September 19 2022
By: Shawn M. Galloway
When enlisting in the US Army, I had to obtain a medical waiver due to an abdominal operation I had received two years earlier. There was, what I later experienced, a valid concern that the surgery might impact my fitness ability. After Basic Training, I was stationed at Fort Gordon to complete my Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Nearing my completion, I received news that my mother was very ill, and it was in my best interest to try to find a way to return home. I received approval to leave a few days early but needed to complete my final Army Physical Fitness Test, commonly known as the PT Test. The only struggle I had was the required number of sit-ups. Thankfully I had a great coach, surprisingly found in tough Drill Sergeant Martinez.
Knowing my situation, he took me aside and said, "You can do this, Private Cowboy; we will get you home." Yes, that was his nickname for me. He would give me additional "attention" during PT for the next few days. I will never forget his words, "Private Cowboy, it behooves you to pass your doggone PT test." When the time came for the test, my Drill Sergeant was there cheering me on. Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I will never forget how he made me feel because of what he said and did.
Leaders are in the people business. If they genuinely care about others, they should constantly coach them to help them perform to the best of their abilities, every time, everywhere. Think of some of your great leaders and how they made you feel. What can you take away from them and start applying today?
Thank you, Drill Sergeant Martinez, for teaching me leadership empathy.
"If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive." — Brené Brown
"Each of us has the power to inspire or depress, to lift others or to push them down." — Wilferd Peterson
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.