What have you done for your duty section lately?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Frank Shifflett
  • 55th Maintenance Operations Squadron commander
Having come up through both the enlisted and officer ranks, I found there is a period of time in the junior grades where the biggest struggle is to prove yourself. As one of many new Airmen or lieutenants, you feel the need to constantly volunteer, work the big projects, attempt to rise up above the masses, and be recognized.

Then a funny thing happens....about the time you reach staff sergeant, technical sergeant or captain, people stop noticing so much what you personally do. The timing varies based on your AFSC, your supervisor or your circumstances.

What becomes more noticeable and makes you stand out from the pack are not so much your accomplishments but what the people around you do. The powers-that-be take notice that everywhere Sergeant or Captain Snuffy is, performance increases, errors decrease, morale improves, and life becomes better.

If you doubt this fact and serve in a mid-tier or higher grade, take a few minutes to look at what your annual performance appraisal says. Chances are good that if you read the content objectively and these bullets are your strongest achievements, you'll see that the accomplishments have very little to do with things you actually did, but are most likely the accomplishments of those people around you.

So what does this all mean? First, late tennis legend Arthur Ashe said, "Start where you are, do what you can." If you're a new supervisor or have a very small section, start there. If you can raise the performance of your small section, you'll find that people will gladly give you more responsibility.

Use the term "we" over "I" or "they." As I've explained, it's not about you. If you're the supervisor or leader, you're part of "them," which then makes "we" more appropriate.
Finally, ask yourself daily, "What have I done for my duty section lately?" This should be an easy question to answer. If not, you may want to reread your duty description.