Developing people is our job

by CMSgt Jacob P. Dunbar
786th Civil Engineer Squadron Superintendent

Leaders are empowered with an enormous responsibility, one we cannot take lightly — to develop people. It is not an easy job by any means, and often very frustrating and time consuming. This job requires commitment to a cause much greater than oneself — producing skilled, confident, determined and capable subordinates. Done correctly, developing people can be very rewarding; one can be proud to see the fruits of their labor.

Success and failure is determined by subordinates being ready and capable to lead when the opportunity presents itself. Simply, when a person fails at their primary duties; someone did not do their job. If we do it right, people will either be ready for an opportunity to lead or pursue a new career path.

We are in an era of monetary cutbacks and personnel downsizing to optimize our force; there is not much room for rework or retraining. Too many times we have all seen where individuals are assigned to a position based on seniority or rank, but were neither prepared nor capable of performing the duties assigned.

Skills required to lead are not learned overnight; if this knowledge and experience is not gained throughout a person’s career, failure is almost certain and recovery is close to impossible. It is important that we do our part to give each person a chance to succeed — develop them. Now how do we develop our people?

Set the tone early. When a person walks into our organization, it is crucial that we set the tone early and let them know what is expected. Chart directions and provide continuous feedback on subordinate’s progress, training, job status, unit’s current and future direction, as well as professional development opportunities.
Train them: Yes, our days are busy and we have many commitments, but training our people must be a priority.

Training should focus on instructions and demonstrations done strictly to develop a person’s knowledge and understanding, enabling them to perform assigned duties with a greater degree of skill and confidence. We must provide meaningful and relevant training to achieve necessary skills for professional development of the individual and growth of the unit.  Training must be performed regularly and provide a means to test understanding and progress. If training is successful, we can expect huge returns on our investment — people ready and capable to assume greater responsibilities.

Challenge and set them up for success: Put people in situations to apply learning.
This is where we evaluate if training is successful. Some people learn faster than others, and some will never catch on. This gives us the opportunity to gauge where more training is needed and to recommend an alternate career path to those who don’t get it.

The critical part to the test is how our people apply judgment. This comes with experience and oftentimes will make or break a person. We will move mountains by improving personnel decisionmaking processes, exposing them to various situations and allowing them to work through the growing pains.

Show them the way: Leaders, our people’s success depends on us. There is a lot riding on us to do our job and do it well. We need leaders pounding the pavement, knowing what is going on; training, encouraging, directing people; and cutting off problems before they become major issues. This requires that we step out from behind the desk and make things happen. We must get involved in the people business; get to know about our people, their families, likes and dislikes, capabilities, and issues.

Doing this will help us to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of our people to better determine the best course of action to develop and motivate them. Everyone is busy; however we must never let this restrict us from developing our people. “Success or failure at our job can often be determined by the successes and failures of the Airmen we have supervised.”

Leaders have a tough but important job.  Developing people is necessary; failure on our part could prove detrimental to mission accomplishment. By doing our job right; our organizations will reap huge dividends from skilled, confident, determined and capable people ready to assume greater responsibilities.