Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Didn't Think So

The FAA has a position at headquarters in Washington, DC for dispensing propaganda. Really. I can only imagine that the people who support this sort of disingenuous information don't believe that their workforce is astute enough to see it for what it is. I'm insulted. I should probably be as equally disturbed that I would spend any amount of time actually visiting the site and reading the drivel. But I do.

A couple weeks ago the main propagandist, Gerald Lavey, penned the following article:

Executive, Heal Thyself

March 5, 2009

In the last several years, the FAA has gotten better at measuring performance — with the agency's strategic Flight Plan and the business plans as the cornerstone of this effort. But, recently, as I was reflecting on my role as an executive, I couldn't help but wonder if we executives often don't use the wrong metrics to measure our own performance. We’re pretty good at measuring employee performance, but I am not so sure we’re as good at measuring our own.

How often do we hear executives talking about how busy they are? But, I wonder sometimes if they — we — are busy about the right things. Our desks are groaning under the weight of paperwork we “can’t get to” because we’re so busy. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot, I would suggest, and often it has nothing to do with workload.

Somebody once wisely observed that many people never actually leave their previous jobs. Even when they become senior managers or executives, they keep doing the same job they had before — simply because they feel more comfortable working at that level. They found success there, so they prefer to stick with something that works for them.

Of course, the consequences are serious morale and productivity problems at the staff level, and an absence of leadership at the top — a problem that always makes it to the top of the charts in employee surveys and feedback.

So, what’s the solution? Like so many other things, there’s no easy answer. But, for starters, I would suggest we executives need to reexamine our roles. We could start by remembering that we weren’t made executives to become “super” controllers, technicians, or staffers. Or glorified copy editors who feel they have to leave a mark on every piece of paper that hits their desks, like animals marking their territory.

Presumably we were made executives to lead — to make those who work for us successful, and thus make the organization successful. Leadership is not about control or power. In fact, it is not primarily about us at all. It’s about the employees. Until we have that Copernican epiphany, realizing that we are not at the center of this workplace universe, things will probably never change.

Gerald E. Lavey
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Corporate Communications

Don't be fooled. Actions speak louder than words. Much louder. And the FAA's actions over the past few years have been rooted in anything but what Gerald wrote about. They've disparaged, insulted and demoralized the workforce at every turn. But now they would like us to believe that it's time to reevaluate that approach. Is it possible that Lavey fears the 'change' a new administration will bring to the FAA and because of that he's now singing a more conciliatory tune? Had McCain been elected do you suppose Gerald Lavey would've penned what he did in his most recent column? There's no way to know but I have a strong hunch that he wouldn't have.

There's much in Gerald's words to pick apart but in my response to Focus FAA published in the latest edition, I made my 'focus' his last paragraph:

You're not serious are you? There's been no leadership exemplified by faa management for far too many years. There's been a 'boot to the throat' mentality and a demoralizing of the workforce (controllers) certainly but there's been no leadership. Real leaders lead by example.

Every controller I work with would've had no issues with having our pay capped if only management had done the same to their pay. Anything less is unacceptable. You want us to pay for your Nextgen grandiose delusions but none of you have contributed one penny toward the effort.

I was sequencing several JFK arrivals 30 miles in trail over Nebraska and Iowa last week. It was a bit complicated with all the chop and other overflight traffic I had to contend with. In all of that I wondered how Nextgen would've made my life easier and I couldn't come up with anything. More runways would be nice I thought.

Anyway, thanks for the laugh about leadership. One can't help but be amazed that they actually pay you to write this tripe.

Okay, maybe the last sentence was unnecessary. No, actually it was dead on. Why is the FAA paying this person a salary in the range of $172,000 to serve as a spokesman. It seems like a lot of money for as little benefit as the public receives.

The boot to the throat mentality I spoke about isn't just me regurgitating some tired union rhetoric as many would likely discount it as. I've lived it.

If Gerald Lavey is serious about his words then I'm encouraged. But, it's going to take more than his words or the words of anybody with their hand on the rudder of the Good Ship FAA to instill in me any sort of trust or confidence in them. Does anybody think for one second that there would be any conciliatory change had Obama not been elected? I didn't think so.

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