As a former C-130 pilot, I was very disturbed by the recent C-130 crash. Four engine aircraft just don’t plummet from the sky. My thoughts and prayers go out to those crew members who lost their lives. This was a National Guard Aircraft from Puerto Rico and an older model that was headed for the boneyard in Arizona. As many of you may know, the biggest challenge for Guard and Reserve units has always been the maintenance and recapitalization of our fleets. This recent incident highlights the need for the Guard and Reserve leaders to continue fighting for more resources and updated fleets for our airmen. It is easy to focus on inconsequential or less important issues while our weapon systems continue to age at a rapid rate. As leaders in our field, we must focus on maintaining perspective and understanding the bigger picture.
Understanding the big picture is something I often talk to my daughters about. Specifically, my youngest daughter, Tory, as she recently battled her way through medical school and now in to her emergency medicine residency. She trained to become a doctor in an under-served country in the West Indies. Some days she would not have internet access, electricity, or running water. The courses were grueling and she spent 14 hours a day studying. She would often come to me for words of encouragement or advice when things weren’t going her way or she was struggling to find the motivation to continue. I would simply ask her what the end goal was and she would usually answer “to become a doctor.” I would follow with, “are these daily struggles and challenges bringing you closer to that goal?” The answer was usually yes, with a few extra “buts” thrown in for good measure. My goal as her parent was not only to support her and encourage her to overcome these obstacles, but more importantly to maintain her perspective and remember what the end goal is.
As I mentored our young commanders during my time as the Vice Commander of the Air Force Reserve Command, I had an open-door policy and was always willing to talk openly with them about the daily struggles that I faced as I led our troops and served as a liaison to the highest levels of our government. The biggest challenge that I faced was our continually shrinking budget. What I tried to impart on our younger leaders was that despite these challenges, we remained an instrumental part of our Active Duty Air Force. Budget cuts are an unfortunate part of any business and we will continue to adapt as we always have. Regardless of the fiscal battles we may be fighting from our desks, we have the honor and privilege of serving in the largest and most lethal Air Force in the world. I served as a beacon to remind these promising young leaders to stay focused on the bigger picture and to never let a struggle or a set-back distract us from the ultimate mission or goal.
In all these examples, there is a bigger picture and that is the key to maintaining perspective. What constitutes the bigger picture?
In the military or the business world, maintaining the big picture is to focus on the organization’s mission statement. Quickly learn how you fit in to the organization and what you can do to contribute to their long-term goals.
Keep a positive attitude. As a leader, your subordinates will follow your example and feed off of your energy and enthusiasm. The positive perspective and attitude that you portray will be reflected in your workforce. Never allow your team members to see you frustrated or discouraged. Always present yourself as positively and confidently as possible. Remember, everyone is watching you and expecting you to set the tone for the rest of the organization.
Prioritize your calendar. Work to complete critical items and fulfill the less critical as time permits.
Take time to care for yourself. If you are in poor health, it will be difficult to lead your team in a positive and effective manner.
Remember the big picture. Take the time to reflect and remember what your goals are and what still needs to be done to accomplish them. Check in with yourself weekly to be sure you are staying accountable.
Whether it’s maintaining focus with a shrinking budget like the Guard and Reserve Units, or as you study or work towards achieving goals you’ve set for yourself or your organization, it’s important to maintain perspective in order to keep your focus and attention on the bigger picture.