Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Vincent de Paul Runs an Awards Board

Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.
- St. Vincent de Paul
Is there a military value in humility in our leaders and the body of military personnel in general?

From initial processing through retirement - are we creating our own toxic stew though a system that promotes the opposite of humility?

Besides its impact on retention (generally speaking, smart and talented people do not like working for arrogant and self-important people), does a lack of humility also manifest itself in ones work?

Does a humble person lie to cover up mistakes? Do they feel that they can bend rules on fraternization if they desire someone bad enough? Does a humble person create a hostile work environment? Does a humble person feel insecure around talented peers and strive to undermine them?

If we have the problems as outlined above - is it worth addressing the topic of the personality types we recruit and encourage?

How do we populate our cadre of leaders? Does our system value and encourage a lack of humility?  

From the out of control awarding of ribbons and medals, to the mind-blowingly UpWithPeople vibe of our FITREPs, to the way we have developed a sense of entitlement from the checkout line at Lowe's to boarding an aircraft; are we doing it right? 

Is part of our culture in selecting and building leaders counter productive

If you want to be successful, Papa Salamander let me know that the first step is to look at those who are doing best what you want to do and copy them - then adjust to match your needs. In that light, what about ...
Google has spent years analyzing who succeeds at the company, which has moved away from a focus on GPAs, brand name schools, and interview brain teasers. 
In a conversation with The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, detailed what the company looks for. And increasingly, it’s not about credentials.
How many of us have been selected for a specific set of highly sought after orders, fellowship, or command where we are constantly told how special we are and how awesome our awesomeness is? Even if you are by nature a humble person, if you wind up getting #1 competitive tickets and are reminded by others how great you are - when does that create negative side-effects that go way beyond ribbons over the shoulder and 10-inch think piles of awards binders, and in to our very ability to run an effective military service? 

Are our best and brightest really that? Are they just the brightest, but not necessarily the best? By catering to some of the worst aspects of the human ego, are we sub-optimizing our human capital?
Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. “It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Bock says. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.” 
Those people have an unfortunate reaction, Bock says:
“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. … What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’”
Look at that bolded part again.
... if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved.
Sound familiar?

If you want to look at recruiting as google does, do we really just want one type of person, one set of degree programs to feed in to our intellectual farm team?

Are we using the right metrics? Do we default to objective criteria, as the subjective might suggest personal bias and we don't trust our own people to constructively use subjectivity?

Once in, do we nurture intellectual and professional humility? Do we have a sweeping set of criteria beyond just "the best and brightest" to let in to our position of leadership?

In a way, I think we do, but we can do better.

Here is a ponderable - if humility is important - then do we have a system that encourages humility, or one that makes it hard to promote - or more likely - hard to retain the humility an individual already has?

What is the danger of taking the naturally smart and gifted, and then actively stripping away their humility with baubles, ruffles, flourishes, special parking spots, titles, and the ubiquitous "thank you for your service" autoresponse?

On the contrary - if you do not think humility is a good thing - let me offer you this. Where are the least humble military organizations? Well, from North Korea to various 3rd World hell-hole dictatorships, that is a start. 

What does a humble military look like? Well, you can start with simple appearances and go from there, then ponder.

Hat tip Claude.

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