I'm back to talk about TACT, which is next up on our list of the 14
Marine Corps leadership traits. The textbook definition of TACT is,
“... you can deal with people in a manner that will maintain good
relations and avoid problems. It means that you are polite, calm,
In the real world, TACT usually refers to the ability
of one Marine to approach another about a deficiency or
otherwise uncomfortable situation without the interaction
devolving into an altercation.
This trait can be difficult for some Marines to acquire, especially
for those who seem to pride themselves on being brash and abbrasive.
Those Marines in particular can find it challenging to flip the
switch between “hotshot Marine” and “tactful Marine”. I've seen a
couple of those Marines get charged with disrespect among other
things as a result of not being tactful when talking to a senior
However, TACT should be a two-way street to a certain extent. A
leader has an obligation to be tactful when addressing his
subordinate just as the subordinate has an obligation, but
obviously, the subordinate bears a larger burden.
I found myself in a position where I, as a leader, needed to be
tactful when addressing one of my junior Marines. This particular
junior Marine had a bit of a hygiene problem ... and by that, I mean
he smelled as though he only took a shower once a week or so despite
us doing physical training three or four times a week. Having poor
physical hygiene is obviously not good for any Marine, let alone one
who often talks with senior leaders (which Marines in my job field
do on a regular basis).
At first, I found it challenging to tactfully address the junior
Marine in a way that would not create a sour work environment. I
firmly believe it the work environment would have been negatively
impacted for all the Marines if I had right off the bat abbrasively
told the Marine he stank and needed to take a shower. Instead, I
pulled him aside, away from his co-workers, and tactfully offered
him more time after PT to go to the base gym and take a shower.
I believe that interaction between us – me showing him I
respected what could be a very embarrassing situation and tactfully
addressing it away from his fellow Marines – earned me a lot of
respect from that junior Marine who went on to be my best and
hardest working writer.
TACT must be employed by senior and junior Marines if they want
to communicate effectively. It helps foster a good work environment
and breeds respect among all Marines.
If you think you need to work on your TACT (and most of us do to
one degree or another), I encourage you to first think before you
speak ... think about what you're about to say and what you want to
accomplish with your words; think about how the other person could
take it, and make sure what you want to accomplish will not be set
back by how the person will most likely take what you say.
Leaders must command respect, and part of that is respecting
their subordinates. A leader helps prove that respect for their
subordinates by tactfully and respectfully interacting with them (of
course, that is unless a real Marine Corps ass-chewing is really