Know your people

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- As I approach the end of my military career, I couldn't help but think about the number of leadership lessons I've received through the years.  Some of these lessons were learned in a formal classroom setting, while many more were learned on the job.  One of the best - and favorite - lessons in leadership I ever received was from Senior Master Sgt. Sidney Gutierrez of the New Mexico Air National Guard, who was my flight instructor at the USAF First Sergeant Academy back in 2002. 

Gutierrez advised the first sergeants in training that one of the best ways you can serve your people as a First Sergeant is to get to know your people on a personal level; i.e., whether they were married, how many children they have, what they did in civilian life, etc...  Gutierrez claimed that once your people know that you see them as a person and not just "another Airmen", they'll respond to the mission more effectively and enthusiastically.  He told us that if you saw one of your members away from base in civilian dress you should be able to know them by name.  This is an import trait to have as a first sergeant since your job is to take of the people! 

Gutierrez cautioned us that this might take some effort since many of the members you'll see just once a month.   At the time I was just selected as the first sergeant of the 127th Maintenance Squadron - which had approximately 220 members assigned - and getting to know all of them was a tall order indeed!  This was quite a chore for me since I am by nature a shy person.  With a manning roster in hand and asking a lot of questions, I pretty much got to know most of the squadron members fairly well within 18 months.  The task of getting to know all of the squadron members not just made me a more effective first sergeant, but forced me out of my shell and made me grow as a person.  It also made me realize that I was first sergeant of an organization that was staffed with some pretty amazing and capable people!  The connections and lessons I made as first sergeant serve me well today, even though I left that position nearly six years ago.

I believe this advice that Gutierrez gave me all those years ago can serve all of well, regardless if you serve as a first sergeant or not.  All organizations are made up of people and all people want to be treated with respect.  Getting to know your teammates doesn't mean you're going to be dear friends with that person, but it will install a deep bond of respect between one another.  Also by establishing a bond of respect, that person will be more apt to open up to you and you'll have a better understanding of their capabilities and what they can bring to the mission. The longer that I serve and the longer that I live one undisputable fact becomes clearer each day - it is all about people.  It is how we treat one another is often the difference whether a team succeeds or fails.  My advice to you my wingmates, take the time to get to know those members of the teams you happen to find yourself on.  The connections you make will just not make a more cohesive unit, but will also establish bonds that serve you well as a person.  Take care, good luck, and may you have a great Air Guard Day!