Written by Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida
We continue to listen and learn so we can be better leaders for ALL our teammates. Some weeks ago, I spent several hours with my former executive officer, Lt Col Myron Chivis. Lt Col Chivis and I talked about our ten-year journey together and some of what we've learned from one another on the topic of race.
Listen and watch here.
This is the first of several episodes; more will be coming in the days and weeks ahead. Some of it is uncomfortable, some of it is raw, and I'm pretty sure there's things in this series with which some will disagree. That's okay. Lt Col Chivis and I were having a real conversation about a real relationship and our real lives. Those won't be everyone's experiences...but they're ours.
What I've learned from him is just because I can only see the green triangle, it doesn't mean there isn't a yellow square on the other side of the box.
For the Airmen of AFSOC, I encourage you to get to know your teammates and the challenges in their lives; those challenges may be surprisingly different than yours. Listen to them...learn from them...you'll be a better leader. I know it can be uncomfortable and I know there's a natural fear of "saying something wrong" or "unintentionally offending someone." We have to power past that fear and, instead, trust our teammates to believe that we're coming from a good place when we ask questions and want to have a real conversation. And if someone doesn't want to talk to you about their lives and their experiences, that's okay too. No pressure, but the door should be open for these discussions.
WARNING: there is content in here which may be upsetting to some. At one point, we discuss "the 'N word'"...and one of us says it. At another point, we'll discuss something I said to him in our early days together which had painful and unintended consequences...physical pain for him, emotional pain (and embarrassment) for me. We've had our ups and downs, but I think I can safely say we both cherish the relationship and the lessons we've learned from one another.
That's the way life is, isn't it? Unfiltered.