The Golden Rule: Ask questions when you don’t understand something

I wore a gold shirt to my first Echelon Front event. Think about that for a second. The first time I worked with Jocko Willink and Leif Babin at an Echelon Front training event with a client, I was dressed in a bright gold polo shirt. Anyone that reads our insights likely follows Echelon Front and knows Jocko and Leif through social media. And you know that a canary yellow shirt isn’t on brand. Having served with them in Iraq, I knew that as well. So, I was shocked when they asked me to wear it.

And yet, that’s exactly what Leif had asked me to do. I have photographic proof that Leif texted me to wear a gold shirt (exhibit A below). When he did, I was confused, a little worried, and even began wondering if my decision to join them at the event was a mistake. But Leif asked me to wear it. So I did.

I was simply doing what he told me to do. I didn’t ask him why, and I didn’t tell him it didn’t make sense to me because I was afraid to. I was worried that it would look like I was pushing back and questioning him. I was afraid to make a bad first impression.

Well I have news for you, when it comes to first impressions, wearing a gold shirt is a lot worse than asking a question.

Now, I could tell you that the reason I wore the shirt was because the autocorrect in Leif’s text changed ‘polo shirt’ to ‘gold shirt’. But the real reason is that I failed to take Ownership of my own confusion and fix the problem. Had I done that, in a matter of seconds, I would have known to wear black. And Jocko never would have had to ask me, “What’s with the shirt, Dave”? On my first day.

As a subordinate, if something doesn’t make sense to you, ask. It’s really that simple. Just take Ownership of the situation by asking a simple question. Clear up the confusion, solve the problem, and put yourself in a position to help the team, and your boss, be successful.

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