Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guest post: “There Is No Right Way To Do A Wrong Thing”

“There Is No Right Way To Do A Wrong Thing”
Colonel Donald J. Myers USMC (Ret)

The above quote is from Norman Vincent Peale and it is right on. It was the lead heading for chapter 5 in my book Leadership Defined where I talk about standards. That is a topic that should be stressed by most of our government agencies because it is obvious that it is lacking in a positive manner.

Leading any organization requires the leader to constantly be aware of who he is and what he trying to accomplish. When the span of control is small, it is relatively easy, but as the span of control grows and the number of personnel increases it becomes more difficult and complicated. I agree with Tom Peters' style of leading depicted by "Management by Walking Around (MBWA)." I practiced that long before he came out with his books and I called it "Drifting."

It is amazing what one can learn by getting out of the office. There are some bosses who never leave the office except to go to meetings or the bathroom. They are shocked when they learn about some fiasco that happened and no one told them before it became a major problem. When the boss constantly drifts and talks and listens to employees, it does not take long before trust develops and the employees share their thoughts about the business and how to improve the products. It is fascinating how often that manufacturing challenges can be corrected by employees if only they are asked for their input.

We have seen first hand what happens when that does not occur. Our president says that he did not know anything about the scandals that are brewing in the government, yet key personnel in his administration did know and supposedly did not inform him. Could it be that he killed messengers? In olden times, when a messenger brought bad news to the king, the king had him killed. Thus came the term "Killing Messengers." We no longer do that, but in far too many instances, leaders do kill messengers by giving them bad fitness reports, transferring them, or in effect ruining them. Any time a leader has that type of reputation, he no longer will be given bad news and the news usually becomes worse with time. Think about a major problem that you had in the past that could have been solved easily if only it had been identified earlier.

As a leader drifts, he learns about irritants that were unknown to the leadership but really rile the employees. They are so obvious to the employees that they believe everyone knows about them and just does not care. I can't tell you how many of these things that I learned while drifting and with almost no effort or expense were corrected. That caused more credits to be placed into the trust bank account to be drawn on later when and if needed. 

I have spent many years in all types of leadership positions in the military, business, and education. I have learned that with few exceptions high standards are met when they are spelled out. Trust is earned on a daily basis. Troops or employees will do their utmost when they know that you will be with them no matter what. These are fundamental, but far too many ignore them for whatever reason. The leader is really the servant of the people and far too often that is forgotten because of power, influence, and control.


Donald J. Myers, a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, is a regular columnist for Hernando Today. He lives in Spring Hill and can be contacted at

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