By Chief Master Sgt. Andrea J. Gates
314th Airlift Wing Command Chief
Can you remember when you had to make a decision and there was a little voice in the back of your head talking to you. Two choices could be made: you listened to that voice or you didn’t. Chances are if it was the wrong choice there would be consequences to face. A successful career is due, in part, to making good decisions. Whether it is on or off duty, these decisions can impact on a minor or major scale. Additionally, how you respond to making the wrong decision can also play a part.
I am not saying people can’t or won’t make mistakes. It’s how you recover, how you learn, how you apply and pass on your experience to others; whether it be peers, subordinates or even your leadership. If you make the wrong decision then you should expect to be held accountable. Ultimately, the key is making the best decision based upon all the information you have at hand, before it is too late.
Let’s take the example of an individual that goes on leave and chooses to fly Space A. They know shortly after they plan to return they’ll be starting Airman Leadership School. Yes you guessed it – the person didn’t make it back in time and missed the start of class. You could blame it on Murphy’s Law or the Airman did not have the resources available to pay for that commercial flight because they were counting on that Space Available flight which was eventually cancelled. So, what did this decision affect? The member lost the faith of their First Sergeant who had worked to get them in an earlier class versus waiting, and the supervisor is disappointed along with having to adjust the duty schedule yet again because the member now has to be scheduled for another ALS class. On top of all, this decision is delaying the Airman putting on their Staff Sergeant stripe they worked hard to get. This was an important decision which could have easily been helped by asking for advice and assistance when the factors changed.
So what can you do to help yourself? There is nothing wrong with asking someone else’s opinion (don’t let pride make you fall). I would caution though - ensure the person you ask will give you good, sound advice. If you ask Airmen Smith and he is known to get in trouble for poor decision making – probably not the best choice. Also, don’t succumb to peer pressure and, by the same token, don’t be influenced into a decision by a supervisor if you know it’s not the right decision; a perfect example is from the movie “A Few Good Men” and the order to perform a “Code Red”. Take the information you get for what it is. Instincts are very real and if you feel something isn’t right, you have a gut feeling, or that little voice is telling you beware – LISTEN!
One could argue the supervisor had a hand in the situation above. Did they say something to the individual when they were approving the leave form? Did they even know their subordinate was planning on using Space A travel? Making it in the Air Force is a team effort. We are surrounded by awesome people; they want to be successful. We all can help by passing on information, experience and knowledge we have picked up along the way. The best teacher is always a real example. They call them “lessons learned” for a reason. Many of us have made a poor decision to some degree or another – I know I have. Luckily, between getting advice and adjusting the decision based on receiving more or better information, I was able to recover and not have any major impact on my career. I can most certainly say when I look back there was that little voice right there and I wrongly dismissed it. So, when I hear that voice now I am very apt to make a conscience decision to pay attention to what it has to say.