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Keeping up Airmen’s morale with 3 C’s

Lt. Col. Patrick Fogarty, 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Commander.

Lt. Col. Patrick Fogarty, 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Commander.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- We've all had a co-worker or subordinate share feelings of unhappiness with the job or lacks motivation. How do you help them to improve their morale? How do you help create a solution?

I'd like to outline the three C's of morale: competence, contribution and connection. When trying to get to the bottom of someone's low morale or motivation, there are three questions that can help focus the problem.

Do you feel competent in your job?

Everyone wants to be competent in their duties, be seen as knowledgeable by co-workers and be helpful to their customers. When we don't feel competent, feelings of frustration can rise from within. On the other hand, inner pride can swell when a peer or customer thanks us for helping them solve something that they couldn't do by themselves.

Each section on Nellis and Creech spends countless man-hours training our people on everything from local processes to wartime skills. But we still have Airmen who's morale and motivation lags because they suffer quietly and don't ask what they feel is a dumb question required to improve their job knowledge. In the end that habit may lead to leaving the service or failing to progress professionally because they don't feel they are competent in their jobs.

Help develop a training plan, at all levels, to grow your people. Focus especially on improving competence for those who don't seem to like their jobs. Chances are they don't feel they're good at it and will jump at your offer to help.

Second question. Do you feel your work contributes to the mission or greater good?

Being knowledgeable and skillful on a process that you don't feel contributes to the greater good can still create low morale. When low contribution hits, common responses such as "this is busy work," "why do we have to do this" or "this won't matter if I do it" will be heard.

Many Airmen are filling out reports, calling in data or otherwise working on something where they don't think their work is helping, or worse feel their work is useless. Leaders on Nellis have to continue to explain how work contributes to the greater mission. We also have to listen and not dismiss concerns that some work indeed is not useful.

"Contribution" is the centerpiece of most Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century events. If you can find steps and processes that don't contribute to the mission and delete them, you are also helping morale for your people. Get to the bottom of work actions and tasks and create valuable work for your people. It could be the basis for improved morale in an individual or even an entire section.

Lastly, do you feel connected to your co-workers or a team?

If Airmen feel competent in their duties, and the work itself is contributing to the mission, they must also feel connected to their team to have the best possible morale. All of us fear ostracism. All of us want to be a part of a strong group or team.

When we look back at our favorite assignments, there was usually a small group of co-workers that made it special. We felt we were good at what we did, we felt the team's work was contributing to the mission and we felt connected to each other. If leaders on Nellis continue to build strong and connected teams at their level, the morale of our force will rise with the strength of those teams.

The Air Force is an outstanding place to work. When compared to the national computer companies or local supermarkets of the country, "Nobody Comes Close" to the Air Force's ability to create an extremely satisfying work environment.

We spend billions each year on training to create highly competent professionals. The Air Force's contribution to our nation's defense and our families' safety is astounding.

Lastly, there are few companies that can provide the connection to each other as the brotherhood of arms. Our job now as leaders is to work at the ground level to create superb teams throughout the Air Force by helping them get the training they need, explaining how their work fits into the bigger Air Force mission and continuing to build a team where everyone feels they are a part of it.

So the next time you see an unhappy Airman, at any level, ask them the three 3 C's of morale and you'll be much closer to helping them become a highly motivated member of our Air Force.