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News > Commentary - Effective communication is essential to success
Effective communication is essential to success

Posted 3/28/2012   Updated 3/28/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Lt. Col. Mark Sotallaro
2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

3/28/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Four years ago I was sitting in a room with 20 squadron commanders trying to figure out how we were going to pull off "Air Force Week." If you are not familiar with it, "Air Force Week" is an air show on steroids.

Each year, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force picks two or three Air Force bases across the continental United States and designates them as host bases for the event that concludes with an air show and Thunderbirds performance. Each night during the week, the base hosts multiple events in the surrounding communities. These events range from an Air Force Band performance in the local town hall or Tops in Blue performance at the nicest local venue, to a science fair, and each event is attended by distinguished visitors.

As we were discussing how to successfully execute this seemingly impossible endeavor with a little more than a month of planning, the vice wing-commander took charge of the meeting and said something that stuck with me to this day. He said, as leaders we have to do three things, and if we are only able to do one of these things, we will be successful. Those three things are to communicate, communicate and communicate.

The most difficult and important thing we must do as leaders and followers is to communicate effectively. Effective communication is essential to mission success. Everything we do as Airmen requires communication. This can be seen anywhere from turnover on the flightline at shift change, to sending e-mails, to writing performance reports. I know for a fact that good, effective communication makes a unit better. Better shift turnovers prevent duplication of effort and wasted time researching information that could have been easily passed along. A better worded e-mail can save individuals from spending time doing something they thought you wanted instead of doing what you actually needed them to do. Effectively communicating on a performance report can help a deserving Airman get promoted or selected for a special assignment.

Leaders and followers must be constantly aware that our fellow Airmen, as humans, are diversely complex and that everyone's perspective and primary mode of communication is unique. Finding and knowing a person's primary mode of communication is made even more difficult, because the break-neck pace at which we perform the mission often does not allow us to become familiar enough with someone to know how he or she communicates best. The absolute key as a leader and follower for effective communication is to know how you communicate best, and to be consistent with your message.

If I am addressing a large crowd or forced to communicate via e-mail, the best way to spread my message is through commander's intent or supervisor's intent. The thought being that no matter what words people decide to focus on, or how you "say" something, everyone will understand the intent of the written or spoken words. My goal and purpose, through my communications, is to lead my Airmen in the direction I want them to go by providing a common, understood goal that we are working together to achieve. Most of all, never forget to tie the important work our Airmen do every day to how it helps this wing execute its part to fly, fight and win America's wars. That connection can never be made enough or that point driven home too many times. It is the reason we come to work and do our absolute best each and every day.

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