Sunday, April 28, 2013

On being a man of your word

Throughout my time in the army, I’ve faced many experiences where my superiors never lived up to their words. I'll explain through examples.

Back when I was in OCS, I had requested one of my superiors to give me information on how to apply for local citizenship. He told me that it would not be a problem and that he'll get back to me. I thought he had done something about it, but at the end of OCS I realized nothing was done. I wasted nine months waiting.

Similarly, back in OCS I had some questions regarding the weapons we were being taught to use. I had asked another superior the definitions of terms like ‘maximum effective range’ and he told me he’d get back to me. He never did.

I’ve noticed through my encounters that many of my superiors gave me their word on issues but never lived up to it. And of course I can understand why. These guys had more important tasks to worry about. How important can it be getting back to a subordinate on some unimportant issue, right?

Rational... yes, but I’ve always felt this is wrong. It is wrong to give someone your word and not live up to it. Ever since I became an officer I told myself I would never commit this mistake. If I give someone my word on an issue, I will remember to get back to that person, even if the issue is a minor one in the grand scheme of things. I made this my work ethic since I assumed duties as a platoon commander.

I just want to share how I manage all the promises I make to my men.

Basically if any of my men raise any issue up to me that I cannot solve right away, I note it down in my Blackberry immediately. I just make a short rough note under the memo section. This helps me remember things that pop up during the day. I also have a detailed to-do list in my Blackberry with different tasks and dates and timings for them to be done by. Usually when I’m free, I translate the rough notes into detailed tasks in my to-do list, along with the day and time for them to be done. By putting in this effort, I pay attention to the most minor of details that make up the most major of contributions.  

An example would be a couple of weeks back when some of my guys raised up discrepancies in their salaries. They raised this issue over a casual conversation- something like "SAF doesn't pay me well, they cut my salary"- and didn't even intend to pursue the matter. I however saw this as an important detail that needed to be looked at and told them I’d get back to them on it. Of course, I could have just said that to show concern and forgotten about it later. On top of that, I really did have other important things to do. But nonetheless I noted it down immediately and got back to them the week after with instructions to help fix the issue. With the help of technology, I was able to keep my word and maintain the trust of my subordinates.

I'm really learning a lot through my experience as an army officer. It's quite brilliant. More to come!


  1. Great post. That's the power of introspection and self awareness. But you take it a step ahead. You act on it. Love this post.

  2. Atreya, There is an app called - very nice app for tasks...

  3. Atreya, i am interested to know about the reason for discrepancy in salary. Were you able to solve it? Give them the deficit etc.??? I am your amma asking this question.

    1. Hi. We're in the process of solving it. What happened was they had forgotten to bring their bank statements to prove the deficit, so we're just waiting on the proof from their side.