Commentary by Col. Miguel Colón
821st Air Base Group commander
1/9/2013 - THULE AIR BASE, Greenland (AFNS) -- How
many times have you heard a soccer, baseball or football coach tell his
players to lean forward? In my experience, a good coach will always
provide this advice.
You may wonder, what makes this advice so important in sports? Leaning
forward enables the player to be in a position that allows him or her to
anticipate an action and quickly react to a play. Coaches, regardless
of sport, are communicating how important it is to maintain control of
the play and ultimately control of the game.
Control enables the team to synchronize its plan in tempo and timing to
be in a position to win. It starts with leaning forward and it takes
preparation. Before a player can effectively lean forward, he or she
must know the rules of the game and must have the skill to create an
opportunity to score or stop the opponent.
Similarly, in the military you also need to: know the rules and know
your job, while working to do both well. Leaning forward begins with
understanding the rules or procedures captured in Air Force
instructions, technical orders or operations manuals. Along with your
training, these documents define the boundaries and best practices you
can employ to accomplish a specific task. They are not all inclusive.
The better you know your job, the greater the number of options you have
available to solve a given problem. Your success, therefore, and that
of your team is predicted on how hard you work at knowing your job.
Thomas Edison once said, "There is no substitute for hard work. I never
did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come
by accident; they came by work."
In order to lean forward against today's challenges, it is extremely
important to become a skilled technician or subject matter expert in
your functional area. There are several benefits to knowing your job
The whole team benefits when everyone possesses the tools necessary to
solve any problem quickly and decisively, and even more importantly,
when you know your job inside and out.
This shared knowledge also allows the team to communicate with one
another and focus on the core issue of the problem. It helps the team
understand the complexity of the problem and to identify resources
required to accomplish the task at hand. It increases the team's ability
to lean forward and control the situation. Once the situation is under
control, the team becomes efficient as it is able to effectively
prioritize tasks and minimize wasted time.
Our operational environment is becoming more complicated and complex.
When you become a subject matter expert, you will notice an increase in
your confidence as you lead and motivate your team. It is that
confidence that drives mission accomplishment and your team's ability to
adapt to any situation. Whether faced with numerous challenges or
complexity driven by technology, it is important now more than ever to
lean forward. Only then can you quickly adapt to the situation and
succeed in our process driven world.
In the same fashion a coach tells his players to lean forward, the Air
Force also needs you to lean forward. As leaders, it is your
responsibility to maintain your technical expertise and create the
environment for the team to succeed. Know the rules, know your job and
work hard at being good at both. Lean forward and take control of the
situation and lead the team to success. Remember, you are ready and you
can make the difference.