Complimentary issue

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo., -- "Ding" - the seatbelt sign goes off as soon as the plane comes to a stop at the gate. Already annoyed by the number of passengers who think they are so important they have to turn their cell phones on the exact moment the wheels touch the runway, I watch in amazement as they now push the elderly aside and leap over young children to get to the front of the plane to go ... hmm, nowhere. 

Or maybe they realize that it's going to take a while to pry their baggage, twice the allowable size for a carry-on, out of the overhead storage. Regardless, I sit patiently and check my itinerary only to realize that I have a two-hour layover and nothing to read. Darn! As my turn approaches to exit the plane, I reach down to gather my things and that's when it catches my attention, the complimentary issue of United's Hemispheres magazine. No way, I'm not that desperate ... am I?

I look around and assess that I can actually pull this off without being noticed - yep, I'm going to be the first person ever to actually take the complimentary issue of an airline magazine. Who does that?! Fast forward an hour, as I learn that my second flight has been delayed indefinitely, and now I'm feeling like a genius for snagging that magazine. It would have cost at least a five spot to buy one at the newsstand, so instead I'm sipping Starbuck's for twice that.

I watch for moment as an irate businessman argues with the gate agent, as if she can suddenly make the flight on-time, and then return to an interview of Chicago's Mayor Richard Daly. Hemispheres contributor, Aaron Gell had recently interviewed the mayor concerning Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics, and to my surprise there were two very relevant points to ponder in the article.

First, Mayor Daly reflects on how he keeps his eye on the future with so many pressing concerns to deal with daily. "It's easy for mayors to get caught up in the day-to-day, but if you don't see beyond that, a city slowly dies" he tells Gell. Well, that certainly applies to those of us in the Air Force today, and it's a two-way street. First, it is incumbent upon subordinates to perform at a level that will give their leadership the trust and confidence to go hands-off and divert their attention. Second, it requires a high degree of discipline from leadership to force their attention away from the daily grind, and keep an eye out for the next nearest alligator.

Anyone who follows the K.C. Chiefs (hello, anyone?) can see how well it's working out for Todd Haley to act as head coach and offensive coordinator for the team. Not really that great, and it's a perfect example of the importance of freeing up someone to focus on the "big picture." Brings to mind my favorite military quote of all time from General Patton, "Never tell your people how to do things, tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

The second point from the article was Mayor Daly's response when asked the biggest lesson that he'd learned during office. His response, "always be willing to change, nothing's written in stone." Well said, Mayor! This one is perhaps the most relevant considering the climate we face today. If our force is shrinking and the budget is dwindling, why on Earth would we continue with procedures and processes that are costly and inefficient? The Air Force has a program for this, it's called AFSO-21, but we're in serious trouble if we need to come up with a program that encourages our folks to use common sense! That should happen every day. Supervisors should always strive for, and appreciate, honest feedback from those under their watch. If brutally honest assessments could flow easily up the chain of command without fear of retribution, a program like AFSO-21 would happen naturally and without the need of a snazzy moniker.
Although Chicago was not selected to host the 2016 Olympics, I really doubt that it's a result of Mayor Daly's attempt to lead the city with a hands-off, common sense approach. Well, I haven't heard anything about our departure, but it must be time to board that plane since everyone seems to be jockeying for a place in line to go ... hmm, nowhere.