Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Common Sense

Has anyone developed a test for this? Is it really that subjective that it can in no way be quantified?

I know that I have an occasional lapse myself. Spending a good hour sanding wood by hand when I could have spent ten minutes with a palm sander. Innocuous mostly.

Yet it seems like, in society in general, those gifted with less common sense seem to rise into leadership positions.

Case in point...

Listening to NPR on the way home from work this morning, I heard an economist talking about the stimulus plan. He said that while the $8-16 bucks a week most people would get as a tax break was ok, what the government should do is give large lump sums. 'They tried that' thought I, 'and we saved our lump sum for a rainier day'. Then the economist tacked on this phrase, just before they switched stories... Of course for that to really work, they should do it in the form of pre-paid credit cards.

EXACTLY what I said in my letters to my government representatives. Of course, the plan of pre-paid cards would make sense. People would spend them - stimulating the economy, or not - the money would stay in the treasury and not need to be paid back by my grandchildren. The trouble is, it is a too easy solution.

Another case in point I was thinking about as I drove home from work. We had officers in my USMC unit that were well loved by us enlisted men, and some that we could barely muster a salute for. What was the difference? Leadership abilities. And what was at the core of the leadership ability? Common Sense. The officers we loved didn't give us orders to do things that made no sense. When we left for Norway, we spent about six hours repacking our gear because there was an officer experimenting with his and passing along orders to do as he did. But he kept changing it around. This led to a number of SNAFU packs, including several really stupid ideas. Pack all of the clothing in one bag, but not the bag you carry with you (called a day pack) I wanted a change of clothes in mine, but that was against orders. So I spent the first five days in Norway in the same clothes because my clothes were all in a bag stowed on a boat.

But other officers seemed to possess common sense. They trusted us with packing our gear. Or trusted us to do our jobs without trying to micromanage. And things were generally better for it. More efficient. Higher moral. A better fighting unit. All because of a little common sense.

When I got out of the corps, I left at a change of command. Our CO, who was awesomely smart and oozing with common sense, was being rotated out of command. The new CO was awesomely full of his own ideas on how things should be done, and lacked even a pinky full of common sense. My common sense told me that if ever there were a time to be done, that was it. I seldom regret that decision.

Since then, I've often noticed that those in leadership positions often seem to have little common sense. But they keep their positions. Often because they know instinctively who to say yes to the most often to stay on top.

And what I see, again and again is that the cream no longer rises to the top. The cream is too often stirred back under by (for lack of a better term here) a good old person club comprised of those who rose to leadership simply by aging.

So again I ask... is there a test for common sense? How do we ensure that those moving into leadership positions possess enough common sense not to pound the morale out of their minions?

Too tired to think on this now.

More Later


Sharon said...

Did you perhaps intend to say "morale" instead of "moral" at the end of your post? I think you ARE tired! ...just using my common sense :)

Sharon said...

Did you perhaps intend to say "morale" instead of "moral" at the end of your post? I think you ARE tired! ...just using my common sense :)

Patresa Hartman said...

i adore common sense. sometimes i don't have much, either.

i think it's frightening to consider that a lot of our power hierarchies are established through flimsy stuff -- social scripts and circumstance -- instead of substance.

i wonder why that is. hm..