My mom served for 20 years in the United States Army. She retired as a Sergeant First Class. She deployed four times during her career (Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Sarajevo). She was also awarded the Combat Action Badge, awarded to service-support troops for seeing combat. While I’m proud of her service to our great nation, I’m most proud of the lessons she taught me regarding team-building and leadership.
- People first, then the mission. When Mom was a young Sergeant, she always made a point to go above and beyond when taking care of her junior Soldiers. Every time a young, fresh out of basic Private would arrive at her office, she’d pick them up from the airport and fill their fridge with groceries. She treated them like her children. In addition, I remember two different instances where she covered a guard duty shift so that her junior Soldiers could spend the holidays with their families. We simply celebrated Thanksgiving a week later, her Soldiers felt appreciated and she had a very cohesive team. Instead of just being a hardass leader, she created a healthy work environment with junior Soldiers that loved and respected her. It reminds me of a quote I read in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “Regard your Soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”
- Listen before you speak. Mom was always quick to get me to slow down when in a discussion. I had a really bad habit of talking over people when getting really excited about a topic. As a result, I always missed what the other person was saying and walked away from many conversations ill-informed. In addition, the person talking to me likely didn’t feel respected. When I listen more and talk less I learn more. It also sets the tone for a trusting relationship between you and your peers. I don’t care how smart, experienced or wise you are. Listen more and you’ll learn more.
- Gather information first, then form an opinion. Like most kids, I used to just repeat anything I heard someone else say as if it were a fact. This used to piss my Mom off ROYALLY. Whenever my sisters and I would do this, she was quick to challenge the assumption. Very quickly, I realized that my “facts” were ill-informed and very ignorant. It took some time, but Mom getting onto me all those times finally sunk-in after 25 years. As a result, I try to be more open-minded when it comes to being opinionated about anything. Adopting this mindset will help you become more coach-able and a better team player.
My mother set a phenomenal example for how to treat people and conduct oneself. I’m extremely appreciative and proud of her military service. Take these lessons to heart and you’ll become a more effective member of your team. I know this, because they helped me to become a better person.
To your lifelong health and success,
-Demarco Crum, CPT, SFG
“Strength has a greater purpose.” -Pavel Tsatsouline