Inspector General encourages communication

Lt. Col. Ronald Phipps
Moody Air Force Base

Six months ago, I started my assignment as a new Inspector General. I’d like to share a few insights on the communication process and its relationship to the complaints I’ve received.
The first thing to remember is that everyone has a legal right to unhindered access to an IG. However, over the course of an Air Force career, most of you won’t have the need to use your local IG. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. In an ideal world, an IG office should have fewer customers than a (dishwasher) repair man.
In reality, people and the way we do business are changing and sometimes need attention.
I’ve found that most complaints can be traced to a breakdown in communication. We often forget that communication is a two-way street where listening is just as important to the process as sending.
Often I find that “selective” hearing by the receiver causes the aim of the message to be filtered out or skewed. For an IG, getting both sides of the story will usually uncover this breakdown and help us resolve the issue.
Sometimes I find a message was never sent. Whether you were afraid to raise the issue or were too busy to talk to your chain of command, I often find myself playing the role of middleman.
One of the first questions an IG is going to ask is if you’ve talked to the people in your chain of command to give them a shot at addressing your issue. I’ve found that commanders and first sergeants want to help you solve your problem if you will give them a chance.
While I might encourage you to use your chain, I will never turn you away if you haven’t.
Probably one of the best formal means we have to avoid miscommunication is the performance feedback process. Throughout my Air Force career, I’ve found that performance feedback wasn’t being conducted in accordance with Air Force requirements.
An honest assessment can be a challenge to both the supervisor and the folks being supervised. Let’s face it, most people don’t take or give criticism well.
However, if feedback is offered in a constructive manner where expectations and rationale are explained and discussed, the result should be a unit that operates more productively with fewer complaints.
Let me make one suggestion about something that impressed on me long ago; fight for feedback. That means that when you sit down with your supervisor for your semiannual review, make sure you cover not only the things you’re doing well but also areas where you can improve. Ask for your supervisor’s expectations, and don’t be afraid to ask for specific examples to help you understand.
Effective communication is an essential part of our job. All of us must work to ensure the lines stay open so the mission can be accomplished. The IG is here to help you when a breakdown occurs.
(Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service)