The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader

Communication Can Be Life or Death!

One of my interests lie with the history of the Pacific war during WWII, in particular the naval actions of the Allies and the Imperial Japanese forces.  I recently finished a very good book titled Japanese Destroyer Captain, by Captain Tameichi Hara (ISBN 978-1591143840).  It is unique in that it tells the story from the viewpoint of the Japanese forces, and illustrates in clear detail the importance of communication and how critical it is that an organization 51hCks46wKL._SL500_AA300_understands the strategic direction of its senior leadership.

Captain Hara was known as the miracle captain, because he was able to keep his ship intact with little damage and no casualties in battle after battle.  He makes no claim to knowing anything special – his approach was simply ‘don’t do the same thing in the same way more than once.’

He repeatedly tried to explain this to his leadership, only to be ignored or even scorned – this despite the obvious signs of success.  While the Japanese admiralty had no problems sending destroyer squadrons into harms way time and time again, they were very reluctant to commit any capital ships to the fray, much to the confusion and bewilderment of the officers serving on the front lines.

When they finally did commit some of their larger ships, they did the job very poorly, putting them into a restricted harbor, and complacently standing down and relaxing their guard.  Conversely, Captain Hara kept his ship on alert, with the engines running.  When the Americans sent their naval air forces to bomb the ships contained the harbor, Hara’s little destroyer squadron was the only ships left unscathed, and many of the capital ships at anchor were sunk or damaged beyond immediate repair.

As managers, we can learn from this story.  Do we listen to our staff when they tell us they have a better way to do things?  Do we communicate the reasons behind strategic decisions to our team?  One of the most common complaints in employee surveys is a lack of understanding of the overall direction of an organization.  This is a concern easily remedied by good communication.

If we understand the importance of good two-way communication, we can build a happier and much more effective team.

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