I recently completed my 27th year as a commissioned officer. With this milestone, I reflected on my journey as a leader. Like all 2nd Lieutenants, I was pretty naïve. Along the way, a little wisdom has come with age… I’d like to think that I intuitively learned; but I realized I needed to stick my fingers into the candle a few times to grasp the lesson… I was also fortunate to have great leaders as mentors. And sometimes, those leaders were not always senior to me.

Now, as CEO of Layer 8 Security, and having our company recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work” by the Philly Business Journal, I was thinking about our corporate culture. Morale is high at Layer 8 Security; what are some of the contributing factors to our success and camaraderie?

A lesson learned that has stuck with me all these years: Have faith in your teammates!

Steve Jobs once said, “It’s not the tools you have faith in–tools are just tools–they work, or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not.”

Many years ago, while serving as the S6A (Deputy Communications Officer) on the USS Guam as part of 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, I was tasked with setting up a wide area network utilizing Banyan Vines. While we take this capability for granted today, this was a novel concept back in 1996. To prepare for this task, I completed Cisco Certified Network Associate (“CCNA”) training – one day, I was busy working on routing tables while two of my Corporals stood behind me, looking over my shoulder. Sgt Carmichael, an outstanding Marine NCO (now officer), called for me from out in the passageway (we were on ship). I left our workspace and asked, “What’s up?” Sgt C gave me some really good advice… “Sir, go do Lieutenant things… Let your Marines do their jobs. Have faith in them.”

To quote Howard Schultz from Starbucks, “People want guidance, not rhetoric. They need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”

Sgt C was spot on and it’s a lesson I’ve carried with me all my life. Empower your teammates and they will succeed. Give them a little guidance, let them know they have the power to act and have faith they will accomplish the task. You’ll be pleased at the results.