"Just Watch Me"
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
Promotions and promotion ceremonies are a big deal in the military. The promotion ceremony is a time to thank all those who helped you earn your promotion; bosses, co-workers, and family are always honored for their role in your success. But during what I knew was going to be my last promotion ceremony while in the Air Force, I wrote a letter to my young sons entitled "Just Watch Me". As I read the letter to my boys in front of the audience, their little eyes intently watched me. They were 5 and 10 years old at the time and while they probably didn't understand what I was talking about, I'm sure the tone and sincerity of my voice made them know it was something important. It was a very emotional moment I will never forget. The gist of the letter was to tell my boys they didn't need to look to some athlete or movie star to be their role model and teach them the ways of the world. As their Father, that was my job and I was not only going to tell them, but I was going to show them how to prepare to navigate the world they were going to inherit. They wouldn't have to look outside of their home for a role model. As their Father, I promised I would always set a positive example and unconditionally be there for and with them!
"Just Watch Me" was not only a letter to my young sons, it is a Leadership philosophy. It takes the old saying "action speaks louder than words" to another level. It means as a Leader, you fully understand your actions and your words must be synchronized and consistent. It's powerful in that it shows a willingness to be held to a higher standard while knowing every move you make is watched and potentially emulated. It's a Leadership philosophy that requires you to study and constantly find ways to improve yourself to ensure your decisions reflect sound judgement and forethought. Every decision you make must be weighed and measured with a clear understanding that their results will affect and change lives. It is a philosophy that knows just as many watch the man on the high wire hoping he falls as those that hope he makes it across. But Leaders know that failure is just as inevitable and possible as success. They understand the value of lessons learned and character built through failure are just as important for long term growth as success. "Just Watch Me" means Leaders understand Leadership is a tremendous responsibility and needs to be embraced as such.
I embraced "Just Watch Me" as my professional Leadership philosophy and it served me well in my different careers. I always tried to set a positive example worthy to be watched and emulated. I was intentional in my words and actions and supported my team members unconditionally while still holding them accountable. Of course, I didn't get it right every time and there were instances when I was the last person that should have been watched and my actions were definitely not to be emulated. The lessons learned were painful, but the personal growth of learning to make sure my words and actions were consistent, not only made me a better Leader; but more importantly, made me a better Me!
NOTE 1: My boys and I hadn't spoken about the "Just Watch Me" letter for years. But this past Christmas my sons gave me a wonderful gift. A journal with the inscription "Just Watch Me"--guess they did understand what I was talking about!
NOTE 2: The highlighted leadership quote is from my dear friend Don McCoy who successfully leads a large organization.