In preparation for this article, the one thing that kept coming to mind was respect. We all hold a key position in the military where respect plays a huge part in our daily interaction. Unfortunately, I’m sure you have all encountered a lack thereof at some point in your career. Respect is a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important and should be treated in an appropriate way.
We believe respect is earned and each and every Airman is deserving of it. In our society we are taught to respect our elders, parents, teachers and anyone in a position of power. In the military it is embedded in our culture to show respect to higher ranking individuals, and with this comes many customs and courtesies that we’re all familiar with. For a moment, let’s take a step back and look at this in a different light.
All of us have entered an organization at some point and approached an individual sitting behind a counter who sat there and offered no greeting or assistance. Instead this person waited for us to approach them. While some would like to say this individual should have been counseled and schooled on proper customer courtesies, have you thought to whom they have been watching and following? Are they mimicking their leaders, or have they encountered the same lack of respect?
This could have been you or me years ago, and it can go full circle until someone shows them proper courtesy or respect. You see, if this individual would have just taken the small amount of time it takes to stand up, offer a simple greeting or assistance, they would have gained respect from the individual entering the organization. What could have happened if this Airman behind the counter had demonstrated this small token of respect?
If the individual behind the counter was an NCO and the customer was an Airman, that NCO just inadvertently mentored the Airman by standing up and showing respect for a fellow Air Force member. If the individual was an Airman behind the counter and the customer was an NCO or officer, that Airman just gained much respect for showing basic common courtesy and respect. These small things are what people remember about organizations and individuals.
The same could be said when talking on the telephone. Even though you are not receiving face-to-face customer service, assistance is still being provided. When calling another unit that has poor phone etiquette, what is the first thing that goes through your mind? It makes you wonder if that person wanted to be at work today, or makes you question what kind of operation that unit is running. Same goes when answering the phone with, “Sir or ma’am, how may I help you?” Set the example and show that you care. These small gestures help present a positive and professional image for you and your organization.
There are many scenarios we could cover but the bottom line is, to get respect, you need to give it, and if you give it, you will receive it.
As a leadership characteristic, remember this the next time you interact with someone on the other side of the counter or phone. By doing this, we create a more cohesive working environment for all Airmen in this world’s greatest Air Force!