Superman, base hits, and the paycheck event

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Alan Paolucci
  • 13th Intelligence Squadron
Anyone who works with me knows I'm prone to using metaphors and analogies to get my point across. While unrelated, "Superman, Base Hits and the Paycheck Event" pretty much captures my philosophy toward work and leadership. 

Who's Superman? He's that person who gets stuff done through truly heroic displays of hard work and/or micromanagement. He cannot leave anything to chance, and therefore must do, or oversee, all things himself. 

We've all experienced Superman. Heck, some of us have even been Superman once or twice before. But Superman is bad for the Air Force, and here's why: 

1. Working with Superman leads us to become spectators. It's much easier to just sit back and watch him go! He doesn't need us, and probably doesn't want us interrupting his flow. He'll get the work done because that's what he does. 

2. Working for Superman is a slippery slope toward intellectual laziness and lack of initiative. "Superman will tell me what to do and how to do it." It's great until Superman PCS's; then you're responsible for independent thought. Yikes! 

3. When Superman works for you, it's so tempting to just turn your tasks over to him. But in the long run, that discourages the rest of the shop and contributes nothing to readiness and technical proficiency. 

I think you get the picture. So, if you're a Superman kind of guy, try being Clark Kent for a little while. Maybe, just maybe, there are solid troops in your shop just waiting for opportunity. Clark Kent can't be the hero, he needs to rely on teamwork to get the job done. 

And teamwork is what it's all about. Let's talk about baseball for a moment. In baseball, you win games primarily through base hits and teamwork. While home runs are heroic and garner much glory and admiration, it's the "slow and steady" of base hits that wins games. 

If your shop is over-reaching and trying unsuccessfully to hit home runs, maybe a few base hits are in order. Small, permanent accomplishments over time will result in long-term success. True, you may not be a "home run hero," but let's not choose "bling" over substance. 

The last of my analogies is what I call the Paycheck Event. Here's the scenario. You get your LES and you realize something is wrong. What do you do? Do you send an e-mail to someone in Finance, then check on it every two weeks? Do you ask someone in your shop to look into it for you? Do you wait until next month to see if it fixes itself? No, no, and heck no! You get in your car and drive over to finance for a face-to-face and work it until the problem is fixed. Your personal finances are too important to leave to chance. That's a Paycheck Event. 

I tell my guys if there's a problem that affects the mission, make it a Paycheck Event. There's very little confusion on the amount of attention something should get after that. 

I find myself using these three illustrations often. They're simple, straightforward and convey ideas very quickly. They can help make you a more effective leader. 

If you're frustrated at work because you're always swinging for the fence, try plan B: base hits. The Paycheck Event is always a good way to explain how to pursue a solution. And the next time you see Superman at work, show him this article.