This is response to wendy-fly's field report a few days ago.
my credentials: I am a former sergeant of Marines. I was in charge of a team of approximately 10 Marines. I took orders from others that were higher ranked than me. So I was the leader of my team but also subordinate to others. I lived the "first mate" life and was very succesfull at it.
First, there will be times when the captain won't know what to do. Recognize this and expect it. When these situations arise it is perfectly acceptable and even reccommended to make suggestions. The key is to realize that that is all they are: suggestions. First mate is also first advisor.
wendy-fly explains in her field report that she suggested putting tarps up in the attic. She also suggested checking the steepness of the roof before trying to fix the roof himself. Both good ideas. It is a good thing that she offered those ideas to her husband.
the next important step in being a good first mate is ensure full support of the captains decision even if you do not agree that it was the best one. It is ok to question and advise and reccommend before the decision is made, but as soon as a plan for action is set, you follow the plan. Mutiny is not an option.
The third important step in being a good first mate is to recognize that no plan is perfect, but a failure to plan is a plan to fail. There will always be problems with the captains decision. It is impossible to get it 100% right everytime. wendy-fly doesn't seem to recognize this and it seems to have led to her feeling anxious about the situation. She was "a little irritated that we lost several days..." recognize that there is no reason to be mad. shit goes wrong. Don't sweat the small stuff. The important thing is that the mission gets accomplished. In wendy-fly's example, the mission is to fix the leaking roof. thats it. no time frame was established for the order so it doesn't make sense for wendy-fly to get mad/upset that there was a few days delay. It WOULD make sense to be upset if there was a hard deadline that needed to be met but wasn't because then the mission would be a failure.
3-a: be flexible. If the captain changes the plan, go with the new plan. often the hardest part of accomplishing something is not the act itself, but figuring out what to actually do in the first place. Allow room for the captain to adjust his plan as needed.
fourth: in the heat of battle emotions can run high. remain professional. Phrased slightly differently: DO NOT PANIC. This might not be as important in a husband/wife role but it is VERY important in a combat leadership/first mate role. The take away is to try to contain your emotional outbursts as much as possible.
fifth: communication. If you don't know what you are supposed to be doing, ask. "what are my orders?" "what is my mission?" "let me repeat this back to you to see if i understand properly." "how can i help you?" "what do you need me to do?" "is there anything that i can be doing better?" don't over do this and only ask if you actually do not understand but also don't be afraid to do this. It is important that everybody involved has an accurate understanding of what their role is in the mission.
sixth: he is not accountable to you. you are accountable to him. Basicaly remember that he is in charge, not you. He does not answer to you.
thats all I've got for now, hopefully some of my military leadership/subordinate experience will be helpful for you ladies. Advice or criticism is welcome in the comments below.
also, shout out to everyone in Minneapolis/St Paul! Spring is here, fuck yeah!