Updated: Nov 14, 2019
David Marquet became the Captain of the Santa Fe, the worst performing submarine in the history of the Navy. Marquet knew very little about this sub because he was initially selected to captain the USS Olympia, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, he studied for over a year.
During a simple drill to simulate a fault with the sub reactor, Captain Marquet ordered, “ahead two-thirds.” The officer on deck repeated the order, “ahead two-thirds.”
Captain Marquet noticed the helmsman looking very unsettled. Marquet asked "what's the problem", the helmsman pointed out that there were no two-thirds in the electric propulsion mode, unlike all his previous submarines. The officer was asked, “did you know there were no two-thirds” the officer responded “yes” but repeated the command knowing it was wrong.
Now Captain Marquet did not have the luxury of changing his crew, unlike what typically takes place in most business organization. Captain Marquet realized that the leader-follower environment his team has grown accustomed too failed, and if he had any chance to turn around the performance of this sub, the environment must change.
Marquet began treating his crew as leaders; giving control, not taking control; he changed the environment and not long after, the Santa Fe went from the worst performing submarine in the Navy to best navel sub in the history of the Navy. As leaders when you get the environment right, great thing can happen because it’s never the people, it’s the environment; and as the leader, you have the responsibility to ensure you create a place your people love to come to. We spend so much of our time at work, so it’s only natural to feel some sense of comfort while at work.
Fear Has No Place At Work
No amount of yelling, shouting, or screaming can transform any environment into one that allows their people to be their very best. It’s quite amazing that many people in management positions will resonate to creating an environment of fear to get their people to work. All the research in the world has proven that fear base environments are not sustainable and are incredibly damaging to the morale and sanity of anyone who has to work in that kind of environment. Fear has no place in work, it may have some impact in the short term, but it is never sustainable in the long run.
People Don’t Leave Companies, They Leave Lousy Management.
Great leaders set up shields according to Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Brynn Harrington, and Adam Grant, to protect their employees from toxicity. Passion is contagious, and the more negative energy that drips into the culture of the organization, the more dysfunctional the organization will become. The ‘quietness’ of typically motivated employees is an organizational alarm which leadership needs to recognize as a sign that the culture is becoming or has become toxic. This is an excellent indicator that something is amidst and as a result, the leadership needs to act on it, according to Jonathan Mills.
The Simple Things Make A Huge Difference
Appreciation is one of life’s greatest motivators, so when we take the time to let people know that we value them, it inspires them to continue doing even more. That's precisely why gratitude is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving, according to Amy Rees Anderson. There is no doubt that when we say the words “thank you,” for example we make the other person feel important and valued, which help create a great work environment and improve the self-image of their people.
Many leaders fall victim to blaming their staff without looking in the mirror; we are not meeting our projection, it must be the staff; we are underperforming, we need a new team. As a result, all kind of changes takes place without really looking at the root cause of the problem. When the fundamentals of a company are in place (purpose, vision, and values) and everyone is singing from the same hymnbook with the leader leading by example, your organization will find its pulse of existence to become one of the best in the world.
David Marquet transforms his underperforming sub into a world-class entity because he understood that it’s never the people; it’s the environment.
About Gifford Thomas
I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 150,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.
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