Gibbs’ Rules for Supervision

Many of you know of my love for NCIS. Most of you saw my rants during basketball season about NCIS always being preempted by UNC basketball (I’m not down with it, people). Part of my love for NCIS comes from the team and their chemistry with one another. Most of it comes from my love of Mark Harmon who plays Special Agent Gibbs.


Some of you know of my history with some not so great supervisors. One in particular seems to be making my life…well…hell…these days. So I’d like to give bad supervisors everywhere a page from Gibbs’ play book. Because he does it much better than all of you.


Rule #1 Expect the best from your people.

Rule #2 Believe in your people and trust them to do their job.

Rule #3 Never be unreachable.

Rule #4 Care about your people.

Rule #5 Never let your people down…and they won’t let you down.

Rule #6 Never apologize…it’s a sign of weakness. [But take responsibility for your stuff]

Rule #7 Sometimes you have to get their attention. A little slap to the back of the head is effective. Use sparingly or its effects will wear off.

Rule #8 Be ballsy and equip your people to do the same.

Rule #9 Reward your people’s hard work. Praise is good…CafPows are optional.

Rule #10 Laugh with…and sometimes at…your people.

Rule #11 When the job is done, walk away.

Rule #12 Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.

Wait…that’s Rule #23.

Never date a coworker…THAT’S Rule #12.

Gibbs has good people who work for him (and themselves). You can’t break up the team, and you can’t give them another boss. It just doesn’t work. What does work is having a boss who’s differentiated and ballsy and caring and concerned about his people and has high expectations and is…well…Gibbs.

Once in a while, I’ve had the opportunity to work with really great supervisors. They were kinda Gibbsian themselves. And so I salute and give thanks for Steve, Terry-Michael, Lil, Mac, and Sue.


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