Supervisor 101: A starting point for new NCOs

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick
  • 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
I recently attended an Airman Leadership School graduation supporting 24 Airmen in the completion of their first course of professional military education.

Their chests were out, their chins were high and they were all walking taller than they had six weeks ago. I had two outstanding Airmen sitting at my table, more than happy to entertain any questions about their recent experience. At first the conversation went the normal route and I asked them what they enjoyed and what they learned from their experience.

All the proper military answers were given in a confident tone. Then I looked the two Airmen in their eyes and asked,

"You will soon be a NCO, have you thought about what that actually means?"

These once talkative individuals went silent for a second and a look of fear, excitement and uncertainty washed over their face. Although they didn't say a word, their silence spoke volumes. They suddenly understood the immense responsibility that came with entering the non-commissioned officer tier.

That's because when Airmen enter the NCO tier, they become one of the Air Force's first-line supervisor. In accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, you have the responsibility of developing the enlisted personnel under your supervision, and perfecting your professional expertise and supervisory techniques.

But how do you accomplish these lofty tasks? Here are some basic rules to get you started.

It's about them
As one of our Air Force priorities states, we must "Develop and care for Airmen ..." They will produce at a higher level when they know you are taking care of them. This means being involved before they physical step foot in the duty section.

You need to meet them at the airport, arrange their lodging and ensure a smooth transition into a new duty assignment. If they are already stationed there, sit them down and talk. All development starts with a strong feedback highlighting standards and good discipline.

You can recite the "dos and don'ts" until you are blue in the face but accountability is what will make them a reality. When you put forth the effort, they will reciprocate.

Every situation will call for you to either lead and/or manage your people. Lead your Airmen to give them a chance to buy-in the process, and motivate and inspire them to want to succeed.

Once they hit that wall or time becomes critical, manage or direct them to the correct path. At the first possible opportunity, lead them again. There needs to be a balance between leading and managing.

As you develop your own leadership style, you can interweave these characteristics to find the mix that is most effective to achieving the mission.

Integrity Always
Honestly evaluate an Airmen's performance. Candid feedback will make or break their career. If your Airman is weak in certain areas, not only let them know but explain how to improve. When they show strength, commend them.

This short, basic list is a great starting point for any first-line supervisor. The task of becoming an NCO can be daunting, but a successful Air Force career doesn't just happen, it takes hard work, self-sacrifice and a good supervisor to lead the way.