TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Airmen are our greatest resource and without them we wouldn’t be the most powerful and most respected Air Force in the world. Today’s Airmen are smarter, more diverse and more technically advanced than ever before; however, that doesn’t mean they don’t need the support and encouragement of their supervisors. In fact, now more than ever, Airmen not only need, but deserve the absolute highest quality leadership and mentorship we can provide.
Supervisors play a crucial role in the personal and professional development of their Airmen; therefore, it’s essential that supervisors take a proactive approach to truly knowing and understanding them. Supervisors can’t afford to watch from a distance and merely wonder what their Airmen are doing and hope everything is okay. It’s time for supervisors to get out from behind their desks, it’s time to get personal and it’s time to know your Airmen.
Knowing your Airmen is much more involved than simply knowing their name and where they’re from. It’s about truly understanding who they are and what makes them tick; it’s about taking the time to learn about their interests outside of work, their families and hobbies.
The best way I’ve found to achieve success in knowing my Airmen is through face-to-face interaction. I know, it sounds simple enough, but in this day and age of technology it’s an easy approach to overlook. Therefore, something as simple as asking them how everything is going or taking them out to lunch once in awhile in order to spend some quality one-on-one time with them away from the office will provide you with the opportunities you need to really get to know them. These simple acts of humanity may not seem like a big deal at the time, but I promise you, once you’ve established a rapport with your Airmen and they know you genuinely care about them, they won’t hesitate to reach out to you when it truly matters.
Don’t wait for opportunities to get to know your Airmen – create them, and by all means make the most of them. Be fully engaged in the conversation and pay close attention to their verbal and nonverbal cues. Don’t just hear what they have to say, actually listen to what they’re telling you and ask questions to ensure you really understand. These simple gestures will help build trust and respect, which ultimately strengthen your credibility as their supervisor.
So, for all of you supervisors out there, do you know your Airmen? If your answer is yes, then thank you. However, if your answer is no, then I challenge you to get started now, it’s not too late. Being a good supervisor is probably one of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs a leader will ever have. Nevertheless, at the end of the day it’s your job as a supervisor to deliberately develop and grow your Airmen so they can be the absolute best they can be, and to ensure our U.S. Air Force continues to remain the most powerful and most respected Air Force in the world.