Back to the basics

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patrick Michaels
  • 319th Operations Group first sergeant
As leaders we're expected to be experts at our job. But our jobs require us to have a bigger picture of how processes work and how different organizations on base interoperate. In doing so, we run the risk of losing the tactical view of how the job is really accomplished. How can we be experts, when more often than not, we're entrenched in daily management, enlisted performance reports, declarations, awards and taking care of our Airmen?

There's an easy fix, take time to get back to the basics. Crack open the newest version of the technical order, Air Force instructions and checklists that govern your specialty and analyze the changes that have been written into them. Bounce those changes against the way the job is done and think about the ramifications for the person doing the job and the customer. Does it make sense? Set the standard per the guidance and hold your Airmen to it, it's what they want.

Once you've set the standard, enforce it. Enforce it by insisting that your folks meet it. Give feedback and be clear about your expectations. Airmen should come away from a feedback session with a clear understanding of where they stand. Follow up and monitor; informal feedback helps keep folks on the path you want them on.

Don't get caught up in reactionary leadership. Reactionary leadership is relying on progressive discipline to fix problems. Instead, lead toward the future. Rely on standards and expectations. Trust that your Airmen are going to put their best foot forward.

Trust goes a long way in ensuring you get the right answers from your Airmen. It also works the other way. Your Airmen have to trust that you know your job and you are there to back them up. Show them they can trust you by weighing in on the issues that matter. What matters? We've already discussed what matters in the job. Housing, food and good 'ol fashioned knowing your people are what matter outside the technical core competencies of our job.

Take the time to get to know your people. Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, 18th Air Force commander, recently came and spoke to the 905th Air Refueling Squadron. He challenged everyone to take 90 seconds and talk to someone. As an example he picked an Airman out of the audience and asked him his name, hobbies, his immediate family, his extended family and their hobbies. Within that 90 seconds he found out that the Airman had a sister whose hobby was ice-skating. His supervisor, sitting right next to him didn't know that.

Visit your Airmen, whether it's the dorms, base housing or off-base. You can tell a lot about a person and their situation by how they live. For our Airmen in the dorms, visit the dining facility, sit down with them, have a good meal and join in the conversation. . Make sure that our Airmen are not only getting a properly cooked meal, but are receiving the service they deserve.

Getting back to the basics can be difficult. It takes time out of your day that could be spent taking care of all those other things that keep falling off of your plate. It's a process that has to be built into your daily schedule. Use it to understand your Airmen, their job, your job and to set the standard.