Happy Birthday Air Force! 72 years ago we became a separate force and have helped to forge the military and the American way of life ever since. From advanced composite development to pressurized aircraft to GPS to thousands of other innovations; the Air Force has made the world a better place. Great Airmen like Hap Arnold, Billy Mitchell, Chuck Yeager, John Boyd and countless others have shaped history and have paved the path for YOU. Celebrate the birth of the greatest Air service on the planet today and then do your part to shape the future of the Air Force tomorrow. We need you Airman.
We typically instigate all sorts of trouble that could be left alone. When we really listen to others speak to us harshly, it is often them venting about a situation and not us as individuals. However, when we fire back at them they interpret that as the first shot. Basically, be sure your being fired at before returning fire.
We all have had that million dollar idea for an invention. The problem is we didn’t take action. Ideas are only good if they are placed into action. Leaders are those who can take a problem or team and focus their ideas into action.
It is hard to believe that it has been 18 years already. It is crazy to think there are those able to join the service this year who have only known the post-9/11 world. I wait for the day where we can end this war and get back to strengthening the American way. Never Forget those who died that day and those who sacrificed in the 18 years of war that has followed and Never Forget what makes America truly great.
We are a product of our environment. We are introduced to different values and taught certain social traits in our homes. However, every child raised in the same conditions, does not turn out the same. That is because we still have control over who we ultimately become. This is true in the work setting too. Just because we have a bad boss or work in a toxic environment that we can’t control doesn’t spell doom. We still control how we respond to what happens and who we will be when we leave there.
It has been about a year since I took off the uniform and entered the civilian workforce. This process has been eye opening for me and I have learned a lot. One of the biggest lessons I learned is the same one I have learned over and over again throughout my entire life: lead yourself first.
The first text I have ever written on leadership was about my hierarchy of leadership. This is the construct that says you have to learn to lead yourself as a self-leader and then one-on-one leadership before you can lead a team or entire organization. The original document was horribly written, but the concepts are still foundational to my beliefs 12 years later. I learned these principles as a child and then again as a martial artist rising up the leadership chain to ultimately co-lead a school with 250 students, then had to relearn the same principles several times throughout my military career and now once again.
The job and career path I chose was intentional. I did not want supervisory responsibilities at this time. Being a father was priority one. Now, I am only responsible for myself and the product I deliver. For the first time in 20 years, I am an individual contributor again. Within the first week or so, I asked my new boss what his expectations were for me. He simply replied with, “do your job and add value where you can.”
This was pure brilliance. This is essentially what every single supervisor tells their subordinates during feedback sessions and on a daily basis, but few of us truly understand what we are saying. However, if we drive home this mantra, our team will have a basic construct to succeed in any position they are placed into.
Do your job: So many people are busy looking to do so many other things that aren’t part of their job description. They are looking to get the next certification, volunteer at a base event or seek a role in an organization to pad the EPR. This is all good stuff, but useless if you are not able to do your job first.
Effort needs to be placed on challenging yourself in your role. Even if you are a considered an expert, there is still always something new to learn. Set small goals to learn something new each week/month. Once you get to the point peers are asking you how to do things, then you can explore the other things. Even then, if someone else has to “cover” for you, skip the extra stuff for this season.
A way to make things work if you really are passionate is to share the suck. One of my peers really wanted to do a Top 3 event that took him away from the shop for a few hours a week. I really wanted to be at my kid’s soccer practices in the evenings. I took on his duties during those meetings and he took mine so I could leave early to make practice. Don’t be “that guy or gal” who has everyone picking up his slack so you can then add stuff to your quarterly package.
I honestly wish there was more oversight on who was allowed to take on extra roles. We blindly encourage others to do this, but aren’t necessarily picking those who are ready for more. We are picking those who show interest because it is what we were taught to do. I am guilty of doing this too and looking to grow the person without being more creative in growing them in their primary role first. It should be an honor to do some of these things and TRULY an ADDITIONAL tasking, not a get out of work opportunity. I will step down from the soapbox now.
Add value where you can: This is an angle most never think of before but most of us instinctively do it anyways. It looks like this: I am doing my job and see a way to make things better. I fix this problem and now this task is more efficient in the future. We used to do these daily turnover sheets that took hours each day and were useless 10 minutes after turnover. We were the only ones who saw them. One day a friend suggested tinkering with the automated reports generated by the system ALL of the maintenance community used. This not only saved time each day, it increased the quality of information placed in the actual system of record.
We preach these things to our teams, but often don’t see them within ourselves. Being a leader at any level requires us to first lead ourselves. So, do your job and add value where you can.
Being effective is more than just checking things off of the list. We can go through our days and complete 100 tasks, but if they are not moving the team forward, what have we really done. However, if we spend our time doing just one thing that creates an environment others can succeed in; we have become an effective leader.
There are so many bad decisions I have made and have been witness to in my professional life and my personal life. One particular that I remember is a unit commander who thought he had an inside scoop on who was promoted before the official results came out. We did a small celebration congratulating them and later found out he was wrong. It is not so much that he tried to recognize those working hard; it is his response. When he found out he was wrong, he simply said…”oops” not “sorry guys, I stepped out on a limb and was wrong” only oops. We all make bad decisions, it is what we do afterwards that will impact our relationship with those on our teams.
Most Roll Calls went like this: After the initial attendance or “roll” call, the dumping of pointless information follows for the next 5 minutes. These notes which mostly equate to reading out-loud the emails you received so that the flight chief can say everyone was briefed. Then occasionally there is the public shaming of a peer who made a similar mistake that we have all made…except he or she was caught and their punishment is to “educate” us all at roll call. Even more rarely, there are the awards given to those who were on leave during Commander’s Call with a simple “come and get it” presentation.
In none of that was there any direction given or useful information passed. Basically, we not only wasted the time of those standing there hearing about the base picnic, we are wasting a golden opportunity to align our team. This is our chance as leaders to align the team with the direction of the unit.
I have learned over the years the most important thing to communicate are the 4 P’s: Priorities, Problems, Processes and Praise.
Priorities: Share what we are working towards in the short and long term. Stop sending your team off to just go through the motions of the day and then get upset that they are simply going through the motions of the day. Something as simple as, “We have had a trend of errors lately and the group is making it a priority to remove single points of failure. If you see an area like this, bring me your ideas.”
Problems: There is not a shop or workcenter on the planet that doesn’t have some problems. Encourage the team to highlight these areas and then to solve them. A mentor of mine once told me, “If you see a way to make your job better, do it. If you’re not sure, ask. However, I am not doing your job and I don’t always see your problems. Stop tripping over the same thing every day.”
Processes: When there is a process change, this needs to be briefed to those it impacts. This needs to be repeated and briefed and trained until there is no question that all understand it. Processes ensure we are all doing the same thing, the same way, every time. They matter.
Praise: Public humiliation is never effective. It might make a difference for a brief moment, but you lost that person’s heart and trust. The fear of it might defer a few from making the same mistake, but the desired impact is completely lost. Rather, praise lifts everyone up. A simple “thank you” for a specific milestone or action by an individual or team is very powerful. I always look to praise those exemplifying the priorities we are working towards. If you want a behavior repeated, reward it.
Please, look for ways to best leverage the precious face time you are gifted with your team. Wasting a single second on reading spam mail, qualifies as FWA in my book. Use the 4 P’s to help guide you and to align your team on what really matters.