Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is This My Battle?

I asked a corpsman to come from MSU to brief my corpsman on the Sailor of the Quarter Board for tomorrow. He brought his paperwork and instructed her on how to acquit herself properly and professionally. Then he sat down and that's when I noticed the glassy eyes. "I had a 101.6 degree temperature this morning," he said.

"Get yourself to sick call," I replied. "You need to be SIQ [Sick in Quarters]."

"I would, but the Division Officer said she would call in another corpsman to cover for me and those corpsmen have already worked three shifts."

He told me there were 8 patients and 3 would be discharged home. They had another nurse working who had been a corpsman herself, an LPN, a ward clerk, and an orienting corpsman. "That's more than enough to handle the workload," I said.

"That's what I thought," he said wearily as he forced his body out of the chair to return to the ward.

I thought of all the leadership books I've read, the ones I've made notes in, the ones I've loaned out. I sat in on the ranking board for the lieutenants and listened to the senior leaders ponder the limbo between being honest and being kind. This nurse is more concerned with herself, how she ranks among other nurses, and how she can accumulate collateral duties and accolades to improve her standing within the command than she is about being kind and doing the right thing.

I can still remember her venting when a newly-reporting lieutenant had asked if she could leave early. "She left early on Tuesday, and now she wants to leave early today!"

I reminded her that this lieutenant had only been on island for two months and still had errands and obligations tied to moving. "Cut her some slack," I advised.

She fumed, "When is it going to end?"

In retrospect, I believe she really wanted me to recognize that she was doing hard work, which I did, but I didn't acknowledge it aloud to her. So I failed her. And I have to wonder, at what rank do you need to give up the notion of "atta boys" and kudos? Or is this something we all crave no matter our status?

When you do the right thing for your people---that's when you can persuade those people that the journey with you will be interesting and challenging, that's when you can demonstrate to those people that they will gain much and learn more, that's when you know you are truly a leader...and not just someone out taking a walk.

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