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The Arts of Influence and Investment

5/9/2013 -- As members of the 131st Bomb Wing, you should always strive to secure future excellence throughout the organization. The goal upon retirement should be to leave the wing a better place to be than when you joined it years ago, thus setting the future leaders of the wing on a path to success. Of the many contributions you can make, the two areas that I want to bring to your attention are the arts of influence and investment.

Influence is power. There are many ways to use influence to gain favorable conditions for the wing. Influence can also cause extreme levels of negativity that can spread like wildfire throughout the organization if not kept in check. Here are three rules to follow when applying influence (active or passive).

First, think before you speak. It's far better to take a breath and ensure your facts are straight than to be the source of unfavorable information. This lends to your credibility as a leader.

Second, use your position as a leader to promote the goals and policies of the commander. Before making policy decisions, the commander relies on the senior enlisted leadership to provide the enlisted perspective so that the proper decision can be made. Although it's appropriate to discuss these policies with your supervision in confidence, your public display must be in complete line with the commander.

Third, use passive influence as a way to mentor Airmen in your section. Simply displaying integrity and accepting nothing but excellence in your tasking, can make better leaders above you, and better followers below you. Those with negative attitudes will be stopped cold if they witness your refusal to engage in anything short of a positive environment. Set the tone in the shop.

Enough on influence, let's look at investment. Invest in your people to increase their leadership potential and positive influence (see above) and the future successes of the wing will be enjoyed in the decades to come. Here are three areas you can invest your energy in that will pave the road for excellence.

Once again, mentoring allows you to help shape future leaders. That Senior Airman looking for guidance is a potential Chief Master Sergeant. What kind of influence do you want to have on his or her progression? Will you show them integrity in thought and processes, or show them how to game the system? My major influence was a First Sergeant back in my active duty days who realized that I did not have the best mentor when it came to supervision. He invested in my future by showing me my potential to lead and challenged me to excel. With his guidance, I overcame a difficult situation and paved a path for success.

Make sure that each airman in your section is included and engaged in all aspects of shop operations and also activities outside of duty hours. Make sure every member has the opportunity to make a difference. Don't point the way to the Ozark Inn for the new airman, take him or her there and have lunch with them. Ensure new airmen get their cold weather gear. These small gestures go a long way in making airmen feel cared for and part of the team. In return, as they become supervisors, they will learn how to take care of airman based on their experience with you.

Support professional development and encourage in-residence PME. We need to develop our future leaders in a manner that promotes self improvement and prepares them to compete for leadership positions. This is how the cream rises to the top. Share your successes, challenges and lessons learned. The airmen in your charge will appreciate the benefit of your experience and guidance throughout their career.

The benefits enjoyed by an Air National Guard unit are the continuity of operations and a high level of expertise and readiness that result from the longevity of the membership. We are good at what we do and how we treat our airmen, but we can never stop honing our leadership skills which without, we would lose our ability to truly take care of the basic needs of the people. Invest your time and talent in the leaders of the future, and use your influence to promote a positive and safe work environment that is conducive to success.

Go Guard!

(Commentary previously posted 2010)