COMMENTARY - Atmosphere 3: Relationships

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Brooks
  • 99th Air Base Wing Command Chief
The Command Chief's "12 Atmospheres" are designed to focus on simple concepts that sometimes get lost from increased ops-tempo and Air Force jargon. Leaders at every level are encouraged to incorporate the monthly focus by whatever means they deem fit, but keep it very casual, fun. Each month a corresponding short video will air on the Commander's Access Channel, Chief's Corner Web site and will be available for use at commander's calls.

Throughout our Air Force careers, we're trained and taught to recognize and utilize both position power and personal power appropriately. I was well into my third year as a First Sergeant when the true differentiation finally hit me--relationships!

I've been fortunate to have had many great teachers throughout my life. Perhaps my greatest mentor coined the phrase "rules without relationships equals rebellion." Wise words uttered in the context of parenting, but markedly apropos within the profession of arms as well.

Anyone in a management position can get compliance by giving orders, but I submit in a relational climate that's seldom necessary. If I'm able to show those around me I care about them in a genuine way, over time, the maintenance of order and discipline is infinitely easier and decreasingly necessary.

Key to a successful relationship, whether duty related or otherwise, is the idea of credibility. I often tell my Airmen, "If you demonstrate the ability to pick your battles, I will fight them for you." On the other hand, if one demonstrates an inability to prioritize/pick their battles it will hurt the credibility of the relationship. Like it or not, a "personal network" is key to getting things done. Like a credible relationship, if you haven't invested in relationships proactively, your "network" will be weak and ineffective.

Good relationships don't just happen, rather they must be cultivated. That means work must be done on the front end to ensure the alliance is viable to serve both a personal and a common good later. I like Dr. Gary Chapman's metaphor of a bank account--you can't even use it to buy the bare necessities unless you have taken time to establish a balance prior. Furthermore, the commitment to replenishing that account is paramount to ensuring its strength and endurance.

As we enter February and move toward Valentines Day, many will naturally focus on relationships in varying degrees of intimacy. As you ponder relational matters, let me challenge you to cultivate every relationship in your life and establish even more! Whether on duty or personal, relationships are the key to success and happiness.

As leaders and parents, let me encourage you to consider my opening adage, perhaps preventing rebellion through cultivation of relationships rather than rules. Finally, to continue the bank account metaphor--what's in your wallet?

Have a terrific Valentines Day and a rewarding February 2008!