Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Diversity seminar provides unique insight at AMC, A/TA Symposium

by Capt. Carolyn Glover
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

10/30/2015 - 10/30/2015 - Orlando Florida -- Mobility experts attending the 2015 Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium had the opportunity to develop their perspective on the relevance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Howard Ross, a nationally-recognized expert on diversity, leadership, and organizational change, opened the seminar with a thought-provoking statement, "We don't actually think the way we think we think."

And, through a series of short social experiments, scientific explanations, and study summaries, he illustrated the impact of individual bias and how personal experiences impact perspective and decision-making processes.

Ross defined bias as a function of the mind and "a tendency or inclination that results in judgment without question."

Human beings are biased by nature, impacted by a lifetime of experiences, emotions, and interactions.

"(Bias has) nothing to do with quality of character... It has to do with the lens your life experience gives you for seeing the world," he explained.

Bias, in fact, develops from the same part of our mind that enables the quick and decisive decision making military members are trained and encouraged to execute. Despite the influence of bias on perspective and decisions, Ross highlighted the human ability to slow down the thought process to prevent automatic reaction and encourage thoughtful, better decisions.

He provided a series of recommendations that may impact one's ability to effectively encourage thoughtfulness, and thus limit the implications of personal bias.

Ross concluded his presentation by urging the audience to accept the existence of biases, evaluate personal biases, practice 'constructive uncertainty', engage more often with those considered 'others', and give and provide feedback.

"It is possible to change the human system," he stated.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox, 18th Air Force commander, closed the seminar by emphasizing diversity as an important mission area. "We have to have an environment that is inclusive of all the ideas and all the talent that we have," he said. Only in a diverse environment, will Airmen come forward with the diverse ideas that our Air Force needs to grow and develop."

One commander in attendance decided to take on this call to action. Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, 37th Training Wing commander, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, intends to bring lessons learned at the seminar to the junior leaders at his wing, whom he says are integral to the success of any organization.

"As leaders, we owe this professional development opportunity we just experienced to our front line supervisors and those at the middle level of the organization. He believes the junior force must develop an understanding of bias, and how to effectively overcome it, so by the time they are in senior leadership positions the principles will become second nature.

"If we develop our future leaders now ... they will become comfortable and familiar with the concepts. It will become second nature," said Edwards.

Eventually, bias awareness will become part of their culture.

Capt. K. Strub, a communications officer attending the symposium, found the lessons learned eye opening. She plans to return to her squadron with open eyes, and an increased willingness to put herself in other people's shoes.

"(Bias) is not something you would naturally recognize. Be aware you have biases, even if you think you don't. You do. It's a natural part of human nature."

The AMC and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium is the premier Mobility Air Forces professional development forum, offering education on matters with a global impact. The symposium serves as a key professional development forum for MAF Airmen by enable direct access to senior mobility leaders, and fostering an environment encouraging open dialogue and honest discussion

The importance of mentorship

By Lt. Col. Scott Linck, 71st Student Squadron commander / Published October 30, 2015

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFNS) -- When I worked at U.S. Africa Command, the organization took steps to connect its member countries and cultures, to include referencing local proverbs during meetings.

The most frequently mentioned saying was, "If you want to travel fast, travel alone; if you want to travel far, travel together."

This was an effective rallying cry that reminded the various organizations within the command that success wasn't measured by individual achievements, but by the success of the entire team.

For any team to achieve sustained, ever-increasing success it needs to do more than just work well together. It needs a process to refresh and grow leaders from within.

That process is mentorship. As defined by Air Force Manual 36-2643, "Air Force Mentoring Program," mentorship is "a relationship in which a person with greater experience and wisdom guides another person to develop both personally and professionally. This relationship will help achieve mission success and motivate Airmen to achieve their career objectives."

Although mentorship has been around for a number of years, it hasn't been widely implemented. This could be due to high operations tempo, limited understanding of how to establish a mentoring program, or frequent personnel changes.

Whatever the reason, it is time to break the cycle where new personnel struggle with the same issues faced by those that came before. Leaders need to establish meaningful connections with subordinates to foster and develop the diverse strengths, perspectives, and capabilities of all Airmen.

These connections are arguably more critical in a time of fiscal austerity and shrinking force structure. Each remaining Airman becomes more important, increasing the need for leaders to develop structured programs to pass wisdom, information, and advice.

Where to begin? AFMAN 36-2643 provides the basic information needed to establish a mentoring program. It outlines the roles of mentor and mentee, how communication is passed between the two parties, suggests goals for the program, and provides links to additional resources.

From there the path is up to you. As an example, the 71st Student Squadron established a mentoring program centered between flight commander and student pilot. They meet five times during training; essentially having a conversation each time the student transitions to or from each training phase.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting they are consistently learning new things about themselves and the Air Force; preparing the mentees to successfully assume future leadership roles.

Mentoring is best defined as a process of engagement. No one can mentor without connection. Leaders must actively seek out opportunities to establish these connections to ensure that all members of the Air Force team are prepared to "travel far and travel together."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Leading the way: A spark to start a fire

By Senior Master Sgt. Michael Roxberry, 23rd Operations Support Squadron / Published October 27, 2015

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- As a leader, do not let your ego get in the way. Stand tall, but not above everyone else. Do not tell people what to do, show them. Showing them is what leading is all about. When you show them, you are creating that spark.

Much like a fire, it all starts with a small spark. It started the minute you stepped off the bus at basic training and continues throughout your entire career. At each critical stage of your career, you received everything necessary to become a leader. What it takes now is that fire, the drive to want to be a great leader.

Sometimes, a single torch is not enough to light the way. If you want the Air Force to glow, you will need to spread the fire. Start a fire in your subordinates, in your senior leaders, and within yourself.

How do you start a fire in your subordinates? It is always easier said than done. The simple answer is to inspire them to not only want to do more, but to do more while performing their absolute best. Actions such as these take more than simply commanding an action to occur, they require setting a standard, holding others to the standard, and, most of all, becoming that standard yourself. Simply establishing and enforcing a standard will not create the spark, it will take inspiration and motivation.

Motivation can come in many forms, such as awards, praise and especially empowerment. Airmen, today more than ever, want to be empowered and part of something bigger than them. As a senior non-commissioned officer, you must create an atmosphere where orders are not simply given, but tasks are explained beyond the order. Tying actions to something much greater than local directives and then empowering your Airmen to do it; this will inevitably create that fire.

Igniting a fire in your subordinates is very important, but you must also create one in those above your rank. Developing a spark in your senior leadership is not easy and takes time, but once the fire is burning, the sky is the limit. Be that senior NCO that your leaders go to for information and solutions. Supply your answers with research and options and become their sounding board and trusted advisor.

One of the best things you can do to help inspire your superiors is to become a humble, approachable and credible leader. With these leadership traits, your leadership can become comfortable making critical and risky decisions because they know that you are humble enough to understand that you do not know everything and that you will do your research before making recommendations. They know that you are approachable enough that they can discuss things without you looking at them like they are absolutely crazy, and credible to the point where whatever advice you provide is factual and based upon sound judgment and common sense.

For instance, I worked for a group commander at a previous duty assignment that would question me about a variety of issues, how I responded determined how deep he would dive into the discussion. If I did my homework and told him all the facts, risks, issues and recommended solutions, he would tell me, "fair enough ... press on." If I didn't provide him the answer he was looking for, he would continue to dig until he was satisfied that I had a good grasp of the issue. I quickly learned that I could never go to him with a "no" answer; it was always a "yes sir, we can do this, but here are the risks and here is how we can mitigate those risks.” Our relationship grew stronger because he always knew that I would not just provide him with a surface answer to appease him, but would, in fact, relay to him an honest-to-god assessment of the issue.

If you can focus on becoming humble, approachable and credible, you will not only become a better leader, but you will inspire your superiors to become better leaders, thus adding fuel to the fire.

This leads to the final and most difficult area where you need to create a fire; within yourself. I associate this to trying to light a match in a windstorm. While not impossible, it is extremely challenging. Changing something within ourselves takes great dedication and drive. When times are tough, you must have the will to not give in.

It is more than just getting internally motivated to do daily tasks, it is about becoming the best at what we do, in everything we do -- addressing each task as if it were the most important thing in regards to national security. Much like our Air Force core value, "Excellence in All We Do," this is an internal fire that should not and must never be extinguished. If your fire goes out and you lose that spark, expect those around you to see and feel the effects, thereby affecting the mission.

There were times in my career where my flame began to flicker. It took several mentors and good friends of mine to put me back on track. They reminded me why I began this journey in the first place -- wanting to serve our country. They reminded me that what I was doing was much larger than I was and that it was not about me, it was about the Airmen I was leading. It was about making the next generation better than mine.

Get out from behind your desk and be an involved leader. Far too often, we get bogged down with the day-to-day paperwork that we forget that you cannot lead papers; you lead people. Unless your Airmen see you and can speak with you, there will be a void and a lost opportunity to create a spark.

Finally, let others inspire you. Get out and see the great work our Airmen are accomplishing. Let the positive attitude of the hard workers become contagious and figure out how to get those that are less inspired to be more so. Seeing them change will help inspire you.

It is vital that we start a fire in the Air Force by inspiring our Airmen to do the best at everything they do. It is important to provide the fuel and the air to the spark in your subordinates and your leaders. Become a leader that is humble, approachable, and credible and treat yourself and your career like a fire. If you do not feed it and keep it burning, it will die off and you will be left standing in the dark.

The famous business philosopher, Jim Rohn, stated, "The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly."

So feed your fire. Leadership is not an exact science; it takes trial and error. It is important to educate yourselves and become more informed on not only leadership, but anything that can make you more credible. Understand that you will make mistakes. Own your mistakes and teach others to do the same.

Now go out, create that spark, and start some fires.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Feedback is essential to AF integrity

By Lt. Col. John Hansen, 86th Comptroller Squadron commander / Published October 15, 2015

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- I was going through some old files, and I found a few notes that were written to me by the comptroller of a major command on several different occasions. One letter conveyed his best wishes on my birthday. A second one thanked me and my unit for our hospitality during his recent visit to the base. These letters reminded me how important it is to maintain constant communication at all levels.

The letters also reminded me of the lost art of written communication. These were not short emails tasking me with a suspense or requesting information; they were handwritten letters that showed he took the time to sit down at his desk and write them longhand, with the singular purpose of providing positive feedback from one professional to another.

As I am also in the middle of performing midterm feedback sessions, they reminded me I should take a great deal of time to carefully prepare the Airman Comprehensive Assessment (ACA) feedback worksheet, Air Force Form 724.

The Air Force specifically designed this new feedback form in order to better facilitate a dialogue between a member and supervisor. In fact, this form will need to be routed through the coordination process for members' enlisted performance reports. In addition to taking the time to complete the form, I sat down with each individual and provided feedback, in terms of improvements to be made and behavior to sustain.

It is not necessarily easy to provide honest feedback. Obvious deficiencies can be easy to identify and communicate, but it can be difficult to come up with areas of improvement for your unit's outstanding performers. However, it can and must be done, as everyone has room for improvement.

You must be deliberate and judicious when giving feedback to your ratees. Most people take feedback given to them seriously, and they may even take it personally.

Consequently, it is vital to take the time to prepare the exact message you want to convey and the most appropriate method in which to deliver it. A simple sentence may resound with your ratee long after your feedback session, with positive or negative impacts lasting years or even throughout that member's entire career.

Moreover, feedback should not be one-directional. Subordinates and peers need to engage in a constant, fact-based cross-feed with one another. If your organization has a disruptive person, his or her peers have the responsibility to step up and let the person know that they are negatively affecting the unit. Conversely, peers can provide positive reinforcement when they see a member suffering. That positive communication can be the impetus for turning someone's day or even their life around.

Subordinates can provide valuable feedback as well. There seems to be the temptation not to tell the boss bad news, but, as the saying goes, bad news never gets better with age.

Telling the emperor that he or she has no clothes might be difficult or embarrassing, but the only way to affect change is if subordinates provide positive, constructive, fact-based feedback to the organization's leadership. Subordinates, and everyone for that matter, need to understand that there is a tactful way to provide feedback, and, when in doubt, use the Golden Rule on how you'd communicate feedback in that situation.

Honest and constructive feedback is essential to the integrity of our Air Force units. The Air Force has developed the tools and processes to facilitate this dialogue, but it is up to each and every one of us, at all levels, to provide deliberate feedback to our subordinates, peers and leaders in a way that is tactful and professional.