TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – On a recent road trip, I had the opportunity to listen to the audio book, “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions,” by John Maxwell. Listening to the examples outlined in the book inspired me to reflect on the questions I ask as a leader and commander.
Exploring questions can be approached from a number of perspectives. For the Airmen I have the privilege of supervising and leading, a question that I ask is, “What is important to you now? What about in five years?”
The demands of being an Airman are significant, and it is important to understand one’s priorities both now and in the future. Technical training, deployments, Professional Military Education and starting a family all compete for our time and affect our priorities. Asking your Airmen to routinely reflect on what is important to them can enhance their self-awareness while helping leaders to better know their people.
Though it may be intimidating at first, asking pointed questions of your supervisor or commander can help both you and them. Generally speaking, supervisors and commanders have a greater scope of responsibility, with more demands on their time. Asking them specifically about how you can help and what duties, projects, tasks are the most important to them goes a long way to being a good follower and will help prepare you for the next level of leadership.
Asking questions of yourself is a great way to check your own focus. One example is, “What am I doing today to bring value to my organization?” When I take the time to ask this question of myself, I am able to manage my time in order to better serve my fellow Airmen and maintain focus on the mission.
From the mission perspective, as a member of one of the two diverse squadrons that make up the Travis Air Force Base, California, contingent of the bi-coastal 621st Air Mobility Advisory Group, the importance of questions is especially relevant. The 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron and the 321st Air Mobility Operations Squadron are comprised of Airmen from over 40 distinct career fields that represent a significant cross-section of the Air Force. The two squadron’s distinctive missions of air advising and theater command and control both require highly trained Airmen who are always thinking about questions in order to execute their complex missions that have operational and strategic level impacts.
Questions are a crucial part of planning processes for the 571st MSAS as it trains and advises partner nations on the employment of airpower, and the 321st AMOS, as it assures command and control capability is available to direct airpower for joint and coalition forces across the globe.
As Airmen it is in our nature to be mission focused, to always be moving forward, to be innovative in solving problems and to find the “right” answers. Yet, by focusing first on the questions rather than the answers, we will better serve our Airmen and the mission. Ask direct questions, listen more and you may uncover an idea or solution that may have passed right on by.