May 31, 2012

Opinion: Quick to Punish, Slow to Praise

Capt. Staci Reidinger
Desert Warrior Staff

Do you ever get the sense that you are tiptoeing the line between being a great Marine and just being good enough for your job because very few people acknowledge your support to the mission?  Are there times when you feel as if the only occasion you get attention from your senior staff is during a counseling session or an on-the-spot correction?  Well, it can be frustrating and downright demoralizing to spend time and efforts improving your skills and leadership as a Marine to have very few if anyone show their appreciation.

Over the last 18 years, I have witnessed a digression in the use of positive reinforcement, namely commendations, to build the confidence, fidelity, teamwork and morale of Marines across the Corps.  Instead of writing down the names of star performers after an inspection, special event or command function for later recognition, many leaders are too busy writing after action reports and dissecting the event to expose the imperfections.  Additionally, the rapid flow of operations limits many leaders from having the time to show their appreciation through informal accolades much less submitting a formal award write-up for approval.  Why are we so quick to punish, yet so slow to praise?  Why do we spend countless hours on disciplinary paperwork and investigations, many times allowing it to eat in to our regular operations yet when it comes time to write awards, we often push it off or allow too much time to pass to submit deserving Marines for commendation?

There is insurmountable evidence that proves the positive impact of showing your Marines that they are valued through public displays of praise and commendations. From Letters of Appreciation, Meritorious Masts and Certificate of Commendations to special liberty and off-duty functions, there are numerous ways to build up the strength and confidence of Marines.  So, what can we do as leaders to change this formula around?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Place yourself in the perspective of your Marines and try to understand how their efforts contribute to the overall success of the mission.
  2. Provide on the spot praise and submit your Marines for commendations when their efforts reflect the high standards of expertise in their field and/or the Marine Corps.
  3. Don’t allow busy operations and high work tempo to distract you from commending your Marines for their hard work.  Schedule time to complete awards as a part of your after action from a major inspection, function, exercise or special event.

As leaders, we must know ourselves and seek self-improvement.  If you ever doubt the impact awards can make on a Marines self-esteem and career, take a few moments to look through your own OMPF or flip through your past awards.

In closing, I still have plenty of work to do in reversing this trend as a leader but would like to say that standing in front of a Marine to present an award feels 100% better for both parties than issuing a formal counseling or a Page 11.

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