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How to be a 'Super'visor

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robin Brooks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing interim command chief
In my 24 years of service I have encountered numerous catch phrases that try to emphasize the importance of supervising. I'm sure you have heard them: "Good leadership is good prevention," "Be a great wingman," "Culture of responsible choices," and I could go on and on.

As military members, we are charged with upholding high standards, moving frequently, deploying around the world to austere and hostile locations, and working long hours to complete the mission. This puts significant pressure on members and their families. It is very common for personnel to feel overwhelmed and sometimes stretched too thin. In today's high-paced ops tempo, supervisors are often busy and overworked. They are responsible for multiple mission-related and administrative tasks. Additionally, they are frequently dealing with personnel who are often young, inexperienced, and dealing with personal problems. Despite all these pressures, military life can be highly rewarding.
It is a demanding and rewarding profession. Today's military is very much about coping with high demands. As supervisors, we are charged with ensuring the mission is accomplished as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Over the years, I have learned some tips and tools that can transform a supervisor into a "super"visor.

Serving in the military comes with some significant rewards. First and foremost, the pride felt for serving our country. Additionally, the professional accomplishments, travel, unit camaraderie, sense of community, and the team spirit associated with belonging to something bigger than oneself.

Frontline supervisors play a pivotal role in assisting personnel through transitions. I have often said we spend more time at work than we do with our own families; therefore, it is important to foster healthy relationships in our work centers.

Supervisors are the first line of defense in assisting personnel. We spend a majority of our time at work with our team. We should be familiar with their typical behaviors so that we may be the first to see problems develop. Being proactive and fostering unit morale and stress management will help protect our personnel.

To be an effective supervisor, we need to prepare. It is important to connect with those we are charged to serve. Our subordinates need to know us and trust us before we can be in a position to help them during times of crisis. They won't trust us with their problems if we don't take the time to get to know them.

Dr. Kevin Leman coined the catch phrase, "Rules without relationships cause rebellion."

This phrase plays a pivotal role in supervising. Fostering a professional relationship encourages open communication, helps develop respect for authority, and builds mutual trust between individuals.

The first step in becoming a "super"visor is to establish a healthy, professional relationship with our teammates. It is part of our job as supervisors to talk to our people about their lives every day! This will make it easier to recognize distress signs if we know how someone acts when things are normal.

Next we need to balance building relationships with getting tasks accomplished--both are necessary. It is a proven fact that units with strong morale perform better under both routine and duress conditions. Walk around the duty section every day to check to see how things are going at work, at home and in your people's personal lives. Interact with your team and convey interest and concern for their welfare. Be sincere and don't fake it. If you aren't genuine in your concern, your team will notice. Cultivate your ability to listen rather than just hear what they are saying. It is the supervisor's responsibility to create a climate that fosters communication and trust.

The third area of focus is on you. Recognize your limits--there is only so much you can do. Be familiar with the helping agencies and encourage folks to seek assistance. Set the tone that asking for help is okay - even relay a personal story about how you sought help. Be the role model for healthy self-care, exceptional fitness, and solid work ethics.

People are watching your behavior and will emulate what you do. Do not practice selective integrity. Establish boundaries as a supervisor or you too, could get burned out. You cannot be all things to all people.

Be sure to enhance your leadership style by attending professional development seminars. Senior Master Sgt. Melissa Walters, 6th Force Support Squadron career assistance advisor, does a fantastic job offering a multitude of courses each quarter.

Finally, find a mentor. Mentoring is an essential ingredient in developing well-rounded, professional and competent leaders. Mentors can provide a wealth of experience and can give you guidance on issues you are faced with. I have benefited greatly from the mentors in my life.

Being a "super"visor is all about preparing, caring, balancing and taking care of yourself. I challenge you to make the most of your time. The most rewarding task in the military is knowing that you made a difference in someone's life.