(This is Part 7 of Leadership Principles)
One of the most exciting things you can do as a young tank platoon leader is participate in a tank gunnery exercise. Essentially it’s going to a shooting range with some really big cannons mounted on a 68 ton chassis. One particularly hot summer in Colorado, I went to my second gunnery.
About six months before this gunnery exercise, I had a new soldier transfer into my platoon (let’s call him Specialist England). He had been in the army for about three years by the time he made it to my platoon. He wasn’t the spiffiest soldier nor was he very fond of all the regulations (he’d occasionally break them – flagrantly). In short, he was a bit of a “problem child.” Nonetheless, I was responsible for him and his performance.
England went on several field problems with us in those six months. It was usually pretty difficult to motivate him to perform his job well. He simply didn’t have a fire in his belly to train hard and train well. My platoon sergeant and I had multiple conversations with him about his lack of performance but for some reason we were never able to get beyond “yeah… I’ll try to do better” with him.
After those difficult six months, we headed to this summer gunnery. I was excited about the event but somewhat concerned about how England would perform in a live fire environment. As we sat around playing Euchre (an army favorite) for hours in the sweltering heat, I decided to send my driver over to the snack shack to buy some sodas (my treat). I gave him a few dollars and he was about to run off to get our drinks. Before he bolted I told him to get two Pepsis, a Coke, a Diet Coke, a Mountain Dew, and a 7Up. He wrote down the order and headed out.When my driver returned, he asked me who got which beverage. He then handed them out as instructed. As he handed England the 7Up, England said “How did you know I drink 7Up?”
“I didn’t. Lieutenant Figliuolo did. He told me to get it for you.”
England turned to me with a bit of a puzzled look and asked “You know I drink 7Up?”
“Yeah. I do.”
With a smirk and a nod, England replied “You’re alright sir.”
A funny thing happened that week. England was a very different soldier. He was proactively doing all the things we had previously had to coerce him to do. He smiled. He was excited to be at gunnery and be a member of the platoon. Many of the disciplinary issues we used to have with him disappeared. He was a different soldier altogether.
Now I’m not sure exactly why this change occurred. Maybe 7Up is much better than I thought. Or maybe it was simply that he knew someone on the team cared about him as an individual.
What do the members of your team drink?
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC