In the U.S. Marine Corps, all leaders are asked to do two things: 1) accomplish the mission and 2) take care of your people. Usually, this is followed with “If you do No. 2, your people will take care of No. 1.”
There are a lot of things that fall under “taking care of your people.” Some of the more obvious ones are building unit cohesiveness, providing training and development at all levels, ensuring safe and adequate working spaces, and ensuring your people have the tools and equipment necessary for mission accomplishment.
Another critical part of taking care of your people is establishing a positive “command climate.” One definition of command climate is what life is like within the organization. It is the culture of the unit, the way it conducts its business. The leader of the organization is solely responsible for its command climate. This responsibility includes ensuring capable and competent management exists at all levels within the organization. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) offers senior leadership insight into both the performance of individual managers within the organization and the unit’s command climate. Question 17 in the FEVS asks if employees feel they can report an issue without fear of retribution. For NASA, the best place to work in the federal government, the percentage of positive responses to that question is approximately 80 percent. We can interpret that as one out of every five employees telling senior management, through this survey, that the climate in his or her unit needs to be improved. This particular issue is critically important to NASA because of the difficult and challenging nature of our missions. It is vital that managers are aware of any issues so they can evaluate the associated risk to people and missions. A command climate that didn’t encourage or tolerate people bringing up issues played a role in both shuttle mishaps.
I encourage you to mine your FEVS for information on the command climate throughout your organization. Question 17 is a good place to start. As the Aerospace Advisory Panel once reminded us, “It shouldn’t take an act of courage to raise an issue.”