|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, and firm.”|
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 Marine.
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 warranted)