Thursday, January 31, 2013

COMMENTARY>>Penthouse view

By John Chavis,
19th Mission Support Group deputy commander

After 42 years in the trenches, in one fashion or another, I’m in the “Penthouse” or “The Big House,” or “On the Hill,” or in the “Rabbit Cage,” …whatever your pseudonym is for your leadership’s office digs. As the very first civilian deputy ever for the 19th Mission Support Group, I am experiencing the penthouse view. It’s for sure a more expansive view of everything around me, not just the MSG penthouse, but now the wing and all the group’s penthouses. Stress level is different also (less I’d have to say.) One thing I recognized right off the starting line is it seems to be the daily task of everyone that has the penthouse view to make sure they maintain a vivid image of the ground floor and things going on beneath them; that’s sort of my job in a one liner too. I suppose that could apply to any group or squadron or section leadership position, so in a sense, all buildings have a “penthouse.”

To be honest, before I got the seat, I had thoughts (just occasionally boss) that the occupants of the “Penthouse” were so strategically driven in their thinking that they lost touch with reality. Now don’t try to sell me that some of you didn’t, or don’t now have, similar thoughts that the penthouse only sees the thousand-foot perspective and totally misses the real issues in front of them. I’m not denying that it’s easy in some penthouses to see the issues as smaller and less important, and therefore never get the true picture of the problems folks at ground level face, but generally your penthouse teams on “the Rock” get it and recognize it’s critical to regularly disconnect from the penthouse, get down to the ground level, mix it up with the folks in the trenches and get a little dirty.

As we get closer to the action, it gives us first-hand knowledge of the circumstances and allows us to have a greater understanding of situations or issues. We love that stuff! Restricting ourselves to the top floor, looking at our plans without attaining execution and expecting to solve issues on the ground floor is a hallucination. This principle should apply to every leader and great supervisor out there at any level.

Does that mean we will never find ourselves coming up short if we get to the trenches? Heck no, but don’t throw out our courageous attempt with the trench water or confuse the attempt with having lost touch with the reality of the issue. The people who are experiencing the issues and are close to the process, know the real issues and have the solutions; we just have to get close enough to find out what they are, who they are and how to draw out the real solution.

That brings up a final thought or observation. When the penthouse asks for feedback, don’t give us the watered down version because you think the raw information is not polished enough for our ears. We didn’t get to the penthouse because of thin skins or lack of common sense; most of us, me included, got here because of your hard work to make us look good. By the way, you did a good job…keep it up. Let’s start reducing barriers that stifle honest dialogue and block the source to address your real issues.

Team, believe it from a prior trench guy (an engineer…I built things that worked for gosh sakes,) the leaders do see the issues from the penthouse view. The penthouse view does not make the perspectives, or you, any less important. Your opinion is valuable; we can all learn something from each other no matter what status we hold.

Thank you for making a let’s go get dirty!

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