Three Up, Three Down and a Diamond

I have a vivid memory of a First Sergeant I worked with as a brand new Second Lieutenant assigned to to Advanced Individual Training company in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. We were responsible for training new soldiers as light wheeled vehicle mechanics and, within each company, the First Sergeants pretty much ran the day to day show. First Sergeant Lovett wasn't what you called a "collaborative" kind of guy. Pretty much what he said went and if any of the drill sergeants, non-commissioned officers, or soldiers wanted to discuss after he was finished discussing, he would look at the rank insignia on his collar and he would reply, "I have three up, three down and a diamond - can you beat that?" Of course, they could not so off they went with 1SG Lovett smiling in the background. 1SG Lovett was a Command Sergeant Major in a maintenance battalion in Germany when I met up with him again and as his Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) Commander, I had the opportunity to watch him in action each and every day. To this day, I have the utmost respect for him. 

In my position as a HHC Commander, I was responsible for getting work done in situations where many outranked me. "Three up, three down and a diamond" or even my captain bars were not going to get the Operations Officer to a PT test and weigh-in at 5:00 a.m. nor was it going to get the Battalion Executive Officer to the range to night qualify. Although my collar was heavier than the non-commissioned officers, they were often cranky after their 20 + years of "managing" many young, eager Captains and they did not go easily. Yet, they went. They not only went, they supported, they assisted and they ensured that the job got done.  

When push came to shove, yes, the railroad tracks on my collar would get many out to the range or where ever the heck I wanted them to be. But that was not what got them there. So, what got them there? Partly responsibility and partly me. They knew I supported them, that I did not ask them to do anything that was not absolutely necessary, that I would do what I could to ensure training requirements did not unnecessarily interfere with their day to day responsibilities and they knew that I respected them and what they did each day.

There most definitely is a time and a place for "three up, three down and a diamond" and in those circumstances, nothing else will do and it most absolutely must be that way. In my world today, those situations are few and far between.

My challenge to HR professionals and leaders is to not try and "pull rank" to get things done. For many, it just will not work.  Our "rank" comes from within, develops over time and cannot be achieved without the support of others. It is developed each and every day with each and every interaction. Contribute and you won't need "three up, three down and a diamond" because you will have so much more.