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Commentary | April 6, 2010

Leadership: Business of 'people improvement'

By Chief Master Sgt. Tim Murphy 633d Security Forces Squadron

As senior noncommissioned officers, NCOs and supervisors, we are in the people improvement business. We take on the roles of personal trainer, life coach and motivational speaker.

You are the CEO of your people improvement business. You have years of experience in these disciplines to pass down to Airmen. Are you doing the right thing to make your "company" better? What is the ratio of time spent in front of your computer to the time spent in front of your Airman? Do your Airmen know you from your picture on the wall or have you been face-to-face with them?

Each of us has the capacity to be a leader that develops leaders, but the key lies in continually developing yourself and your people.

Personal Trainer

A personal trainer helps people exercise and develop good eating habits. These days, it is much easier to supersize meals and camp in front of the television than eat right and exercise. Before you know it, "Blues Monday" rolls around, and your silver belt buckle is pointing down at the ground from the weight gained from the excess food and lack of exercise.

We are our nation's sword and shield. There should be absolutely no physical training test failures for healthy Airmen. Step up and act as a personal trainer. Enlist the help of the fitness center experts to design ideal diets and nutrition counseling to help Airmen achieve weight-loss goals. Advise Airmen on how to modify their lifestyle outside of the gym to improve their fitness, making permanent changes.

Your focus is to bring struggling Airmen into a group setting for exercise. The key to success is preventing people from getting bored from monotonous exercises. Try implementing a variety of activities, such as boot camps, clinics or scavenger hunt runs.

Most Airmen know what to do, but just fail to follow through; take your Airmen by the reins, lead them to the exercise trough and feed them a supersize dose of a nutrition and fitness.

Life Coach

When you hear the word "coach," what comes to mind? Pacing the sidelines at a game, calling out the player names and shouting directions? Coaching is no longer reserved for sports; it is now a key concept in leadership and management. The coaching process enables Airmen to discover their strengths and raises their problem-solving awareness.

First, teach them to be their own expert, able to seek education and resources. Help them along their path by changing behavioral patterns, setting goals and providing a support mechanism during the process. Second, teach your Airmen how to coach others -- you coach everyone in your organization with this method. Keep in mind that coaching is a two-way process. Third, teach your Airmen to assess situations, weigh the pros and cons of their decisions and actively seek out a solution. These steps will compliment their career and life. Finally, lead by example. Leadership by example is also important in coaching. Coaches lose credibility when they do not practice what they preach. Coaching leaders should be well-organized, highly competent in their field, communicate openly, encourage feedback, and have a clear idea of the organization's vision, mission and goals.

While listening is crucial, the ability to interpret and reflect is just as important, removing barriers, pre-conceptions and negativity. Listen to understand, not necessarily to respond. This real-time, real-world and real-people coaching will make a difference in your organization.

Motivational Speaker

Effective leaders are great communicators, able to adapt their communication style to a specific audience. We have all heard "information is power," but only if you share it. Every time you impart quality information, you become more of a leader.

As Airmen, we present information, deliver ideas and concepts, and create change. Unfortunately, we have had to endure our share of dry, monotonous briefings. Many briefers are experts in their field ,but present no charisma or flair. An effective speaker can educate while engaging and entertaining their audience.

To be heard inside and outside your organization, maximize the effectiveness of communication with others. It is vital to communicate clearly, convincingly and memorably while displaying gravitas and confidence. Your message, methods and communicative abilities are key factors in motivating your audience, so attend training in focusing messages, structuring content and delivering messages memorably.

The people improvement business is active, interactive and dynamic. Continue to learn as you progress as a leader. Get to know the next generation of Airmen and "what makes them tick." Be the best CEO of your people-improvement business and remember, you are not developing job-specific leaders -- you are building future Air Force leaders.