When I was a young pup Sailor, full of vim and vigor, I was Leading Seaman. The job wasn’t demanding in the sense of new duties, I was already handling the leadership piece without the title. I’d joined the Navy later than many of my shipmates and organizing, encouraging, and leading them came more naturally to me than many of my introverted linguist pals.
I sadly, though, let the title go to my head on my first room inspection at my new barracks. I thought I would do something special, try something a little different. I cleaned my room for the inspection, but I also put in a couple of touches that I imagined would set it apart. As in, I bleached the wall nose-level (have those words ever gone together?) right where the Chief would enter the room. That way, he would smell bleach, conferring the space with a degree of cleanliness perhaps the other rooms did not have.
What I did not do is to hit all the major areas. Yes, I dusted the verticals, the sides of the door; the horizontals, the windows ledges. I vacuumed and wiped the windows down with Windex. But I completely missed Chief’s favorite spot, the refrigerator seal, the gasket around the edge of the door. It was stuffed with crumbs. And I failed.
I am sorry to say that I was shocked. I went by Chief’s office after the inspection and he told me he was disappointed. There are few leadership tools more effective than a Chief shaking his head to you.
But I learned a valuable lesson. The appearance of competence is not competence. Only competence is competence. On many tasks, trying to reinvent the wheel will only bring frustration. Don’t try to do something new and flashy. Just get the basics down perfectly. It is not about you (me), it is about the job. And to do the job well, do the job well. I wasted more time with stupid tricks, like rubbing bleach on the wall at just the right level, than I would have spent if I had just done the job correctly.