Commentary by Jeffery Hunt
50th Space Wing director of staff
Most of us can relate to some degree, our experiences as a supervisor or of supervisors we have worked for. There are those that are effective and those that are not. Each of us has our own perspective of what makes a supervisor effective. In every situation, I have learned from effective supervisors I have worked for and to be honest I learned what not to do from the ineffective supervisors.
Before I get started, I want to make a few caveats. First, I don’t pretend to be or of having been “a” or “the” perfect supervisor. Second, please understand that this includes all military, civilian or contractor supervisors. Lastly, I have the greatest respect for all supervisors, especially front-line supervisors. This is where the rubber meets the road and it is a tough role that comes with tremendous responsibility. There is a great deal expected, rightfully so, of supervisors.
What I want to do here is share with you what I look for in an effective supervisor and hopefully what I have applied as a supervisor.
First and foremost a supervisor is like a coach.
As Fisher DeBerry stated in his book, For God and Country, “coaching is a privilege, but with this privilege comes a great responsibility for this role model we present.”
Every athletic coach, regardless of the level, has a certain amount of responsibility for the success of the team. Take a sport like football. There are a myriad of coaches on a football team responsible for their various areas, offense, defense, receiving, punting, etc., of the team with the overall mission to win the game. If any one of the coaches is ineffective, the team has a greater chance of losing.
A coach therefore must be a teacher, a communicator and an example for others to follow.
Good coaches must be good teachers. Coach DeBerry goes on to say that “coaching is teaching players to do their jobs the right way.” There’s only one way to do it. So, if we don’t do it right, we’ll do it over and over again.”
Remember though, our mission isn’t about winning the game; it’s about providing combat effects from space to warfighters around the world.
Here at the 50th Space Wing, we aim to conduct flawless operations, this includes keeping our restricted area secure, maintaining power to our operations centers and ensuring our satellite constellations are at peak performance.
We practice Coach DeBerry’s method here through monthly exercises and recurring training in our ops centers. This is the same concept we use or should use as supervisors. Knowing and understanding our mission is essential as supervisors and then in-turn teaching our personnel through repetitious training and evaluation and enabling them to execute it perfectly every day. Through repetitious training we can achieve flawless operations.
Another aspect of good coaching is being able to communicate with your team. With good dialogue, great direction, clear guidance and understanding of where and what the mission is, supervisors can get personnel to believe in themselves and our mission. Knowing what is expected and then how to achieve it is critical to setting our team up for success.
Finally, a supervisor (coach) has to set a good example for their personnel. This includes having a positive attitude. Supervisors definitely will have to meet adversity head-on and overcome challenges. It’s not easy. You have to be absolutely positive because you will influence those around you. Supervisors have to be excited, enthused, and passionate. How can our personnel be enthused about our mission, our objectives, our priorities or better yet understand what those are if their supervisor isn’t excited? You are setting the standard for our people every day and they are watching and listening. Set the stage for them, display a positive, professional image and they will perform beyond expectations.
Being a supervisor can be a powerful thing. Providing guidance, training, perspectives to enable our personnel make better decisions in their lives both at work and at home. In many cases these can be and are career making decisions. Therefore, as supervisors we need to be prepared and understand the dynamics of this “implied power” and exercise it cautiously and with deliberate forethought. Don’t “dodge” this responsibility if you are somewhat limited in experience but instead seek help from your mentors. Through time you will learn and gain the necessary experience. Again be prepared otherwise it could have devastating impacts.
In closing, our wing is successful because of the supervisors we have and the teamwork they have instilled in our members. As a supervisor, you are having an impact on your personnel — -negative or positive — -in whatever you do. Enjoy the challenge of helping our people achieve levels of performance, accomplish things they never conceived of achieving and overcome both mental and physical obstacles. It takes a sincere desire to teach, communicate and lead our members as we look to the future of the 50th Space Wing and the Air Force.