Focus is a leadership issue
Is it the message or the messenger?
About 15 years ago, I was deployed on an aircraft carrier sailing in the Persian Gulf. We had been underway for about four months when a spate of minor mishaps involving people and equipment cropped up. Nothing too serious, but further incidents could pose a threat to the readiness of a combatant ship in international waters.
During one of his morning briefings, the strike group Admiral asked the Commanding Officer of the ship to explain the underlying cause of the recent breakdown in safety. The Captain’s reply, “it’s complacency, sir.”
On the surface, this could make sense. We were two-thirds into our scheduled deployment and, by that time, daily operations on an aircraft carrier can be best described as “Groundhog Day.” We pretty much did the same thing every day. Plus, thoughts of getting home to their families in two months had to be creeping into the minds of the crew.
Still, as I listened intently to the exchange between the Admiral and the Captain of the ship, I thought to myself, “isn’t preventing complacency your job, skipper? “Isn’t it the job of all leaders on the ship, including me?”
The answer is a resounding yes.
“I think at times it’s lack of focus. These are things that we’ve talked about and it’s really important not to give up outs on the bases. We’ve addressed it multiple times. We make mistakes at critical times, and you are not going to win in this league doing that.’’ - Scott Servais
Reversing complacency, a lack of focus, or whatever you want to call it falls squarely upon the shoulders of the people in charge. This applies to the leaders on a forward deployed ship or the coaching staff of a major-league sports team.
Sure, the people being led bear a responsibility too. But leaders are put in place to help those under them become the best version of themselves. To reinforce what’s important when the days begin to blend together during an extended deployment or a long baseball season.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting Servais or any of his coaches should be replaced. The Admiral didn’t relieve the Captain and we successfully completed our deployment without further incidents.
The challenge for Seattle’s staff, as it was for the leadership of my ship, is to find the best way to help the crew regain its focus and execute. Maybe all that’s needed is a different method of messaging. Then again, it’s possible the message itself has become stale.
It’s not for me or anyone outside the Mariners organization to solve this puzzle. That responsibility falls to the front office, Servais, and his coaching staff. Collectively, they must channel the focus of the players.
Otherwise, it’s going to be a long summer with murmurs demanding a new voice growing louder.
My Oh My…
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