Smoothing the Rough Edges

By | December 30, 2018

[December 30, 2018]  As a U.S. Army Private I witnessed a strange event during one of my unit’s formations that stuck with me.  Our Platoon Leader, a new Second Lieutenant, was yelling at our platoon one day.  Just then, our Commander strolled out, put his hand on the LT’s shoulder, and calmly gave him some advice.  I couldn’t hear what was said but it was clear to me that the commander was smoothing the rough edges of the Lieutenant.

Leadership comes in many forms.  On a good day, we all worked together with our new, abrasive Lieutenant and he was a happy guy.  We were too because we got off early in the day.  On the other hand, we had many bad days when the LT would scream at us, not unlike a baby crying when he doesn’t get his way.  However, after a few “sessions” with the Company Commander, the LT was much calmer, more focused, and nicer to us low-ranking troopers.

It is the traditional duty of senior leaders to teach, coach, and mentor those in their sphere of responsibility.  Sometimes this is called smoothing out the rough edges.  All of us are ‘diamonds in the rough’ to some extent.  We have imperfections, personality faults, and quirks that get in the way of getting the job done.  We’re not perfect because we’re human and we sometimes miss things we should not have, behave improperly, overlook a task that should have been accomplished, etc.

For those leaders who are fortunate enough to have someone help them along and smooth out those rough edges, their time as a leader will be more successful.  Perhaps there is someone out there who is much smarter than us, better looking, and more advantaged and thus doesn’t need their edges smoothed.  Assuming this person exists, I’ve never met them.  For the average Joe (or Josephine) who is doing their best, day-to-day, we need that teaching, coaching, and mentoring.

That Second Lieutenant in my company would later become a Major General and commanded the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.  His performance as an LT was lacking on the day our Company Commander began smoothing out those rough edges.  One day, more than a decade ago on the open plains of central Iraq, we laughed together as we remembered that day back in 1975 when we were all educated on being a good leader.

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.

18 thoughts on “Smoothing the Rough Edges

  1. Mike Baker

    A note for General Satterfield. I’ve been reading the book “12 Rules for Life: An ANtidote to Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson. I recommend the book and perhaps you could do a book review on it. I find that he is doing exactly as you note in today’s article. His book is about 12 things you can do to smooth out your own rough edges. Thanks for an appropriate blog post today.

  2. Yusaf from Texas

    We should also always be looking for people who clearly will appreciate any leader who helps them. I’ve found that too many young people have an atittude about more senior leades. They feel that they know best and that senior leaders are there just to make their life difficult. Best if they had the attitude to learn instead of to be mad. That way, we would all get along better.

    1. Scotty Bush

      I have discovered the same. In fact, many leaders encourage this type of infantile behavior in young people. And, I don’t know why.

  3. The Kid 1945

    There are so few senior leaders today who will take the time to help, that I’m surprised more junior leaders are not failing.

  4. Delf A. "Jelly" Bryce

    As we find in most organization of any size that has a formal leadership development program, like the FBI and CIA, of which I have some experience, there is a program that has its core to “smooth out the rough edges” of its members. I personally had some great tutoring and mentoring that allowed me some success. Without those folks specifically addressing my faults, then I would not be the man I am today. I’m eternally grateful for what they did for me.

    1. Albert Ayer

      Good point “Jelly”. Always enjoyed your articles too. Keep up the great comments and please give us another article soon.

    1. Lady Hawk

      Yes, interesting. A religious lady named Melissa runs it. Well constructed and thoughtful.

  5. Len Jakosky

    It was my mom that spent a lot of time ‘smoothing out’ my edges to make me a better person. She would spend so much time that I think back on it and am grateful she has such patience.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      I gather from what you wrote that she was successful?

    2. Len Jakosky

      Yep. And I call her every week to say ‘thanks mom’. She did so much for the whole family.

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