Commentary

May 9, 2014

Professional Development – It’s Everyone’s Responsibility

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas B. Mazzone
MacDill AFB, Fla.

The U.S. Air Force requires much of us these days, and members of our profession of arms are busy meeting these demands.

We must ensure we’re not too busy to ignore our responsibility of continually developing each other.

Mentoring, feedback sessions and counseling are all forms of professional development, often leading us to the thought that it’s “top down” communication only.

However, “peer-to-peer” and “bottom-up” communication provides information just as relevant, and sometimes even more important. As the MacDill command chief, I’m afforded several opportunities to speak with all tiers of our force structure. I’m constantly amazed how much I learn from each of these engagements, whether I’m speaking with young Airmen or senior leaders.

What do you do with what you learn? Do you share it?

Of course we should! We should spread the word as wide as possible. Part of being a good wingman is always striving to develop other Airmen, allowing them to side-step the “landmines” in their career paths.

Throughout my years of service I’ve learned that the rank and age of an Airman giving me advice doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact they were looking out for me, saving me from those “landmines,” and permitting me to help develop others. If I don’t use what I’ve learned to continually advance the Airmen within my scope of influence, then I fail as a leader. More importantly, I’d fail those who tried helping me. I’m not going to do that…neither should you!

Make and take the opportunities to provide and receive professional development whenever possible, enabling continuous progression.

Sharing your experiences with others shows your commitment to their development. It also shows your level of compassion, letting them know you’ve been down a similar road before. Being open-minded to the experiences of others and using the information appropriately is exactly how you side-step the “landmines.” Pretty soon, you’ll be leading the next group through the safe path. The positive impacts of assisting someone through a career decision expand well beyond that person. Your influence is boundless.

The advice I give today has a foundation set many years ago. My superiors, peers and subordinates vectored me well. They did a fantastic job of providing me opportunities to soar while keeping me grounded and focused when necessary. I try to use similar methods in developing others for continued success.

As you go further in your career, there’ll be a time when it seems as though you’re dispensing more advice than receiving it.

Trust me, it’s a misconception. If others continually seek your guidance, it’s because you’re still actively receiving guidance.

That’s important, because it shows you’re not afraid to ask questions, especially in an effort to benefit others. Remember, nobody knows everything, but everyone knows something. Leverage that, and continually expand your network of knowledge throughout our Total Force, developing those who develop others.

Don’t let the demands of our profession get in the way of developing the Airmen following in our footsteps. Show them the way. Lead them through the mine field. Lead ’em!




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