Things your 1stSgt hates…

Leadership by e-mail.

“Didn’t you get my e-mail?”

This is a common statement made by those in the military who are too enamored with 21st Century technology to leave their desk. Perhaps they don’t possess the fortitude to actually speak to flesh and blood humans face to face. Either way, it is an unsatisfactory way to lead and if you are guilty of it just know that I hate you. Desk jockeys can e-mail their subordinates all they want but when is actual leadership applied?

It isn’t.

Our Leadership Principles remind us to ensure orders are understood, carried out, and supervised. None of these requirements are met by merely hitting the SEND button. Sorry, it’s true.

Getting a read receipt does not mean anyone has complied with the alleged electronic missive either. “Well he read my e-mail.”; is a cowardly excuse for a lack of direct supervision. I say again, hitting SEND does not end our obligation to …(wait for it)… FOLLOW UP and make sure tasks are getting accomplished. Read receipts have nothing to do with concepts like accountability. In case no one ever explained it before, accountability of personnel and equipment requires leaders to actually see things with their own eyes and touch them with their own hands. If this idea is an alien to anyone you may want to consider a line of work outside the military and please do not apply for a leadership position in regular society.

If geography makes it impossible to see someone face to face please have the courage to pick up the phone. When you try to chew out an individual electronically and CC a bunch of other people what you are really saying is: “It wasn’t me! It was the one armed man in the TO line!” Barring any special circumstance where this might be warranted, all it does is scream that you are trying to affix the blame for your incompetence on someone else. And really, if you messed up, say you messed up. It won’t save you from a butt chewing but at least we will respect you in the morning.

The bottom line is this: Get out from behind your desk and go lead someone once in a while.

That is all. Carry on with the plan of the day.
America’s 1stSgt

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  1. Top,
    Even better (or worse) are our new LTs right out of Kollege who send text messages to our private cell phones (which I usually leave OFF in my daily cop job for safety).

    or…maybe worse is those who send out e-mail orders, but kan’t rite veary will and knowbody no’s wat they talkin’ aboot.

  2. Back in the day; it was called MBWA (Management By Walking Around). To this day I have to put my eyes on projects to judge status.

  3. That’s part of the reason why I enlisted instead of going OCS. I like people. I want to be someone’s first line supervisor, and mentor younger soldiers. When I get stripes, and soldiers, I’m definitely not going to lead them by email.

  4. Magoo really, you have no idea what a conversation is like with me when I am actually angry. It’s rather one way. If you keep being a smart alec I will never, ever do a bit on MWDs again. So there!

    CI Roller, I have often walked up to new Lts with something they have written saying: “You actually graduated college right?”

    Tom, I suspect that makes you different than most.

    Saker, well, we certainly don’t do it for the pay!

  5. I learned, while I was proving myself psychologically unsat to be an interrogator (turns out I took that whole “enemy” thing too personally), that the majority of what we transmit in face to face comms is visual.

    When you’re not talking face to face, you’re losing lots of the info transmitted in body language. When limited to only written comms, you lose tone and pitch info too. This is why written comms tend to be stilted and over wordy.

  6. Moi? A smart alec? I was sincerely offering to help *sniffles*
    And no MWD post? You wouldn’t be so cruel.

    Hope you’re happy you made a girl cry.

    Re your post: we have far too much email at my job – i haven’t actually seen my line manager for a week (not for want of trying) even though she works in the office next to mine, but i get countless emails from her every day, including weekends… luckily HER line manager doesn’t behave that way, so i usually just speak straight to him if me or my team have issues. It does have drawbacks however, as he now wanders into my office Bull Lumbergh-style to chat about TPS reports.

  7. Grimmy, we have to maintain our professional detachment. That way when it is time to eliminate those who need killing we can do it without hate. And you are right about the non verbal communication. Somehow my facial tics and barred teeth don’t translate well by the written word.

    Magoo, it wouldn’t be the first time! 🙂

  8. How can you properly yell at someone through an email? My Dad tried that one time; I just hit Delete and that was the end of the yelling. Email might be an efficient way to keep track of things (unless you get 300 a day the way I do), but it should never replace face-to-face managing.

  9. I have yet to see an “emoticon” that can reach out of the computer, grab you by the throat and convey the message “properly”. Working on it. Until then, face to face is better.

  10. Roger that 1st Sgt. Gotta stand up for 2lts though – one theme hammered into us through OCS and TBS was you have to lead, and you lead from the front. I seriously doubt email management is coming from Marine 2Lts. Now if we want to discuss inexperience, over enthusiasm, too many power point slides, and general goofyness – well that’s another story.

  11. First Sgt:

    As a junior enlisted snuffy, I had leave to indulge in hate.

    Hate is good. Helps keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.

    Extreme hate though… that can be a tricky booger to manage without acquiring excess brig time.

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