Share your Experiences

Sharing experiences and quickly bringing new guys up to speed is one of the fundamental functions of a healthy wardroom. Unfortunately, a lot of dumb mistakes get repeated because knowledgeable JOs are afraid of appearing arrogant or presumptuous.

“I don’t want to be ‘That Guy’”.

Nobody wants to be “that guy”- you know, the JO who’s been here all of three months longer than you but still feels obligated to offer you coaching and words of wisdom. Somehow every ship has (at least) one. This is the guy who never fails to let you know what you could have done better, never fails to chime in with a reminder of his vast operational experience, never passes at an opportunity to climb up on his high horse and condescend to you with unsolicited advice. When you have endured a personality like that, you’ll do anything to avoid becoming him.

The thing is, “that guy” would be a tool whether or not he was giving advice. He would still be a tool if he were three years senior to you. His advice may well be valid and useful; it’s his delivery that chafes. You intuitively sense that he’s playing some kind of silly dominance game, establishing pecking order and all that. So don’t do that. It doesn’t mean that nobody should share their experiences. Don’t avoid giving advice; avoid being a tool.

“I’m too junior to give advice.”

When, precisely, do you think you will be qualified to share what you have learned with your shipmates? On your next tour? When you’re a Department Head? When you’re in Command? Do you think anyone at that level really remembers the nuances of survival as a JO? I’m not suggesting that you go contradict the CO on the best way to make a convoy approach… but you don’t have to be some kind of wise Yoda to have figured out the most efficient way to complete a Battery Charging Lineup. When it comes to challenges specific to your level of experience, you are the most qualified guy in the room to express an opinion.

wise yoda

 

“Nobody wants someone telling them how to do their job.”

What people don’t want is to be patronized or to be used as a sounding board for someone else’s self-aggrandizement. They also don’t want to repeat your mistakes. As long as you are humble in your approach, most people will appreciate all the help they can get. New JOs are often expected to develop into competent warfighters on little more than a cycle of “shut up and learn” and “message to Garcia,” so the counsel of a trusted officer close to their experience level is usually what fills in the gaps.

Almost every piece of advice I have given is tied to a mistake I made at some point or a wrong way I have thought about things. I share what I’ve learned, because that’s how a healthy wardroom works. If you can save someone the embarrassment of making the same mistakes that you did, you owe it to them.You owe it to their watch section, and you owe it to your ship.

 

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