When I enlisted in the Air Force 29 years ago, I didnâ€™t really know my organizationâ€™s overall mission. At the time I didnâ€™t understand what my leaders or the organization were trying to achieve. I was but one small cog in a large machine. I thought all I needed was to do what I was told, do a good job and all would be well.
But as time went by, I got promoted and could no longer just do what I was told. I now had to lead and manage people.
At first, I was simply passing along the things my bosses told me needed to get done. I began to realize that if I was going to be telling people what to do, I had better understand why I was telling them to do it. I needed to know and have a stake in my organizationâ€™s goals and understand how they fit into the bigger picture. I also needed to make my Airmen understand so they knew how their work contributed to the unitâ€™s mission.
Back in 1991 while assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., I was working on the flightline on a Friday night reconfiguring F-16s.
We had just downloaded the pods and bombs off the aircraft in preparation for the following weekâ€™s flying schedule. Just as we were finishing up and preparing to go home for the weekend, a call came in from Ops stating they needed all the pods and bombs back on the aircraft for Monday.
As you can imagine, we were not pleased. My supervisor headed off to Ops to fight the good fight but came back shortly and told us we had to reload the aircraft. Now he simply could have made us do it without telling us why, but he explained that there was a particular laser-guided bomb that had never been operationally tested with the LANTIRN targeting pod and that it was planned to be employed in Operation DESERT STORM shortly. Needless to say, we reloaded the aircraft, the test was successful and the bombs hit their targets.
Having the bigger picture made a huge difference in our attitudes on that long Friday night, and the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that came with knowing we directly contributed to the larger mission made it all worthwhile.
So think about that the next time you have to tell your Airmen to do a job that may not make sense to them. Iâ€™m not saying you have to explain every order or direction you give to them, but in those situations where it may not seem to pass the logic test, explaining why a task needs to be done and how it contributes to the overall mission can pay huge dividends in the attitudes and productivity of your people.
All of us contribute to the mission. Take the time to let your Airmen know how they fit into the â€œBig Picture.â€