Diverse organization offers many lessons

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona -- Luke Air Force Base has a rich history of training partner nation's Airmen and continues to maintain this legacy today. Since World War II, we at Luke have been an example of how to effectively absorb differing cultures and create an environment conducive for the visiting airmen to learn the art of aerial warfare.
As the base embarks on our next chapter of international F-35 Lightning II training, we in the 21st Fighter Squadron think it's applicable to share our perspective on successfully training our friends and allies.

Our perspective is broken into four simple components that if adhered to, can provide the leader a simple way of creating an inclusive environment that makes our international pilots feel a part of our community and enhances their training. These components come from a decade and a half of experience. They start with education of the culture, openness to differing perspectives, patience, humility and leveraging the diversity inherent in a multicultural organization.

It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of running a shop or responding to the latest email requests. The excuse of "I'm simply too busy" often impedes our ability to properly prepare for our next endeavor.

In a multicultural environment, it is important to overcome daily pressures and take the time to learn about the new culture you will be working with. Too often we compare others through the lens of our cultural expectations that only creates a "them and us" environment. By using the many resources we have at our disposal, such as typing a few words into Google, we help gain insight into the new culture to avoid surprises and help frame realistic expectations when working with a foreign ally.

By creating realistic expectations, we ease the ability to include other perspectives. With the ability to place oneself in another's shoes, we gain a better understanding of the impact our culturally specific views have when making decisions in a diverse organization. As leaders, it is important to demonstrate to the entire organization that decisions are made with everyone's views in mind. This helps to create a cohesive team.

If by now, you are thinking this is merely the "touchy feely" side of today's thinking, then you could probably use a little of the third component: patience and humility. We in the U.S. have not cornered the market on intelligence and often find ourselves impatient to get the job done. But in exercising a bit of patience and humility, we often find new answers to old problems. Sometimes patience gives us the ability to truly understand what is being communicated to us, rather than jumping to a conclusion that is far from the intended message.

As to humility, well, it should always be a component of any warrior. We should always check our ego at the debrief door. This quality only adds to a leader's ability to be open to new perspectives and gives members ownership of the organization.
Humility also leads us to the final component necessary in a multicultural environment -- that is leveraging your organization's diversity.

By understanding our diversity we can glean a multitude of answers rather than what just one perspective brings. By opening up to the fact that no one culture has all the answers, we can combine the best of each to become a more resilient organization that leverages strengths and minimizes weaknesses.