Dealing with change

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Charles LaFleur
  • 39th Maintenance Group superintendent
The subject of handling change in policy or procedures from a leadership perspective has been a subject all of us have dealt with or will deal with at some point in our careers. 

I've been in the Air Force for quite a few years now, and I've had the opportunity to witness many changes in our service. From the uniforms we wear to the physical training program, change is truly a constant climate we live and serve in. Sometimes change isn't welcome or particularly embraced at first; other times it is; but once the decision to change is made, the leadership challenge then becomes how to successfully introduce and implement it.

I recently read the book "Engaged Leadership" by Clint Swindell. Swindell made a few points that were particularly applicable to the climate of change we serve in.

The first point I noticed was when he said, "When introducing change, celebrate the past and the future; a unit moves forward on the shoulders of the people who succeeded in the past."

We all serve in the strongest air and space force the world has ever seen, and it certainly didn't gain that stature recently; it developed over years through the hard work and success of the Airmen who served before us.

While the policies and procedures that were in place years, or even months ago in a flight or squadron, might seem to still work, the Air Force continues to grow and evolve with the times. As such, change must, and always will take place. Understanding and conveying the new way isn't a negative, but a necessary "growing" process can go a long way to smoothing the transition. Airmen who served before us lived in the same environment of change we do. They successfully grew and evolved as required to maintain the superior strength we also maintain today.

Another interesting point in the book relating to implementing change concerned turning negative reinforcement into a positive.

"Give them something to run to and not from," Swindell said.

A pretty simple statement, but when I think about it, leaders at all levels are challenged with it often. For example, the PT program will be changing soon from an annual test to two tests per year. The challenge - reinforcing the mindset in our Airmen that passing two tests per year isn't eliminating two potential failures and referral performance reports, but two golden opportunities to strive for. The physical and mental benefits from a healthier lifestyle are proven facts, yet the negative side to the program comes up too often. Accentuate the positive aspects.

I've briefly touched on only a few points that can help implement change, but there are certainly many more.

While transitioning and implementing change can be accomplished several different ways, one thing remains an absolute, proven certainty: When the challenge arises and the task is at hand, Airmen in our great Air Force will meet it head-on and succeed.