Have you talked with your mentor lately?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Susan Ferguson
  • 22nd Force Support Squadron superintendent
I still hear the echo of his words 29 years late: "Give 110% percent of yourself in everything you do in life, whether it is work, family or play. Never ask for or expect anything in return for your deeds, you will be rewarded if you have earned it. Last but not least, always be you, fake or insincere people are easy to spot." Those were words of wisdom from my first mentor, Chief Master Sgt Samuel T. Chappell. He was the commandant of the Air Force Communications Command NCO Leadership and Academy where I worked the first four years of my career. 

Chief Chappell was a formidable man who caught your attention right off the bat because of his size. The man was huge. A power lifter all his life, the chief looked like he had to turn a little every time he went through a doorway. But once he sat down, it wasn't his size that drew you in. It was his quiet way and gentle demeanor that made you lean forward and listen. He always told me that you didn't have to be loud to make your point. Your point just needed to have conviction behind it. 

When he talked about giving 110 percent of yourself, he simply meant never do anything half way, always ensure you do your absolute best and follow-up is paramount. He meant this about work, taking care of your family and even playing hard with friends, co-workers and loved ones. Leadership looks for consistency and they are drawn to people who do a good job over and over. 

Your family counts on you to have the answers and ensure issues are resolved. Your friends count on you to be there through thick and thin. Consistency and dependability are wonderful attributes to have.

He was also right about not expecting anything in return for your work. Individuals who work hard at being their best and focus on the mission and needs of others will receive accolades without ever asking for anything. Their supervisors and peers know they deserve the recognition because they have watched their performance and behavior on a daily basis; they celebrate with them in their accomplishments. 

On the other hand, individuals who only do things because of what the action will net them tend to spend their entire career trying to get ahead. They are not well received by their peers and their supervisors, and while they still may excel in the end it is a hollow accomplishment. They know it and so does everyone around them. Their motives give them away. 

The easiest lesson he taught me was be yourself. He was a great example. He never faked anything and was never insincere about what he said or did. He showed anger, sadness, happiness and frustration over the years and never tried to hide or put on a game face for the sake of others. He was upfront on the issues and clear about his expectations and standards. He could laugh with the best of them, but he could also clean the clock of an instructor who wasn't pulling his or her weight. He didn't smile for the camera on cue and he didn't play nice to gain something. What you saw was what you got with Chief Chappell, a fabulous leader who was fair and equitable, compassionate but strict, and in the end, a wonderful motivator and mentor! 

I adopted Chief Chappell's words of advice as my work ethic and never looked back, everything he said would happen did and I have been truly blessed throughout my career. Have you talked with your mentor lately?