Small things count, lead to team success

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Everyone has heard the phrase "small things count" in some form or another, and for each of us it holds a unique meaning. Small and seemingly insignificant decisions or actions have a lasting effect on ourselves and others around us.

I believe little decisions by members of the military, including those of us in the Air Force, hold the key to our success. Success as an individual will yield success as a team. The decisions I am referring to are those that touch our ability to maintain a proper ethical climate.

Decisions that clearly land in the black and white arena are easy. If it involves an obvious rule or law, they are usually simple to work through. But, what about the other 95 percent of decisions that fall into the gray area where we all live daily ... where the decisions we make won't have the same consequences as a felony conviction, jail time or non-judicial punishment? It is here where our decisions to ethical questions define us. It also defines the groups we make up, from individual flights to the Air Force itself.

Do these "gray" decisions sound familiar? Continuing to walk a few steps to your car or office door as retreat sounds ... add rain; does that make this one easier? What about walking from your driveway to the front door without a hat? Avoiding a salute in the parking lot or watching as someone else does? How about inflating a rating on a performance report or stretching the truth on an award nomination in order to "take care of my people?" No one gets hurt or killed by these decisions, right?

Would your answer to any of these questions change if you knew you were being watched by others like your supervisor or your children? Regardless of rank or position, your actions are always being observed and send a direct message about your beliefs.

This, in turn, demonstrates what we believe as a team. As members of a squadron, wing and military service, we set the tone of our organization by the actions we accomplish and those we let others accomplish.

If negative behavior goes unchallenged, it affects us all. Imagine the tone of an organization as a river current flowing through the countryside. The direction it travels, good or bad, is based on the collective group of the individuals that represent it. In a river, you have two options: you go with the flow or you get out.

You can go upstream for a while but eventually you'll get tired and either go with the current or paddle to the side and get out. It is up to each of us to make decisions that set a positive climate enabling everything to flow in a positive direction.

If members of an organization make bad decisions, the current can just as easily go in a negative direction. Then what happens to the folks who want to do the right thing? The same two options exist; you go with the flow or you get out.

As members of the Air Force, our standards are apparent in the professional oaths we take, the rules we follow and the core values we live by. These standards, like our operational missions, are an around-the-clock responsibility. Our daily decisions, no matter how large or small, all play a part in the climate of our organizations. Make sure your actions or decisions are not making good people paddle upstream.