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Commentary Search

January Chief's Perspective

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Edwards
  • SC - Joint Forces Headquarters

Anybody who has worked with me over the years knows I love taking care of people. It’s what I was born to do. And it’s why I am so passionate about the SCANG and all the people here. Taking care of people boils down to three simple ideas: communication, speaking truth with compassion, and demonstrating concern.

We’ve all heard about communication. But have you ever really thought about what it is exactly and why it’s important? Communication is important because it can resolve so much. Communication is important to molding and developing our Airmen. That’s why we have to put the energy into communicating and maintaining an information flow. And ultimately communication is a two-way street. What I sometimes hear from our younger Airmen are things like “Well, we aren’t getting the information from our supervisors or the commanders.” So what I’ve challenged them recently with is: “So when was the last time you knocked on your supervisor or commander’s door and asked for the information?” Communication channels can go from command to supervision down to the member level. But it also travels back up through the chain of command. Supervisors and commanders, as good as they are, are not mind readers. That’s why it’s critically important to ask questions and clarify responses. A huge part of my career and success has been speaking up and asking questions. Don’t assume someone else will speak up because you may be the only one who does.

Next I really want to challenge you with the notion of speaking truth with compassion. My experience is that sometimes we’re afraid to speak the truth. When it comes right down to it, most people would like to know where they stand, even if it’s unpleasant news, rather than be left wondering what’s going on. Unfortunately over the years in the SCANG I’ve noticed a lack of honest feedback. We just expect people to figure things out and sometimes they don’t reach their full potential. So speaking the truth, with compassion of course, is important.

Finally, there’s several ways you can demonstrate concern to the people who work for you and to your friends.

First, you can demonstrate concern by disciplining with understanding. If you really want the best for someone who works for you, sometimes you have to discipline them for their own good and their own development. That’s true with raising your kids and it’s certainly true with molding and developing Airmen into the best people they can be. In the short term, letting your people slide or giving them a pass when you know deep down that a certain behavior or shortcoming needs to be corrected may seem like the easier path. But rarely do problems resolve themselves. Part of showing concern really needs to be taking the time and energy to discipline someone with understanding in order to help them grow and be better. This is how we take care of our force. We need to refine our people to be better.

Second, you can demonstrate concern by holding people accountable. Holding people accountable, whether it’s your friend, or Wingman or the people that work for you, should be the standard. How often have we seen someone doing something we know  is wrong, and that we know they know is wrong, but not intervene because “they’re an adult” or “it’s none of my business?” The compassionate thing to do would be to pull them aside and have a frank conversation. “Hey, I am noticing these things and I don’t mean to be judgmental, but I’m concerned” might pump the brakes on someone going down the wrong path and making a huge mistake.

Thirdly, you can demonstrate concern just by having a conversation about expectations. Feedback is usually well received when you communicate how expectations were met. Perhaps not so much when you communicate how expectations were not met. But both are important. Providing both positive and negative feedback about expectations, instead of just one or the other, I’ve found is one of the best ways to develop your people.

Taking care of people is what it’s all about and it’s what we should strive to do every day. After all, if you take care of people, you can be assured they’ll take care of the mission and everything else too.