Leaders: Show them the love

  • Published
  • By Maj. Douglass Eagleton
  • 460th Comptroller Squadron Commander
I arrived at Buckley right before the 460th Space Wing change of command, so I had the unique opportunity of experiencing leadership philosophies from two different commanders.  Both established their own sets of priorities for the wing during their tenure, but the one constant similarity between the two is that they have expressed the importance of communication and relationships.

Col. Dan Wright, former 460th Space Wing commander, had an expectation that commanders are to deliberately execute the duties and responsibilities in all aspects of executing the mission, leading people, managing resources and improving the unit. Col. John Wagner, the current 460th Space Wing commander, has an expectation that commanders ensure installation and mission excellence, anticipate our adversaries, build a stronger foundation, and smartly integrate new capabilities.  In other words, he wants us to be proactive and seek out innovative ways to enhance internal and external collaboration, enabling us to fight today and prepare for tomorrow. 

Pretty simple, right?  In order to do that I think it's paramount that we are able to work, communicate and build lasting relationships.  How hard can it be to deal with people?

Most people have heard of the "golden rule," which is treating others as you would want others to treat you. It is a pretty safe rule when it comes to treating human beings with the same basic degree of respect and dignity. But when it comes to personal preferences, personalities, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, treating people the same as you would want them to treat you can backfire. When it comes to relationships, it would behoove us to think beyond how we would like to be treated and more along the lines of how others would prefer to be treated.

Have you ever heard of the bestselling book, "The 5 Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman? The book asserts that everyone has a preferred way of expressing and receiving love. According to Chapman, the five languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts and physical touch. Chapman is also the co-author of the "The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace," in which he tailored the same premise in an effort to improve work relationships and create a more positive work environment.

Words of affirmation are used to encourage. They can be verbal or written, personal one-on-one communication, or public recognition. Submitting an award package for your troop can leave a lasting impression on him or her, regardless of whether they win the award.

Quality time can be expressed via one-on-one attention with a supervisor, having lunch time at the dining facility or even just allowing someone to vent their frustrations with a particularly difficult customer.

You may feel appreciated if someone helps you with a hot tasker, an act of service, but an offer to help a co-worker may result in him or her feeling offended or defensive if that is their least valued language in the workplace.

Tangible gifts in the military can be tricky, especially when considering giving a gift to a supervisor, which cannot be more than $10. The principle is the thought behind the gift. Noticing what people like and buying a small gift can show that you are paying attention.

Assessing appropriate physical touch can be particularly crucial, especially in a military environment where personal display of affection is not only discouraged, but is against regulations. Appropriate physical touch can be a way of celebrating and congratulating folks, which can bring people together.

Keep in mind that your language of appreciation at work may be different than your love languages with family and friends. Get to know the people around you. Show them the love.