Saturday, March 11, 2006

Trouble and Initiative go Hand-in-Hand

If you are not getting in “Trouble” for using too much initiative, what’s wrong? What are you doing? Obviously, something is wrong. I received my first official letter of counseling at 19 years of age (1985). I was an Airmen First Class (2 stripes) in the Air Force, stationed at Royal Air Force Station Fairford. At the time I was in a logistics field responsible for inbound freight. They called me, “Little General,” at the time, as I tended to be a little vocal, at times. As I made rank, they eventually coined me, “General Nuisance,” as I enjoy challenging the status quo.

Most of the United States Air Force European (USAFE) bases would rack up multiple thousands of dollars in detention charges. Detention charges amount for keeping loaded trailers longer than the agreed upon contractual time. I had a personal goal of zero detention dollars and I worked with my counterparts, the Supply folks to keep our base detention at zero. In fact, I made money for the Air Force (tax relief for the U.S.), as the trucking company would incur storage charges for leaving their empties on the base longer than three days. We unloaded the trailers so fast the truckers couldn’t keep up on the removal. To meet this challenge of zero dollars in detention I would occasionally need to unload a vehicle into my empty warehouse. Space is a premium and my warehouse was not being fully utilized.

On one of the days I unloaded freight into my warehouse, I was called into the office and informed that I was being written up. I was to receive a negative letter of counseling. I asked, "Why?" My supervisor stated, "For using too much initiative!" Under my breath I chuckled a little in anger. My supervisor went on to say, “You don’t have the authority to down load a container into our warehouse without my permission.” I thought to myself, the warehouse is empty! Afterwards, I was handed the counseling form to read. Honestly, I was a little miffed. I signed the form without reading it. My supervisor asked me, "Don't you want to read it." I said, "Nope," handed him the signed form and I returned to my business. I had a job to do.

The following week, I received a formal recognition from Headquarters (HQ) 3rd AF for the lowest detention charges in USAFE. My efforts offset the other European bases lack of initiative, otherwise known as “Detention Charges.”

For the record, here is a maverick notion; there is nothing wrong with informed risk taking! I have said it before, “failure is an option, because with out failure, progression is minimal. Learn from the negative event, failed project, invention, relationship and press on. Failure is relative not an absolute! Identity comes in two forms: trivial (absolute) and/or nontrivial (relative).

Please make me write you up for using too much initiative! At that time, know that you are a “Mover and a Shaker!” Mix it up.

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