Let change be a solution, not a problem

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jeannie McLean
  • 39th Mission Support Group superintendent
Change isn't easy but it's especially hard for people like me. I'm a control freak and don't like to be the "new person." I want to know where things are and how processes work, but here I am at Incirlik, my 12th assignment in 25 years, and I'm new.

At the beginning of any assignment we have a tendency to look back at other locations, believing they were better. We roll our eyes at the new person as they say, "At my last base ...." As I said, I've moved quite a bit and as a control freak, I need guiding principles to keep me focused at my new location.

The best advice I ever received was: Always behave in the rank you want to be, not the rank you are.

You might think this piece of advice doesn't apply to a chief master sergeant, but the focus is really on the willingness and desire to be more than you currently are - elevating your perspective.

I started in a customer-service career field and rarely turned a problem over to my supervisor. Occasionally, a customer didn't want to hear the answer from an Airman, but knowledge is power and I knew my regulations. It didn't matter that I was "only an Airman" because I knew the facts, and customers appreciated it and didn't need validation from my supervisor. But it's more than just using knowledge to answer a question, it's about finding a way to say "yes" instead of "no." It takes time and effort to figure out how to say "yes."

The second best piece of advice I've received is: Always come with a solution to a problem.

I was the base advisory council president in 1995 and presided over meetings where people complained about things they didn't like. After my first meeting, I took my notes to the senior enlisted advisor, gave him my list and he said, "This is all very interesting but this isn't how it works. Don't bring me a problem if you don't already have a solution." What?! How do I do that?

There are a number of Web sites dedicated to helping you become a better problem solver. (These sites define the problem, analyze the problem, look at causes, identify alternatives, and select an approach.) After the conversation with the command chief, I wanted to solve every problem. I paid attention as problems and solutions were discussed and asked myself how I would have done it. I watched the person heading the meeting and asked myself, "What would I do differently? How would I react?"

By developing this skill and combining it with the first piece of advice, we build a reputation of being problem solvers, and who doesn't want those around?

These two pieces of advice kept me in the moment, not thinking about past bases or jumping ahead to future ones. I look forward to working with all of you and watching you roll your eyes when I say, "At my last base ...."