Commentary by Lt. Col. Eric Dorminey
22nd Space Operations Squadron commander
As I approach the end of my tour here, I often find myself reflecting on the profound opportunity command has been and how honored I am to have been asked to serve in such a capacity. I also reflect on how much I’ve learned in two short years. Some of the lessons were new, some reinforcements of old lessons, but all important. If you will indulge me for a moment, I believe they warrant sharing…
Take pride in what you do. You defend freedom…a noble cause. It’s important work and deserves to be done right! Take care of your responsibilities first and then seek to assist others. The Air Force is too small and the job too big to waste effort fighting over just the prestigious work. Leaving your tasks undone to jump into someone’s “job jar” because it’s more desirable is neglecting your duty and counterproductive. Don’t compete with your coworker and focus instead on doing your job, doing it right and to the best of your ability. You’ll be surprised who notices selfless effort.
Be part of the solution. This doesn’t mean simply pointing at the problem and waiting for someone else to take action. Actively engage to create and execute the solution. Strategic guidance is often intentionally vague. See it as an opportunity to impress your boss with creativity rather than frustration. Don’t ask for specific guidance and then complain about micro- management.
Engage in the decision making process early. Shape the outcome…don’t be a victim of it. When asked for input, provide it when it can affect change…not afterwards…when it’s too late. Don’t be a stone thrower. If you don’t like the proposed plan, don’t simply poke holes in it. That’s too easy…develop a better plan. That’s a sign of a true leader. The decision is not the point of departure for debating the issue at hand. Once the decision is made, the debate is over…discussion should now be about how to execute. This point is to leaders. When in the leader role, be clear when you arrive at the decision that it has indeed been made. Once the decision is made, show your boss how to overcome the obstacles, not that the obstacles can’t be overcome.
Look back periodically and take stock in how far we’ve come. Progress is being made, we are getting better. It’s difficult to see the progress when you focus only on today’s task. Only with a brief look back can you gain a perspective on the progress made. Don’t spend so much time looking back, however, that you begin to long for the “good old days.” Memory can be a funny thing…you will remember the good times and forget the frustrations. Look back for perspective and lessons on how to better shape tomorrow, not to fight the inevitable change of moving forward. Discover early what motivates your people. Everyone is different and as a leader you need to understand those differences. A leader that expects everyone to be just like them is ineffective.
Lighten up and don’t take yourself too seriously. Life’s too short. If you aren’t having a good time, you’re doing it wrong. Smile. As a leader, folks will interpret your expression, intended or not. A simple smile can put folks at ease and make you more approachable.
Take care of yourself by taking time off. I’m not talking short, one day trips here and there to prevent use or lose, but a longer, sustained break. Regardless of how critical your position is, you can and should take a step back from time to time for a period of rest. I don’t care who you are or how good you are, a rested you is better than a tired, fatigued you. Taking a no-kidding break will make you more effective in the long run.
Obviously there are many more lessons, too many to list here. My hope, however, is that by highlighting just a short list, I will encourage others to reflect on their own personal lessons and maybe share them among their coworkers, improving the effectiveness of all. That’s the power of a shared lessons learned, a lesson learned by one improves the performance of all.
So my last lesson learned and the bottom line is this: when experience teaches you something, don’t let ego get in the way of sharing it among coworkers. As President John F. Kennedy once said, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” so does “a lesson shared benefits all.”