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May Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Thorne, the commander of the 169th Aerospace Combat Alert, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Aug. 4, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Thorne, the commander of the 169th Aerospace Combat Alert, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Aug. 4, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

We are all leaders; here’s some simple steps to make you a better one.

I recently took my entire family snow skiing. I was looking forward to the trip for weeks; excited that we would spend a long weekend together as a family doing something I enjoyed. 

Did you catch that? Something “I” enjoyed. I told myself that even though my wife hadn’t seen a snowy hill in 15 years and my kids had never even seen snow, they would be quick to catch on and learn. They would have such a good time, they’ll never want to come back home.

I was wrong.

One drive home after being asked by my son if he had do that again, I realized how I had failed to take care of “my people.” I should have taken the time to set them up for success by scheduling some time to take ski lessons and just play in the snow. Instead I put my wishes first and theirs…well I didn’t think about their wishes.

I share that story to make the point that we are all leaders. Being in the South Carolina Air National Guard is unique in that we have the ability to be both leaders in a military organization, and also leaders in our communities where we have established and long-lasting ties and relationships. All of us, whether now or in the future, are in a position to lead others; whether you’re a squadron commander here at McEntire, a young guardsman with a new civilian job, a member of your local PTO, a volunteer in the children’s day-care at church, or the leader of our families. The greatest responsibility leaders have is to take care of those whose charge they’ve been entrusted.

Below are some steps leaders (that means you) should consider to take care of your people and create a better work environment for them, whether here at McEntire or in your civilian life.

  1. Learn their first names and the names of their spouses and children. A better point is to learn the names of the people important to them.
  2. Visit them in the hospital. If they or one of the above people whose name you just learned is in the hospital, go visit in person. I think too often we feel that we’re intruding; you’re not.
  3. Thank/Highlight them in public. Make it a point to recognize good work around their peers. A public “Pat-on-the-Back” sometimes means more than an official award.
  4. Give them the “Why”. Let them know the purpose behind the mission and how their work is crucial to everyone’s success.
  5. Ask for input about a topic that is outside their lane. Seek input from a subordinate about something that’s above their paygrade; you might find that they stand taller and you’ll get some fresh perspectives.
  6. Act as a human shield. Create an environment where they won’t be distracted. If your boss is placing undue burdens on your people that’s taking away from their primary responsibilities, come up with a way to make it go away or at least minimize the impact. If there’s something broken in their workspace, get it fixed now. 
  7. Give them time off when they need it, and time off when they don’t. When people have life events (and every one does), give them the time off they need to get their lives in order. If they come to you with a request for time off to take care of family or life events, trust that’s the best plan. If they’ve gone above and beyond, reward them with some unexpected time off; even leaving a little early on a Friday means a lot. Don’t forget #3 above.

Every one of the above, I’ve plagiarized from someone else. Feel free to modify and make them your own.

Semper Primus.