Picking Up and Letting Go at Sea

Posted 09.16.2011

About a month ago today, I was a guest on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Venturous leaving their station in St. Petersburg, Fla., and getting under way for a patrol in the Florida Straits. In this last of the videos from the trip that I’ll be posting on this blog, you can see what it looks like when a Cutter gets underway with a lot of new crew members that need training.

Most of the video is shot on the bridge and you’ll see that there are a lot of crew members up there as the ship gets underway. In normal circumstances there might be 5 or 6 people on the bridge. Because about a third of the crew was new to the Venturous on this patrol, there were about three times that many on the bridge on day one so that the experienced crew could teach and train the newcomers.

One of those experienced officers was the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Troy Hosmer. He’s a 39 year old career Coastie and the Venturous is his fifth ship. You can spot him in the video by looking for the guy with the scrambled eggs on the bill of his cap. When you see him, you’ll notice that he’s a pretty quiet presence on the bridge.He’s clearly the final authority onboard but he gives his crew plenty of room to teach each other and make decisions.

Cmdr. Hosmer is a great guy to talk with and I was fortunate to spend a fair amount of time in conversation with him.  One of the things he shared with me that first day was that he would have loved nothing more than to drive the ship himself. It’s his passion. He understands, however, that that is no longer his job.  There may be no one on the Venturous who’s a better ship driver than Cmdr. Hosmer. He’s an expert in that domain. As he’s taken on higher leadership roles within the Coast Guard, however, his technical skills have become less important and his leadership skills have become more important. He’s not the take charge, be the hero ship’s captain that you often see in the movies. He’s a quiet leader who knows when to let go and step back so his crew can pick up new skills and step up.

By approaching his job in that way, Cmdr. Hosmer creates the bandwidth to do the things that only he can do in his role as captain of the Venturous. The only way that he can rise up to fill his role is if his crew rises up with him by building their capacity to run the ship.

How does that same dynamic apply to you in your leadership role? What do you need to let go of and let others pick up so you can do the things that only you can do given the role that you’re in?