Fostering a Culture of Excellence and a Winning Mindset

  • Published
  • By Maj. Thomas Uhl, 422nd Security Forces Squadron commander

Many of us have been given a project or duty that is inherently an uphill battle. We look at the situation and it is almost impossible to not be discouraged by the daunting tasks that lay ahead. It is in this moment we all have two choices in front of us; we can embrace this challenge with our hearts and minds focused on success…or we can quit, give up, or only put in a half effort, all of which can be considered the same tactic. How do we strive to make the first choice? Maybe the better question is, how do we get others to make that choice? 

Over my last year in command, getting others to have this desired thought process has been my “inherently uphill battle.” However, it is a battle I willingly entered into, embraced, and one, which has gotten easier over time due to momentum. I came to work every day ready to fight and strive for where I wanted us to be. I would use lines like, “It is ok to have nice things” or, “It doesn’t have to suck.” While these sound a bit silly or might be obvious thoughts, it constantly reinforced to the team where my head was focused.

Attitudes are contagious and they should always start from the top and work their way down. This can be seen in the attitudes of children who take cues from their elder siblings and their parents, or freshmen athletes on the field looking to the seniors and captains. Within a military unit, a positive attitude (one which drives success, aka “winning”) starts with the leadership team, at the squadron level with the commander, the chief and the first sergeant. From there, it is imperative the next level embraces and runs with this attitude, spreading it like wildfire to the other leaders (both formal and informal) and eventually down to the lowest level Airmen. From your initial contact, you as a leader need to live that positivity every day. Yes, you will have bad days (you’re only human after all); but work hard to get through even those bad days with a positive attitude knowing it will eventually get better. I once had a coach, who also happened to be a physics teacher, who used to say “You only have ‘x’ amount of bad days in your life. Having one today means you only have ‘x-1’ left.” It was great advice that I still reflect on and use to this day.

While there is no guarantee that having a winning attitude means you are actually going to win, it puts you in the right mindset to strive for excellence. Once you instill that positive attitude, one which means you think you’re destined for success, build upon the snowball effect that follows. This in turn drives your organization’s culture; the way they live and breathe every day. You will start seeing your team solving their own problems, members volunteering and being involved, and people who actually like coming to work most days! 

I know this all seems obvious or something fanciful that might fall apart in practice...and maybe it is. Maybe my team and I are all just faking it. Try for yourself and see what happens. Eventually though, you and your team might just forget you are faking, and really just (in the words of Barney Stinson) “Be awesome instead.”