Inspire your Airmen to get the job done

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michelle Raven
  • 39th Air Base Wing staff judge advocate
We are all leaders no matter what our rank or title. Our goal is to accomplish the mission while helping our troops grow. Whether we are a parent and our mission is to get our children to clean their room or a commander tasked to manage airfield operations, we all have to inspire ourselves and others to get things done.

None of us want to be mediocre or below standards. With that said, sometimes we need inspiration to reach our goals. How we choose to inspire or be inspired can determine whether we reach our goal. Sometimes we need to give or receive a swift kick in the pants; other times we need to use positive or negative incentives. We have to find a way to inspire greatness.

This reminds me of a related story:

A retired chief inherited a parrot from his uncle who was a sailor. For the first few days with the chief, the parrot didn't say anything. The old chief, despite his stern and disciplined ways, felt sorry for the parrot and tried to inspire him with kind words and pieces of fruit. After a few weeks or so, the parrot started to find its voice -- a little at first and then more so. Responding to the kind treatment, the parrot's vocabulary began to recover, including the not-so-politically correct words and phrases he learned from his sailing days.

The Chief started to get irritated at the bird's rudeness and profanity. He decided he must take action to inspire the parrot to behave.

First, the Chief tried to give him incentives with the promise of reward for good behavior, but that didn't work. Next, the Chief tried to inspire him by taking away privileges, but the parrot remained stubbornly rude.

Finally, the old Chief had enough and flipped into battlefield management mode. He grabbed the bird, clamped his hands around its beak, and thrust the struggling and swearing parrot in the freezer. The swearing and struggling continued only for a few seconds, then abruptly stopped. The old Chief listened for a while and then, concerned that the parrot's shock may have been terminal, carefully opened the freezer. The parrot slowly came out and perched on the edge of the freezer.

"I must apologize for my rude and disrespectful behavior," the parrot said. "I promise not to use bad language again. And, by the way, what did the turkey do?"

Now, the staff judge advocate is not telling you to smack around your troops, especially in this age of a kinder, gentler Air Force. However, I am saying there is nothing wrong with using closed door counseling sessions where you let your troop know you are not happy with his behavior or performance. Sometimes that's the inspiration your troop needs.

They are many ways to inspire greatness. Something that works for one may not work for another or may not work in a particular situation, even for the same individual. Find a way to inspire greatness.