One of the great things about being in the military is the constant rotation of new jobs. They not only bring new challenges, but more importantly offer opportunities for self-improvement. Unhinging ourselves from the personal SOP’s of the past allows us to attack new positions with a fresh start. It’s an opportunity for honest self-reflection about which habits worked and which did not. The good ones can be reinforced and the not so good ones can be corrected, right from the beginning.
Throughout my 17 year career I have come to understand that my strength lies in understanding organizations and people. My challenge is in details and personal organization. In the DISC profile I am most definitely a “High I” (“I” being for Influence). Knowing who you are is starting point for any self-improvement.
In the past 7 years I have continued to put an even greater focus on organizational skills. The evolution has gone a little something like this:
1- Admitting that organization is not my natural strength. It was at some point as a Second Class that I remember coming to grips with this. I remember reading Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and realizing that there was better way to approach each day.
2- Searching for improvement. After Covey’s book, I began to try new ways of organizing at different stages of my career. I read lots of other books, tried new things, and bought different planners. As I moved from one job to another and steadily progressed up the ranks I have made incremental improvements. There were times that, as I look back I could have been better, though. In particular, when I left 2d BN, 8th Marines, I reflected back and felt that when I made mistakes, they were usually mistakes of omission, not so much mistakes of commission.
Arriving in the early fall of 2008 and preparing for combat deployment in early 2009 was, hands down, the busiest time in my professional career. Not only was it busy, but the environment was incredibly unpredictable. The best thing I did was empower those below me. The terrific staff of junior Corpsmen was really what made the deployment such a success. But throughout the work ups to deployment, on more than one occasion I had the feeling that things were being held together by duct tape and bubble gum. I wanted to be organized, but I just didn’t feel like I had time to get organized.
3- Committing to improvement. After 18 months at 2d Battalion 8th Marines I moved up to the manpower and operations post for the entire Division. I knew this billet would be just as time-consuming as the previous job, but now my actions (or any lack there of) would affect 27 units, not just one. Looking back now, I feel I made some good strides in organizational skills at this job, particularly in regards scheduling my time. I learned the value of plotting out the routine tasks of my day. I learned to recognize the daily distractions that frequently dropped into my office. I was on my way out the door I learned from my replacement the value of shutting the door to the office and ignoring a ringing phone. Watching him made me think, “How much more effective could I have been if I had done that?” But the point is not to regret what you did not do, but instead take what you learned and apply it to the next task.
4- Continuing the journey (Present day). As I start my new job recruiting Offices for service in Navy Medical Department, I no longer view organization as a trait in competition with production. Instead, I have chosen to begin with the view that IT IS MY JOB TO BE ORGANIZED, production will follow. I need to ask myself each time I engage a potential applicant, “Am I ready to talk to this person right now?” The good parts of my “High I” personality will not atrophy because I am focused on the weaknesses. Attention to organization, though, can amplify my stronger suits. It’s my hope and belief that production will be direct result of organization.
I love the phrase that was repeated over and over during our training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. It seems pretty applicable in this case as well. I’ll let you know how this works out.
* Follow my blog: http://chiefsmess.wordpress.com/
** Manager-Tools has a series of podcasts on the DISC model, to include how to handle strengths
and weaknesses of each of the four traits, as well as how to manage and work for people in the
A list can be found here: http://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/manager-tools?filter0=17