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Decisions with lasting effects

by Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Johnson
6th Logistics Readiness Squadron

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Johnson, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, during his address to the graduates of Class 05-C from Airmen Leadership School.

First, let me begin by saying your units and the Air Force need you more now than ever before. As we all face extremely high-ops tempos, manning and budget cuts, it is imperative that we focus and operate with a clear cut vision.

Your retention in the Air Force will play a vital role in accomplishing our day-to-day missions and assist in our country's ability to defeat terrorism around the world. It is equally important that you become recruiters to help retain those you will later supervise as you come across young men and women in our communities that have what it takes to wear our uniform - the Air Force needs you to assume this role.

As you take on your new supervisory role, your responsibilities and your accountability will change tremendously. You are no longer responsible for yourselves, but others as well.

Your supervisors and commanders will now look to you for answers and results. They will look to you to be accountable for yourself and those you supervise - so be prepared. Take your responsibilities seriously. You will be placed in positions of trust and your chain of command will depend on you to ensure the processes under your control are carried out efficiently, effectively and correctly.

Never tolerate a violation of regulations, never jeopardize safety or any failure due to lack of effort. You will make mistakes - don't let them overwhelm you - learn from them, shoulder the blame for anything that goes wrong, do everything within your ability to dissect the problem so you and your subordinates can learn from the mistake and correct whatever went wrong.

Become the resident expert in your jobs - delve into the Air Force manuals, technical orders and Air Force Instructions that govern your jobs and know them better than anyone else.

Be the very best you can be no matter what you're tasked to do. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed this point better than I even can, when he said, "If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michael Angelo carved marble. Sweep streets like Raphael painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music and like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, here lives a great street sweeper that swept his job well - be the absolute best at whatever you do."

As you're becoming the best at what you can be, remember to pass your knowledge on to those under your care. It does not do you or your unit any good for you to hoard your expertise. Pass it on and develop the Airmen you are responsible for so your unit thrives and its mission is accomplished with resounding results. Do everything in your power to ensure those you supervise reach their full potential.

Always maintain a positive attitude. When you are positive it rubs off on those you supervise. Enthusiasm is contagious and can deliver extra energy to all parts of an organization.

When you encourage your troops, as well as yourself, it tends to be a powerful motivator and it satisfies personal needs. An effective supervisor will constantly embrace positive goals and display a positive attitude.

Make yourselves available to your people and take time to listen to their concerns - listen to what they say and what they don't say. Never forget, no matter how sophisticated and expensive the computer or weapon system you keep running everyday, they cannot remain in mission ready status unless the people working on them are happy and content in what they're doing and satisfied with the way they are treated.

Separate friendships from supervisory responsibilities - set the standards and take corrective actions when necessary. Be fair in your dealings with others and never show favoritism.

Find someone - an officer, non-commissioned officer or senior-non-commissioned officer you admire for their leadership abilities and emulate their characteristics. This person does not necessarily have to be a member of your unit. They can be from another organization or even another base. Talk to them about your concerns, problems, career progression, how they handle a particular situation or anything pertinent to your personal development and growth.

One of the most important areas of supervising that should never be taken lightly is your responsibility to provide honest and constructive feedback to those you supervise. I cannot stress honest feedback enough! Clearly express your expectations for both on and off-duty performance, behaviors and any goals you want to achieve during the reporting period.

There are three required feedback sessions during a rating period - always conduct them and if more sessions are necessary, do them without hesitation. Never take these periodic assessments lightly and always lay out clearly to your troops how they are performing.

Be true in your assessments of performance. Never sugar-coat the truth by telling your troops what you think they want to hear. The feedback session is designed for you to be straight-forward, so when the counseling ends, the troop walks away with a clear understanding of where he or she stands in regards to performance and adherence to standards during the rating period.

Remember the Air Force core values in your everyday dealing with everyone you encounter, both on and off duty. You shoulder the greatest brunt of ensuring the Air Force mission is carried out and your dealings with others must always be beyond reproach.

Always set the example for your troops. To be successful at this you must evaluate yourselves periodically and work on any shortcomings you discover. A good supervisor will tell you, it is far better to lead your people than drive them. Again, your troops need to know you genuinely care about them.

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