A recent discussion reminded me of the time Ensign Diekman was formally counseled
and "given an opportunity to correct a deficiency."
My primary job was test control officer at an enlistment center in Oklahoma
City, but I was also junior enough to be SLJO*.
The only SLJ that really bothered me was that of human relations officer and
the quarterly seminar it required. I did all the other jobs, but let my enlisted assistants handle that one--until the day
the commanding officer's secretary delivered a sealed letter.
The letter said I was doing extremely well in everything except my collateral
duty as human relations officer. The commanding officer (CO) directed me to write a command instruction and to personally
conduct the next quarterly seminar.
Failure to do either of those satisfactorily would be reflected on my fitness
What a blow to my ego--I was less than perfect! I felt as if the world had
crashed around me.
Writing an instruction would be no problem, but the idea of giving a seminar
was terrifying. The CO expected me to stand up in front of more than thirty people and talk? For an hour?
The first step was obviously to find a topic that interested me and would
not bore the audience.
One evening I was driving my new red 75 Pontiac LeMans down the I-40 exit
ramp to Agnew Avenue (I remember it vividly) when the idea hit me--Oklahoma history.
I rationalized we should all be familiar with the history and people where
we live, to better understand our surroundings. That might have been stretching the human relations concept a bit, but I didn't
care. I was desperate and had to have a topic I enjoyed researching.
A lot of effort went into my presentation, including a trip to the state capitol
building for information. The seminar was a success, the CO signed the instruction I wrote, and I got a glowing fitness report.
That experience taught me a valuable leadership lesson. I learned a counseling
technique that has been very useful over the years, and I want to share it here.
Start with a written document and be specific:
(1) Describe the deficiency.
(2) Explain the assignment, ensuring it is measurable.
(3) Set a deadline.
(4) Explain the consequences of not completing the action.
(5) Follow through on the consequences if the deadline is not met or the performance
is not satisfactory.
When you assign a project and explain the consequences of failure, you must
be prepared to make those consequences happen. If you don't follow through, you lose your credibility.
I never questioned whether my CO would actually hammer me; I believed him.
I didn't know until later he was worried I might not meet his requirements
and he'd have to live up to his word. He was really hoping I'd succeed.
*SLJO: Shitty Little Jobs Officer
© 1999 by Diane Diekman