Good Habits #24: Ask ‘Who Needs to Know’

By | August 25, 2016

[August 25, 2016]  As the Staff Sergeant walked in the new Afghanistan combat operations center in the heart of the Division headquarters, he saw plastered everywhere the printed words, ‘Who needs to know?”  He was new to combat and so he asked the closest person working on the security staff what it meant.  The sergeant was to discover a good habit that helps ensure effective communication is asking about who needs to know.

We can take a lesson from the U.S. military.  Effective communication is difficult under ideal circumstances and yet our soldiers must be proficient in passing accurate and relevant information in a fast changing and physically dangerous environment.  How can they do it?  How can soldiers ensure that crucial information is disseminated to the right people at the right time?

Like any leader who wants to really be successful in what they do, they must daily ask themselves, ‘who needs to know?”  If there is an attack on an outpost in the northern territories, should the leader let those in the south know about it?  This is the crux of the issue of good communication; getting it right makes all the difference to the battle and how the combat force is perceived by the lowest of soldiers in its ranks.

When information is in the hands of the right people, it generates confidence in leaders and their ability to make good, timely decisions.  Otherwise we will witness a drop in morale and esprit de corps.  I’ve personally seen it happen to military units that performed well in peacetime but were frozen in combat.  They couldn’t prioritize their information, nor let their soldiers know what was important and what wasn’t.

Leaders who are real professionals know that they must be asking, ‘Who needs to know?’  The question provides the lubricant to the operation of a military unit or to any organization that plans to grow and succeed.  Those who put this in their proverbial rucksack will never regret it.

Oh, the staff sergeant got his answer.  The previous Division took unnecessary casualties when they didn’t get accurate or timely information to their soldiers.  The new division commander didn’t want to repeat that mistake and it paid off in saved lives, destruction of more enemy personnel and assets, and a higher morale in his unit.

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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.