You do not have to be a genius to manage well.
As a new Navy ensign, I was assigned me to work directly for a limited duty officer. The first day that he and I met was my first day of service in the Navy. He did not hire me. I reported aboard the USS Midway and went to his office.
The Navy has different groups or classes of officers. The limited duty officers are men and women who have worked their way up through the enlisted ranks into the ranks of officers. Their opportunity for promotion caps out at the rank commander (pay grade O5). They are specialists with high aptitudes for certain skills.
The limited duty officer for whom I worked had the ability to master Navy administrative skills far more rapidly than his peers did.
When I transferred into his department, he was a lieutenant. He assigned me the responsibility of managing the education office. In this role, I managed a chief petty officer and six enlisted men. My responsibilities in this office were to give educational support and testing for career advancement of the 5000 enlisted members of the ship and air wing.
However, I knew nothing of my responsibilities as an educational officer.
At the same time, I stood bridge watches. During these watches, I developed the skills to maneuver an aircraft carrier on the course and speed for launching and recovering aircraft, replenishing ships at sea, and other navigational and working functions.
When I was not on bridge watches, I worked with the limited duty officer, who was my departmental boss. He quickly taught me how to manage and evaluate the men under my responsibility in the education office.
He and I worked together well. I learned a great deal. I wanted to do a good job. My boss took the time to teach me how become a better manager. As a young, inexperienced manager, I had a tendency to give higher evaluations to people I liked. He showed me to focus on how quickly and accurately people performed their duties as well as how much I enjoyed working with them.
Within a year, the Navy promoted me to lieutenant junior grade. Within 3 years, I was promoted to lieutenant. My role in the administrative department had gone from simply managing the education office to manage the ship’s television station and newspaper and managing the ship’s public affairs program. I wrote press releases that the Navy sent to U.S. Command for declassification and release to media. I worked with the Bob Hope troupe and the Miss America Troupe for their performances in front of thousands of members of the crew and guests.
At the same time, I became qualified as an officer of the deck for fleet operations. I was a competent ship handler and enjoyed working alongside senior officers aboard the ship.
My boss in the administration office was perhaps not as smart as I was. I draw this conclusion because, in 3 years, my skills in the areas where I worked became as strong as the skills of my boss, who had over 20 years of experience. I also had developed skills for ship’s bridge operations. My boss, as a limited duty officer, did not qualify to work on the bridge of ship. Perhaps the best sign that I was smarter than my boss is that I reached the rank of lieutenant in 3 years. Reaching that rank had taken him nearly 20 years.
I was certainly never upset by the fact that I was smarter than my boss was. His skills for the department in which I worked helped me greatly. I was able to learn to do my duties. I was fortunate to have his leadership and knowledge as tools and examples for growth.
I respected that he had a gift for specialized administrative skills and that he had 20 years developing those skills. I showed respect by seeking and following his direction. In addition, I knew that he had 20 years of experience in successfully working with other men and women in the Navy. I knew that I could and did learn how to work with other people the way he worked with other people, not just for a day, but the grind of day in and day out. I went to him for direction in dealing with difficult people and situations.
What I learned from this was the value of experience. I learned that, when I have decisions to make, I should turn to people with experience to help me with ideas on making those decisions. I learned that you do not have to be a genius to manage well, but that you do have to have experience and skill to manage well.