I recently experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The USS Theodore Roosevelt is a 4.5 acre, 20 stories above the water line, 50-ton U.S air carrier, which carries up to 5,000 people and more than 70 combat aircrafts.
The experience can be described as interesting, exhilarating, and in short, cool. It also was an opportunity to reflect, observe and bring back some of the knowledge and learnings I gathered while aboard.
One of the first things I noticed, which was also mentioned by the Commanding Officer, was how young everyone who works on the ship is. There are 24-year-old brave women and men, literally dropping bombs in Iraq and men and women as young as 20-years old outfitting pilots for flight. The ship’s commanding officer said it best “we train and then trust”. This statement, resonated with me and got me thinking: this is how we operate at Konnect. While we aren’t part of the military, and not to take anything away from these men and women, relative to Konnect our team is young, willing and eager. We also train and then trust. We have young assistants and coordinators who we entrust to spend entire days at trade shows with marquee clients 1:1. We have 28-year-old managers who decide the fate of a 30 million dollar brand’s marketing and PR campaign. There are not many companies in our industry that operate like this and allow for trust and competency to outweigh age; and where willingness and hard work go far beyond tenure. And that’s how you have Account Executive Emily Johnston managing a large scale IPO. Was it easy? NO! Did she know entirely how to do it? NO! She had a seat at the table – while learning and growing and perfecting her craft. And not only that, but she was supported by all of us here at Konnect, from executive to assistant, and she found her way.
The second thing you learn is that TEAM is everything. Your success is your team’s success and your failure is the team’s failure. Yes, that’s a lot of responsibility- especially for an 18-year-old who just enlisted and is now being deployed to the Middle East to fight! Relative to Konnect, Simon Sinek, who is someone that we at the agency read and revere, discusses in his book Leaders Eat Last. He talks about the inner circle and when one does not have everyone else’s back the circle is broken. So success for one- and for all- only happens when the team works together. The commander shared a story about a recent minesweeping exercise the crew on Roosevelt had to perform. It was the first time they were doing it this way. And it was nowhere near perfect – the team made loads of mistakes. He could have come out and stopped it. He could have found every threat and deactivated it. But that would have defied the purpose of the exercise. The team worked together- through mistakes, acknowledge where things went wrong and found solutions together. And at the end- while it wasn’t perfect- they knew that they had each other’s back no matter what – and no matter who did something wrong. I would like to believe that at Konnect we inspire people to do the same. Making mistakes is never an issue- not owning up to it is. Making mistakes and finding solutions is just part of the course. And as long as we are a strong team that holds together, chances are we will prevail.
The final lesson was about growth. Like I said in the beginning, the Navy has a lot of young people in tremendously serious positions with a ton of responsibility. The commanding officer also shared a bit about the growth that some of his team experiences. First off – there are certain pinnacles in their career – like being the commander of a squadron. Being a commanding officer of an aircraft carrier. The road between these pinnacles- is not only long and tenuous – but also not very exciting. But that’s understood from training- from the beginning. And what every single person on the ship shows – is excitement for whatever the position they have at that moment in time. Every person we talked to shared how their only concern was about the job they were performing at that time. They were not thinking about the next position they would be in – because to succeed and do well by the team – focus on the task at hand (not future tasks) was crucial. And in their case, it truly is – loading the wrong ammo on the wrong plane can mean those pilots are never coming back. So being present and living in the position is truly of the utmost importance.
I’d like to believe that at Konnect we foster a community of people who are focused on the program at hand. I’d like to believe that our leadership inspires people to trust that upon successful completion of the program the next position is guaranteed. I’d like to know that we are truly a team – a tribe – that has each other’s back, that trusts each other wholeheartedly and that knows that success will not be mine or any one’s alone- but ours – truly. And today – and tomorrow are all about that- building success together. Thank you all for being here and choosing to be part of this team!