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April Chief's Concerns

U.S. Air Force portrait of Chief Master Sgt. Robert Thibault, from the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron of the South Carolina Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force portrait of Chief Master Sgt. Robert Thibault, from the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron of the South Carolina Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

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

 

Stay Positive
Managing and Motivating in Stressful Times

 

 

These past two years we have been on such a hectic schedule going from one deployment to another and then the ORE/CRE and again off on another deployment. Your personnel are tired and tense. It's your job to motivate them and continue to meet the ever-increasing demands these exercises bring.

 

This all too familiar scenario is now a daily reality to us. Pressures from the top increase, while resources and personnel available to meet growing expectations decrease. The keys to effective management in this environment lie in understanding the fundamentals that motivate people to perform, which means abandoning old incentives like job security and advancement. Instead, we should focus on building a culture of respect.

 

At the core, individuals need to feel their work is valued and contributes in important ways to the unit's larger mission. This is no easy task, but nonetheless, a task demanded of supervisors.

 

Recently, when making a reservation to fly on American Airlines, I told the agent she had made my experience positive. She seemed genuinely unhurried and happy in her job, which is far from a highly paid or revered position. Her response reflected the outcome possible in a well-managed environment: "We're just nice to people and we try to help them," she said. "It's really basic."

 

Implicit in her simple response was a clear sense of her role within the larger team and an understanding of the core principles that drive American Airline's approach to customer service. Not formulaic or based on fear that our conversation was being monitored for quality assurance, she understood her role was turning one piece of American Airline's mission into a reality, one customer at a time.

 

James Henderson, the former CEO of Cummins Engine, summarized the essence of motivation, "Once people trust management, know they are responsible and are given the training, it's astonishing what they can do for customers and ultimately, shareholders."

 

Creating a culture of respect, recognition and trust amid larger forces of chaos and uncertainty may seem daunting, but the process is actually very basic. It simply involves a fundamental recognition that work needs to be meaningful, have inherent value and be valued by others.

 

A culture of respect and trust requires supervisors to build relationships with their personnel based on honesty and integrity. It may be tempting to be outcome-oriented because of pressures to meet deadlines, but investing in relationships will yield greater results. Be sure to communicate both the positive and negative news you hold. This straightforwardness will build trust that you are an advocate for your section. To the extent that you can, involve your personnel in decisions affecting them and their work.

 

Another requisite for supervisors is to regularly communicate and prioritize their section's goals, while tying accomplishment of these goals to the 169th Fighter Wing's larger aims. Even if unit-wide recognition processes have been eliminated, effective supervisors find ways to recognize their workers' individual and collective accomplishments and convey publicly how their work has advanced the larger agenda of the unit and/or section in which they work.  

 

Solid management in today's world of work requires supervisors to return to the fundamentals that motivate people, especially within the sphere they influence. Restoring respect will ground you and your section amid the volatility.