Esteem and Respect

Another snippet from my youth as a young signals officer, that used to hang on my wall:

“Despite repeated catastrophes, the Wehrmacht remained so cohesive that it fought effectively until  eventually overrun. German speed, discipline and efficiency in the attack, combined with determined, relentless and methodical resistance over thousands of miles, have been attributed to a multitude of variables including nationalism, the impact of National Socialist ideology, and the “inherent militarism” of the German people.

“Little available evidence reveals these factors as important, or indeed that any special sociopolitical factors were major influences on military cohesion. German battlefield cohesion resulted directly from the individual soldiers personal reinforcement due to interactions through which he received esteem and respect from his immediate officers and NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) as men of honour deserving of respect and cared for their men.”

I think this one appealed to me because my grandfather was a Wehrmacht NCO. He died trying to the the right thing, and it’s a longer story than I have room to tell here, and not the point, but here’s the short version: he was denied the commission to officer ranks his peers got because he married a Jew without his Commanding Officer’s permission. He volunteered for the Eastern Front to prove his loyalty, and was killed defending a river crossing against a Soviet armoured attack. His actions that day saved the lives of many of his company, for which he was awarded a medal that hangs in my office today.

What I take from this family history is this: don’t be a good man loyal to a bad cause. This was something that I needed to be reminded of a couple of years ago as my life went through a major personal transition.

The business lesson from this? You can get a lot out of your team if you esteem and respect them. And if you don’t esteem and respect everybody on your team, then perhaps think about why they’re still there.

Opa May
My grandfather, a good man lost to a poor cause