Tips for your journey to becoming a more effective professional

  • Published
  • By Col. Dave Funk
  • Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment
As a relatively new member of the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment team, I recently had the opportunity to share with a group of our branch leaders the philosophy I follow as a professional Airman.

Here are the tips I shared with them to help in their journey to becoming a more effective professional:

In any endeavor, we all must pull in the same direction to move our organization forward in exceeding the expectations of our customers. That means, first and foremost, the priorities of our leaders must be our priorities as well. At the same time, we should strive to become the best professionals we can be in accomplishing the critical missions in our charge.

We must always step up to take charge when needed and to share the "leadership load." That means we need to focus on the mission, but don't try to do it all by ourselves. We have a highly educated and trained group of professionals, so I encourage you to delegate and to ask for help before you get "behind the power curve."

A good leader is also proactive in rewarding and taking care of people. Be enthusiastic about helping those who exceed standards to succeed. Nominate your top performers for quarterly and annual awards recognition. At the same time, ensure marginal performances are identified and given the proper attention. Identify people in your charge who don't meet standards, and develop a plan to give them improvement opportunities to be effective at accomplishing the mission.

All of us make mistakes and a good leader helps people learn from them so they can move on as more competent professionals.

Strive for excellence! Our mission is critical and impacts the entire Air Force. We can achieve great success by effectively managing our time and workflow processes so that we stay ahead of the issues -- being in a proactive rather than reactive mindset. Track suspenses closely, especially awards, decorations and performance reports. Follow up on communications in a timely manner, using interim replies rather than being late. The workflow and administrative teams are not responsible for meeting suspenses. We are all responsible for tracking and following up on them until completion.

Ensure communication up and down the chain of command is of great quality, not necessarily of great quantity.

Continuously look for opportunities to make things better and don't accept the premise we are too busy to make improvements. We are executing our missions at a high operations tempos, but we are never too busy to seek positive change. Look for new ways to leverage resources to better accomplish our work and take care of our people.

Thinking outside the box is good! If you need help, discuss it with your leaders, but do your homework and use empirical data to make decisions and give fact-based options.

We are all in this together. Be loyal and supportive of each other. We aren't competing with one another nor trying to get a leg up on others in our organizations. Think about the big picture, not just what is best for you and yours today. Our organizations and the Air Force need our teamwork and enthusiastic support.

Our personal lives and duty must be in harmony. Remember your family, friends and your health and happiness as you accomplish the mission. Pursue self-improvement and don't let the workload be an excuse. Take care of yourself and let your leaders know if you need help. See someone before your physical, mental, or spiritual health, or your family or your happiness is adversely impacted.

Enjoy life and your duty, but don't let them be one in the same.