Are you setting the right standard?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael Bedney
  • 319th Security Forces Squadron
In February of 1998, I was a young maintainer stationed at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and I had just become a noncommissioned officer. I had two Airmen working in my section and we all got along well together. I remember feeling like I had arrived and nothing was going to bring me down. The day after pinning on my staff sergeant stripes, one of my Airmen called me by my first name in front of my supervisor. Let's just say that my second day as an NCO didn't go as well as the first. My supervisor promptly called me into his office and asked me one simple question that has stuck with me to this day -- what kind of standard are you setting?

To be honest, I did not fully understand what he meant at that time. I had been a NCO and a supervisor for two days, and had not had a chance to sit down a do a feedback session yet. As my supervisor explained it to me, it began to sink in. He was not talking about feedback. He was talking about a missed mentoring opportunity. Unfortunately, these mentoring opportunities are still missed far too often today.

In simple terms it boils down to this -- If you allow something to happen, then that becomes the new standard. It does not matter what you have told your Airmen in feedback sessions or what they have read in the Air Force Instruction. All that matters is that their supervisor allows it, so it must be okay.

I firmly believe that all Airmen want to do the right thing. Some simply do not know what the right thing is because they were never shown or told what the standard is. Unfortunately they have been permitted to do the wrong thing, thus lowering the standard. For example, I came upon a young man at the fitness center the other day with his physical training shirt un-tucked. I stopped and talked to him about how to properly wear the PT uniform. He told me that he often wore his shirt that way and had yet to be corrected. To this young man, wearing the PT shirt un-tucked was the standard because he had been allowed to do so.

I know that we all lead busy lives. The last thing we want to do is stop what we are doing and correct someone who is not meeting the standard. I know I do not like doing it, but I do it because it is the right thing to do. I challenge each of you to correct behavior that you know is not meeting the standard. The choice is up to you, but either way you are setting a standard. Just make sure it is the right one. As I said earlier, most Airmen want to do the right thing. Most Airmen will even thank you for setting them straight. I know I would.