Clear Communication is crucial

The RSM's 20/20 vision
The RSM’s 20/20 vision

It is easy to see how being the being the RSM could be misconstrued as the perfect cadet. And while I do my best to be as perfect as possible, I still make mistakes. In and of itself, making mistakes isn’t bad. It happens. However, a mistake becomes bad when you don’t learn from it. At that point, it is a wasted opportunity.

This is my 20/20 Vision Project. The 20/20 Vision Project is my invention, but the idea behind the 20/20 Vision Project is this quote by Winston Churchill: ” All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

The 20/20 Vision Project is where I reflect upon my mistakes so that I can learn from them. If I ignore the learning potential every mistake brings me I am throwing away loads of potential, and I will just keep making the mistake until I learn from it. It might not seem like it when you make a mistake,  I am proud of what I did to turn them into opportunities to reflect and learn.

To try to change the association of mistake and failure within the unit, I want to share my mistakes and what I (and you) can learn from them. I also encourage you to do this yourself. Perhaps not publicly, but on your own you can reflect and learn from your mistakes otherwise you will continue to make these mistakes instead of learning and growing from them. I also encourage you to create your own Mistake/Lesson board (or notebook, or whatever works for you). You don’t have to do this publicly like I have, but when you feel like you’ve failed or made a mistake, think about what the lesson can be. If you need some guidance on what the lesson might be, there are lots of resources to help. Me and the CSM, other senior cadets, your friends, your family, the officers and staff at 21. RSM MacDonald personal guarantee:  we’re all still making mistakes and trying to learn from them, too.

The first entry to the 20/20 Vision Project is on the importance of clear communication. At the start of the year, I made a post to senior cadets with the following message. “Reminder that your letter of intention is due to the CO tomorrow.” This was a bad message. Let’s count the ways.

It was a reminder of new information.

You can’t remind people about new information. Then it isn’t a reminder, it is distributing information.

Word choice matters. I need to ensure that the words I use mean what I am trying to communicate. If I am distributing information, I need to ensure that what I say is correct and it means what I am trying to say.

No one else read it first.

It is critical that when I send a message out, that I get someone to look it over first. It is easy for typed messages to be misconstrued and misunderstood, as you forget what you know, and what other people know. If you allow someone else to read your messages, it is easier to determine if you have left any relevant information out.

I assumed people think like I do

During a discussion over this message, I wrote: “If we’re doing interviews for a position tomorrow it isn’t unreasonable to expect your letter stating your intent to be considered before the interview.” When communicating, assumptions are very dangerous since they can enable you to overestimate the information that others have. Because I assumed that others would think the same way as I do, and this may have costed others who thought a different way. This doesn’t mean that my thought or assumptions was unfair. However, this is still a mistake. My un-communicated assumption should not have been the difference between someone getting or missing out on an opportunity.

The feedback I got at first made me feel defensive, but then I remembered that people were trying to help me be a better communicator, and that is a skill everyone needs to continue to develop for their whole lives. I’m not saying that I’ll never make the same mistake again, but hopefully I have some better tools to help me avoid it more often.