4 “F” Words Define Balanced Approach To Leadership

It was a simple comment attached to a recent post.

The subject was April 7th, anniversary of the date I assumed command of the USCGC Point Whitehorn many moons ago.

Scott, a member of my crew during that time, reacted to the post and offered this comment:

“You were espousing the value of personnel and how best to balance work & life long before it was in vogue.”

I felt humbled by the sentiment.

Back then I was just a scrubbed-faced kid trying to understand life as a leader.

Self-confident in my selection for Command, that confidence carried over to the crew through a genuine trust in their abilities and a shared willingness to learn from each other.

It was second nature for me to seek a balance between my personal wants, needs, and desires, and those of the ten gentlemen assigned to my unit.

Scott’s comments, however, drove me to examine a balanced approach to leadership today, as it applies across four specific values: Followers, Faith, Family, and Fortune.  

These values simplify perspective, clarify your efforts to engage, and generate a sense of loyalty that lingers far beyond a single tour of duty.

Value – Followers

One of my earliest childhood memories involves being chosen to lead the Thanksgiving Holiday parade in kindergarten. I remember strapping on that headdress and strutting like a pint-sized peacock around the perimeter of our school. My classmates followed me.

I am certain of this because our teacher took attendance when we returned to class, not because even once did I think to turn around and check on them.

You have an inherent responsibility to engage with those who choose to follow you.

Focus on what matters most to your team and look for opportunities to fully develop individual abilities and potential.

Enhancing the overall quality of your workplace experience inspires confidence and elevates performance beyond the expected.

Remember these steps:

Recognize Personal Effort and Celebrate Collective Success

Take the time to recognize work completed by individuals and how it contributed to the team’s overall success.

Use it to exemplify the importance of investing passion in what you do.

Then celebrate collective effort to strengthen the foundation of a team and increase potential for achieving results.

What Do You Expect?

Standards and benchmarks reflect strategic expectations.

Make it personal by listing your basic expectations beyond the technical stuff, i.e., invested effort, energy level, right attitude, passion.

Be ready to role model these intangibles, inspiring a level of joint accountability and elevating performance.

Allow Creative Input and Contrasting Opinion

There is no greater boost to an employee’s self-confidence than by asking, “What do you think?”

You’re in charge, and everyone should know the final decision is yours.

But the simple act of soliciting input, being open to contrasting opinions and diverse viewpoints, promotes confidence among followers that their voice will be heard, and perspectives valued.

Value – Faith     

Your commitment as a leader reflects an undeniable belief in a higher purpose.

How else will you manage to continuously embrace the promise of a better tomorrow, perpetually motivating others with a depth of emotion that can only come from doing something you love and were meant to do?

That’s a lot to ask without a little spiritual guidance along the way.

Some may seek solace in the presence of a divine or supreme being. Take a deep breath . . . this isn’t about a specific religion, faith, or denomination.

It’s about believing in the unknown, trusting in the power of the human spirit, having the resolve to make decisions for the good of all involved, and accepting those who may not see the world through your eyes.

Wherever you choose to align or re-energize this belief, remember that it contributes to, but does not define balance within your role as a leader.

Value – Family

Teamwork can survive on hard skills like talent, technical ability, and experience, but developing a sense of family begins with seeing the world through the eyes of another.

Family will ask you to tap into softer skills such as the genuine care invested by participants in each other, and the overall willingness and commitment to share an experience for the common good of all.

Your success will hinge on managing perspective and understanding what elements in an environment are within your ability to influence.

Tall Tim Example: Curating a Culture of Caring

While being assigned command in St. Thomas, USVI, sounds like a dream come true, I quickly discovered being in charge down island wouldn’t always feel like paradise.

My first order of business was to see life through the eyes of my crew. I couldn’t change the size of the boat, the naturally brutal sea state of the Caribbean Basin, or the rigorous demands of our operating schedule.

What I could do was focus on our overall quality of life, and the quality of time we spent with each other.

A few weeks into my tour we switched to a Tropical Routine, shifting the start of our workday 90 minutes earlier to avoid the blistering heat experienced later in the day.

I also reminded the crew that several hundred years of nautical tradition and the Military Justice System defined the discipline and respect I expected for my position as Commanding Officer.

After that, I would be trusting them as subject matter experts in their assigned positions.

It only made sense . . . most of the crew grew up in and around boat docks and marinas. They knew how to pilot boats, and more importantly, knew how to maintain and care for a seagoing unit. I was there for strategic guidance and direction, charged with overseeing a crew of extremely capable seamen.

Eventually, I began to implement routines such as ‘Burgers & Brew-has’ . . . every other Friday we would knock off an hour early and grill hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch. Families and girlfriends were invited and would frequently join in.

The brews were always on me.

Breakdown: These actions represented a respect for overall working conditions, individual talent and abilities, and the role families and friends play in a successful professional environment.

Nothing can prevent the occasional brush with questionable behavior or poor judgement. But bridging mutual interests serves to humanize structure and discipline . . . transparency is the common ground in those situations.

If I see you for who you are, you will in turn see me for who I am.

Value – Fortune

Let it be said . . . Fortune is defined by more than compensation.

This value begins with a look in the mirror and asking, “What matters most to me?”

Life is full of enriching experiences that exceed the value of currency.

Balance fulfillment of your dreams and ambitions with the impact they have on those you lead.

Then use your best judgement.

The Fifth “F”

There is another critical value that factors into overall balance . . . Fun.

What good is having trusting and loyal followers, where everyone believes in a higher purpose, treats each other like family, all the while pursuing enriching experiences . . . if you can’t enjoy it?

Your ability to have fun in your work environment and around your team will have tremendous influence on their opportunities to do the same.

Work to balance the original four “F”s, but please don’t forget to keep number five alive!

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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