And… Goatee, Vacation, Engagement

I can’t believe it’s October already. This year seems to have gone by faster than most. So, it’s been a little while since my last post here, but hey, I’ve been busy. Since we last “spoke” my separation from the Navy became official, I grew a goatee, I went on vacation and I asked the love of my life to marry me.

20141002_175446

Gray Goat!

So, I’ve already beaten my military separation to death so I will leave that alone for now. But the goatee seems to deserve some sort of acknowledgement and examination. It’s funny, most male veterans seem to go through a right of passage that compels them to throw their razor away. As you know, this is not my first time leaving Naval Service, and yes, I grew a goatee the last time. I kinda like it and will probably keep it, I just don’t know when I got so gray. I guess I could blame it on all those Junior Sailors and Officers I mentored over the years, or maybe just genetics (okay, probably genetics). Deb is letting me go through this “phase” but I think she prefers me without it.

So the real question is why do we grow these things? They have to be maintained, they get in the way when eating and they tend to make you look even older. Maybe it’s the look of wisdom? (No, I look more like a cast member of Sons of Anarchy.)  Maybe it’s the fact that it covers up my double chin? (That seems more plausible.) Maybe it’s just that a beard conveys maturity? The reality is, as a veteran, we just want to be able to grow it because we can and we couldn’t before (well, at least after January 1st 1985 in the Navy). No more shaving and all that comes with it. It should be noted that many men in the Military reserves grow out their beards between drill weekends and active duty periods, however I shaved daily. I felt that I had to maintain military grooming standards even when I wasn’t in a drilling or active duty status… lead from the front.

Destin Harbor

Destin Harbor

Vacation! Last year Debbie and I didn’t take a vacation because we bought our beautiful house. This year we decided to get back on our routine and we spent eight fantastic days in Destin Florida.

Deb, Mom & Dad

Deb, Mom & Dad

I lived in Destin as a child in the 1970’s. Back then it was a quiet little fishing village catering to high-powered anglers. Few restaurants and no hotels. I hadn’t visited Destin since we left there in 1976. Debbie and I returned there in 2009 and I was shocked at the change. No Destin is a very crowded vacation spot on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Hotels and Restaurants as far as the eye can see. I barely recognized anything.  Three things that hadn’t changed were the fantastic seafood, the beautiful white sand beaches and the clear blue-green waters… magical! Debbie and I love Florida so we decided to return to Destin this year. This time Debbie suggested we invite my parents. Now, maybe some people would not consider this unusual but after two marriages I have never had my previous wives suggest this to me. My parents were thrilled with the idea and we split the cost of a two bedroom condominium. We had a great time with them. Debbie and my parents get along great and she thinks the world of them.

Deb and Mom enjoying fresh blue crab!

Deb and Mom enjoying fresh blue crab!

An unusual aspect of Debbie (bedsides loving me) is her love for seafood. Now, for an Ohio born and raised girl I think this is rather unique. Face it, seafood is an acquired taste, if you’re not raised around it you are less likely to develop a taste for it. My parents and I were raised in southern coastal states, so we have developed that taste. During our trip I don’t think there was a day we didn’t gorge ourselves on all of the fresh seafood Florida’s Emerald Coast has to offer! By the way, when visiting a place like Destin, Seafood can be expensive in the local restaurants (cheaper however than mid-western restaurants). Visit the local Seafood Markets for the best and freshest seafood. We love Sexton’s Seafood Market in Destin!  The good folks there not only told us what was good but gave us great advice on the best way to prepare it (non-paid endorsement).

Sexton's Seafood Market, Destin Florida http://www.sextonsseafoodmarket.com/

Sexton’s Seafood Market, Destin Florida http://www.sextonsseafoodmarket.com/

The Ring

The Ring

Engagement… After 6 years with Debbie I finally asked her to marry me. I knew Deb wanted me to ask her properly but I also knew if I went down on one knee I wouldn’t be able to get back up. So I asked Debbie in her favorite place in the world… The ocean! As we floated in the Gulf of Mexico and I asked her (no I didn’t bring the ring in with us, that came after).

For Debbie and I we both were a little concerned how our families would take the news. We have both been through multiple marriages and were concerned at how our loved-ones would react. The good news is that everyone was pleased. Deb’s son even commented that it was about time. The reality with Deb and I is that we have been together longer than we were with some of our previous spouses. I can also say, as corny as it may sound, I knew when I met Deb that I felt we should be together. So, when’s the date? Stay Tuned.

20141003_185319_Richtone(HDR)-MOTIONSeptember 2014 was an eventful month. What started out as one of the lowest points of my life with my separation from the Navy ended with one of the best vacations I have ever taken. Spending a week with Mom, Dad and Deb was a great adventure and one that I hope to always remember!

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And… Dragon’s Breath

In 2008 I traveled to one of the most inhospitable places in the world. Kuwait is a very small country located on the far eastern end of the Persian Gulf (Arabian Sea). I was stationed with the U.S. Navy at the Kuwait Naval Base (KNB) as a Customs and Agricultural inspector. Our mission was to clear equipment, men and women returning to the United States.  Now, the interesting part of this was that KNB was considered one of the “Garden Spots” in Kuwait. Situated on the coast it at least saw some moisture and therefore vegetation.

The American servicemen and women on KNB were placed inside the “Camp Patriot” compound.  We had Pre-Constructed Buildings (PCB) complete with semi functional central air conditioning units to live in and a wonderful Dining Facility (DFAC). There was a base exchange where you could buy Monster energy drinks, junk food, non-alcoholic beer, cigars, cigarettes, DVD’s and even Apple iPods. You could even go down to the beach and almost imagine you were in a tropical paradise.  All the comforts of home.

Me and my team outside our PCB, Camp Patriot

Me and my team outside our PCB, Camp Patriot

The reality of Kuwait was much more surreal. It was April when we arrived. The night time low was about 7o degrees fahrenheit and the daytime high was in the upper 90’s and low 100’s. It wasn’t real bad because after all, it was a dry heat. Okay, so far so good.

By May we started experiencing the sand storms. High winds rolled in from the east, across Iraq and Kuwait. If you’ve never experienced a middle-east sand storm then you are truly blessed. It wasn’t so much a painful thing, it was just a pain in the ass. If you have ever been to the beach and gotten sand in your shorts then you have somewhat of an idea of what it’s like. But instead of your shorts, imagine sand everywhere. Your nose, mouth, ears, eyes (Wiley sunglasses or goggles become a must), etc. The only thing that was good about sand storms is they shut down operations and gave everyone a break from the 12 to 16 hour inspection days crawling around vehicles and equipment. Of course it meant that much more work once they passed. Nothing worse than a Soldier pissed because they can’t get their equipment cleared. Uncleared  equipment means another day in Kuwait.

By June and into September the Sand Storms died down and were replaced with a little lighter winds and much higher temperatures. Imagine standing with 20 hair dryers pointing at you on high heat at full power. Many of us referred to this as the Dragon’s Breath. The

Break in the morning between inspections - Hydrating!

Break in the morning between inspections – Hydrating!

daytime highs were now reaching up to 140 degrees mid-day. By the way, at 140 degrees dry heat is just as miserable as 110 degrees at 100% humidity, maybe more so.

In September the temperature started falling and we all let a collective sigh of relief. But our reprieve was short-lived. Now, I have lived in desert climates before. It’s hot but at least it’s dry, so a 110 degree high is like 80 degrees with normal humidity anywhere else… do-able. By the end of September and into October the humidity rolled in from the Gulf like a tidal wave. No rain, just oppressive humidity (now I understand how the vegetation at KNB was surviving). We couldn’t step outside without being immediately soaked in a combination of the moisture in the air and our own sweat. We had a picnic table outside our PCB that would “sweat” from the moisture. When we first arrived at KNB I couldn’t understand why the PCB’s all had rain gutters and down spots. I thought that was optimistic, or maybe just an inappropriate American building code that was included in the plans. Well, those rain gutters got a work out. I have never seen water flow like it was through those down spots when there was no rain. The hot humid air in contact with the metal roofs of the PCB’s condensed and ran like rain. All I could think of was what I would do for the Dragon’s Breath to return. I was and have never been more miserable.

Friends waiting to head home...

Friends waiting to head home…

By November and into December the temperatures were great. 40’s and 50’s at night and 70’s to low 80’s during the day. It was Awesome! Too bad, we left in the beginning of December. I remember thinking as we flew out, I feel bad for our reliefs, they have no idea what they are in for.

We arrived back in Norfolk Virginia in December of 2008. And did our Demobilization. I returned to Ohio and was thankful to be home. I was happy to be back to cooler temperatures. After the initial euphoria of being home wore off and I returned to my job at the bank, and I realized that what was only 8 months for everyone at home was like a lifetime for me. I had lived a different life over in Kuwait and the weather wasn’t the only thing we dealt with. I made friends in Kuwait that I still stay in contact with today. Friends I felt like I had spent a lifetime with.

I’m sure this isn’t the only post I will do about Kuwait and my part of OIF/OEF but I hope it’s one that helps those that haven’t been to imagine what it’s like.

My experience in Kuwait is nothing like what Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan dealt with but it still had it’s effects. Americans should know what being there was like. I fear our mission there may not be done yet…

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And… The Peter Principle

One of my favorite quotes is “Leadership is action, not position” – Donald H. McGannon. On the surface I think most people understand this concept. To lead you must be willing to do something, make it happen… take the lead. The only problem… being told “You got it, take charge!” isn’t all that’s required to be a leader, but yet that is usually how it happens.

I am always amazed to see someone with  great professional skills promoted to a leadership position and expected to just naturally… lead. This sometimes works despite the lack of training or mentoring the new leader has received, but most of the time it leads to a marginal or even ineffective leader. This is sometimes known as the Peter Principle (“The Peter Principle”, Dr. Laurence J. Peter, 1969). The principle states,  in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their “level of incompetence”. The problem with this idea is that Dr. Peter’s Principle assumes an inevitability that I cannot accept.

How do we as a society prevent this cycle of poor leadership from recurring? Before we can answer that, let’s explore leadership.

I think like most people, I’ve had a wide variety of leaders that I’ve worked for during my adult life.  Like most I have had truly incompetent leaders and I have had inspirational leaders and most of my leaders have fallen somewhere in between. I guess the question I have always pondered is what makes inspirational leaders great?

To answer that question we have to look at all leaders and decide what traits make a leader good, bad and great. So, let’s look at good leaders first. The good leaders I have worked for are decisive. They look at what needs to be done and do it.  Now the reality is that sometimes the decisions made by good leaders are actually bad ones. So if a good leader makes a bad decision, are they still a good leader? Hmmm… seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? The reality is that sometimes a bad decision is better than no decision.

That brings me to a bad leader. There are a lot of things that make a bad leader bad, but I think the top of the list has to be indecision. In the military, an indecisive leader can cause people to die.  An indecisive leader in the civilian sector may not cause men and women to die, but it certainly can be just as destructive to morale and the overall efforts of the team. I hate to work for any leader that is completely indecisive. As the one being lead, I want to know that the leader is making decisions and moving forward. A direction is taken and forward momentum is achieved. Ah, but a leader must be careful. Bad decisions are acceptable but only when they are the exception, not the rule. A bad leader that jumps on a decision for decisions-sake can be just as big a problem for obvious reasons. There has to be a balance between making decisions that are good and making any decision, good or bad. This is my achilles heel. I realize I have to watch my tendency to make decisions too quickly.

So what about inspirational leaders? For me, one thing that inspires me is a leader that doesn’t make a decision when one isn’t required or when a decision can be thought about before action is required. So is that it, knowing when to make a decision and when not to? I wish it where that simple. An inspirational leader has to… well, INSPIRE! An inspirational leader not only has confidence in themselves, they have that same confidence in the ones they lead. Now, that confidence isn’t blind but it does require the leader to make a leap of faith. The leaders that have inspired me have shown their confidence in me and encouraged me to stretch myself. Let’s face it, when a leader you respect encourages you it has an empowering affect.

Of course this is not everything that’s required to be a good or inspirational leader. There are many traits one must have. What about the natural leader? I’m often asked about my thoughts on this concept and I’m still debating the idea. I have seen those that appear to be natural leaders, but I have to ask, is it natural leadership ability or just confidence? I think confidence is a trait to be respected in a leader but I also think it can be developed, therefore if it can be developed, it isn’t always a natural occurrence, thus my debate. The only sure way to develop good leaders is through proper training and inspirational leaders are merely good leaders that continued to be trained and mentored and learn to hone their leadership skills.

So, what’s the answer? Leadership training. We have to ensure that those skilled professionals we promote are given the tools, through training, to become good leaders and then the ongoing mentorship to develop them into inspirational leaders. This responsibility falls to good leaders to provide that training to new leaders. Inspirational leaders then have the responsibility to further develop the good leaders. Only then can we prove The Peter Principle as flawed.

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And… The Oz Man

We have a roommate, his name is Ozzy. He’s black with a white spot on his chest and has a face that only Deb and I could love.  I’ve had him since we was eight weeks old and he has been one of my best friends.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Ozzy is my black Chinese pug.  He’s 11 1/2 years old and a great friend.   But Oz is special.  I know, everyone says their dog is special, but “The Oz Man” really is.  You see… Ozzy talks… No really, he’s the only dog in the world that actually talks.

Again? Mutha Fukka Please!

Again? Mutha Fukka Please!

You know that show Wilfred, well, that’s what it’s like to live with Oz (and he does kinda look like a little person in a dog suit).  Okay, the problem is that Oz has an attitude and well… a filthy mouth.  So, if you have children or are easily offended, I suggest that you read one of my other posts.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, for example, when I get my phone out to take his picture he looks up at me and shakes his head “Again?! Mutha Fukka Please!” (see, I warned you).

There are times were he really ticks me off though.  For example, if I do something stupid he’s usually sitting there and quietly mutters under his breath “Dumb ass”.  Do you know how irritating it is to be called a dumb ass by a little black pug?  But then again, most of the time, he’s right and the truth… it can hurt.

Now for Oz, life is simple, as long as he can lay around on the Sofa, eat and sleep pretty much whenever he desires and lick places only a dog can lick life is nothing to complain about.  Life is especially good for Oz now that Deb and I live together. He gets to hang out with his favorite woman and do nothing, no expectations and no stupid dog tricks just to get a little attention.  Come to think of it, I think given a choice, he would tell me “Don’t let the door hit ya in the ass!”  Somewhere along the way I think I lost my buddy to my girlfriend… figures!

DumbAss

“Dumb ass…”

Now, I’m often asked, “If he talks why don’t you put him on YouTube, people would be amazed”.  That’s what really frustrates me about the little jerk, he talks crap all the time but as soon as I start the video… NOTHIN’! What’s even more frustrating, after waiting for anything, even if it’s just one surely insult, as soon as I put the phone away he looks at me and says “Dumb ass!”

Ironically just a few minutes ago he walked in the room and said, “What ya doin’ man?” “Well Oz, I’m writing about how you talk for me but no one else and how frustrating that is.”  He wagged his little curly tail and responded “You know why that is don’t ya?”  (Okay, here it comes…)  “No Oz, why?” “Your a Dumb Ass, that’s why! (snort)!”

Okay, so you think I’m crazy?  Maybe so, but I do know this,  If you are looking for a good friend that will make you laugh, even when you don’t feel like it, and still hang with you, even when you’re a dumb ass then a Pug is the perfect friend.  Besides, “The Oz Man” is cool, ask anyone who has met him!

By the way, don’t think that I don’t get back at the little jerk every once in a while…

Shit! This Sucks!

Shit! This Sucks!

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And… Thank You For Your Service

Deb, my girlfriend, and I were out one day. I think I might have been in uniform for some reason (although the reason why is fuzzy). Someone came up to us, stretched out their hand and said “Thank you for your service”. This seemed to happen multiple times when I wore uniforms in public.  I shook the persons hand, gave a forced smile and responded with an awkward “Thank you”.  Deb looked at me after the person left and said, “That was nice”.  I shrugged and simply said “Yea”.  She gave me a confused look and said “What, you don’t think so?”  Of course now I am looking at her thinking, how do I respond to this?  The truth is, I didn’t have a good answer.

On the Saturday of my last reserve drill weekend a group of us Chiefs and Senior Chiefs decided to go to lunch at Chipotle’s.  After we got our over-stuffed burritos, bowls, bag of chips and fountain drinks we sat down at one of the long counters and did our typical discussion of current issues in the command and the obligatory ribbing that you would expect from a close knit group of men and women that have served together for an extended period of time.  Of course we are all wearing our Navy Working Uniforms (NWU’s).  The crowd in the restaurant began to grow and we were glad we had gotten there early.  After a while a man came to our table, extended his hand and thanked each of us for our service.  I politely shook his hand and replied with that same awkward “Thank you”.  After a few moments we were back to our typical jibs and jabs at each other.

This is not a topic that service members talk about. Not sure why, but we don’t. I know I feel uncomfortable whenever someone thanks me.  I’m not sure if others feel the same way, we just don’t discuss it.

Getting back to Deb and her question. I tried to explain it to her.  “I hate when people thank me for my service.  I feel like they do it out of guilt for not doing it themselves. Like some sort of need to say it but no real sincerity in the words. It feels like they are obligated to say it.”  Okay, that went over like a lead ballon with Deb.  She looked at me and asked if that was the way all of us felt.  Feeling very defensive, I said “Yes”.  I immediately thought to myself that’s not true, I really don’t know, why did I say that?!

Okay, so I have thought about the why for a long time now.  Why does it bother me?  The only reason I can rationalize is that I’m embarrassed.  After-all, I have never served in combat.  The closest I have come is serving in Kuwait in 2008 as a Navy Customs Agent clearing men, women and equipment transitioning from the war zones back to the U.S.  It’s an important job, but in my mind, not a lot of personal sacrifice.  Certainly not the sacrifice I knew many of those men and women had made.

So I have have tried to resolve this discrepancy in my own mind, and this is all I can come-up with.  Military life is exactly that, life.  It’s NOT like other professions.  For those that serve, we live, breath and exist in a ecosystem that only those that serve understand.  I can truly say this is not the same in a civilian job.  For most a job is a job, a career.  I have worked in the “civilian sector” for 19 years and I have never felt the same about my civilian career as I have about my military service.  So, maybe that is what people are thanking us for.  For devoting our life to something they have a strong respect for or maybe just don’t understand.  Maybe they are thanking us for doing something they can’t imagine.  I’m not sure.  All I know, is being thanked embarrasses me.  So, how does one respond to this gesture of appreciation… “Thanks”?  That really feels awkward.

Our vets today... LS2 Adam Sandberg, CRS8, B Co, 2nd Platoon

Our vets today… LS2 Adam Sandberg, CRS8, B Co, 2nd Platoon

I also have wondered why we don’t say thank you to those that do their jobs everyday? What about the coroner that does arguably one of the most distasteful jobs I can imagine to help explain to a family what happened to their loved one?  Why don’t we stop them in public when they’re wearing a coroner’s badge to thank them for their service?  How about the carpenter that is in the local hardware super store buying supplies for their current build?  I  have never thanked them for putting a roof over all of our heads… maybe I should.

I do wonder how others that have served feel about gratitude that is expressed to them for their service.  Do they feel the same way I do? Maybe there are some that feel that it’s justified and except it at face value, maybe there are even those that feel it’s not near enough.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone stop thanking our Military Veterans for their service.  If it is sincere and heart felt, please continue to thank them.  If it’s out of a need to recognize the vet for your own sake, then reconcile your own reason and make a decision to thank the vet or not to thank the vet.

I will say this, the next time you get pulled over to get a ticket, thank the Officer for his or her service.  They really do a thankless job!

To all of those that served and are still serving in all branches of service, a heart felt, sincere “Thank you for your service”!

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And… Navy Chief, Navy Pride

As you probably already know I served as a Chief Petty Officer (Chief) in the United States Navy.  I have always maintained that my service, especially as a Chief, was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

I have to recognize that for most Americans that being a Chief in the Navy means little. However, for 17% of those enlisted men and women who served or serve in the Navy the rank of Chief is more than just a Rank, it’s a source of great pride and commitment to the leadership of the Navy.

In most of the other services the level of responsibility bestowed on Chiefs only comes at the highest enlisted rank of E9. However, for the Navy and Coast Guard this responsibility is bestowed on paygrades E7 (Chief), E8 (Senior Chief) and E9 (Master Chief). The charge of being a Chief is complex. Like the other services we are expected to lead, train and mentor our junior enlisted. This in itself is a challenging task and like our fellow enlisted leaders in the other services this is our charge.  But for the Chief’s there is more.

Before I can describe the “more” let’s look at the outward differences of Chiefs from the enlisted paygrades of Petty Officer First Class (E6) and below. Enlisted Petty Officers wear the Eagle and Chevrons (one chevron for E4, two chevrons for E5 and three chevrons for E6), better known as the “crow”, on their right upper-arm or their collar. Officers on the other hand wear stripes on the cuffs of their sleeves or the same rank insignia as their other service counterparts on their collars. For the dress uniform E6 and below wear the standard Navy Cracker Jack (Navy Blue or White) while the officers wear the Double Breasted Navy Blue uniform or White Choker (yes, the uniform worn by Richard Gere from An Officer and A Gentlemen). The E6 and below service uniform is the Khaki Shirt with black pants (this is based on the latest service uniform and has been controversial in it’s implementation due to its Khaki Shirt) while officers wear the Khaki Shirt and Khaki

Reporting to the Commanding Officer as a new Chief Petty Officer

Reporting to the Commanding Officer as a new Chief Petty Officer

Pants. This is where the Navy takes a right turn while the other services steer straight. Chiefs wear anchors on their collars (one star over the anchor for Senior Chief and two for Master Chief). Chiefs also where the Officer Dress and Service Uniforms. This serves to differentiate the Chiefs from the enlisted E6 and below. It also serves to help those selected to Chief to transition from their previous responsibilities to their new ones.

Okay, what’s the “more” you ask? In addition to leading, training and mentoring our Sailors we are also specifically charged with training and mentoring our junior officers. Okay, how can we do this when they out-rank us? That’s simple, we are charged with doing this because all Chiefs maintain the institutional knowledge passed down from generation to generation. It’s not a matter of how we do it, it is our charge, we must do it.

Here is were it get’s interesting. In order to maintain this responsibility each Chief must be able to carry the “power” of the rank. We often refer to this as the Power of the Anchor .  This means that every Chief has to have the skills, knowledge and ability to carry-out these requirements. However, this power cannot be projected by an individual. Therefore, the Chief’s Mess was formed over 121 years ago to allow Chiefs to work together, share knowledge and experience and pass-on institutional knowledge and skills. As you can imagine, when a group like this is formed it develops a bond that occurs only between men and women that share specific experiences. So, in addition to the different uniforms, all Chief’s go through a training and team building process after selection that helps to produce an inseparable bond between the new selects and the rest of the Chiefs Mess.

Over the years this “process” has been known as the “Chief’s Initiation”, “Induction Process”, “Season of Pride” and lately “CPO 365, Phase II”. Of course some of these process names have come to have a negative connotation. In some cases, these processes have been rightly condemned as negative because of their lack of relevance to the required training and in some cases, humiliating nature. However, over the years, I am proud to say, this process has been more refined to ensure that the purpose of the process has specific relevance to the charge of being a Chief Petty Officer. Today this process hones leaders and builds a brother and sisterhood within the Chiefs Mess.  This process serves to instill every Chief with and Esprit De Corps that allows every Chief to be able to perform their mandate to lead, train and mentor Sailors and junior officers without working in a vacuum. Perhaps more importantly this process serves to pass on Institutional Navy knowledge to the next generations and reaffirm the Chiefs Mess’ commitment to our charter. This Esprit De Corps is known by all Chiefs by our motto, Navy Chief, Navy Pride!

Better Said…

Some of the Navy’s top leaders have expressed doubt in this process.  I can understand this view and concern, however, as someone who has been through this process when done correctly I know that it is absolutely required to maintain the strength of the United States Navy.

The Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs of the Columbus Ohio Chief's Mess (2011)

The Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs of the Columbus Ohio Chief’s Mess (2011)

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And… Smart Casual

So, about a year ago the bank I work for was going through a major transition. We decided that it was time to get out of the loan servicing business and decided to sell our servicing portfolio to another financial institution. That company decided they wanted to buy our main building that we had been occupying for over 20 years as part of the deal.

We spent about 6 months co-occupying the space, while we searched for a new main office building, which ultimately lead to a new dress policy, Smart Casual.  The issue was that the other company allowed jeans to be worn by their “back-office” employees. So what, right? Our company long had a standard of business formal for managers and above (slacks, dress shirts and ties for men and slacks with a dress shirt or dresses for women) and business casual (khakis and casual shirts such as polos) for non-management personnel. Well, you can imagine, our employees quickly started grumbling at the “un-fairness” of their situation once they saw the dress code of the other company.

After a review by management (I was invited to the meetings, but couldn’t attend because of military duties) a decision was made to change our dress code. In the end, our company decided to call this new policy Smart Casual. So what is Smart CasualSmart Casual is clean, unfaded and un-fraid jeans with clean casual shoes (no athletic shoes and no sandals) and clean un-tattered casual shirts ( buttoned shirts or polos, no t-shirts). It was expected that if you had a meeting with a vendor or customer that you would dress appropriately in standard business casual or business formal, commensurate to your grade level.

Okay, no problem, after all, Steve Jobs showed us that you could be casual and still rule the world. I, like most everyone else in the company, adopted this new policy. Here is what I found:

1. Jeans are actually not that comfortable. A clean, pair of jeans can be uncomfortable and hot. My dress slacks are much more comfortable.
2. Some employees will push the bounds of the Smart Casual policy to the edge.
3. One of my mentors told me many years ago “Dress Casual, Work Casual”… I think he may have been on to something there.
4. Ties can be cool, I have hundreds of them. Some are very nice and some are a little out there. Thank you Jerry Garcia for doing more than just acid and a little music!
5. My girlfriend loves it when I where slacks, a dress shirt and a nice tie.

All of the above were reason enough for me to return to my business formal attire. Let’s face it, number 5 is reason enough alone (I Love You Deb)!

Okay relax, I’m not sitting in senior management meetings preaching the evils of Smart Casual. It wouldn’t serve any purpose accept to deflate moral and I would probably be run-outta-town on a rail. I am however, dressing myself (okay, maybe Deb is dressing me) more formally and I do feel more comfortable and more professional. The way a person dresses can not only affect the way we are perceived by others but also how we perceive ourselves. Of course, this does not mean that everyone who dresses casually at work is a dirt-bag or has a low self esteem, to the contrary, we are still responsible for our own self image. I just think that some people, like myself, are better suited to a more formal look when working. Probably the military in me. In the end, Smart Casual has to be smart, for the individual.

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