Commanders' summit focuses on rejecting status quo
By Maj. Gabe Johnson, Arizona National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published May 30, 2014
Phoenix, Ariz. -- The adjutant general issued a challenge to Arizona Guard leaders recently - to empower Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees to thrive physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
At a commanders' summit, held at Papago Park Military Reservation May 15, Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire encouraged leaders from the Army, Air and emergency management components to take necessary risks to overcome the status quo.
The summit served as a platform to introduce the Arizona National Guard's Wellness Warriors Initiative; a whole-person approach to achieving success as individuals and as a team.
"We are so good in the military at defining physical requirements," said McGuire. "We must now focus on how we help people thrive mentally, spiritually and emotionally."
Commanders, senior enlisted members, family support specialists and leaders from every level across the state brainstormed several key concepts of the Wellness Warrior Initiative designed to allow people to attain their full potential.
With academic impunity, Guard members highlighted the organization's strengths based on their experiences. Accountability, leadership, relationships and support programs made the list scribbled out on block paper by discussion facilitators.
They examined the opportunities in store for the Arizona Guard and jotted down their aspirations for a future structure that would create a process for innovation, enabling members to increase efficiency, surpass standards and succeed as a team.
"Today we had the right people in the room across the board at all ranks," said Chief Master Sgt. Shane Clark, Arizona's senior enlisted advisor. "To sit down and discuss the issues across the Army enterprise and the Air enterprise was valuable. It showed us that our issues are one and the same. To know that we have the same goals and can work together to achieve them ... that's empowering."
McGuire said the conditions that allow people and teams to thrive depend largely on creating an environment of trust at every level of command.
He explained that 50 percent of a commander's overall authority is automatic by virtue of their position. The other half must be earned, he said.
"Leadership is a gift given by those who follow," said McGuire. "I see each of you holding a glass that is completely full of integrity, honor, respect, judgment, and courage. My glass is only half full. For any leader to have a full glass, each subordinate must give a drop from the contents of his or her glass to the commander, not because they have to, but because it is earned."
The general said trust is earned when leaders get out of the office and meet people where they work. While electronic communication may be good for relaying data and facts, it is not a replacement for seeking people out to hear about their challenges and achievements.
McGuire also said trust is created by how commanders react when they hear the truth.
"The rules are, 'Tell me the truth and give me your best effort.' I have never said, 'Never make mistakes,'" said McGuire. "That is an unattainable goal. We will have individual failures but we should never have team failures. If you create an environment of trust they will tell you the truth. How will you react when you hear it?"
By summit's end, the general urged each leader to follow through with the Wellness Warrior innovations discussed and empowered them to meet the needs of their people.
"I understand that there are limitations," he said. "We can fill this room with regulations. We can talk at length about limited resources and limited authority, but someone has to take the risk. Great commanders know how to take just the right amount of risk."
He acknowledged the realities of adversity. "It will always be there. Life happens," he said.
"Competition and adversity make us stronger by making us exceed what we thought was possible. In a fair race, we will be successful because there is greatness in each of us. Just have hope ... if you have hope, you have a chance."