How to Connect Your Team with the Mission

August 13, 2012

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with a group of senior executives from the U.S. Department of Defense and a few other Federal agencies to engage in some “applied science” around leading at the next level. It was a great group with a lot of perspective and some fascinating stories to share.

One of the execs was a fellow named Jerry Gandy who is the director of Mission Assessment and Analysis for the United States Strategic Command. Jerry actually goes by the name of Indy which was his call sign when he was piloting F-15 Eagle fighter jets in his first career as an Air Force officer. Indy and I spent a lot of time during breaks talking about books we’ve been reading and sharing ideas on what works in leadership.

We agreed that one of the best ways to get team members excited and engaged about their work is to help them see how what they do matters. Indy had a great example of how he did that when he was the commander of a squadron of F-15’s.

There were 140 people in Indy’s squadron, only a handful of whom actually flew the jets. The rest of the team were the people who made it possible for the Eagles to get in the air. When you have fighter pilots in the mix, it could be pretty easy for there to be a disconnect between the people who have the exciting job of flying the planes and everybody else who doesn’t. Indy made sure that didn’t happen through a process he called “Petting the Eagle.”

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