August Commander's Corner
By Lt. Col. Paul Laymon, 169th Security Forces Squadron
/ Published July 15, 2016
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Have you ever experienced the feeling of being at the end of a deployment with the mission complete and the only thing standing between you and getting home is "getting a seat on a plane?" For many of you, I'll bet you're silently nodding your head yes to that question. And for a lot of us, you either just experienced it or are about to!
True story - During the spring of 2003 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, it was already really hot and only getting hotter. The air campaign was over and the Swamp Foxes were ready to go home after long hours and days doing their part in toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. As you can imagine, at the end of the tour, airlift came at a premium and the redeployment team had been working diligently on getting the main body of Airmen out of theater. After a great deal of bargaining and favor calling, a plan was finally forged to start moving everybody home over the upcoming weekend. Confidence was high that the redeployment schedule was firm, so the word went out for everyone to prepare for the move home. However, as the old saying goes, no plan survives first contact. In the blink of an eye, the wheels fell off the plan. One thing led to the other and the move didn't take place until almost two weeks later! Imagine everyone's disappointment with two more agonizing, scorching hot weeks to endure - yet the news of the delay had to be shared.
This story is a prime example of expectation management. Managing expectations in life is essential to everyone involved and means almost everything. Meet them and everybody's mostly happy; exceed them and they are mostly overjoyed; but fail to meet them and sometimes nothing else matters. The key lies in properly setting expectations in the first place. Sometimes we may not be able to produce miracle airlift; however, we can go a long way in managing expectations when we remain focused on the objective(s), work to eliminate hurdles and avoid making promises that may not be practical.
So where do you begin managing expectations? The answer is actually pretty simple. It makes no difference if you are in a leadership or follower role, it all starts with you. Taking the responsibility to be brave, to tell people precisely what to expect, even when what to expect isn't very fun, as well as accepting what's being told to you, is the key. Staring down the fear of disappointing others is a challenge everyone faces. "Straight-talk" with people, whether at home or in the Air Force, takes moral courage and consistency. When you state intentions and establish what everyone should expect from the outset without wavering, you've taken the proper steps in eliminating the disappointments and frustrations that come from inconsistency. It's a personal accountability issue and a leadership responsibility to look the people who we influence in the eye and be honest - tell them what to expect!
We are members of the greatest Air Force and fighter wing in the world, defending freedom for the greatest country in the world. This is America, the country that placed a man on the moon, we developed fighter jets that break the speed of sound and invented a world-wide internet to connect us like never before. We didn't do those things by saying "can't"; we did them by setting goals and making expectations clear. So when you're faced with the inevitable task of being a leader or follower and find yourself trying to state what needs to be said, remember this quote from Sidney Fife - "Trying is having the intention to fail; say you're going to do it, and you will."