Sweat poured from every pore in my body and I struggled to keep my legs “six inches off the deck” during an intensive physically training session at boot camp. The company commander (a Navy version of a Drill Instructor) stood powerfully over all of the recruits yelling:
“On your backs!”
“On your bellies!”
“Push up position…HOLD IT….HOLD IT!”
Moans and groans came from every corner of the room as this “punishment” seemed to last forever. Then, with a smirk, the Company Commander yelled; “Are you tired yet!?”
In unison, we all yelled, “YES SIR!”
“I’m not!” He replied as he calmly took a swig of his coffee.
“We’re gonna make these walls sweat, recruits!”
That, my friends, is a small glimpse of what goes on in an actual boot camp. For those of you who have served and experienced the same, I salute you. It is what we call, sociologically, a “total institution socialization.” A breaking down of people to get them to conform and behave in a certain manner.
That is why when I hear the term “boot camp” attached to a weekend marketing scheme to get people to become better leaders, I cringe. The thought that you can go away for a weekend to what is referred to as a “boot camp” is ill titled and nothing AT ALL like boot camp.
Leadership is a deliberative process. There is no “one size fits all” method to it and most of it (since it is individualized for leader and follower) is trial and error. It is finding the fit of what works for you and your people to get the job done. That is why I think most leaders don’t really need a boot camp as much as they need a reboot on how to get along, get connected, and learn to employ basic human relations as a strategy to engage their teams.
When I find myself in need of a reboot (and we ALL need it from time to time), this is what I do.
STOP! We live in a busy world with multiple priorities necessitating our our “immediate” attention. It can get overwhelming. If I’m going to connect, I have to get outside of the spiral of craziness. This, for me, is actually unplugging and taking a walk to get away from the noise and the voices in my head. I spend this time doing a little “leadership by walking around.”
LOOK! Once outside of the spiral, take a good gander on what is going on. What are you doing? What are your people doing? What is providing value? What is not? Who seems to be enjoying what they do? Who is not? And if not, why not? Open those peepers wide so that nothing is missed.
LISTEN! On my walk, I try to listen more than talk. One of my best bosses took the time to really listen to me and know me as a person. Not to say he wasn’t a task master, he was. Because he knew me, he knew what motivated me. Because he knew what motivated me, I was on HIS team. There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done for him in the push to make our mission. That wouldn’t have happened if he did all the talking. Meet people where they are, ask a question and then shut up.
ACT! You’re going to find out things you didn’t know and many more things that need to be done. Teams want decisions. Not all decisions are perfect and, quite frankly, can be wrong. I never had a team that didn’t appreciate my willingness to make decisions – even if they turned out wrong the team would forgive as long as I communicated what happened. In today’s world, we always seem to be waiting for that “next big piece of information” in order to act. That time never comes. I act in accordance with my values. If it feels right and is alignment with our vision and taking care of our team, let’s do it. You’re team is waiting!
Now, I don’t mean to sound sour on the idea of calling something a boot camp (well, actually, I do). But, if you don’t have some guy screaming in your face 24/7 and trying to form you into the mold of a service member, it’s NOT A BOOT CAMP! So, try an occasion reboot. Get out, about, and act! I think you’ll find the effort and the results rewarding.