Leadership / VIPs / Distractions
Inconvenience and distraction can be necessary evils.
“Great news,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm, “the CG [Commanding General] is coming to visit. Time for the old dog-and-pony show.”
I was a lieutenant in Germany and we’d been told the big cheese was coming in three weeks to “observe” training. We spent a week planning the training and then two weeks doing the training. THEN the general arrived to watch us train. We were awesome, first rate, outstanding.
How could we not be? My platoon had spent two weeks practicing the training event (normal gun emplacements, something ordinary and routine for artillery units) for the two-star to fly in by helicopter, spend a couple of hours on the ground, and then leave.
During the course of my Army time, I endured many more VIP visits. Most of them were Kabuki theater events rather than informative site visits.
It became part of my leadership philosophy then that if you want to really know what’s going on, then show up when no one expects you. That’s why when I commanded a basic training unit, once in a while I’d walk the barracks at midnight, or two in the morning, or four in the morning. It takes a strong stomach because you never know what you’re going to find. You know what I found? Every single time? My soldiers doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Drill Sergeants had things completely under control (as I’d expected). Whether they saw me or not, they always knew I’d been there.
Usually the next morning, one of them would sidle up to me with a smirk and ask about it. “Drill Sergeant, I found exactly what I expected.” I’d let that drop for a second. “Nothing. Just the way it’s supposed to be.”
I’m sure some of them resented me and saw it as a lack of trust. Others actually liked it because it validated the excellent job they were doing. In two years of command, we had zero incidents of trainee abuse. I had great NCOs but I still checked on them.
When I was in Iraq, we often had CODELs which stood for Congressional Delegations. We hated those things but we also knew that Congress pays the bills. So we made time and we…