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Keeping in touch with your Airmen

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- In today's Air Force it is vital we keep the best and brightest. As the force is tasked to do more with less, the personnel are required to work longer and harder. The people who take on the challenge are a unique breed of people. You know the ones I'm talking about, the ones who will do anything required to meet the mission. These are the people leadership turns to in a pinch. Even in today's economy, those people are leaving. The ones who will succeed anywhere they go.

I interview more than a thousand people a year. Many people have the same concerns: the physical training program, deployments, long hours and low manning. As supervisors, we have no control over these issues, but we do have a way to combat them. One of my first supervisors would spend one night a month with us and we would go out as a load crew. For the price of about four hours, he knew who I associated with, where I was hung out, and most importantly, he had the credibility to steer me away from people and places I shouldn't be around.

Too many times, we as supervisors, expect our Airmen to tell us what's going on without any investment from us. How many of you would forfeit four hours to save the hassle of having a person in trouble. If your response is "not me" maybe it's time for you to reconsider your employment.

At some point in most people's careers this isn't feasible anymore. But you can find ways to socialize with them while at work. Get out of the office and ride in the trucks during launches, sit in the break room, have an office lunch every week, or any other possible gathering place your Airmen go to. If you did this, you may learn a few things.

After-duty hours mandatory fun is not morale building. It's often viewed as an assertion of authority and can be counterproductive. If you are having social events and no one shows, it's a good indication of what people think about your leadership style. Consider what time you leave work compared to your Airmen. Leaving work before your Airmen sets a bad example and can degrade morale. If you do need to leave, ensure people know why. It's an important part of your credibility. When you are open with your people, they will be open with you.

Why is morale so important? We get paid to do a job whether we are happy or not, right? It's been shown in studies that organizations with a happier workforce have people who take fewer sick days, have fewer accidents, and are better at following the rules. I'm talking about creating a more effective workforce within your squadron.

If you still don't think morale is important, think about all those people you count on every day and consider this one thing. You cannot over work a person with good morale; however, a person with poor morale is always over worked.