“I intend to . . .”

Over the last few months, I have been writing posts featuring David Marquet and his new book, Turn The Ship Around! How to Create Leadership at Every Level.”  The reason for this is simple: I am fascinated with David and what he was able to accomplish as the Commanding Officer of the USS Santa Fe.  If you have not read the posts about David Marquet, I encourage you to read them first, before continuing to read this post, as it will provide you some background.  Then, come back to continue reading this post:

I was introduced to David in February of this year, through this blog and other social media, and I became acquainted with his leader-leader (leader to leader) philosophy.  He became a fan of my blog, and I became a fan of him and his blog.  David was gracious to share with his blog’s audience posts from this blog.  David even invited me to write a book review for his book reviews section of his blog, such as the post, “How Would the Marines Run Your Business.”  Over time, David and I have become allies and friends.

This blog, Command Performance Leadership, is about the synergies between military and corporate leadership, and there is no better example of those synergies than David and his leadership philosophy of empowerment and developing leaders at every level.  What he has accomplished throughout his career,  and since his retirement from the United States Navy, is the perfect story for this blog.  David’s message is one that absolutely deserves to be told.

Today, David’s book is officially released, and “Turn The Ship Around!” will be deployed for an important mission: to enlighten leaders, those who aspire to lead, and those formerly known as followers (the people who are leaders without a title).  The book discusses empowerment and how to create leaders at all levels.  I wanted to use this occasion to celebrate this book’s release, and to share a few of the ideas and mechanisms that come right out of the pages of David’s book.  Below, I have ripped a few those pages out of the book for you to read.  I hope that David’s message resonates with you, and that you can use a few of his ideas in your workplace to empower your people, and to create leaders, not followers.

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Chapter 11

“I intend to . . .”

How proactive are senior managers and employees in your organization? Rewording our speech dramatically changed our level of proactivity.

21 January 1999, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (159 days to deployment)

“Conn, maneuvering, reactor scram!” The reactor had just shut down. The engineer inserted the shutdown deliberately, testing his department’s ability to find and repair a simulated fault.

The Officer of the Deck was my senior department head, Lieutenant Commander Bill Greene, and he was doing all the right things. We had shifted propulsion from the main engines to an auxiliary electric motor, the EPM, to turn the propeller. The EPM can only power the ship at low-speed and draws down the battery.

The ship was coming shallow in order to use its diesel engine to provide electrical power and keep the battery charged until the reactor was restarted. During the long troubleshooting period while the nuclear electronics technicians were isolating the fault, I started to get bored. I fiddled with my flashlight, turning it on and off. Things were going too smoothly. I couldn’t let the crew think their new captain was easy!

I nudged Bill and suggested we increase speed from “ahead 1/3” to “ahead 2/3” on the EPM to give the nuclear-trained enlisted men a sense of urgency. This would significantly increase the rate of battery discharge and put pressure on the trouble shooters to find and correct the fault quickly. At “ahead 2/3,” there is a near continuous click-click-click on the battery amp-hour meter. An audible reminder that time is running out, it’s physically unnerving!

“Ahead 2/3,” he ordered.

Nothing happened.

The helmsman should have reached over and rung up ahead 2/3. Instead, I could see him squirming in his chair. No one said anything and several awkward seconds passed. Astutely noting that the order hadn’t been carried out, I asked the helmsman what was going on. He was facing his panel but reported over his shoulder, “Captain, there is no ahead 2/3 on the EPM!”

I had made a mistake. I’d been shifted to command Santa Fe at the last-minute and unlike every other submarine I’d been on, there was only a 1/3 on the EPM.

I applauded the helmsman and grabbed Bill, the OOD. In the corner of the control room, I asked him if he knew there was no ahead 2/3 on the EPM.

“Yes, Captain, I did.”

“Well, why did you order it?” I asked, astounded.

“Because you told me to.”

He was being perfectly honest. By giving that order, I took the crew right back to the top-down command and control leadership model. That my most senior, experienced OOD would repeat it was a giant wake-up call about the perils of that model for something as complicated as a submarine. What happens when the leader is wrong in a top-down culture? Everyone goes over the cliff. I vowed henceforth never to give an order, any order. Instead, subordinates would say “I intend to….”

Mechanism: Use “I intend to . . .” to turn passive followers into active leaders

Although it may seem like a minor trick of language, we found “I intend to…” profoundly shifted ownership of the plan to the officers.

“I intend to . . .” didn’t take long to catch on. The officers and crew loved it.

A year later, I was standing on the bridge of the Santa Fe with Dr. Stephen Covey. He’d heard what we were doing and was interested in riding a submarine. By this point, the crew had fully embraced our initiatives for control, and “I intend to . . .” was prominently visible. Throughout the day the officers approached me with “I intend to.”

“Captain, I intend to submerge the ship. We are in water we own, water depth has been checked and is 400 feet, all men are below, the ship is rigged for dive, and I’ve certified my watch team.”

I’d reply “Very well” and off we’d go.

Dr. Covey was keenly interested and incorporated this concept into his subsequent book, The 8th Habit.

The Power of Words


The key to your team becoming more proactive rests in the language subordinates and superiors use.

Here is a short list of “disempowered phrases” that passive followers use:

Request permission to . . .

I would like to . . .

What should I do about . . .

Do you think we should . . .

Could we . . .

Here is a short list of “empowered phrases” that active doers use:

I intend to . . .

I plan on . . .

I will . . .

We will . . .

Later, I heard from a friend of mine who had taught future submarine commanders how frustrated he was by the inability of too many officers to make decisions at the command level. He said that these officers “came from good ships” but would become paralyzed when it came to tough decision-making. I took issue with his categorizing them as “good ships.” By using that term, he meant ships that didn’t have problems—at least that we knew about. But this had obviously been accomplished using a top-down, leader-follower structure where the captain made the decisions. Had those officers practiced “I intend to…” when they were second-in-command, they would have been practiced in decision-making.

This shows the degree to which we reward personality-centered leadership structures and accept the limitations. These may have been good ships, in that they avoided problems, but it certainly was not good leadership.

Questions to Consider

What causes us to take control when we should be giving control?

Can you recall a recent incident where your subordinate followed your order because he or she thought you had learned secret information “for executives only”?

What would be the most challenging obstacle to implementing “I intend to . . .” in your place of business?

*Reprinted with permission from “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, by L. David Marquet, 2012, Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, Texas. Copyright © 2012 by Louis David Marquet.

Another source for this excerpt can be found HERE

– If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can read another one.  I posted “A New Method of Resupplying ~ Putting “I intend to…” Into Action” today.

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If you would like to order the book “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, please visit:

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Related Articles –

“I Intend To” – More Than a Recommendation (championsclubcommunity.com)

How We Made Leader to Leader Work on Santa Fe – By David Adams (leader-leader.com/blog)

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2 Responses to ““I intend to . . .””

  1. […] Command Performance Leadership A Blog Discussing Military & Corporate Leadership Competencies – By Dale R. Wilson « “I intend to . . .” […]

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  2. That is a very powerful method, as of course you know, Dale. The bbok is (and has been) on my want list. Congratulations to David and huzzahs to you for presenting it.

    Like

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