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Dare the Impossible – Achieve the Extraordinary.
Vol. 11, No. 3
www.stuffofheroes.com
(626) 791-8973
©1998, 2014 William A. Cohen, PhD


To Accomplish the Impossible, Let Others Know That They’re Important

“Four-star General Bill Creech became the commander of Tactical Air Command in the Air Force in 1978, after Vietnam and years before the Middle East and other world conflicts in which we became engaged. As a result it became a time when the U.S. Military was being heavily gutted due to cut-backs. This was very much like today, except there were no active conflicts, and President Carter, then U.S. President, saw none on the horizon. Tactical Air Command, more familiarly known as TAC, included over 100,000 “”tigers.”” They were the command that contained most of the fighter aircraft in the Air Force. These were men and women who had to be super aggressive in their work and ready to go to war at all times. Tom Peters and Nancy Austin reported what happened to TAC in their book A Passion for Excellence.

When General Creech took over TAC, the sortie rate had been falling over a ten year period at a compound rate of 7.8 percent. A sortie is a flight mission by a single aircraft. So the fact that the number of sorties that TAC launched every year was going down was not good as it indicated that training flight hours was being cut way back due to budget cuts. Despite the decline in flight hours, when Creech arrived on the scene it took four hours for a spare part to get from inventory to the aircraft where it was needed. One could easily say that this was due to budget cuts also. Maybe it was.

What was the situation when Creech left TAC in 1984? The sortie rate rose each year of Creech’s tenure at a compound annual rate of 11.2 percent. Getting a part from inventory to the aircraft was no longer measured in hours. When Creech left, the average time was only eight minutes!

Now you may think that much of this was due to increased military budgets over the period. Not so. The budget for spare parts actually decreased further during this period.

How did Creech do it? Certainly Creech’s success as a leader was due to many things that he did. But he took certain actions that cost very little, but which had a significant impact.

He gave his support troops the importance they deserved: the same as he gave his pilots. He improved their housing, decorated their offices, and rewarded those who did well.

On one inspection tour in the west, he saw a supply sergeant’s regulation Air Force chair that had a torn back, and only three casters. Instead of the fourth caster, there was a brick. Electrical tape held the torn material in the back together.

“”Why don’t you get a decent chair,”” asked Creech. “”General there aren’t any available for supply sergeants right now.””

“”Sergeant, let me have your chair. I’ll get a new one for you.””

General Creech ordered his aide to fly the chair back to his headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. He called in his three-star General in charge of supply and logistics.

“”General, I have a little present for you. It’s a regulation Air Force chair, but it’s pretty beat up. It’s yours until you get our logistic mess straightened out. And, oh yes…I need your old chair for a supply sergeant out west.””

Supply sergeants were very important to the operations of TAC. By these actions, General Creech made this supply sergeant, and all supply sergeants feel this importance. General Creech also showed his general in charge of logistics that he was very important . . . and in a very imaginative way.

So rule number one is this: if you want your people to accomplish the impossible, you’ve got to let them know that you appreciate their importance.”

 


THIS MONTH’S THOUGHT FOR LEADERS:
“Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

 

Recent Linked Articles by Dr. Cohen, not Published in the Journal of Leadership Applications:

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