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The Day Job – The chicken or the egg?

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A lot of my content doesn’t just come from my head. It comes from talking with my peers, dissecting our successes and failures, and doing our best to not make decisions in a vacuum.

This one is directly from a discussion I’ve had with the boss recently, or rather, a discussion we keep coming back to. I think if two people at our level can’t seem to get away from a discussion point, especially when it’s a positive one, I should share.

A large part of my job falls into the category of Good Order and Discipline.

Note all the capitalization: it must be important.

Keeping the crew moving forward takes very specific energy. The Good Order come first, in the decisions we make, the morale of the crew, how we treat each other, and faith in the organization. It’s easy at sea. We’re out here to do a mission, we know our roles, and we are well trained as a crew. This is the good type of discipline.

Sometimes, there’s the other kind of Discipline, with the capital D, when someone does something dumb. It happens, and when it does, I have to stop everything I’m doing to deal with it.

The positive type of discipline, the well-oiled machine, planned operations, and daily interactions that positively reinforce good order are a constant every-day focus.

The negative discipline is not so quiet. It’s an immediate aggressive response to some poor decision. I go from a nice guy to, well, the bad guy, in a moment. But, sadly, it doesn’t end just as fast. The negative stuff lasts hours, days, weeks, and until then, it has to be the focus of a considerable amount of my time.

So, another quasi-hypothetical situation:

I’ve been working a long-term project involving the dissolution of an organization and the movement of all of it’s personnel to the best possible career enhancing gigs, which includes lots of time spent with each individual, discussions of career progression, goals, family issues, and opportunity. The deadline to get it all done is coming. I’m not out of the woods, but I’m getting close. Just a little further and then…

… someone does something dumb.

Drinking and driving, breaking local laws in a host nation, you name it, it’s all the same at this point. All I see is red, not just because I have to do the negative discipline stuff, but because I have less time to work on the good discipline stuff that keeps people moving forward.

In this scenario, I end up spending more time and energy on the one person who got in trouble than the other 80 whose careers are impacted with the manning changes. And yes, this means that I put in more hours to get it right for both, but it’s a strain on the decision-making process when the negative discipline distracts me and at least ten other people.

I’ve been very lucky in the last two years. I spend a lot of time on good order and the positive side of discipline. People don’t do too many dumb things, so I’m not distracted by the negative stuff, and I continue with the real luxury of investing most of my time and energy into the crew and its future. This keeps morale up, maintains good order, and so on.

It’s rather nice.

But, which came first? The fact that people don’t break rules, allowing us to focus on the positive stuff, or the fact that my peers and I spend so much time on the positive stuff that no one breaks the rules?

Did our treating each other like adults result in so many good decisions, or did they all start acting right, which causes me to treat them right?

Is our organization successful as a result of our leadership, or is it the great people who make it easy to lead us in the right direction?

Like any other ‘chicken or the egg’ question, my boss and I are lucky to be asking it. I don’t care which one came first. I’ll just try to keep this positive cycle going as long as possible.

Almost a collateral question:

What positive discussion are you having with your boss or manager that should be shared with your people?

Have a great weekend out there, and please be safe while celebrating the fourth.

– JT

My good thing: Just got a shout-out from my good friend Joey Martinez of Devil Doc Talk Show. He committed an hour and a half of his time to share different veteran resources, and I’m honored to be mentioned. Please do me a personal favor and give his show a listen here.

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1 Response

  1. July 3, 2014

    […] Is our organization successful as a results of our leadership, or is it the great people who make it easy to lead us in the right direction?  […]

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