Lately, I have begun reading the books written by Jocko Willink and his views are so simple and yet no one does them. In his book Extreme Ownership he talks about owning the things in our control. If I mess up, own it and move forward. We all make mistakes, our team sees them and it does no good to hide from them. Admit the mistake and own the consequences. Then discuss with your team how you are going to solve it.
So many times in my life I sat around waiting to find the motivation to act. Most of the time, it never showed up for me. It was up to me to take the action to get moving. Once I did, my motivation appeared. Stop worrying about how you are going to accomplish everything before you even get moving. Take the first step and then the next one will naturally follow.
I am so fortunate to have my father in my life. He told me from an early age that there will always be someone better than me. On the surface this sounds very cruel; however, in reality it means that if I want to get into the top tier, I have to earn my way. Not only do I have to earn my way there, I have to ensure I am earning my keep in that role. We constantly have to learn and push ourselves. The moment we stop is the moment another takes our place.
I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about quitting something. Sometimes it is a good thing because it eats up my time with no real reward. Most of the times, the things I want to quit are good things, but I can’t see the reward right now. I have to do my best to employ my: plan, do, next strategy and it seems to truly help. When I look at some menial task as the next step to get to where I want to be, it makes it much easier to push through.
Most of our problems with other people revolves around communication. Either we are not able to clearly communicate our point or we are not able to communicate our perspective. Next time you get upset with someone, think about how you could communicate things differently to them.
Tis the season. The holidays are upon us as are the SSgt SCOD EPRs. One of the most frequent questions we are asked during this time frame is how can push our SSgts higher on the list for Forced Distribution? I think the better question is how should a SSgt EPR read?
To be clear: I am not talking solely about making people look good on paper. I am suggesting that we need to be developing our members throughout the year and capture their efforts on paper. I am not a fan of “inflating” our teammates for the sake of EPRs.
The greatest piece of Air Force literature still remains to be the 36-2618 (Enlisted Force Structure). This book has been about 90% accurate for every new rank I have made and has provided me guidance on what to strive for when my supervisors did not. In there, it discusses what a SSgt “should” look like. They “are primarily highly skilled technicians with supervisory and training responsibilities.” This quickly read statement holds the keys to being a good SSgt.
Highly skilled technician: know your job. SSgts should be able to do their job with no one looking over their shoulders. No one should be coming behind them to fix their mistakes. They are trusted to care for their piece of the pie.
Example: SSgt Lawrence troubleshot and fixed landing gear issue… He generated 100 missions throughout the year… etc. are all examples of this. How is the SSgt doing their job well? Bullets showing job skills are often “me” focused.
Supervisory responsibilities: Typically, this is where you are a first-time supervisor with some Airmen to shepherd. You have CDCs to track, EPRs to write, feedbacks to perform, dorm inspection fails, and all of the other supervisory challenges that come with this new role.
Example: SSgt Lawrence challenged Airman X to get an 85% on CDCs… He led a volunteer clean-up event… These bullets usually show one-on-one leadership impacts or small team efforts.
Training responsibilities: Teach new Airmen and newly assigned teammates how to do their jobs. Also, teaching your subordinates how to be in the service.
Example: SSgt Lawrence trained 5 Airmen on 200 core tasks… He became the unit CPR instructor… Again, these are one-on-one or small team efforts.
A good SSgt EPR shows a mixture of all three of these things.
Now to take this up a notch to develop great SSgts, you need to show how they are ready for the next stripe. TSgts are the “organization’s technical experts.” This is a detail often overlooked as most SSgts are so skilled, they assume they are the technical experts already. I see this all the time as they say, “I am an expert, I can do that task in half the time of my peers.” That is the definition of highly skilled.
Technical expertise is when you know your job so well that you are solving problems. “Noticed trend of #4 main tires being changed out-of-cycle. Discovered factory bolt installed backwards on all block 11 aircraft.” A different way to say this is that highly skilled technicians are hands-on experts and technical experts are able to connect the dots of a bigger picture based on their skills.
Work to develop your SSgts to 1) be very good at being “highly skilled technicians with supervisory and training responsibilities.” as discussed above. and then 2) teach them to take a step back to see the whole picture and help them connect the dots to solve problems not to simply fix discrepancies.
As you do this, they will grow in their supervisor and trainer roles organically. You can’t solve problems without leading a team of leaders or training people on a mass scale to implement a smarter solution.
Have you ever had a great idea that you didn’t put into action? What about the times you DID execute a plan? Most of wait for everything to line up just right so we can look like a genius with our plan. I have learned that if everything is just right, it is not something that is wanted or needed. The best things in life are those things we work for.
For most of my time as a SNCO I was afforded the opportunity to make tough decisions. I never wanted to betray this trust by taking the easy way out and doing what everyone else was doing. Instead, mentors taught me to seek out the problems our Amn and NCOs were facing and solve them. I have failed more times than I have succeeded, but every time I was able to move a rock from the path of a teammate, it was worth it.
This is a much harder thing to put into action. We do not get to pick the jobs we do while in the military. I was placed onto a lot of crappy jobs while working as a Crew Chief on the flightline. However, those on the shift found ways to make the best of it. We would tease each other, encourage each other, and basically embrace the suck. I still think of many of those nights doing the worst gigs on the line and look at the moment fondly because of the team. Find that thing in your job that you enjoy: the people, a soft skill like customer service, or whatever gets you fired up…if you’re stuck figuring it out: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to me on linkedin.