Monday, February 1, 2010

Playing Nice With Others

In the OER (Officer Evaluation Report) world, this is known as "Teamwork," and it is defined as, "Ability to manage, lead and participate in teams, encourage cooperation and develop esprit de corps." A good mark is, "Insightful use of teams raised unit productivity beyond expectations. Inspired high level of esprit de corps even in difficult situations. Major contributor to team effort. Established relationships and networks across a broad range of people and groups, raising accomplishments of mutual goals to a remarkable level."

I strive for that, but still think I don't play nice with others sometimes. I try to...but I have a tendency to be blunt and sometimes strident in pursuit of making my point.

Without going into revealing details about what brought this up in my thoughts because a) the details are not really germane to the question, and b) it can be applied to more than one unit and interaction, I'm trying to work out an issue with a supporting unit (term used loosely in this case, not like the Navy's Supported and Supporting Unit). Of course I think I'm right...but I know that they've also got valid arguments/opinions/justifications for what happened on their end. I can't straight call them out without inserting myself where I have no right to be, but I also can't let the issue drop without comment because it had a direct impact on my ability to fulfill my responsibilities as CO.

My question is: how do I play nice with others when we don't always share a common understanding of critical issues, have the same gauge for determining priorities or have a commensurate level of ownership in the operation? When we don't have the same "give a shit" factor? Is it incumbent upon me, as the requestor, to thoroughly educate, explain and justify, or should I be able to rely on another entity's pursuit of professional excellence to provide the right answer?

I know the answer is somewhere in the middle of the two. And I know I have to pick my battles wisely.

I also know that most supporting units have more than one unit that requires attention...they've usually got six, or ten, or twenty, or forty or more. So my one little issue is sometimes barely a footnote in their daily calendar, but it's a major impact on my unit, my crew, and me. And I can only nag so much before I feel like I'm either just a pesky mosquito whining incessantly in someone's ear waiting to get slapped flat or maybe worse, hollering into an empty cavern with just my own echo answering back at me because no one else thinks it's important.

My new email signature contains a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." I added it as a reminder to myself that I need to focus my time and attention on making processes work, rather than just complaining when they're broken. I acknowledge that it is a little self-promoting and self-righteous, but I still like it. Putting it out there on my signature means that other people are free to point out when I'm not living up to that standard.


Anonymous said...

Twenty-eight years in this organization, from lowly Cadet to GS13 have taught me that each of us has an obligation to speak the truth. There are, no doubt, more challenges now in this time of tremendous upheaval, than the Coast Guard has seen in decades. I am convinced the only way we will get thru this in one piece is to communicate. Respectfully and professionally always, but loudly and passionately when necessary. Another unit's ignorance or apathy is not your fault, but if you let them affect your world, then you start to share the blame.

Good luck!!

Just a Girl said...

The more I've thought about this, the more I realize that walking this line is what my job is all about. And I need to quit whining about it. And certainly I need to quit worrying about how it affects my OER...if I strive for making things right, like you said Anon, respectfully and professionally, my OER will write itself. It's the respectfully and professionally part that I have to remember ALL THE TIME.

Azulao said...

When are you going to come and work for my university!

Because GOD do we need someone who can point out the truth again and again and again but in a RESPECTFUL and PROFESSIONAL way. Unlike the batch of whiners that we do have, who, when anything happens, immediately begin their shrill bitching that they don't get no respect...and are not convinced by actual data to the contrary.

I worship you.

Just a Girl said...

Don't get too worshipy, Az...I'm still a long, long way from being as respectful and professional as I should be. I get really, really frustrated when I think I've explained something as clearly as humanly possible, and someone else reads it completely differently, or misses my point entirely. It happens often enough to make me wonder whether I'm actually a good communicator or not.

Santa Maria Blog said...

I think that that's a tough one. I sometimes feel that I give really clear direction that is chosen to be ignored, but then when I call somebody to the front of the line for missing the goal, I'm the evil one.