It's about our approach

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Serving in the Air Force has always been interesting and a privilege to me--from the weapon system platforms we operate to the integration of space, cyber and intelligence into our operations centers worldwide. Missions come and go, new platforms are launched, old platforms die, and so those technological aspects, no matter how incredible, will be replaced someday with the next best technology.

Another interesting aspect has been the perspective I have gained by working with some of the best leaders and teammates of all ranks our country has to offer--and how these individuals react and perform as well as how they treat others. Some of the best teammates and leaders I have worked with all have some commonalities. I want to share a few of these approaches (not all inclusive, but some good ones) and how they have shaped my perspective throughout my Air Force career.

They...

...display a genuine concern for the people. This one directly drives mission accomplishment and the key here is "genuine." We have all witnessed individuals who say they care about the people, but their actions say differently. Putting others first is something great teammates and leaders always do, it is that simple. Going hand-in-hand with this is they always make time for their people under any circumstance.

...have great listening skills. When you speak with them, they listen and focus-without interruption or the old "talk-over," my personal non-favorite--those who must interrupt you because what they have to say is more important than what you are saying. Good listeners are not looking at their watch or the clock or answering their phone, they are focused only on you and the issue at hand. This is a simple act of respect.

...remain calm and steady. No matter what the circumstance they stay calm and are even-keeled. In less than optimal situations they know how to reserve their emotions (especially anger) and keep them in check. Experiencing emotion is not a bad thing, however, in difficult times it seems like they influence individuals to make poor choices, either in word or deed - the famous "knee-jerk" reaction. Consistency in behavior is good, albeit possibly dull--but that is okay. As professionals, keeping calm and steady allows you to think through problems and find solutions with a more effective approach. Conversely, when we are observed as emotionally volatile, we lose credibility and become less approachable when our people have problems we need to help them fix.

...gather info first, then make decisions. This is deliberate, thoughtful decision-making. There are few approaches that are more troubling than someone making a decision without all of the information, then having to back-track to correct it. Additionally, the second disconcerting situation is someone indecisive when they have all the information. Great teammates and leaders gather information and make thoughtful deliberate decisions and remain accountable for those choices.

...demonstrate balance in their lives. They maintain overt "work/life" balance. They do not work a regular 15-hour day. Of course there are days we must stay late and there always will be, however, it is not the norm--nor should it be. If you think you have to stay 15 hours a day for us to think you have a great work ethic, you're wrong. It's better if you finish your work efficiently for your regular allotted duty time, otherwise your "life" portion doesn't get the attention it needs.

...realize the benefit of teamwork and that everyone has something to contribute. We rarely work alone in the Air Force. It takes a team to accomplish the mission. Our best people recognize what each member brings to the table and they leverage it for the team and mission. Additionally, they grow their people and challenge them to be better. Along the same line, they are extremely reliable because they know the value of contribution and this in turn builds trust. 

...have fun and they want others to also. Whether in the workplace or outside they decompress--whether it is sports, traveling or hiking the Incline, they enjoy their off-duty time, which we all need in our lives.

Transformation is all around us today, whether it is the new equipment we use to clear the roads, the satellites we operate or the computers we encrypt. This makes our jobs interesting from that particular dynamic, however, we all attempt to grasp some semblance of continuity as we move through our Air Force careers. As we look across the Air Force and more concisely our teams and colleagues, we identify those with the characteristics we respect and follow. I have worked with great teammates and leaders during my 24 years of service and many had most, if not all, of the attributes outlined above or some combination thereof. That continuity of approach is something our great Air Force team is built on and hopefully will last long after we exit this great team.