDYs to tell my wife, “Hey, this might be six weeks long or six months long depending on how they decide to do the flight portion of the training.” On day one, the person in charge came in to pound his chest and remind all the students that the training squadron alone would make all those decisions, so “don’t make any plans. We’ll let you know.”

So my wife is across the world with three kids, wondering whether I’ll be gone weeks or months. And on the last day of academics, the authority comes into the classroom and says, “Get tickets home. My plan all along was for you to do flight training back home.”

Really? Was that not valuable information? I’m a big boy. I understand if I get told, “The original plan was for you to go home but we can’t make that work, sorry.” Maybe keeping a secret helps you feel better about how “in charge” you are, but I never doubted whether you were in charge. I just wanted to be able to tell my wife what to expect. But for you to act like there is no decision, or keep all your plans to yourself when you can alleviate confusion and tension… and then to talk about transparency and clear communication… that’s hypocrisy.

We do this whenever we pay lipservice to a value or rule only so long as it suits us.

If you refer to regulations and guiding documents in one argument to win the discussion and justify your opinion, then you can’t turn around the next week and ignore those regs and guiding documents when they don’t say what you wish they did. That’s hypocrisy, and it’s blatant and obvious.

We can’t in one breath talk about the value of quality and for the rest of the discussion push for ways to get more production faster.

We shouldn’t be in the business of redefining words to wiggle out of what the regulations dictate, or reinterpreting clear direction in order to push (or ignore) the boundaries set upon us by leadership. If we do this for short-term expedience, in the long run, we lose the trust of those following us.

If nothing else, the hypocrisy at least is pretty transparent.

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