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Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader

Author

Jessy Martin

Jessy seeks to develop others using a combination of his experience, lessons learned from mentors, and inspiration from educational pursuits. Jessy holds an MBA from Washington State University. Jessy's views do not represent those of the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. government.

Daily Deliberation: 26 November 2017

Everyone these days has a platform to shout at the world from.  What’s been lost is understanding that perspectives differ and that we don’t all need to agree in our views.  I had a professor once explain perspective as watching a football game from seats in different areas of the stadium or, what’s more, if those spectators had arrived to the game at different times.  Each of those people have a different view and opinion on the game.  That perspective changes further when you mix in emotion–for this analogy, add diehard fans of one team and diehard fans of the other.  It changes the dynamic and the view of the game–and people’s perspectives–even more.  Remember that we can agree to disagree and discuss topics rather than argue about them.

We might also agree that a little friendly football rivalry smack-talk never hurt anyone…GO COUGS!

~Jessy

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Daily Deliberation: 25 November 2017

I treat everyone differently.  Why?  Well, it comes down to a few things.  Management and leadership, while vastly different, really boil down to getting the most out of people and realizing their full potential.  Remember all those personality characteristics you learned about (think DiSC profiles) in the various levels of PME?  There is some validity to how you approach each person because their motivations may not match your style of leadership and their motivations vary.  For some, frequent reassurance of their value is warranted whereas for another person, leaving them alone to do their work is preferred and the occasional chuck on the shoulder keeps them going.  Some are more reserved, others more outgoing.  Models like the DiSC profile system and Situational Leadership model are just a few ways we attempt to diagnose our approaches to people.  Remember that flexibility in leadership is key.  Recognize that each person is unique, that they bring different strengths to the team, and that each requires a different approach.

~Jessy

Daily Deliberation: 24 November 2017

Your job is what you make it.  If you float from duty title to duty title thinking of only your own career, you’re collecting EPR fodder from that position without thinking or making a difference.  I get it, no one wants to be NCOIC of the Snack Bar.  However, the ‘coveted positions’ are sometimes cheapened by duty title chasers looking to gobble up EPR fodder.  Instead of being resentful of those individuals, blaze your own trail.

You can shine without that coveted position in the squadron.  Instead of waiting for a ‘promotable’ position to open, I volunteered for something unorthodox.  What I found was a duty section that needed a boost.  My approach; reinforce the importance of my subordinate’s duties and focus on the people.  When any of them concocted a new idea or concept, I encouraged it and gave them the autonomy they needed.  I emphasized their baseline duty performance through their evaluations and leveraged my experiences to aid them in any ventures.

Find gaps in your organization.  For me, there were not nearly enough ties to the community that my organization serves.  Once I gained some connections, I leveraged those to provide opportunities to my subordinates and organization to shine.  If the position you hold has people asking, “What does that person do?”, that’s an opportunity for you–show them.  Don’t think of your duty position/title as a listing of AFI requirements–its a summary of your experience and skill applied in a different way.  An AFI cannot possibly cover everything you are capable of.

Always think of your workcenter and the effect you have on it and the people within it.  As an NCO, its not about you anymore–its about others and making the organization better.

~Jessy

 

 

 

Testing: A Strategy For Promotion You Control

I like to think of promotions testing like going for a long distance run.  Your mind, like your body, can fatigue.  A critical factor that plays into testing is your concentration, which wears thin over time as you become mentally tired after focusing on a problem for too long.  Like a long distance run, you have to pace yourself.  Go through the test, answering the easier questions first and skip the harder questions.  Use that scrap piece of paper to note the skipped questions and be sure you mark the appropriate question on your score sheet for the ones you answer.  It would be a shame if you meant to mark an answer for question 10 and accidentally marked the circle on your score sheet for question 9.  This method has helped me focus my mental energy where it counts and has shifted the bulk of the testing time on answering the toughest questions.

~Jessy

Testing: Finding Your Study Method

The foundation of the one factor you truly have control over is studying for your promotions tests.  There are three ways people learn; visual, audio, and tactile.  The key is finding which of those (or combination of) methods work best for you.

For visual learners, you can probably read and easily conceptualize something in your mind.  Using a variety of colors to highlight text would be a useful technique during your study sessions.  For the audio inclined learner, MP3 audio files are useful.  You can also use the ‘Read Out Loud’ function in programs like Adobe to read the document to you.  The last and the most prevalent method I’ve seen in the aircraft maintenance community is tactile learning.  These learners tend to want to put hands on the subject of the lessons they are taught.  One of the methods I use is a tactile method; while I read, I will hold a Rubik’s Cube in my hands and twist it.  This has been successful for me and it’s better than clicking a pen.

Other considerations for your study method are when and where you do it.  ‘When’ is a matter of when you are most apt to read and concentrate during the day.  I am often a night owl; studying at night is okay for me.  Others are more focused in the morning.  ‘Where’ is simply not making yourself comfortable while you study.  I often make the mistake of reading while sitting in bed and I typically do not make it through two paragraphs before I’m falling asleep.

Plan your study sessions out, give yourself a few months to cover the material and know when your testing window is.  Be ready and good luck!

~Jessy

Daily Deliberation: 7 November 2017

This quote by Eleanor Roosevelt couldn’t be more correct.  Not all of your decisions will be hailed as perfect or popular, and that isn’t the goal.  As a production superintendent, I learned that no matter what decisions I made it would make me unpopular with either my supervision or those that worked for me.  Often a balance was struck, but it wasn’t always easy.  I accepted that and understood that there were still endless decisions that lay before me and ultimately I had to make the decision that balanced mission needs with my people’s needs.  Instead of worrying about what people felt about my decisions, I simply accepted that making the best decision that was true to me and the circumstances at the time was the best course of action.  Sometimes those that judge our decisions do not have the perspective that we do on the circumstances we face.

Read Joe’s article titled ‘The Point of Decision’ to get a perspective on evaluating others’ decisions.  Save yourself from the pitfalls of being overly critical of decisions made by others and remember that leadership and management is not a popularity contest.

~Jessy

Airmen Communicate Differently Now!

“I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” – Ben Franklin

Interactions with your Airmen who might be more prone to text you rather than call you or stop you in the hallway to have a conversation make interpreting written messages complicated.  The new generation of Airmen serving today are more comfortable with a fire-and-forget communication medium that allows them to multi-task.

We are bombarded by information from a variety of mediums; the internet via social media and news sites, television, and radio.  The key in today’s world is realizing that these mediums become platforms—especially social media.  People can voice an opinion, show support for a cause, reach out to a network of friends, broadcast a live feed, and ‘make viral’ things we believe are funny, sad, controversial, interesting, or thought-provoking.  Our First Amendment rights are more powerful than ever.  Applying critical thinking to the many aspects of a communication or message is more important now than ever.

Think of communication as an exchange of a message from a sender to a receiver.  First, the sender has to take what he/she wants to convey, translate it into a message, and send it to the receiver.  The receiver gets the message and deciphers it.

Here’s the thing; we all have a variety of preconceived notions that govern how we view the world or how we interpret things.  We gain these through experience, education by our parents, family, or siblings.  The same message is deciphered in different ways by different receivers based on how each of them interpret it.

As a ‘peruser’ of information or messages, one must understand that there are a plethora of fallacies that you can find yourself falling victim to.  The key is knowing what intent is behind a communication and knowing that everyone has an unintended bias when gathering and interpreting information.  Consider the tone of the message, who is saying it, what their views might be based on that information.  Understand your own biases when evaluating information and question the information.

We can also misinterpret phrases and meaning because a certain level of interpersonal ‘flavoring’ is absent in written communication.  Called ‘paralanguage’, it is the meaning behind words often expressed in our verbal and nonverbal characteristics.  Reading a text message doesn’t have the same effect a conversation does—sarcasm and humor can be lost.  Even emoticons do not fully convey the intended meaning behind words.

Critical message here; don’t think that your Airman sent you a snarky text or email and get hasty with your response just because you read it that way.  If you genuinely believe it to be an issue, clarify.  Rank can often blind people to a subordinate’s intended message just because of their notion of those junior in grade or because the subordinate is the member of a younger generation.  Don’t let such things drag communication with your subordinates down–you’ll be a more effective leader for it!

 

Daily Deliberation: 24 August 2017

It can be easy to point out flaws about others and walk away, especially if you have no stake in their success.  Having a ‘me first’ outlook doesn’t highlight you as a leader.  Helping others and thinking ‘we’ means having concern with others and being a stakeholder in their success.  A ‘me’-minded leader thinks of things in how only they think it should be and how it affects them.  A ‘we’-minded leader looks at things from a team standpoint—‘how can I help the team’ or ‘how does this affect us’?  Pointing out someone’s flaws and not extending a helping hand speaks volumes about the kind of leader you are.  Being a ‘we’ leader helps everyone succeed.

‘Differentiate yourself’…what does that mean?

‘Differentiate’ is an illusive word that no one ever really elaborates on when it comes to the topic of promotions.  The reason behind that is as varied as the number of career fields out there—we do so much as a force that it is hard to pinpoint exactly what ‘differentiating yourself’ looks like.

As we examine the climate of the Air Force, it has morphed into one where we are self-focused and always trying to do something to make ourselves stand out under the forced distribution system.  I propose we refocus that energy toward a greater purpose—a purpose you can actually control to weigh in on that forced distribution quota.  Overall, we sometimes focus on the wrong things to ensure we are competitive for promotions—checking our ‘blocks’.  If we are navigating a dark room, sometimes the best way to see our way through that room is by not looking directly at the path we want to take, but catching a glimpse of it through our peripheral vision while focusing our gaze on other points in the room.  A counter-intuitive strategy, but one that works and one that can be applied as a concept toward differentiating yourself.

As an NCO, one of your greatest responsibilities is to develop your subordinates—a fairly broad heading that encompasses several actions.  That is a great place to start and involves a focus not on yourself but on others–like navigating a dark room.  The goal is to focus on others while proving your worth to assume the next higher grade.  A question to ask then, is what strengths do you have that you can pass to others?  Differentiating yourself as a leader means influencing others—how you do that is purely based on your abilities, perception, knowledge and experience.

Do you see a gap in your work center that you have the knowledge to bridge?  Take advantage of it and be the team player that takes responsibility for it.  We all know about problem areas in our workplaces.  As an example, I have a subordinate in my work center that identified an obsolete maintenance training simulator component and worked to correct it.  He actually gained some notoriety at higher command levels because of his diligence—it literally took him a day to do some research and compose a change request for the equipment.  A feather in his cap.  Something out of the ordinary that was not self-serving; he saw an improvement that was needed for him and his peers to do their jobs effectively and he jumped at it instead of complaining about it or wondering why someone had not done anything about it.  Who knows how long that has gone uncorrected until he showed up!  He focused on one thing that allowed him to take another step toward proving his ability to assume a higher grade.

Much of my success has stemmed from influencing others, not a focus on myself.  I had personal goals I pursued but I’ve found through several positions I’ve held that focusing on others has actually helped my career.  While I was never fond of some of the positions I held, I carried out my duties to my utmost because in the end I knew I would take something from those experiences.  I have taken all of my experience and poured it into my current position and its personnel—it paid off big time.  My team won a command-level award for the first time in three years.  I used my experiences to educate and expand what was possible for my subordinates—they carried us as a whole and made it possible to win that award.  I like to think that my experience is my strength as a SNCO managing a section of NCOs, so I leverage it to the best of my ability to help them and the work center.  Imagine if I had a section filled with self-serving people—it would have truly been like the Hunger Games, where people would have simply been vying for the next opportunity to best each other with no teamwork to be had.  Innovation would have taken a backseat to people simply clamping onto the next big ticket volunteer opportunity.

You have a lot more control over your career than you might realize; be bold and step up to the challenges in your work center or use your strengths to pull others up!

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