Sunday, January 26, 2014

Penciled In

Tuesday was a snow day. Big OPM closed federal offices since we were supposed to get up to eight inches of snow. I went into the office before the snow started, partly to check what was going on, and partly to pick up my laptop so I could "work" from home. I didn't have anything immediately deliverable, but wanted to make sure I was available if taskers came in despite most things federal being closed.

And I wanted to stay "green-dotted" so the Assignment Officer knew I was not too busy to talk to him. I thought of if like putting a fishing line into the water while the ship transits between tasking. Fishing for a Detailer, if you will. I spent a lot of time catching up on the message board on Tuesday.

At 1222, an IM popped up at the bottom of my screen. "Charlotte, do you have time for a call?"

OMG, OMG, OMG, it *worked!!* "FISH ON!"

"Absolutely! I'm working from home, so call me on my cell..."

Two extremely long minutes later, the phone rang.

"I'm happy to tell you I have you penciled in for [your First Choice]."

Breathe, C, remember to breathe! I expressed my excitement, and we went through a few more details about what happens next in the assignment process (brief the command, issue orders, etc). I didn't really have any professional advice-type questions, since I must be doing the right things right to get my first choice. I'll definitely be reaching out to OPM towards the end of next tour to try to figure out what I should do for my next staff tour, but this one was kinda a no-brainer that I needed to get back afloat.

We chatted another couple of minutes about some other AY14-related issues (the unexpected WPB decomms in the FY14 budget), and then hung up so that he could get on with his other calls.

Thanks to all my friends, family and co-workers for being patient with me as the news sinks in and the giddiness abates. I didn't quite go skipping down the halls of Headquarters on Wednesday, but it was a close thing.

I'm being cagey about which boat it is for a reason. Orders aren't officially on the board, so things can still change. And I still need to figure out how to approach this blog thing as an XO. Which means talking about it with my new CO. Up until now, I have been relatively free to talk about what I want, how I want. The stuff I'm writing about here is distant enough from real people, that I don't risk getting crosswise with my boss about leadership or personnel issues. And when I was writing on KISKA, I was writing as the CO...my opinion was the one that mattered at the end of the day.

It's not going to be that way as XO. I will have my opportunity to express my opinion behind closed doors to the CO, but when the door opens, and decisions are presented to the crew, there is no room for daylight between the CO and XO. The XO is the Executive Officer...the title could just as easily be the Executor...the person who executes the commands. I don't get to have my own public opinion.

There are a couple of huge benefits I have gotten from writing this blog:
-- When I was on KISKA, it was a fantastic way to make the crews' daily lives accessible to their friends and family. I got *so much* positive feedback when I posted about normal, mostly boring details about patrols. The details are normal and boring to us who live them, but they are nuggets of insight into how we spend our days for folks back on the beach. Pictures of  something as routine as boat lowering detail can show loved ones that their sailors are *good* at what they do, professional and dedicated in ways that families don't always see.
-- I use this blog as a way to work through leadership and big picture issues in my head. I might not have any idea of where I'm going when I start a post, but by the end, I've usually distilled the issues and come up with some sense of what is important about whatever it is. And I'm forced to write about things because I have people reading the blog. It would be much easier to not expend so much brain power on thinking about any of this leadership crap, but because I have an audience, I write, and because I write, I'm a better leader.

I think that moving into the XO position, those two goals are likely mutually exclusive. I can see keeping an open forum for the first topic. I'm not so sure about keeping an open forum for the second. It will depend largely upon how comfortable the CO is with what I have to say. And also largely upon how well I think I can separate out the issues from the details. A ship's crew is a very small, self-contained world. There are not many secrets onboard a ship. And I will not jeopardize people's privacy for the sake of my blog. As FMR reminded me, I am accountable to the crew and the wardroom first and foremost, before being accountable to any readership I might have.

On the other hand, I think there is a definite need for continued consideration, analysis, reevaluation of leadership issues in today's Coast Guard. The issues are changing, the system is calcified, are the people caught in the middle? What can I do in my small part of the system to improve the dialogue, and come up with creative solutions that support the individuals, enhance the mission and improve the flexibility of the organization?

I'm facing a quandary here. I welcome any input about how to approach the details of this next challenge. I talked briefly with the incumbent XO. He started to read me into some of the challenges the ship and crew are facing, and sounded a little beat down by all of it. He's been there for almost two years, and I know how he feels right about now. But from my view, if there are no challenges, if there are no problems, I don't have a job as XO...now where's the fun in that?

1 comment:

R said...

This blog post sounds like an abstract for a Proceedings article.