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Developing a positive culture in the workplace

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- I like motivating people. I enjoy taking a young Airman, new to the Air Force, and finding out what motivated him or her. Sometimes , I don't know what motivates an individual. During times like that I try to reflect inward to figure out what motivates me. I'm not motivated by awards, decorations or by time off. What really motivates me is taking a process that needs fine tuning and getting it in perfect running condition; much like the way a mechanic can take an engine that needs work and get it purring like a kitten.
Like many of you out there, I have moved around quite a bit in my career. I've moved from base to base and from flight to flight. Through all those moves, one thing has always remained the same. Every time I've taken a new job, I have found a way to take somebody's process and make it my own. That's not to say it was broken before I took over, I just changed it to make it more efficient for myself. That's what motivates me. I'd rather have a new task to master than receive an award.

This weekend, I was researching a paper on corporate culture for a college class. I was assigned to read an article by Naomi Moneypenny titled, "Five Ways to Develop Your Corporate Culture." In her article, she describes five techniques for culture development. As I was reading this article, something hit me. The techniques she describes are things we all do every day without realizing it. I'd like to share those techniques with you.

The first of these five techniques is to start small and act big. Which means in order to develop a corporate culture, we must begin making small changes within our own work centers. Any time a new NCO, superintendent, or commander takes control of a section, they evaluate the current climate for a length of time before taking any action.

We look at current processes to see how effective they are. We all have different levels of experience we bring with us to our new jobs. With those different levels of experience comes different ways of doing things. We all make small changes we feel enhance the work center. These small changes are the catalyst for our culture. Once those small changes have taken effect and are working, think large scale and spread the word to others within the organization.

The second technique is to build trust. If people in your section are deeply embedded in the rumor mill, how efficient will they really be? People won't trust each other and ultimately, they won't work well together. Now, ask yourself how much time is taken away from the mission by playing political games, developing hidden agendas and dealing with conflict. If the number you reach is significant, you need to work on gaining the trust of your people. Not just so they trust you, but so they learn to trust each other.

Building trust is very important; not only within your own section, but trust needs to be nurtured between different sections as well. The inability of one section to work well with another is detrimental to accomplishing the mission.

Most individuals work well with each other because they get the opportunity to interact on a daily basis and build trust. But, some sections do not always work well with other sections. This is because there is no common trust between them. Encouraging collaboration is the third technique and a great way to build trust between sections. Often, you will find people working hard to build trust with their supervisors, but not enough effort spent building trust with others. If this is the case with your section, develop ways for your members to collaborate with members of other sections. There are probably numerous processes that somehow affect other people. Call a meeting with the other sections and develop methods for working as one team.

Many section supervisors want to provide top cover by not letting other sections pawn work off on them. This is not always the best approach to accomplishing the mission. Sections need to be able to work well to accomplish the mission as one. Stop thinking of your section as yours and begin thinking of ways to collaborate with each other. After all, we're all in the same fight, right?

Inspiring creativity is the fourth technique. When faced with a problem, ask for everybody's input. Even the lowest Airman on the totem pole can have valuable insight into finding a solution. Listening to only some of the ideas is not good business; that is an example of stifling creativity, not inspiring it. You never know if the idea that seems too crazy to work really would work, until you consider it.

The fifth and final technique is to inspire action. Once a plan has been agreed upon, implement it; don't plan another meeting to decide when to take action. I have been on several committees where we throw out suggestions then don't act on them until next month's meeting. By the time the plan is implemented, several months have passed and the excitement generated by the plan has worn off. Acting swiftly not only saves time, but shows the members that you are committed to finding a solution.

After reading these five techniques, I was amazed this was research for a master's level class. These are techniques people use on a daily basis; things they probably do without even realizing it. It can't much easier than that.
Effectively utilizing these five techniques will help develop the culture within your section. When other sections see how effective yours is, they will want to emulate it. Be sure to share your success stories with everybody, because as we all know accomplishing the mission is the number one priority.