Exceed Expectations

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christopher M. Lanier
  • 54th Air Refueling Squadron
A couple of years ago I happened to be flying on the 4th of July. It was a surprisingly busy day. Lines snaked for hundreds of feet at the security checkpoint. Frustration was palpable as passengers shuffled with bags and glanced at their watches. At the gate, a voice boomed over the speaker announcing our flight was delayed. As I watched anxious passengers pace the terminal, airline personnel at the gate swung into action. There was a flurry of activity as agents called up passengers in jeopardy of missing connections and rebooked them. As the boarding process began, to our surprise, we entered an aircraft decorated with 4th of July decorations. There were flags, patriotic streamers and other livery scattered about the cabin. The mood was further brightened with an announcement that passengers would receive free beverage coupons as a result of the delay. Later, as I listened to the relaxed laughter and conversation of fellow passengers I thought about what the airline had achieved. They turned a service failure into a loyalty win. You could say that the airline clearly exceeded my expectations.

Exceed expectations. When executed properly, this concept has incredible impact. Exceed Expectations also serves as the title of a book by General retired William "Bill" Looney, Commander of Air Education and Training Command from 2005 to 2008. In the book, Gen. Looney relates stories from his career where he endeared loyalty and high levels of performance in organizations by setting high expectations and inspiring followers to exceed them.

The great challenge of becoming a unit that consistently exceeds expectations is two-fold. First, the expectations must be clear to everyone in the organization. Secondly, everyone in the unit must be disciplined and determined in their efforts to best that mark.

In the 54th Air Refueling Squadron we've attempted to execute the concept with our student production. The expectation from our Mobility Air Force customers is for qualified air crew members. That's also what our students expect--that we'll simply teach them to operate the KC-135R. We are striving to exceed those expectations. We seek to deliver gaining units qualified aircrew members with a leadership and lean forward mind set.

In addition to providing world class flight instruction we encourage our instructors to discuss a variety of other topics. We mentor on things ranging from officer and enlisted professional development to the importance of off-duty education. Our goal isn't to simply produce crew members ready to execute the mission, but Airmen ready to set the example in both personal and professional conduct in their new squadron.

Exceeding expectations is hard work, but well worth the effort. Reflecting on the team I saw in action that day at the airport--they worked as one to turn a failure into a victory by exceeding expectations. Our goal should be to emulate that mindset. At both an organizational and personal level if we consistently have exceeding expectations as our goal I think we'll make the Air Force as good as it can possibly be.