Welcome to the Team!

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Hans Winkler, left, 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron commander

Welcome to the future! Time is funny that way. Every second, minute, or hour that passes drives us inexorably forward into an uncertain future. The cool part in this crazy journey called life is that you get a say in the way that future unfolds for not only yourself, but also for our entire team. To help orient you in this ever expanding adventure, I’m here to offer a few pro-tips to our next generation of military leaders, a.k.a. you!

First, let me say in the loudest and hardiest voice possible. WELCOME TO THE TEAM!!! As you’ve all recited many times in the Airmen’ Creed, you are truly part of a “proud heritage and a legacy of valor”. Your contributions and skills continue to add to that legacy. The Air Force is your team now and relies on each of you to continue to make it successful. The simple fact is that you make us better and stronger than we were yesterday. However, you are not only a member of this elite organization, you are now an owner in this business of airpower and the team is relying on you to move us forward.

As you may have guessed, I grew up playing sports and understanding teams was a central part of that early education. Teams are often defined as a group of folks working towards a common objective. Notice it says working towards a common objective and doesn’t say that they are all doing the same thing. Teams chasing any objective require diversity; it is the very essence of what makes teams successful. There is a reason you have never seen a football team with only linemen or a basketball team with only big men. The singleness of ability, although dominant in that specific area, hampers the team’s performance when competing in other domains. Every person on the team has a role and to steal a Captain Planet quote, “our powers combined” create an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Just take a look around at all the parts that make up your team. They are the people that surround you every day and you see them all across the installation. Places such as the post office, the housing office, the communication help desk, the dental office, and the front gates all have dedicated Airmen trying hard to make this team successful. You’ll notice I say people make up the team, not vehicles or aircraft or any other piece of equipment that people employ to do a job. People are the soul of any team. Show them you value them and what they do to help your team will excel.

As many human resource folks have said, people are the hardest part of the job. They say this because people are complex and have a depth that often surprises others. These same people, although complex, require an interconnectedness essential to make the team stronger. It requires each of us to show that we value the work that someone, other than ourselves, is doing for the team. We have to fight hard to invest in their growth, as their growth makes our performance that much better. Look for ways to invest into each other…you’ll be surprised when that investment will pay off!

Investing isn’t always an easy thing to do. There will be tough days and trying times in your life. Events that wear you down and stress that happens at home or work. It is in those moments where you may think you have no control, but in fact, you have total control. Maybe not control of the situation itself, but you always will have control of the way in which you approach or react to a situation. The two primary forces that you can apply are your attitude and effort.

These are internal driving forces that only you can call upon. We often try to use these two secret weapons only when we are trying to get something done. We pull them out for a last minute assignment or marathon game of Call of Duty. However, like any muscle, the more often you use it the more it becomes a habit and the easier it is for you to apply. It’s like holding a new born baby, they start out small to enable you to get used to lifting them and before you know it you are hauling around a 3 year old with ease.

The trick is to take time for honest self-reflection after an event and ask yourself if you think you approached a situation with the right attitude or gave the right level of effort. Grade yourself honestly, adjust fire as needed, and try it again. This feedback loop helps you develop your habit and helps you jump into activities with the attitude needed by your team and with effort that pulls them to new heights. Your goal is to normalize excellence and the only way to do that is through repeated application. If you apply your best to every situation, over time your best becomes the default position and even gets better over time. Your attitude and effort will create a habit loop that makes the whole team better.

With just small actions, you can shape the future. You are part of an amazing team that is unmatched in the application of airpower. You are responsible for our performance going forward and we rely on you to take us to the next level. Your team is all around you. Take time to invest in each other. Understand how we interconnect and how our differences make us stronger. Help your team normalize excellence by repeatedly applying your secret weapon of attitude and effort. Use internal feedback to reinforce your habit loop that makes your whole team stronger. Take a hold of that uncertain future and shape it in a direction you want it to go!