LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—One of Col Gentile’s 2019 focus areas for our wing is strengthening relationships. He has asked each member of Team XL to bolster relationships with our families, friends, and the Airman around us to include our subordinates, our peers, and our bosses. Upon hearing this focus area, I was reminded of an enduring lesson in leadership and life: relationships matter.
Relationships matter because they form the foundation of success. This is especially true here at Laughlin. Building combat-ready pilots is a team sport that requires the contribution of many. No one accomplishes our mission alone. Instead, strong relationships enable mission success.
So how do we best strengthen relationships? One word: care. People need to know and see that you genuinely care about them. Real relationships should not be confused with networking and must go beyond the standard “how are you?” in the hallway. Take the time to listen to those around you. You also have to care more about what you can do for others than what they can do for you. Furthermore, you have to prioritize helping others and helping them get better.
These ideas sound simple, but it isn’t always easy. Many times, the easier path is to not care. Caring is going to cost you more time and can be emotionally draining. Instead of thinking about the extra time and effort as a cost, think of it as an investment. You’re investing in the other person, you’re investing in your team. Prioritize this investment like you would other investments for your future.
Caring isn’t a one and done task; it requires continual outreach and meaningful communication. Again, not easy, but what have you accomplished that you are proud of that was easy? The things I’m most proud of doing haven’t been the easiest to do.
Caring also requires honesty and transparency. If you care for others, you give them honest, open feedback. Again, this might not always be easy, but it builds trust. When coupled with care, trust leads to a connection. Connection is a prerequisite for strong, meaningful relationships.
I am most proud to be a part of my squadron when I read student pilot end of course critiques that mention how our instructor pilots, Squadron Aviation Resource Management professionals, and civilians truly care about our students as people and their development. When those we are here to serve know we care about them, we create a valuable, strong professional relationship. These relationships, built on a culture and environment of care and trust, maximize our connection, our teamwork, and our ability to complete our mission.
Relationships matter. Care enough to strengthen them.