What do you do when your subordinate asks you a challenging question? The question could be about anything such as career progression advice, educational advancement, family emergencies or Air Force instruction clarification. How do you respond to your subordinate? Do you quickly pass the buck and refer him to the group superintendent, first sergeant, or possibly the career assistance advisor, or do you take the time to find the answers to better assist and mentor your subordinate?
All too often supervisors would rather direct their subordinates to other areas rather than take the initiative to find the answer. A few years ago while working as a flight chief within the communications squadron’s operations flight, I had to mentor one of my technical sergeants on how to not pass the buck. On this particular day, I walked into a section and saw that the technical sergeant was unsure if his Airman was in compliance with AFI 36-2903, Dress and Appearance, because his Airman showed up to a physical training session with athletic shorts under his PT uniform. Just as I walked in the office, the technical sergeant was about to send the Airman to see the first sergeant to verify if the Airman was within standards or not. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, knowing the Airman was not in compliance with standards. I immediately told the Airman to stay put and then I pulled the technical sergeant into the hallway. My words were very simple, “Stop passing the buck!” I fervently advised him to locate the AFI that governs dress and appearance so he could educate himself and his Airman on how to properly wear the PT uniform.
AFI 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, instructs supervisors to take an active leadership and supervisory role on a daily basis with the subordinate. An active role means to stay engaged with one’s subordinate and certainly, not pass the buck by delegating one’s active leadership role to someone else. This can include understanding there will be times as a supervisor, when one must refer a subordinate depending on the complexity of the issue. This requires the supervisor to be cognizant of the helping agencies that are available to assist the subordinate.
To all supervisors, be an effective leader and do not pass the buck. Your subordinates are depending on you for leadership and mentorship. Take the time to find the answers and if you need assistance, talk to your leaders. Remember, your subordinates deserve your time.