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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Teach without harm

So our people mess up every now and then and we want to teach them the right way to do things without causing harm and while showing respect.

Here's another Army story.

If you've read any of my posts before you might have seen where the unwritten law in the Army was for officers to eat after their soldiers had been fed. Another rule that was a little more formal was that, after you got back in from time out in the field, officers couldn't leave until the soldiers were finished with everything and then released for the didn't go enjoy yourself or get to go see your family if your soldiers were still working.

Captain Jones had a young lieutenant working for him named LT Arnold. LT Arnold was brand new and the night of "the lesson" was the end of LT Arnold's first trip to the field with this battalion. LT Arnold went up to CPT Jones about 8:00 or 9:00 PM and said, "I'm taking off, sir; my wife and little boy are waiting for me outside."

The background was that LT Arnold only had one car and this was back in the day before cell phones. When he had gotten in from the field, LT Arnold had called his wife to tell her he was back and she and 4-year old son had driven the 15 or 20 miles to pick him up and take him home. The problem was that the troops weren't done cleaning their weapons and securing all the vehicles yet...they had probably another hour before they were done. CPT Jones had a decision to make.

Now, the "right" thing to do would have been for CPT Jones to tell LT Arnold that his wife and son needed to either wait for the next hour or so OR to go home and then come back when he was ready to be picked up.

Thing is, you can be right and dumb at the same time (a very smart Army sergeant taught me that once and it's always stayed with me). Being right in this respect would really have not served any purpose...well, LT Arnold certainly would have learned his lesson and would hopefully not have put his family through the same ordeal in the future. BUT, that is a very tough lesson because LT Arnold was new and everyone was busy and no one was really noticing him at the time.

So, CPT Jones did what I think was a very smart thing. He sat LT Arnold down, explained the situation and then said, "take your family on home and next time you'll know better, ok?" LT Arnold was embarrassed, but very thankful that his family didn't have to suffer because of his mistake. And he became and remained steadfastly loyal to CPT Jones from then on. No harm, no foul. can be right and dumb at the same time...just think about what's reasonable and go from there.

1 comment:

  1. This is not only a great lesson, but a great way to teach it. So many managers would have held this lesson against the subordinate. It looks like this manager approached this as a teaching moment.


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