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Saturday, November 7, 2009


ARMY Story (this is a follow-on to this post "Leaders are there").

When I was the Communications Officer for 8-43 Air Defense Artillery back in the 80s, we spent a ton of time doing maneuvers out in the New Mexico desert. The reason we were out in the field so much was that we had just formed the unit from an initial group of 25-30 of us and built it up to about 700 soldiers in preparation of our move to Germany as part of the air defenses against the Russians and the Soviet bloc (this was before "the wall" came down, you know).

8-43 ADA was a PATRIOT missile unit that was heavy on communications (some called it a communications system that shot missiles). Anyway, I digress.

If the control vans and the launchers couldn't communicate, the unit was useless, so we trained, trained, trained. Back in the 80s, the doctrine was to move at night because we were less visible to the enemy in the dark. I did my best to be on site whenever a missile battery moved into position so I could watch the Commo guys get everything set up. Those days, people like me didn't get much rest because some unit was always moving and when that wasn't happening, other communication issues had to be dealt with. I would sit on the hood of my vehicle, watching the soldiers getting the equipment all set up and operating, trying to stay awake. I often looked at my watch to see what time it was...0200, 0300, 0330 and thinking about when I'd get some sleep. That's what I did.

"OK, great. You looked at your watch", you say. Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to the point. After our 4 months of rolling to the field every week was finally over, I was speaking to the Commo section sergeants from one of the PATRIOT batteries about how fast and efficiently his team had been...even more than the others. His response surprised me. He said, "we had to be fast, sir, since I saw you were constantly timing us." I started laughing. He asked what was funny. I said, "I wasn't timing you. I was just tired and kept looking at my watch to see how much sleep I'd get that night." He said, "And all that time, we thought you were timing us and I was determined my team was going to win the competition." I wish I had thought of that.

Visibility and interest by the leaders are key to the success their people. Even though I didn't realize it, I was giving the sergeant the perception of my keen interest (and I was interested) and my expectations of him and his team.

Do you have other examples of how leader visibility positively impacts the team?

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