Teamprovementude: How we can improve our units in spite of fiscal challenges

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jennifer Jeffries
  • 13th Space Warning Squadron commander
We've all heard the age-old anecdotes that "money doesn't buy happiness" and "no matter what, they can't take away our pride." I submit during these days of diminishing budgets and resources, the tried sayings ring true. In fact, during these trying times, we actually can improve our units in spite of the fiscal challenges.

According to Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the perfect Air Force equation is all about the Airman: Great people + pride = performance. The CSAF's formula does not include dollars or numbers as force multipliers, but instead people who are proud of what they do -- a priceless mix that fuels innovation and performance. So how do we achieve this effective combination within our units? Focus on blending teamwork, improvement and attitude to create "teamprovementude." Let me explain by analyzing each ingredient independently.

To begin, we start with teamwork. Every Airman needs to buy in to the teamwork concept and its synergistic effect, meaning the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. "We, us and ours" are valued over "I, me and mine" in group organizations. Collectively, we can accomplish much more as a team than you or I can do singularly. In challenging times with fewer resources and growing requirements to do more with less, organizations can succeed if their people bond together as a group to share the increased load. We attain great team performance by combining the talents of good people. Great people fulfill the first value in the CSAF's equation.

Next we add continuous improvement and the desire to leave things better than we found them. It's a simple charge that many of us learned as children growing up. Challenge each other to find one small area in the unit to improve each day. It is easy and tempting to think one person's contribution cannot possibly make a difference. On a grand scale, this may be true for most individual efforts. Referring back to the previous tenet of teamwork, however, WE can affect change. If we have a team of people all committed to making steady, incremental improvements and focused in one direction within our units, then imagine how impactful we can be at the organizational level. We build a satisfied sense of attachment toward our group actions to improve our units. This pride, a product of a fulfilled feeling of belonging to a team cause, makes up the second value in the CSAF's equation.

Finally, attitude is absolutely everything, so have a positive one. Attitudes, whether positive or negative, are contagious and set the tone for our work environment. We confront many issues in our daily lives, including several circumstances completely out of our control. While we can't change the uncontrollable realities of contract descopes and sequestration furloughs, we do have control over our reaction to these events. We choose to see the glass half full or half empty. We decide to face challenges proactively versus reactively, eventually reaching new opportunities to succeed. Positive attitude enables great people and pride, the two key elements for performance in the CSAF's equation.

As leaders, we tend to look for monetary solutions to fix our problems, especially the dilemmas that result from ongoing budget cuts. It should be exhilarating to realize that the answer to our troubles is right in front of us -- our people. It only costs us time spent mentoring, directing and motivating our Airmen on the value of "teamprovementude." By blending teamwork, improvement and attitude, we create a winning unit of great people and pride ready to innovatively perform and solve today's fiscal challenges, while forging a better future for those that follow.