Diane Diekman
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Nobody's Perfect

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 report.

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