Commentary Search

Accountability is critical to success, positive contribution to the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Marty Anderson
  • 90th Missile Wing command chief
Many years ago, when I was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, I was assigned as a section supervisor within the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory Flight, now known as the Test Measurement Diagnostic Equipment Flight. When I was initially informed of my selection, I thought I would not be that overly-demanding supervisor making sweeping changes while yelling at everyone. Although my intentions were okay, I allowed that attitude to move too far to the left, nearly resulting in my removal as a supervisor.

I think many new supervisors struggle with balancing a harmonious work section and holding people accountable for their duty performance and conduct. Our mission within Air Force Global Strike Command is critical, and supervisors must strike that balance in order to ensure mission success.

At the time, I believed in order to influence people, I had to be liked. I was busy trying to be friends instead of being a noncommissioned officer. I did not want to confront or hold members accountable, because I believed it would lower morale and ultimately impact productivity. My initial misunderstanding of being respected almost caused certain failure.

Lucky for me there was a caring, compassionate first sergeant who set me straight. Well, later I learned he was caring and compassionate, but that did not resonate until a few months later. One day he took me to lunch and explained the difference between a staff sergeant and what it was to be an NCO in the United States Air Force.

Chief Master Sgt. (ret) Joe Moore articulated, in a manner that only a chief master sergeant with 17-years experience as a first sergeant could, about my role and responsibilities as an NCO. In other words - it was a one sided conversation and he was not bashful!

He explained in order for me to be an effective NCO, I must communicate my standards and expectations upfront and then hold people accountable based on those standards. He said Airmen make a choice as to whether they meet your expectations. If they choose not to perform at the level you set, then you must take action to reinforce what was initially communicated. If I failed to act then not only would I lose credibility but so does the entire NCO corps. Then this is when the big problems with discipline and productivity start to surface.

Chief Moore expressed to me many supervisors expect their Airmen to just know what is expected, leading to misunderstandings as well as accountability issues in the future. He shared with me how he has dealt with Airmen who violated standards; if corrected upfront, minimal corrective action would have been required to return the member to be a positive contributing airman for the section and unit.

After our conversation I corrected my errors by having a section meeting. I clearly explained my standards and expectations as well as my vision for our section and the consequences for not meeting those standards. As time went on, I noted any deviation in performance or conduct, and was quick to correct any deviations. I was surprised that in two months our productivity significantly improved as well as mutual respect between me and the Airmen I supervised.

I also learned from Chief Moore an effective supervisor must have confidence and conviction about who they are and what they represent. Supervisors must have the character and toughness that Col. Greg Tims, 90th Missile Wing commander, talks about daily to ensure mission success. Chief Moore held me accountable as an NCO and in return, I learned accountability is critical to ensuring our Airmen are successful while positively contributing to our great Air Force!