Command information, communication
By Chief Master Sgt. Steven Lynch, 120th Airlift Wing Command Chief
/ Published July 19, 2016
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Taking a look back over the last 35 years of my career I often reflect on how methods and means of communication have changed. The evolution of conversation has been nothing short of profound; we are emailing, cell phoning, texting and posting on social media at an incredible rate. Simply put we are overwhelmed by information and the means to "put it out there." We got this, right? Not so much.
We recently visited the Satellite Airman Leadership School Class 16-6: "E-4 No More!" on their final day before heading to the in-residence portion of their course at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee. What a phenomenal group of future leaders! We asked them what they thought would be the biggest challenge for them in their careers and their answer was............wait for it.....communication! It was a challenge 35 years ago and that challenge continues today.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."- George Bernard Shaw
There is no shortage of information which must be shared every day (particularly in the week prior to each regularly scheduled drill right?). Are we communicating effectively? We as leaders get together, have meetings and go forth spreading the message. How much of what was briefed at the top is relayed as originally intended? Are we paraphrasing out some of the intent or meaning? The greatest challenge for us all is to verify that the message was indeed received and clearly understood by the audience. Did the audience "pick up what we were putting down?" We must strive to close the loop on all fronts. As leaders, being in touch with our Airmen means talking with them to ensure they are getting the information they need. Close the feedback loop with your Airmen between RSDs as often as possible, seek out the Airmen you (for whatever reason) have not had contact with since the last RSD, get them caught up with accurate information. You don't have to wait until the next month. Give them the information they need to be set up for success.
How do you know what information you should be receiving? Simple; just ask. Press your supervision for up-to-date communication. Please don't "suffer in silence" with a burning question on your mind and hope that someone will show up to present the answer and don't wait until the next RSD either (as there may be a critical timeline at stake). If you are unsure then it's in your best interest to get clarification as soon as possible. You can help yourself retain the information not only by being attentive but by taking notes when the information is presented. All of this is so vitally important particularly when it concerns pre or post deployment information. Finally, remain in contact with your work centers between RSDs, this is a standard expectation.
There are some fantastic monthly newsletters that units are sending out to their members. Hopefully they get to you in a manner that allows adequate time to review and digest all of the information contained within them. If you are not receiving these or if you think they don't contain what you need then express it to your supervisor or first sergeant. I'm sure they would welcome the feedback and consider your recommendations for improvement going forward. Here's a plug: read the Big Sky Flyer, feel free to share with your friends on social media! It also contains great information.
There is no 100 percent solution to ensure we capture all communication effectively. Let's face it, the speed and nature of information flow overwhelms even the best of us. No one has perfected the art. If you continually strive to validate that information is communicated accurately by "closing the loop" with your folks, or you are promptly asking "the question" when searching for an answer you are well on your way toward being the best communicator you can be. In the end, it is a two-way street where both sender and receiver share responsibility. If not done effectively it will cost us our valuable Airmen's time and erode our ability to accomplish the mission effectively. I'd like to thank our outstanding Satellite ALS Class 16-6 for their valuable input and discussion!
"Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success." - Paul J. Meyer