Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith mentors a chief petty officer selectee.

A Message to Our CPO Selectees: Perspective, Passion and the Art of Communication

02 December 2020

02 December 2020

A thought for our Chief Selectees, 

Wisdom is a matter of perspective. Typically we assume that it’s passed from older to younger, because experiences - which come with time - give birth to wisdom, which when shared makes us smarter, faster and more efficient. The stories we tell help avoid repeating mistakes by leveraging those lessons we’ve learned. But younger Sailors have unique and amazing experiences too... we all have value, wisdom to contribute, and sharing should go both ways. Recently, I’ve been the fortunate recipient of much needed wisdom and perspective, from both old *and* young Sailors - every bit as much as I’ve shared.

When sitting down with you as Selectees to discuss enculturation into the Mess, don’t forget that we Chiefs are just the same, if perhaps (perhaps - not always) a little bit older and slightly more experienced. We know how our Mess runs and want to help you figure that out, but the experiences that will help make you a better leader... iron sharpens iron - both accept and share wisdom, so we both improve.

It is important to remember the Chiefs Mess is a “peer group,” one designed to facilitate the free-flow of communication and ideas, enabling an ease of ability to speak truth to higher rank - with some tact, but not to the point that it would filter or remove substance or produce unhelpful passion.

And on passion... passion is energy that can serve as an enabler, and unite under the right circumstances. If not managed well however, it can just as easily divide. Consider “passion tempered by mutual respect” - Chiefs must be brutally honest with each other... but unchecked passion that sometimes accompanies such honesty can hinder clear communication, and finding a solution - just the same as it can get in the way of solving personal conflicts. Yelling at each other is *not* a requirement to be a Chief Petty Officer, despite what some may tell you.

Effective communication - to include sharing wisdom and expertise - is likely the thing our Navy looks to us for the most, and sometimes requires selflessness and takes great courage. To be unwilling to communicate, to be “the ambassador of goodwill” is a choice - if you want to do so, there is *always* a way to make it happen... or an excuse to blame not doing it on.

None of us are perfect. We try, we fail... but we are better today than yesterday, and will try to exceed that tomorrow. A few more weeks until the holiday pause... so excited for Class 127 - Hooyah!

MCPON Russell Smith


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