Showing posts with label Plebe Poop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plebe Poop. Show all posts

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Employee Orientation at West Point



I was reminded of the importance of new employee orientation when my buddy got back from dropping his son off at the United States Military Academy at West Point to start his journey as a new cadet. With tears still in his and his wife's eyes, his accounting took me back in time to my orientation.

First of all, I can't believe I am old enough to have friends whose babies are entering (or in some cases have already graduated from) West Point. Ouch! But I am equally amazed at how effective the orientation process still is. In one day, young men and women are transformed from civilian individuals to members of a high performing military team (see this video here for the parade at the end of Day 1).

While my own orientation (R-day for Reception) is still a blur, I remember some of the key components. I received uniforms, got a haircut, met my new leadership team, received some briefings, signed some forms, and learned the basics of marching. And by the end of the first day, I was "New Cadet Magness," participating in my first parade in front of parents and friends of the West Point Class of 1985. Aaaah...good times. (At least I will remember it that way for you here. I won't go into how I cried myself to sleep in my bunk...scared to death about what I was getting into! Ha!).

How does your orientation process measure up? Are you ensuring that you provide the time and energy necessary to give that good first impression, to make new employees feel like part of the team, and to help all team members see the big picture for the team they have just joined? How does your program compare against these key elements from my own orientation program?

-- Issue new equipment to enable success. I received uniforms, linens, a room assignment, foot locker, a bunk in the barracks, and everything I needed to function.

-- Provide information about the team and learn how to use all new equipment. On R-day, I learned plenty of rules. "Pick up your bags! Drop your bags! Salute, left turn, right turn, forward march! Your only responses are yes sir, no sir, and no excuse sir. Do you understand new cadet?" Wow...just typing that last part made me nervous! I learned how to make my bed (and how to sleep in it without messing it up so it would always be ready for inspection. More good times!), how to walk, march in formation, and sit in a chair (ok, some of these elements may not directly apply).

-- Learn about organizational culture. R-day provided an overview of the cadet honor code and the basics of the military which we had just joined. We raised our right hand and took an oath of allegiance to defend our country.

-- Take care of all administrative and HR issues. While again most of it was a blur, I remember signing plenty of paperwork to enter into the system for pay, benefits, and notification of next of kin (you may not all need that last item!). We were told when we could take time off (Christmas) and when we could retire (24 years seemed like a long time but wow did it go by fast!).

-- Meet the leadership team and be formally welcomed into the organization. I was one of 11 young men assigned to a squad leader. This cadet junior would be our mentor and instructor for the first summer (yes, orientation extended for a couple of months -- NOT good times!). We heard from the cadet chain of command and the leadership at the Academy. All of these leaders welcomed us and provided an orientation to what we had just joined.

There are any combination of elements for an effective orientation. In sum though, new employees must feel like they have the necessary skills and tools to be effective, they understand the fundamental administrative elements of the organization, they know their leaders, and they are educated on the company's culture, vision, and goals and objectives. New employees should know and understand their role and see where they fit on the team.

How does your orientation measure up? Are your troopers marching as one by the end of the day? It can be done! That's...Leader Business!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lowering the Standard


Early in my military career, as a new cadet at West Point, my leaders shared this piece of wisdom:

"New Cadet, never walk past a mistake. If you fail to make a correction, you have just set a new standard."

As leaders, we get what we settle for. If we don't make it clear that behaviors are unacceptable, we are giving tacit approval to continue. If we are not willing to risk personal discomfort to let others know that they are messing up, then we are messing up.

Think about how many times this week you have told someone it is okay to:

-- Verbally abuse a co-worker or subordinate.
-- Fudge on timekeeping.
-- Fail to meet commitments.
-- Sleep in meetings.
-- Steal from the office.
-- Speak negatively about a customer.

"Wait a minute," you say. "I would never tell anyone that it is okay to do those things."

But the fact is, we do when we allow mistakes to go unchallenged. When we don't call out our subordinates, our peers, or even our leaders to tell them that they are coming up short, we are giving the green light to that behavior. When we conduct counseling or performance reviews and gloss over shortcomings, we are encouraging subordinates to continue along their current course.

We do it every day. And each time, we lower the standard just a little more.

Make the correction. That's what leaders do. That's Leader Business.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More Plebe Poop


At the United States Military Academy at West Point, we were required to commit several things to memory during freshman, or plebe, year. While they seemed like nothing more than an attempt to "haze" new cadets, much of this knowledge has stayed with me and helped shape my thoughts on leadership. Occasionally I'd like to share a few key pieces of "plebe poop" with you and see what you think. Keep in mind that not all "poop" is created equal. Some is for leader development. And some is valuable only in humoring my kids. Here is one of each:


Duty - Honor - Country (West Point Values as espoused in the Motto)

"Duty-Honor-Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn."
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Speech Upon Receiving the Sylvanus Thayer Medal United States Military Academy May 12, 1962


How is the Cow?

She walks, she talks, she's full of chalk, the lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the nth degree.


I still don't know what the issue was with the cow! But my kids love it and I am regularly paraded in front of their friends to recite this. 27 years of still now knowing what it means!

But I understand General MacArthur's message. We need a rallying point, some place to reassemble in times of turmoil or chaos. We need a place to look, to reassure ourselves that we are doing the right thing. We need some place to go when we are lost that can inspire us to keep moving forward.

Those are our values. They are not simply words on a poster or, in this case, in a motto. They are why we do what we do. They are what we stand for, what we believe, what our customers and teammates should see in our words and actions. Our values are who we are -- when no one is watching!

For a Soldier, they are why they fight: Duty, Honor, Country! Those three words....

Hooah!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Plebe Poop #1

At the United States Military Academy at West Point, we were required to commit several things to memory during freshman, or plebe, year. While they seemed like nothing more than an attempt to "haze" new cadets, much of this knowledge has stayed with me and helped shape my thoughts on leadership. Occasionally I'd like to share a few key pieces of "plebe poop" with you and see what you think. Keep in mind that not all "poop" is created equal. Some is for leader development. And some is valuable only in humoring my kids. Here is one of each:

Schofield's Definition of Discipline

The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.
-- Major General John M. Schofield Address to the Corps of Cadets August 11, 1879

What is the Definition of Leather?

If the fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fat, and other extraneous matter, be immersed in a dilute solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a nonputresible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this is leather.

The first one says a lot about how we should treat subordinates. There is still nothing to be gained by "harsh and tyrannical treatment." The second, well...I still don't think it makes any sense...but my kids love it! Hooah!