Coordinate and graduate

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Paul Barney
  • 509th Security Forces Squadron commander
"Coordinate ... to harmonize in a common action or effort; to work together harmoniously." - American Heritage Dictionary

Did you ever hear someone report that they had a plan, only to later find it consisted of only a few PowerPoint slides? In the same manner, some inform their superiors they are "working with" another office based only on an initial e-mail, with no follow up. This could be perception management, where one "spins" a situation to what they think the boss wants to hear, rather than what they need to hear. It is just as likely a lack of training in effective coordination.

We're taught to say what we mean, and mean what we say. We owe it to our leaders to follow through, making real progress on issues affecting the mission, and achieving the commander's intent. This usually requires the cooperation of various organizational elements. When friction results, they must re-prioritize and synchronize their activities to complete the task. Here are a few points to consider when coordinating:

- Develop working relationships before the crisis hits -- make investments by committing your resources when it doesn't cost too much; demonstrating good faith will count later.

- Be willing to make personal contact in real communication, roll up your sleeves and lead others to consensus (not necessarily a unanimous decision); time is perhaps your best commitment.

- Gain and retain perspective; as you work the boss' priority, view the issue one to two levels higher than your own--this can avoid having it wrong from the start, or straying off track.

- Once you know what you must deliver, get creative with solutions, acknowledge where you can honestly compromise and be prepared to walk away without immediate resolution.

- In disagreement, elevate to a superior only when you've exhausted reasonable options at your level; however, don't hide setbacks--the news won't improve on its own.

- Remember the goal is not winning or protecting your turf; avoid the temptation to be in the spotlight, and at the expense of another--remain objective.

- Mentor subordinates who will someday replace you; remember that while you can't delegate responsibility, you can actually gain authority in giving it away--it's not about you.

While society often sees a team attitude as weakness, we're supposed to bring the fight to our adversary, not to each other.

Leadership is situational, and there is a time for mettle, savvy and even bravado, but it's not all the time. Real wisdom is effectively applying knowledge, and we can be satisfied we did the right thing if we recognize that conflict is natural, and optimizing our organizational strengths is what makes America's Air Force the very best.

As you tackle the challenges in bringing diverse elements together for mission accomplishment, seek positive examples in your work place to emulate, stick with it and become an example yourself -- coordinate and graduate.