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You Need to Take Care of Each Other (One Hand)

| May 7, 2013

by Jim Bruce

Joe Bajek, Director of Enterprise Cloud Services at the University of Colorado and an Advanced Leaders Program participant, submitted this reflection on leadership.  I would add that you should look for opportunities to help those around you.  Both you and they will benefit.
. . . jim
One Hand
by Joe Balek, Director of Enterprise Cloud Services at the University of Colorado

One of the concepts I have really connected the dots on with the Leadership Team I am currently a part of, more so than other teams I have worked with in the past, is the commitment we have to supporting each other.  This echoes a core value that I have been exposed to in another career.
As a young cadet in the Merchant Marine, one of the first concepts that is drilled into you is the idea of “one-hand.”  You are brand new, in a group of people you don’t know from all different backgrounds and walks-of-life out to achieve a common goal (not unlike what we experience in business today).  Up at oh-dark-thirty (the “oh” stands for oh-my-God-it’s-early) for physical training and the indoctrination officer/drill instructor yells “One-Hand!”  You stand around wondering what is going on, then end-up doing 100 push-ups because you have no clue what you should have done when someone yells “one-hand.”  After that exercise he graciously explains the concept.
On a ship you can be out in the middle of the ocean over 1,500 miles away from land, medical attention, or any kind of help.  There are typically about 25 people on a tanker for instance carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of refined gasoline (which can be flammable).  The important concept is that YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER!  You have to have your shipmate’s back.  So you have two hands – one for you, and one for your shipmate.  Wherever and whenever you hear someone say “one-hand,” you immediately drop what you are doing and rush to your shipmate – because they need help!
Needless to say, from that day forward, whenever we heard “one-hand,” we went running to our shipmate, surrounded them, protected them, helped them, or supported them any way we could.  At least we avoided having to do more push-ups!
While we don’t hear people walking the halls of the office or data center yelling “one-hand,” the same concept applies.  I would submit it’s harder though because, at least for me, asking someone for help is not part of our culture.  So as Leaders we need to support an environment where it’s OK for our employees to ask for help, as well as asking our colleagues for help.  We cannot do it all ourselves – so whether you are comfortable yelling “one-hand,” or have some other way you ask for help – don’t fail to ask for help when you need it!