#99 Leadership

Uintah Basin, UtahFirst, some housekeeping.  I hate those blogs that don’t show up for a while and then come back with a post explaining why they haven’t posted in a while.  That being said, I’ve been away for a while and here’s why!  April has been a very busy month.  I’ve had two field sessions, one of which involved camping in an out-of-service area, a trip to North Carolina for a wedding, and a weekend with my brother’s family in Spokane, Washington.  May should be a little more conducive to blogging, but, let’s face it, it’s the field season.  We’re all busy.

We went up to visit my brother’s family because his wife’s awful cancer came back after a year of being undetectable.  I don’t have much to say on this topic that is scientific or thoughtful.  I just want to put out a request for my readers to volunteer or participate in a cancer fundraiser of your choice this summer.  It is a small commitment on your part but can make a huge difference overall.  We need to figure this cancer thing out.  Just last November we lost a friend to cancer who was only 33 years old.  My sister-in-law is only 35 years old and has a 2 year old.  That’s ridiculous.  We’re talking about mining asteroids for water and we can’t cure cancer?  What the hell?

One more thing (that phrase always makes me think of Steve Jobs).  I’m thinking of doing a new video podcast.  I’d like it to be once, maybe twice, a week and only a couple of minutes.  The podcast would focus on analyzing a different artifact every week.  I’d cover everything from projectile points to tin cans.  I’d also like to cover different types of features.  Initially, I’d probably be discussing the kinds of features we find out here in the Great Basin first (i.e. mining features).  Can you blame me?  Teach what you know, right?  I’d be willing to take suggestions for other types of features found across the country and across the world as well.  They may take me longer to research and put together in a video format but it wouldn’t be impossible.  Let me know if you’d be interested in something like this.  If I get enough responses it might help me persuade my wife to let me buy a new digital SLR camera with HD video shooting capability!  I’d like to shoot the podcast on the iPhone 4S just to prove it can be done but a nice camera would be good too.

OK.  On to today’s topic.

When you think of a leader in CRM Archaeology, who do you think of? What type of leadership characteristics do they have that stick out in your mind? Are they confident? Do they delegate well? Do they scold others in public or do they do it in private?  Only a few people come to mind when I think of a good leader.  The one I most respected was Chief Davis, from the Navy.  Chief Davis was instrumental in teaching me how to be an effective leader.  He was always calm in front of his men and he was always confident in his decisions, while also listening to everyone’s opinion.  He also taught me the idea, “punish in private, praise in public”. That means just what it sounds like.  If you have something to say to someone that is either disciplinary or instructive in an embarrassing way, it’s best to do it in private.  Pointing out someone’s shortcomings in front of everyone makes them feel like crap and makes you look like a dick.  Don’t be a dick.  At the same time, praising someone for something in front of the crew makes them feel good, shows others what they can do to be successful, and makes you look like a compassionate human being.  Something that many crew chiefs have difficulty achieving.

The ship I served on from '94 to '97, the USS Enterprise, during underway replenishment.I often find that a number of the people I’ve worked for, whether they be Crew Chiefs or higher, have few or no leadership skills.  I can’t fault them for it, really.  Leadership ability is not something that most of us posses as a natural skill.  We have to work really hard at being good leaders.  I’ve had the benefit of attending many leadership classes in the U.S. Navy and continuing leadership education in the Civil Air Patrol now.  That doesn’t mean I’m a good leader, though.  I still find myself regretting decisions I’ve made and wishing I could do something differently.  Also, when you are on a project and it’s over budget and there’s no time left, it can be difficult to remember to praise your crew members for hard work and for working efficiently.  Even a simple “thank you” at the end of the day won’t go un-noticed.  Field techs are the heart and soul of a company and no field work would ever get done without them.  Don’t forget that.  Treat them well and they will work hard for you.

Leadership classes can be expensive and I’d be willing to bet that most employers won’t pay for them.  There are other ways to get some leadership training, however.  Many volunteer organizations, such as the Civil Air Patrol (which you don’t need to be a pilot to be a member of), offer leadership training.  However, even if you just remember to “praise in public, punish in private” and to not be a dick, you’ll go far with your crew and will have a higher retention rate.

Let’s all try to be better leaders.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field.