Communication—Let’s Not Forget That We Have Two Ears and Only One Mouth

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Spiers
  • Commander, 97th Security Force Squadron
One of my many mentors I have had throughout my career (a now retired chief master sergeant) asked me, "When, in an officer's/senior enlisted's career, do you lose the capacity to listen?" When questioned about his meaning, he explained the most important thing a good leader or supervisor can do is to listen to their Airmen - to their ideas, to their problems, and what is going on at the tactical level. If the leader can understand what is going on at that level, he or she can probably make a better operational decision, creating a win-win scenario. In addition, a great second order effect of the process is your Airmen will feel as if their opinion matters and they will have buy-in into the operational decision. Consequently, Airmen will then grow professionally as they are able to see how their tactical input can have effects on the operational strategy of a unit.
However, the importance of communication flow does not end with Airmen and their supervisors at the squadron level. I recently returned from a 365-day command tour at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, where Air Force Security Forces had taken over both inside-the-wire and outside-the-wire security. My group commander stated that 80 percent of his job every day was to try and get different agencies to communicate and listen to one actually sit down and understand the different requirements, limiting factors, and challenges each was facing. Whether it was the Intel shop communicating with the squadrons, or vice versa, or working with the various agencies to fix the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, the most difficult and important aspect of his job was getting people to communicate!
Hence, I offer this advice...almost everyone here in the Mighty 97th are working hard and trying to do the right thing and do their job in an exemplary manner for one reason - to train Airmen to fly and deploy for the combatant commander. Whether it is sitting down with your supervisor/subordinate or sitting with other leaders from the base or community, remember we are all different, but we all want the same thing...for our Air Force to remain the best in the world! So remember that we were born with two ears and only one mouth - the hidden message is to try and listen twice as much as we speak. The better we understand each other, the better the mission will be accomplished, and cohesiveness of the unit (whether large or small) will improve.