Teaching Air Force Recruits is not always easy and the Padre gets some of the interesting topics like leadership and followership, seeking to help the recruits adjust to the challenges of communal living in a military environment. Here, workplace relations is a 24/7 job with very little private space or time. My role is to help recruits discuss the lessons learnt from watching segments from the movie “We Were Soldiers”, and assess how both leaders and followers acted and reacted in various situations.
While pondering the results I came up with 7 lessons we ALL need to learn:
1. LISTEN! No matter where you are in the chain of command it is imperative that you really pay attention. Multi-tasking is great but when orders are being given you need to be concentrating on one thing – getting the right information and getting it right.
2. EDUCATE! Each of us is under obligation to keep learning and sharing what we are learning with others. We all have different gifts and abilities, and when we share our knowledge we empower each other, so that the whole team benefits. A swift, agile, decisive response is no good if it is based on wrong information.
3. ASK RIGHT QUESTIONS! This is one area that recruits struggle with because they think that they will be labelled. That only happens when you ask the wrong questions as a result of not listening! Asking for clarification so that the task and the process can be carried out correctly is allowed and encouraged. Sometimes the key is asking the right questions at the right time.
4. DON’T INTERUPT! In an orders group all questions are to be kept till the end of the brief, therefore get used to taking notes which include things you may need clarified. Sadly we are not very good at this – we are all too eager to come up with easy solutions before we have heard the full story and so get it wrong.
5. EXAMPLE! Our words and our actions must agree. There is no place in the military for double standards – our real values are the ones we live out when no one is watching. Therefore seek to be a positive example to those around you, not just to impress others but because you know it is the right thing to do.
6. RESPECT! We are not all the same, we each have different gifts and abilities, we may come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we may wear different ranks or have a different uniform but we are all part of the same team. That team will only function if we all respect each other, and demonstrate it by how we relate up and down the chain of command.
7. SMILE! Finally, a swift, decisive, resilient, respected Air Force also needs to be able to laugh. Humour is the social lubricant that reduces friction in the barrack block, in the workplace and even in the battle space. Don’t take yourself so seriously, make time every day to relax and enjoy what you have got.
So, what started as a lesson on workplace relations became for me an affirmation that as defence members we are all called to be both followers and leaders! No matter what your rank, you are still required to be answerable to someone, and ultimately you may be required to plead your case before God. If that scares you, maybe you should join us for chapel service and listen to what he expects of us as leaders and followers.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley