We all need improvement, just not in the same areas.
“People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” – James Allen
Growth, effective growth, does not happen on accident. It is intentional, purposeful, and it is constant.
The first part of the principle is to know yourself…
Our post-imagination determines our growth, or lack there of. When we look at the past with tinted glasses we miss what really was, and thus we miss out on the true picture, the true lessons of what we could have learned about ourselves. In order to know ourselves we must be willing to look back with an unbiased perspective so that we can see where we need improvement.
Compare your past actions with the 14 traits. Which ones have you done well to emulate, which ones are lacking from your core values? Where would your superiors, peers, and directs say you need more effort?
The second part of the principle is to seek self improvement.
As stated earlier growth, self-improvement, must be:
- Intentional: Growth happens, just like our bodies grow without much effort; however, significant growth, growth we would call strength, must happen intentionally. We must have a plan for growth, and we must have the discipline to follow through with that plan.
- Purposeful: If I want to get faster, I don’t work out my chest. If I want to be better at chess, I don’t study checkers. When we have an area or a trait that we want to grow, we must make sure our plan for growth effects that area.
- Constant: Physically speaking, our bodies are either growing or they are dying. There is no stage of maintaining. And while the rate of decay may not be as fast as the rate of growth, attrition does happen. If we are going to stay on top and be the leaders we need to be, we must be constantly investing in our growth.
What would you add to the list?
At what trait do you excel? Which trait needs more work?
Life is about making it happen.
A common mantra espoused by the U.S. Marines, “Make It Happen” guides troops when they are confronted with any challenging task: from conducting humanitarian and disaster relief operations and relieving suffering in the Philippines to taking down pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Like the Marines, we too can learn and apply a code of conduct in our daily lives so that we can face our challenges head-on.
Here are five fundamental Marine Corps values that can move each of us forward no matter what we do in life and help us make it happen.
1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement
A Marine leader takes the time to learn and reflect upon her strengths and weaknesses and works tirelessly to continuously improve. Leaders are completely honest with themselves and develop the ability to pursue personal mastery with the understanding that it can never be fully attained.
Leaders who seek self-improvement inspire those around them to do the same, resulting in higher productivity, which may include the development of a high-performance team, increased individual and organizational happiness, and the ability to make it happen regardless of what outsiders may perceive to be impossible goals.
2. Be technically and tactically proficient
Marines often work in volatile, uncertain, and complex environments around the world. Marine leaders must be experts in their line of work when lives are at stake.
Your lives and workplace may be less frenetic, but the same principle applies. A baker, who has the “make it happen” mentality to create the best cupcakes by 6 a.m. each morning, will constantly seek new learning to hone her cupcake baking skills. She will put the knowledge gained into action by synthesizing the learning in a way that, perhaps, results in the development of a unique and differentiating recipe.
In the Marine Corps, it is expected that leaders will be technically and tactically proficient and that they will maintain and enhance their capabilities by seeking out both formal and informal opportunities to learn.
3. Develop a sense of responsibility
Interdependence in any group or team today is essential to success. We have all been impacted both positively and negatively when members of a group or team successfully pull their weight or fail to do so.
Marines develop a sense of responsibility amongst subordinates by knowing what their intrinsic and extrinsic needs are and to find new ways to meet those needs by linking their attainment to the organization’s mission and purpose, which includes the words “serving others first.”
For example, if you lead a team of customer service representatives in the health care industry and you received complaints from customers that they are being treated impersonally, instead of reacting by disciplining the team, as the leader you may consider speaking to each representative one-on-one in order to seek a way to match their known intrinsic needs with the organizational mission and purpose.
4. Make sound and timely decisions
Depending on the situation, especially in fast-paced work environments, leaders are required to make decisions with limited information. Through scenario-driven training, Marines are taught to make sound and timely decisions with limited information and in uncertain environments on a routine basis.
This training involves systematically thinking through a problem in pursuit of mission accomplishment by applying the acronym “BAMCIS.” It stands for:
- Begin the Planning
- Arrange Reconnaissance
- Make Reconnaissance
- Complete the Planning
- Issue the Order
This simple, yet effective, decision-making framework provides the foundation from which Marines can assess a problem and then rapidly make sound and timely decisions.
5. Set the example
The motto of the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School is Ductos Exemplo, Latin for Lead by Example. A leader of any organization will be well served to apply the Marine Corps Leadership Principle of “Set the example.”
True leaders know they are doing the right thing when those they lead, to include cross-functional, cross-discipline teams, begin to model and follow the example they are setting.
Leaders who espouse and practice ethical and responsible behavior are likely to inspire others to do the same. Marine leaders who consistently want to make things happen will set the example by leading from the front, yet putting the needs of others first.
Hat tip: Lieutenant Colonel Raphael Hernandez, chief marketing officer of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, contributed to the research of this story.