Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader


Developing Others

Daily Deliberation: 18 August 2017

I think all of our units have a mission and vision statement written or hanging on some wall. We walk past it everyday and may have caught a glimpse. Sometimes, we memorize it because the Chief has called people out during roll calls. What is the purpose? EPR/OPR bullet for our leaders? At least, that is what we tend to think. A vision is intended to paint the picture for where the team is heading. Like before we start a road trip, we know we are going to grandma’s. We need to do the same thing with our teams. Tell them where we are going and the milestones we need to hit along the way and then equip them to accomplish each. This is how you turn random words on a wall into action.

How to Inspire Purpose with Your Team

The Air Force has experienced an exodus of the NCO tier over the past couple of years. Many have stated several different reasons from PME (non-issue now), to forced distribution, to changes in the retirement, to disengaged leadership. After much reflection and discussion with some other SNCOs who want to make a difference, there were two main underlying themes we uncovered: trust and a loss of purpose. I will address the trust issue in another article; however, in this one I want to discuss how we can help our team find their purpose.

As SNCOs we have the ability to peek behind the curtain of the inner workings of the Air Force and it is our duty to communicate the big picture and how our team aligns with it. I always tell my team that if there is a communication, trust or culture issue, it is my fault. So, for those reading this I will take ownership of what I can and try to communicate this the best I am able.

Here is a parable that has been shared in many leadership books: A man came across three stonecutters and asked them what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living.” The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire county.” The third looked up with a visionary gleam in his eye and said, “I am building a cathedral.”

Recently, I asked some of our Crew Chief students what tasks they did that particular day. One replied she opened the cargo door and ramp on the C-17. “That sounds very interesting. How did you do that?” Her response was initially a simple ‘by-the-book’ answer. Then I asked her to walk me through the process and she did so flawlessly. Lastly, I asked why she needed to learn how to do that. She said, “Because my instructor said I had to.” This answer is like the one given by the first stonecutter. She was just doing the job because she was told to.

A lot of people in our shops are the same way. They are the people who ready to go as soon as the duty day ends. They are only there because they were told to be. No one has communicated the importance of what they do. Then you will find a handful of people who are akin to the second stonecutter. They are working to be the the best technician they can be. The likely scenario is a hard-working NCO pulled them aside and instilled pride in them. I used to do this as a NCO. I would talk about how each job we did on the aircraft had our name on it and I wanted people to see my name and know it was done right.

Now, think about all of the deployments you have been on or the different shops you have been apart of. You can see how the contributions of others made certain things happen. I remember the day I realized how a small issue back at home station impacted an aircraft getting to its next several stops in time to reach a small window where it could land at its midway point. This cost the mission at least another day. Then this snowballed all the way to the deployed location where the aircraft ultimately was three days late with cargo going to a forward deployed Army unit. And who knows exactly how that impacted them fully.

I saw back to my younger days when I was faced with similar issues that technician faced back at home station that started the snowball in motion. There were times I was the first stonecutter and was just going through the motions of the day and didn’t want to start something new because it would hold me over shift. There were those times I was so prideful in being the best Crew Chief, that I would not ask for help and try to figure it out all on my own. My personal pride of being seen as ‘the man’ outweighed the overall big picture of getting the plane fixed.

What I was missing in my earlier days was the picture of that soldier sleeping in the dirt under his MRAP waiting for his supplies to arrive on my plane. Or the picture of the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina or the Haiti earthquakes being airlifted on a C-17. Or the many other awesome things our teams are supporting all around the world. Sadly, most of the people doing the actual work never get to see the impact of what they are doing. It is up to us to communicate this to them.

I can picture the master mason of the stonecutters sitting with the third and painting the picture of all the people walking into this cathedral they were building. He showed them connecting with God and all the good things that would happen there and how people would marvel at its beauty for years to come. This stonecutter envisioned himself walking through the massive doors and seeing his stone in the archway and another in the floor beneath his feet and another in the wall behind the priest. Without his stones, the cathedral would not exist. What cathedral is being built by your team and how can you help them picture it?

Daily Deliberation: 11 August 2017

Many years ago, a mentor of mine told me that people want to be led. At first I was cynical and thought he must’ve saw this in a fortune cookie. Then I started stepping back and observing groups of people. When something would come up, they were all hesitant to step up and take charge. There would actually be a look of relief on many faces when someone would take ownership. This applies to most areas of our lives. We are always looking to see what other are doing before we step out. What are the leaders in fitness doing to get bigger arms? What are the leaders in <insert industry> doing? People want to be led…so lead them!

Daily Deliberation: 8 August 2017

What if you focused your time on things that mattered? What if you picked one thing that really mattered to you? For example, mentoring others. Taking that spare time in your day to sit and chat with a member of your team about something that was not work related…actually getting to know him or her. I can remember the leaders who did this in my life and they are the ones who I truly trusted because I knew I was not just a cog in the wheel; rather, a member of the family.

Daily Deliberation: 3 August 2017

Being a leader is not about getting a fancy duty title or fringe benefits. The 1950’s model of leadership was to have the minions serve the boss. They would run in front of him and remove the obstacles in his path, they would lay their jackets over the mud hole so his boots wouldn’t lose their luster. That is an archaic view and completely opposite of what a leader is. A leader should be looking for and destroying the obstacles in the paths of his team members so they can do amazing things for the organization. When this happens, there are hordes of people achieving goals for the team not multiple people serving the whims of one person.

Daily Deliberation: 29 July 2017

“I can’t do that right now.” How many times a day do we say this to our team or to our families? It saddens me to think about all the times I put off time with my kids for something that doesn’t matter in the long run. “After I reorganize this sock drawer, I will play catch with you.” My sock drawer isn’t going anywhere, but my boy will eventually leave home. We do the same thing to those we work with. That mountain of emails will be there tomorrow and even if we clean out our tasker list, it will come back. Take the time to invest in your team first and then alphabetize your socks.

Daily Deliberation: 12 July 2017

I recently wrote a letter to me from the future. It was from my daughter (currently 7) as she started her first day of college 11 years from now. The letter talked about some of the great things we did together and highlighted traits of the woman she became. This causes me to be more deliberate in my interactions with her and to ensure I am contributing to this end goal. This exercise has already helped me to be more patient and to approach several situations in a different light. Imagine if we did this for more areas of our lives.

Daily Deliberation: Happy Independence Day!

Happy 241st Birthday America! It is amazing to see where we started from all those years ago and where are today. I can’t say I agree with all of the political and social ideals that have evolved; however, I can say that I don’t agree because I am free. What hasn’t changed is the fighting spirit of the American warrior and I thank each of you for being a part of this website and for your service to this nation!

Daily Deliberation: 23 June 2017

The greatest success in our lives is when those around us succeed. Investing in myself has been extremely beneficial in many areas of my life for many different reasons. However, investing what I have learned into others, has always been the most rewarding to me. Nothing beats seeing one of our teammates achieving a hard-fought goal knowing we helped.

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