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The Day Job – Surprise!

     Today is my favorite day onboard; it’s Taco Tuesday. Now, you may be thinking of all sorts of other great days in the week, and they’re all good, but for me, this is my favorite for two reasons:

  1. Tacos 
  2. Tuesday

     It sounds simple and it is. When you’re out in the middle of the ocean for weeks at a time, and when the 18-hour days all kind of jumble together, something as easy as tacos every Tuesday help us mark the time before we go home to our loved ones. On my last ship, it was pizza and wings Friday. Not pizza or wings, but pizza AND wings. Our supply person obviously loved us.

     And then we got a new supply guy, and he had a plan. He was going to make his first meal onboard memorable and prove to us that he also loved us. Very sneakily, he made his orders in hushed phone calls in the middle of the night. Since we were on the other side of the world, just about any important call had to be made in the middle of the night, but that’s not the point. There was definitely whispering. He ordered the most important, the most special meal of meals.

     And along comes Friday on the other side of the world, out to sea for weeks, every day blended with those before it, and in we came to eat.

     And there it was…

     Steak and Lobster.
     And the new supply guy said, “Surprise!”

     That’s when the yelling started.

     After a bunch of senior people made their point, both at length and volume, the supply guy said, “I can’t believe I’m being yelled at for steak and lobster.”

     For a new person in his first week on a ship, his logic was perfect. As a matter of fact, he was probably doing what they tell everyone right out of school, which is to win everyone over with steak and lobster. Ice cream is a hit as well, by the way. So, he did what he knew, and that’s not wrong.

     But, it’s about what he didn’t know. If you’re one of the Sailors in the reading audience, you can probably tell why the yelling started. Unannounced steak and lobster six months into a deployment is always bad news. It usually means the deployment is being extended, or we’re taking a turn in the direction we weren’t planning on, or something else that will keep us away from our families a little longer. As a matter of fact, I think steak and lobster attracts bad news. I remember one time when we planned steak and lobster for no reason, and bad new fell in our lap anyway, probably the world working to ensure the cosmic balance of steak, lobster, and bad news remained intact.

     The other part of this, the most basic part, was that we expected pizza and wings on Friday, just like I expect my tacos on Tuesday. It was part of the routine that marked weeks off the calendar and got us all a little closer to home. So, when he changed the routine, it was not handled well. When he surprised us with the one thing we never want to be surprised with, it was not a happy surprise.

     In an earlier post, I said that we don’t have 90 days to sit around and think deep thoughts. We need to get some momentum and connect as fast as possible, but sometimes our ideas to do so can really backfire. Believe it or not, some of my really great ideas haven’t been what I thought they were, and certainly didn’t have the intended effect.

     Specifically when getting started, our completely valid ideas could accidentally ruin the important routines and unspoken rules we don’t know about. How can we prevent making those mistakes? Again, it’s about not being too critical, not looking for things that need fixing, and instead looking for those good things we’re doing right. If the supply person had asked what the best thing about the food was, just about everyone would have said pizza and wing Friday, followed closely by taco Tuesday.

     Another way would be to share his idea before he started investing time, energy, and money into it. Once we’ve committed resources to an idea, we all have a resistance to let go of even the bad ideas. If he’d shared the idea first, I would have said it’s a terrible one, and we could have had a discussion about how to make that connection he was looking for.

     What routine did you accidentally disrupt when making your grand entrance?

     For those of you expecting a new manager, what do you know you don’t want changed?

     If you’re that new person, will you ask for input before making unnecessary changes?

Have a great week out there.

– JT

Related articles:

The First Few Days

Not on Friday!

My good thing: It really is Taco Tuesday. 

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