The Gunnery Sergeant assigned to my class during Officer Candidate School (OCS) was big, mean and made Lou Gossett Jr. (from an “Officer and a Gentleman") look like a kitty cat. Seemingly, he loved the heat; he loved to see us sweat; and he especially loved to have us march. Our only form of transportation was marching - which made the shoes we wore were extremely important to the overall well-being of our bodies. Once broken in and properly polished, a “good pair of shoes" was priceless.
My shoes became my best companion: comfortable, functional, and almost familiar with my footsteps - cushioning the pressures my whole body endured as I “right flanked" here or “obliqued" there (marching moves). Unfortunately, due to the heavy wear and tough conditions, my shoes would wear out quickly which meant getting a new pair and repeating the sometimes painful process of polishing, breaking them in, and adapting to their fit.
As leaders, we all have that one team member that is like a quality pair of shoes. We obtain them, polish them, break them in, and use them for all occasions - proceeding to grind them down until there is nothing left. When we're done, we get a new pair and start the process all over again. Sure, we remember the last pair fondly and hate breaking in new ones, but do understand it's necessary if we are going to keep marching. If you want even wear, extended “shoe" life, and the ability to “double time" to your next destination without the blisters, discomfort, and time associated with breaking in a new pair, you need to be attentive to some shoe facts.
Fact #1: Rotating your shoes extends their life. Take the time to bring multiple team members in on projects, break them in, polish them and expand your circle of influence by evenly distributing workload between all. Yes, some shoes fit great and it seems effortless to march in them but the others would be equally comfortable if we wore them more often.
Fact #2: Your posture can affect wear. How we march affects how evenly our shoes will wear. Digging our heals, leaning too much to one side, too much to the front, or pounding the pavement too hard takes it's toll on the “souls" of our team members and also their usefulness. Standing straight, marching forward, and stepping consistently even keeps their “souls" in tact.
Fact #3: Shoe “Fit" affects everything. Use the right shoes for the right occasion. Sure, you can run in combat boots but you're not going to get there very quickly. There are shoes that are made for every occasion. The same applies for team members. Not that they can't function in another capacity (it's good to try it out) but the entire body can be affected by an extended bad “fit. "
Fact #4: Overall care matters more than anything. Keeping your shoes polished, not abusing them, and protecting them from the elements ensures continued productivity and extends their life. Treat them well and you will enjoy their function and comfort for a very long time.
In the end, we are all marching somewhere. It can be at a double time or slow pace. The direction can be to the left, to the right or “mark time" (in place). It may be of our own accord or we may have a big, mean, Gunnery Sergeant pushing us to our limits. Regardless, how well we choose, care for, and march in our shoes affects more than just where we are going - it affects the whole body. Being attentive to these 4 facts will have your team continually looking sharp, wearing evenly, and enjoying a long, productive work life (and, yes, will also keep the “Gunny" off your back). KEEP MARCHING!
Chip Lutz is a professional speaker, trainer, and retired Navy Officer with 22 years leadership experience. He speaks and trains on the power of positive leadership and the infusion of humor in the workplace to increase morale, productivity, and teamwork. He served as Commanding Officer of two separate Navy Facilities and was the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC during September 11th, 2001. Additionally, he is adjunct faculty for two colleges where he teaches classes in leadership, teamwork, and organizational behavior. Find our more about his work at http://www.funsquadinc.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on his weekly newsletter distribution.