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Enabling world class teamwork

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- World class teamwork is vital to the success of our mission to safely deliver satellites to space. To accomplish our mission, we maintain the launch base, care for our personnel, operate the range, and prepare rockets and satellites for flight. Teamwork is vital because a wide range of skills are required to perform these tasks. Our teamwork must rise to world class levels because space flight is complex with little margin for error as evidenced by the recent failure of Russia's Mars probe.

One way to help achieve world class teamwork is to foster an atmosphere of candor. Google defines candor as "the quality of being open and honest in expression."

When there is candor in the planning phase, team members are more likely to speak up, offer ideas to improve the plan, debate those ideas and forge a stronger plan. In the execution phase, candor prevents miscommunication and misinterpretation. Finally, candor is essential in the post-mission debrief where the goal is to identify areas for improvement.

The best way to encourage candor is to practice it ourselves and set the example. We can start by giving constructive feedback to our teammates and not getting defensive when we receive feedback ourselves. If this makes us uncomfortable, we probably aren't working in an atmosphere of candor and the time is right to improve the situation.

Some of us might need to work on our delivery to ensure "open and honest" is perceived as a sincere desire to help and not a personal attack. When we serve in leadership roles, we can go further by encouraging others to speak, taking the time to listen and acting on their suggestions. Actions like these are the best way to foster candor.

As people become comfortable speaking with candor within their groups and between organizations, we'll maximize our performance by harnessing more of our collective brain power. We'll also be able to acknowledge our organizational weaknesses and work together to improve them. It seems like a small thing, but candor will make a big difference as we work together to build a world class team.