Check Your 6

By | October 18, 2018

[October 18, 2018]  Check Your 6, also phrased as Watch Your Back, is an appropriate warning for those who live under the precepts of good leadership.  As we know, what a leader says and does will be misinterpreted; either unintentionally or purposefully.  That is why leaders must ensure that they are perpetually prepared to defend what they do.

Human relationships are based largely on trust others have of you.  Yet there will always be people who will betray those social bonds for a temporary advantage (money, prestige, revenge, etc.).  That is why I recommend leaders prepare to ‘check your 6’ in taking great care how they perform.  Being situationally aware and open is the solution.

The advice given to junior leaders is to develop and maintain a transparent model of doing business.  This means that all your methods are open for anyone to see and it also means, more importantly, that the leader’s life is also open and public.  This ensures that anyone who has something to gain through dishonesty or subterfuge will have difficulty.

That, however, is not always sufficient to protect one’s self from incriminating, unverified accusations and innuendo.  Not unlike the Judge Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation process that witnessed women coming forward to blame him for rape and drunkenness without any corroborating evidence.  We know that some of the spectacle was political malice and one of the greatest scandals in American politics.

We are also seeing a similar development on college and university campuses where the “we believe her” movement has taken hold of the intellectual elite.  Radical ideologies get their start this way and it is of great importance that leaders use morally acceptable techniques (e.g., transparency and openness) to undercut false accusations.

The advice to check your 6 doesn’t mean all is well but it is the most effective.  Continue to watch out for the naysayers, liars, charlatans, and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “Check Your 6

  1. Eric Coda

    Thank you Gen. Satterfield for another article that highlights some of the things a leader must have in their rucksack.

  2. Greg Heyman

    “Watch your six” is a shorthand way to say “look behind you.” However, it has also become used as 1) a reminder that things can be going on in your blind spot (as we all have blind spots that we forget about r.e. right behind us), 2) a warning to be aware someone might be actively plotting against you (plotting behind your back); or, 3) a general statement not to turn your back on enemies (or even children) as behind you, they will be able to do you/themselves or others harm (so be alert).

  3. Janna Faulkner

    Going to be a wild day at work today. I’ll take your advice.

  4. Martin Shiell

    Thanks for today’s article. I never heard the slogan before. It does make sense. The idea is not new but in today’s modern world the advice is priceless.

  5. Joe Omerrod

    I’m in the medical field and I would like to emphasize that this is where being situationally aware (watch your 6) is a specific process that we focus on a lot. If not, people die (and of course that is a bad thing).
    Keep up the good articles, Gen. Satterfield.

  6. Len Jakosky

    Situational awareness is what we’re talking about and anyone not “in the groove” and keeping up to what’s happening around them is likely to be caught totally off guard. From experience, I will argue here that most people are completely unaware of what’s happening around them. With the advent of the smartphone and other electronic devices, it’s gotten much worse.

    1. Gil Johnson

      I think we should have a contest on who can find the most stupid thing a politician has said lately. Oops, that would be too easy. ha ha ha

  7. Joey Holmes

    I like your article. I just saw the movie 12 oclock high. They used it there. Cheers from Australia.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Good to see you back reading this leadership blog, Joey. Hope you’ve been well. We always like to see our compatriots from Australia writing here.

  8. Max Foster

    Being a politician you can expect to be betrayed and stabbed in the back. But if you are not a politician you can expect the same; perhaps not to the same degree. But being prepared and situationally aware is the solution to at least making it better.

  9. Billy Kenningston

    I too have never heard this before. Well, maybe. I do watch an occasional war movie and that is perhaps where I might have overheard it. Never paid much attention. However, that said, being aware of what’s going on around you is not easy and the best leaders are those that are alert for trouble.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      That’s Gen. Satterfield’s main point. Be aware of your surroundings are you are less likely to get into trouble.

  10. Willie Shrumburger

    Always be conscious of your surroundings. I call it being situationally aware. At least that is what my Drill Sergeant told me in basic training. Be aware and don’t be caught short.

  11. Georgie M.

    Love the article today. Thanks. I understand the meaning but never heard it called this.

  12. Army Captain

    I’m not so sure of the origins of this phrase but I know it was in use back during WWII. I use it all the time to refer to being careful what you do as a leader.

    1. Mark Evans

      Your intuitions are correct; the phrase ‘watch your six’ does indeed mean ‘watch your back’.
      It refers to the 6 position on the face of a clock. If you were standing in the center of a clock face, facing the 12 position, the 6 position would be immediately behind you.

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