Advice from a deputy commander: Be trustworthy, dependable and kind

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Clifford Bayne, 423rd Air Base Group deputy commander

As I near the end of my Air Force career, I find myself thinking a lot about what I’ve learned over the past 20+ years. The requirement to write a commentary provides the perfect opportunity to put these thoughts on paper. I’ll pass these thoughts on by way of advice.

Be Trustworthy

Trust is the foundation for any successful relationship, whether it be personal or professional. Unlike in the civilian sector, where co-workers frequently work together for years, the military requires many professional interactions for short periods. The assumption of trust needs to exist, as we don’t usually have long periods of time to gain others’ trust. What makes one trustworthy? Answer this question—can a coworker trust that if I knew an embarrassing detail about his/her personal life I would keep it private, instead of sharing with others? Or another—if a coworker fails, will he/she trust that I will be there to support him/her, and not exploit their failure for my own gain?   

Be Dependable

One of the neatest experiences I’ve had as a Deputy Group Commander has been getting to see the hiring of Squadron Commanders. Very few decisions the Group or Wing Commander make are as important as who they bring in to command their squadrons. A poor commander can have a detrimental effect on the unit’s climate and operational effectiveness. A good one can have the opposite effect. The main question Wing and Group commanders try to answer when hiring Squadron Commanders is—“Will I be able to depend upon Lt Col or Maj X?” 

What makes one dependable? Simple—come through when others are counting on you. Ever since I was a Lieutenant, when tasking via e-mail, I’ve separated the tasks into two categories: those I know will be done and, therefore, don’t need to track and those that I’m not sure will be done and need to track. What this really boils down to is: what is my confidence level in the person receiving the task? If the person receiving the task falls into the first category, I would consider him/her to be dependable; if the person receiving the task falls into the second, I would consider him/her to not be. 

Be Kind

This one is simple but so often not exhibited. I’ve worked in a number of toxic workplaces throughout my career. One of the common traits that exemplifies a toxic work environment is a lack of kindness. You, through the way you treat others, help to set the workplace climate—positive or negative. Treat others with dignity and respect. Be kind.

To close, ask yourself these questions:

Am I trustworthy?

Am I dependable?

Am I kind?