The 56th Fighter Wing is full of amazing Airmen who do amazing things day after day. We work hard, we work long hours and we continuously strive for perfection as we accomplish the mission. We do so despite constant reductions in manning, money and available time.
Our output is high and constant. But I ask you this: how do you know when you are approaching the limit of doing too much with too little? Leaders, how do you know when your people are approaching their limit? I would argue that in an Air Force populated with “I can get it done no matter what” personalities, recognizing the limit is often a difficult task. What are your indicators? Your peers? Your subordinates?
Recognizing our own personal indicators may be difficult. Have we lost interest in hobbies that at one time we thought we couldn’t live without? Have our interpersonal relationships with friends or our family gone south? Are we forgetting events and appointments when they used to come naturally? Are we not as patient with our children as we used to be? Do things that never bothered us suddenly seem aggravating? Have we ignored our normal exercise routine? Probably one of the best clues is when a friend or a loved one pulls you aside and asks, “What’s the matter? I can tell something is wrong.”
Listen to them. They have an outsider’s point of view, and in many cases, their perceptions may be more accurate than our own.
As leaders, you need to know your Airmen and need to keep a watchful eye on them and look for even the smallest of indicators. We are pushing our people hard in preparation for the upcoming Combined Unit Inspection, and, at the same time, we are still operating the base, training our Airmen, launching jets and deploying our people in support of contingency operations. Where is their limit, and what are their indicators? Commonly late for work, missed appointments, a spouse that has left, failed physical training tests, financial difficulties, or a decrease in job performance may be their indicators. And keep in mind, we are dealing with perfectionists with “can do” attitudes – this fact alone may make their indicators very subtle and difficult to detect. It is our job, as their leaders, to recognize them.
In our fast-paced Air Force life, it may be difficult to find time to “recharge,” so I encourage you to do the following: look for windows of opportunity (and leaders, you need to create opportunities), however large or small, to get a “partial charge.” Days may come and go without one, so when one comes along, you have to grab it. Meet your spouse for lunch, take family picnics, push away from the desk and make it to your kids’ ball practice, or simply throw a dart at a map and just drive – get out and spend time with your family. Single Airmen, call or visit a friend, go out and do things that you enjoy, take a small vacation, plan a road trip with your fellow dorm dwellers. The point is: do something. Break the routine.
Lastly, if you are at or approaching your personal limit, talk to someone; a friend, the chaplain, or your supervisor. There is no shame or stigma if you need to talk to somebody. The point is take care of yourself and your fellow Airmen.