Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hail to the (New) Chief!

Yesterday I was able to attend the pinning ceremony (sorry for the poor photo quality) for one of my employees as he achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the Navy Reserve. Daniel is one heck of a journalist in my public affairs department and is an emerging leader in the ranks of the navy as well. (Truly he wears two hats -- for me in the ARMY Corps of Engineers and here in the NAVY reserves!)

What struck me as unique was the importance of this milestone. The Navy seemed to really mark the transition from led to leader in an important, meaningful way -- more so than we do in the Army. These ceremonies, in which selectees for this promotion pin on the new rank and receive the coveted hat of the "Chief," are worth noting and worth considering the implications for the rest of us.

A "Chief" in the Navy signifies leadership within the enlisted ranks. Sailors progress until they demonstrate in their performance, leadership potential, and technical expertise their readiness for the higher grade. This ceremony then signifies in a meaningful way that readiness and formally marks the transition into positions of greater responsibility and higher expectations.

Really the ceremony was just the public recognition. I learned that Daniel had been preparing for several months for the new rank. He had spent hours studying leadership, memorizing key texts, examining Navy history, understanding more about the role of the Chief and the responsibilities that come with wearing the "anchors" on his collar, mentoring under senior enlisted leaders, and in many other ways preparing for the transition. There was undoubtedly an investment in this new leader that would prepare him for these higher levels of responsibility. Daniel took it seriously and so did the Navy.

I was impressed with the importance of the event and wondered if I do enough to mark these sorts of transition in my own organization. I left thinking that I should do more to signify the importance of the selection of a new leader, that newly "minted" supervisors should do more than just get the bigger desk and maybe a little more in their paycheck. Becoming a leader should be as important and memorable of an event on my team as the Navy made it for Daniel.

I left thinking that I would not let another person become a leader in my organization without the sort of investment that I saw reflected at this ceremony. I need to make sure that my teammates have the necessary skills and tools, that they have a support group in place to help them understand their new roles and responsibilities, and that they are recognized in this important transition.

The Navy gets it. So do I. And that is...Leader Business.

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