October 28, 2013
“One mission, one goal, one team — we’re all connected,” said Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour. “Acknowledge the obstacles; don’t give them power.”
Armour, founder and CEO, VAI Consulting and Training, LLC, and the first African-American female combat pilot, gave this morning’s keynote presentation at the PRSA 2013 International Conference in Philadelphia. Her speech, titled “Zero to Breakthrough: How a Breakthrough Mentality Creates Breakthrough Results,” spanned her career and transition from military to civilian life.
Armour began her presentation by running through the audience in her flight suit and a leather bomber jacket, while giving high-fives to attendees as the theme song from the film “Top Gun” played. The high-energy, motivational talk touched on the mission to connect us to our shared bottom line through leadership and empowering yourself to adapt to change.
Though Armour has now been out of the Marine Corps for five years, she says that the obstacles she faced still shape her mission today. She relayed several anecdotes from her time spent in Iraq and talked about answering the call when fellow soldiers are in trouble. She likened answering emails and dealing with crises to the enemy popping up. “Sometimes you have to break off to the right, think about what you’re going to do and then, re-engage,” she said. “Remember the magical phrase: You have permission to engage.”
Also, when in flight, she had to remember to take enough fuel with her, to impact her target and to have several contingency plans in case something went wrong.
“When you are in the midst of combat, the pace of change is huge,” she said. “Ask yourself how adaptable you are and be decisive with your choices. How we engage together makes an impact. What is your battle plan for success? If you’re not doing something that keeps you in line with that, then you are off course — and you must keep correcting.”
Armour told the audience: How you engage individually is up to you, and you must give yourself permission. “There are no ground controllers in life,” she said. “But when you hit the target, you’re on fire — you’re ‘cleared hot.’”
Gain access and expose yourself to new things. Empower yourself and know that in that moment, “it was the tangibility of the possibility,” she said.
You can be a leader in your own organization by shaping and forming the message, she added. “You don’t have to have ‘leader’ in your title to be a leader in your organization. Stand up and be counted because you never know who’s counting on you.”
Armour said to discover your passion and remember that a breakthrough mentality creates a breakthrough reality. “They don’t put you on the fast track when you fail a tactics test,” she said. “Life is about transition and failures lead to success; positive thoughts create positive actions,” but the flexibility and adaptability are up to you.
“You can’t see the picture when you’re not in the frame,” she said, as she removed her flight suit to reveal a business suit underneath. “Lives, careers and destinies are shaped by the messages that we send,” Armour said. “If you want people to engage with you, then you need to understand what motivates them.” — Amy Jacques