7 Steps to Get Respect on the Job
Carmine Gallo | October 11, 2007
Robert Labrenz is an officer and information technology (IT) instructor aboard the USS Ronald Reagan — the largest and most technically advanced aircraft carrier sailing the world’s oceans. Labrenz leads a team of technical specialists who support Web, e-mail, data centers, and PC hardware for the Reagan’s 5,000-member crew. Motivation plays an important role in the function of an IT department. From the moment Labrenz steps on a ship, all eyes are on him. He is recognized as a technical expert and expected to give sound, unwavering advice that requires respect.
According to Labrenz, “If I cannot motivate everyone — from the division's chief down to the newest seaman — and inspire them to do their best, an adversarial attitude will quickly take hold. By building a relationship based on trust, we have an open pathway of communication that allows me to make recommendations that are more likely to be heeded and acted upon.”
Simple Secret No. 1: Ignite Your Enthusiasm
Labrenz admits that naval operations in general can become monotonous and dull over time. It is up to him as a manager to excite his team by helping them to recognize the vital role they play on the ship. “I emphasize the necessity of what we do; I lead by excitement,” says Labrenz. He lit a fire in himself well before he even met his new team. He was passionate and excited about his role. He saw the direct benefit to the safety of his shipmates and the public they protect.
Simple Secret No. 2: Navigate the Way by Delivering a Clear and Compelling Vision
Labrenz taught me that while IT professionals have a technical understanding of the work to be done, delivering a clear vision will help them become more successful as they advance through their careers, whether they remain in the Navy or choose careers in the private sector. “In a fast-paced environment, the Navy places a premium on career progression,” says Labrenz. “If you cannot advance, your services are not required. Because of this fact of life, an inspiring leader must continually and actively encourage his or her people to study for qualification, advancement exams, certifications, and to continue work toward a college degree. Continuous learning is the key.”
Simple Secret No. 3: Sell the Benefit
“A leader must emphasize downstream effects over the specific tasks,” Labrenz says. In other words, he succeeds by selling his crew on the benefit of their current assignment. “The Navy doesn't sell a product or service. We provide a service to the public. If you perform well, you will generally advance ahead of your peers and therefore make more money. However, the focus of the message to junior personnel should be on the skills they will learn, the experience to be gained, and even the adventure of a career at sea. This is the internal audience we must motivate aboard ship.”
Simple Secret No. 4: Paint the Picture by Telling Powerful Stories
“Nothing is more powerful than a proper sea story at conveying wisdom, experience, and lessons one has learned the hard way,” he adds. “Every good Navy leader has an endless supply of sea stories, each with a specific point. This is what separates the effective from the ineffective leader.” Tell stories to keep your culture alive and to create fiercely loyal corporate teams who will share the stories and live the lessons those stories impart.
Simple Secret No. 5: Invite Participation by Soliciting Input, Listening for Feedback, and Taking Action Based on What You Hear
You wouldn’t think that the military would be leading the charge for more openness, but listen to Lorenz address the issue. “The days of one way command-and-control leadership style are over. More and more, the people we recruit want their opinion heard and taken into consideration. A ship at sea is not a democracy, but inclusiveness in decision-making will always deliver better results than forcing an unpopular decision downward through the ranks. If a tough call must be made, Sailors will be able to tolerate it if the reasons are made known.” Labrenz says that a ship offers many opportunities for its crew to give feedback, from suggestion boxes to “All Hands” meetings — open forums in every department attended by senior leadership.
Simple Secret No. 6: Reinforce Optimism
“Pessimism is a cancer that will consume an entire ship,” says Labrenz. “Likewise optimism is contagious. Optimism must start from the very top of the structure. If the captain isn't positive, the ship will suffer. An upbeat, can-do, “HOO-YAH” attitude is what differentiates the inspiring leaders from the get-through-the-day task managers.”
Simple Secret No. 7: Encourage Their Potential
Spending months at sea would be an arduous task for just about anyone. Imagine what life would be like for those young twenty-something men and women on Labrenz’s team if they felt demoralized and apathetic about their roles. Labrenz sees to it that they maintain a culture of cooperation, integrity, and tradition. He is truly concerned for the personal well-being and professional achievement of each and every person who works for him. Where did he learn that quality? From the other great naval leaders before him who communicated their values through the stories they told. A ship’s crew must provide its own support network. “When we're at sea, who else can we turn to but each other?” says Labrenz. They can turn to Labrenz because he cares, and they know it.
The article was excerpted from Carmine Gallo’s new book, “Fire Them Up”! (John Wiley & Sons, October 12, 2007). The book reveals the language of motivation as practiced by the world’s leading business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and military personnel. In this excerpt, a navy IT manager explains how he applies the 7 techniques — simple secrets — in Gallo’s book.
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Copyright 2007 Carmine Gallo. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.