Starting at Yes

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Stephen Platt
  • 39th Operations Squadron commander
It's show time at the 39th Air Base Wing. Our upcoming inspection is the opportunity we've been waiting for to showcase our talents after multiple exercises and countless man-hours of preparation and practice. We are razor sharp and ready to execute. At this point, the only thing to add is a little faith -- something to believe in. 

I believe in many things. I believe that in the long run, if I save and invest wisely, I'll be able to retire someday. I believe that one of these Air Force moves, I'll actually break even on a house. I believe getting an oil change every 3,000 - 5,000 miles means that over time I'll avoid car problems. I believe that flossing will prevent problems, even if I'm not completely consistent. Another thing I believe is the Air Force works best when everyone starts at "yes." What do I mean by starting at "yes?" Well, since you asked ... 

Starting at "yes" means, when you are asked to do something, your baseline position is, "You bet, let's figure out how to make that happen." This is much easier said than done. It implies you are going to go out of your way for your fellow Airmen; that you will listen and understand their needs. That you are the assumed expert, since you are being asked and that you can help find a way to accomplish the task. 

Let me tell you what starting at "yes" is not. It's not breaking rules. It's not cutting corners. And it's not sacrificing your core values. 

We've all been there. We need help. We don't know where to turn. It's a big Air Force and there are a lot of dense, impenetrable Air Force instructions and regulations and no one has time to understand them all. You ask for help from a fellow Airman and are told, "Nope, not my job, can't help you." Why does this happen? Well, for one, it's a lot easier to say, "No." No implies no extra work required. No further effort. Not sticking your neck out. No responsibility later if things go poorly. 

Yet, in an Air Force of Airmen starting at "yes," this is how it works. You begin with self-reliance; understanding that the easiest way to solve problems is to solve them yourself. When you hit a roadblock, you seek help. But, before you ask for help, you think clearly about what you need and what the person you are asking can do to help. Next, you do your homework; ensure you have all the background required to answer your future helper's questions. Then you make contact with the receptive audience, explaining the problem to the Airman who is spring loaded to say, "Yes." You give the Airmen a clear path and all the data, making it easy for them to say, "Yes." When you get that coveted "yes," you remember what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a "yes." Soon it will be your turn. In time we will have a culture of "yes" in the AF. I believe we can get there. 

Good luck these next few weeks. If you need something, just ask. I'll be starting at "yes."