Walk Softly and Carry a Big StickMangala Solaris
“I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?”
Last week I covered what is one of the main methods an FC has for interacting with their fleet; target calling. However, working with a fleet is much more than simply telling them what to fly, where to go or what to kill, there are also soft skills, or people skills.
Things such as your ability to lead rather than drive, having confidence in yourself and your fleet, knowing when to praise and when to critique, when to let the fleet ramble on and when to call battle comms.
Use the carrot not the stick
As an FC you have a conscious choice to make when it comes to how you lead your fleet. Do you lead with the carrot, or drive with the stick? To break it down into simpler terms are you are the seven managers asking about TPS reports or are you Ron Livingstone after his promotion?
A leader is one who praises their fleet, explains the end goal to the them, makes allowances for any mistakes that are made by its members, and generally takes responsibility when the shit hits the fan. The driver is the opposite; they use a degree of fear to compel the fleet to follow orders. They often a shout or scream and no matter what happens no fleet action is good enough, any disasters are always the fleets fault.
“Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Even how you speak to your fleet is covered by the stick and carrot approach. Being polite when asking questions of your scouts, logi boss or capital commanders is much better than simply demanding information. A brusque demanding attitude will not endear you to your fleet.
Now, people who fly under me will tell you (and they will be lying!) that I am more and more the driver. Honestly I feel every FC should know when to be both leader and driver – know when to be your fleet’s buddy and when not to be. For example, roaming around listening to the scouts report nothing is a great time to sit back, chill and let the camaraderie on comms flow over you. However, when the scouts report a worthy target, becoming the hard-ass to get folks to focus and put their game faces on is an absolute must.
“Respect ma authoritah!”
Related to the above is the discussion of authority. Every FC, competent or no, should be able to stamp their authority on the fleet. The easiest way to do this is use the technology at hand, give yourself priority speaker on your comms of choice, enable the ability to mute the rest of the channel and so on. This at least lets people know who is boss from the get-go. Whatever you do, understand that authority in a fleet comes from more than being louder on comms than others.
Personally I find that, as well as making yourself heard above others through the magic of technology, you best demonstrate your authority to your fleet by how you command them in an engagement. Are you calmly cycling through targets while liaising with your skirmishers and logi boss, or are you going totally Hitler and screaming about focusing one target down and ignoring the fact that every part of your fleet is crumbling around you?
Some folks might say that shouting at your fleet is a good way to establish command, occasionally that may be the case. However, the more you do that, the more your fleet will lose respect and treat you as a joke. Being a shouter is not the way to lead people, instead it has the opposite effect of driving them away – leaving no fleet to FC.
“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”
– Mark Twain
I have spoken briefly about confidence in the past, and while I do hate to repeat myself, I am going to talk about it again. It is for me the main tenet of successful fleet commanding. An FC that exudes confidence, both in themselves and their fleet is a joy to fly under, it is one who will have people flocking to their fleets.
Being confident in yourself is a must. No matter the reasons why you are leading a fleet, you must be confident that you will not let your fleet mates down and that you will achieve the aim of the fleet. This level of self belief WILL carry over to your fleet, they react to you much like people back in the world do after all.
Although unlike the real world, a fleet will never tell their FC to shut up, in fact a confident FC is a talkative FC. I am yet to have been in, or lead a successful fleet where the FC wasn’t a chatterbox. One small point to note here for those new to fleet command; when keeping up a stream of FC chatter in your fleet, do not continually mention you are new to this. This is a sure-fire way to demoralise the fleet nearly as much as shouting at them is. Mention it once at the start, then treat it as done.
Obviously self confidence is a good thing. However, a great FC must also be confident in their fleet – both the particular set up and the people in it. Knowing the pros and cons of the set up your fleet is flying will let you know exactly which engagements you can, and cannot, take on. Knowing when to fight or (gracefully) run away will demonstrate to your fleet that you both know your shit and care about them and their enjoyment of the operation, regardless of its aim.
Having confidence in your fleet mates is all about trusting them to follow your orders without endless repetition and when necessary being steadfast in the belief they will be proactive when the plan starts to fall apart, rather than simply waiting to react to an impending disaster. A fleet that knows you trust them to get the job done, or that you will not shout at them when the plan doesn’t come together, is a fleet that will fly alongside you through the good and the bad.
To conclude, a lot of this is common sense, and not the magic that it is made out to be. However, as with real life, not everyone is cut out for command. Those who demonstrate confidence, trust in others and the ability to know when to lead and when to drive are those we should be nurturing and encouraging to FC, to be the leaders they can be.