You have some big shoes to fill…

Oh really. I do, do I?

Living a military life we get to change jobs every two years or so. And then everyone around us is also changing jobs every two years or so.

It’s not great for consistency, trust or relationship building.

Whilst the military relies on uniformity, it’s not a foolproof formula. We do get to sprinkle some of our own unique character here and there to some degree.

When it comes to managers, what’s a priority for one might be less so for another. And one style might have earned more respect and commitment from staff.

So when it comes to joining a new department, you might be replacing a highly effective and much loved key player.

And boy oh boy, are people keen to let you know just how big those shoes are. And I have been on both sides of that expectation, being the incoming and the outgoing manager.

It’s a tough place to be. Being judged before you’ve even started. And moreover, no one had even chosen for you to be there. People move around the military in a much more haphazard and random fashion. It’s mostly potluck where you end up. There’s no recruitment, interview or selection process.

So I can appreciate that existing staff might be anxious. Often they’ve had very little say in who they are getting and have no clue about you until the day you report for duty.

So this, “you have big shoes to fill” is sending a message. I get it. There’s a standard in existence and it warrants maintaining the culture.

But have you ever tried running or even walking in oversized shoes…? A face plant into the dirt is inevitable.

So, how might we send a different, more welcoming message?

What if we could bring our own shoes and see how we grow into them?

Maybe we could bring a selection of shoes and try them on for size?

Let people set their own bar and raise it accordingly?

Whether it’s a military or a civilian hierarchical organisation, we all know there is a dysfunctional system in place and we are required to work it. But there’s little to be proud of if we let that system rule our thinking too. After all, it’s just a system. We the people are the ones making the decisions and creating the human relationships.

Let’s not make it more painful to be on the back foot.

How might you set people on front foot first? Then adjust as we go.

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