Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough.
Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.
But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle—- it just wasn’t good enough.
The instructors would find “something” wrong.
For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.
The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.
There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated.
Those students didn’t make it through training.
Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.
Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.
It’s just the way life is sometimes.
Admiral McRaven’s comments in this post may seem defeatist. Who wants to accept the fact that their efforts were in vain? No one wants to feel underappreciated. As consultants, Golden Source Consultants always strives for 100% customer satisfaction. And yet, it can sometimes seem as though the hard work goes unnoticed. Sometimes our clients experience this from their management, as the results of the project may go unnoticed by the larger organization. In this post, we will review some of the best ways the GSC team has found to help each other and our clients through “sugar cookie” moments
Prepare For The Inspection
In work and in life, each of us is subject to inspection. The truth is, that while this inspection seems harsh or unfair, it’s ultimately for our own benefit. The inspection allows us to be held accountable to a higher standard. When we have our failings pointed out, this is an opportunity to find a way to improve.
For the Golden Source Consultants team we have a strict set of standards that our deliverables must meet. Each deliverable must go through review to ensure that everything from the way the document is formatted, the wording used, and the actual quantitative analysis is accurate. Sometimes GSC leadership asks for small changes, and sometimes not so small changes. These changes may inherently change the structure of the deliverable itself. If our team didn’t understand our mission of being committed to quality and delivery this might feel to be “nit-picky”. Knowing that each deliverable will ultimately be inspected by our client, this strict internal review process pushes our team to improve so that the final inspection is a reward not a punishment. Seen in this way, inspection becomes the vehicle by which our team improves and encourages them to be constantly prepared.
Inspection is also the way we help our clients improve. We hear frequently in our work with client PMOs or in implementing new processes that there is resistance to governance and review. To combat this be prepared to explain to stakeholders clearly what the standards are, and why they are critical to quality. When individuals understand why something is important, they are more likely to not only participate in feedback, but seek it. Also share with your team the victories that were won due to finding a change early in the inspection process. Often these small saves early can have big effects on long term profit.
Be A Willing and Grateful Participant
In life we may not be able to choose whether or not we are inspected. Despite our best preparation, we may be subject to feedback saying we did not meet the standard. What we can always choose, is our response to this feedback.
Feedback should always be seen as a positive, even if the tone and manner of delivery is not. When bad feedback happens, take a deep breath and be ready to willingly participate in the discussion. Ask questions to understand the feedback and how you or the deliverable might improve. Try to get specifics by asking for examples.
In doing so your goal is not to find a gotcha to refute the feedback, but to find a way to gratefully accept the feedback, valid or invalid, so that you may improve. If the feedback is valid, someone has provided you with a concrete area where you now know you need to improve. If the feedback is invalid, there is still an opportunity to understand what was miscommunicated or misunderstood so that in the future the inspection is successful.
Often times, this attitude of willingness and gratefulness allow you to pass a much greater test. Just as the SEALs were subject to inspection, their attitude could have been one of anger or ingratitude that they had been singled out for correction. Instead for the successful SEALs, they saw past this short term suffering and realized that the inspection, and even the experience of being a sugar cookie, allowed them to pursue excellence. This excellence in even the smallest things, allowed them to make it through the mentally and physically grueling SEAL training.
Be Your Own Champion
At the end of the day, there may be no one that says “Thank you.” Your work may go completely unappreciated. That’s a hard realization for anyone to come to, because no matter who we work for or what we do, each of us want to leave at the end of the day feeling like our work mattered.
So if it is not a Thank You from your employer or client, take the smile from a stranger as sign that someone is grateful that you acknowledge them. Take the feeling of accomplishment after an evening run or gym workout. Enjoy the dinner at home with your family cooked by your oldest child. You are the champion in each of these things, and in each of these know that somewhere out there, thanks to the work you did in any given moment, there is someone just like you enjoying their own small moments just because you were a sugar cookie today.