Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning from those who serve

It’s Veteran’s Day. One thing I like about living in the DC area is that we see and appreciate those working in the armed forces more than just this one day per year. On any given day you might see someone in one uniform or another just on your commute to work (particularly if you live or work in the Pentagon area). And even if you don’t see someone in uniform, you’ll likely see official badges hanging from the lanyards around the necks of people in suits on their way to one of the agencies that supports our service men and women. (I swear I saw an access badge of some kind with the CIA logo on it the other day. How about some OpSec, people?)

It seems there’s a debate about when, if, and how to thank our service people. (Isn’t everything controversial these days?) More often than not, the sentiment behind the gratitude is sincere. However, according to one former Marine who works here, that can often be an uncomfortable situation, particularly because there may be some question as to whether they’re just saying it. So what to do? Well, our guy says to buy him a beer if you really mean it.

Done. Do the right thing today: buy a veteran a beer.

We’ve had a lot of great people who have served come through here. Just off the top of my head, there’s Tyler, who now straps himself into jet fighters somewhere in the world. He’s one of those “skinny guys” I occasionally talk about -- he looked maybe 115 pounds “soaking wet,” but if there was anything he couldn’t lift, or if he ever had to tap out, I don’t remember it. There’s David, a Naval officer who’s always Facebooking from some port or another. I have to give him a slight bit of grief -- he was a no-show on his first day, back when I was much more forgiving about such things, but he turned out to be a rock star. He had this annoying habit of proposing great ideas for improved operations, policies, services, etc., when I couldn’t possibly find the time to getting around to implementing them. There’s Joel, one of our current crew leaders who is also one of our former Marines. He’s solid, reliable, and is another one of those “north stars” of our little operation, keeping us on the right track ethically.

I should mention Jeremiah, too. I’ll keep it brief so as not to make him uncomfortable, but what I like about him is his commitment to the best principles of the Corps. I have no illusions that every single service member is a sterling example of honor and integrity, with an unwavering sense of duty. For some, they serve their time and move on. Not Jeremiah -- he strives to live it even now in civilian clothes. Or better yet -- in the MTB uniform.

That’s why I asked him to take a crack at writing the first draft of our crew leader manual/field guide. I had hoped that he could take the best parts of his training and translate them to a civilian context. What he gave me blew me away.

I’m not trying to turn this into some sort of paramilitary outfit, but I love -- and NEED -- parameters, guidelines, and standards within which we operate in order to ensure the highest quality service. Let’s face it -- the reality is that this industry can attract some people whose personal habits and worldview are antithetical to the high standards I require.

Jeremiah took much of the material (perhaps literally) from something called “The Fundamentals of Marine Corps Leadership.” It’s filled with leadership traits and principles. I’ve kept just about all of it. My reasoning: it works great for the Marine Corps, so it ought to be good enough for this little outfit. It might seem strange to base the underlying principles for a moving company on the leadership manual for a branch of the military, but hey, it works for me.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t a leadership trait or principle in the “Fundamentals” that wouldn’t apply here. The leadership traits include: Justice, Dependability, Initiative, Decisiveness, Tact, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty, Endurance. I could (and perhaps will) blog about how each of those apply, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how that would be so. Who doesn’t want their movers to be fair (just), dependable, to take initiative in unforeseen circumstances, have tact, etc.?

I would never dream to compare what we’re trying to do with the Marine Corps or any of the other branches. It’s not even close. But I recognize “good things” when I see them, which is why I’m trying to incorporate the best of our armed services into MTB’s culture and operations.

A simple “thank you” may suffice, I suppose, but I’d like to think that emulation takes it a step farther. Nonetheless, thank you for your service, veterans. Next round’s on me.

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