Simple thanks will motivate Airmen to succeed

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michael Hale
  • 732nd Air Mobility Squadron
I have seen many changes in the Air Force since I began my career more than 24 years ago. 

The one thing that remains constant is the "smallest" things people do will sometimes have the biggest impact. Oftentimes these little things go unrecognized. 

A simple "thank you" can go a long way in motivating an Airman to continue performing the simplest tasks with pride and go the extra mile. Taking pride in doing the right things and doing them right the first time is truly what it's all about. Every job and task in the Air Force is important regardless if you're a young Airman at your first duty station or a chief who has spent nearly a lifetime in the military. 

In 600 B.C., philosopher and founder of Taoism Lao Tzu said, "Fail to honor people, they will fail to honor you." This directly correlates with the old Air Force saying, "Take care of our people, and our people will take care of the mission." 

Part of taking care of our Airmen is making sure we take the time to recognize people for the outstanding job they're doing. Honoring a good performance doesn't always have to be in the form of a decoration, quarterly award, or time off. A simple verbal acknowledgment of "a job well done," a "thank you", or an "atta-boy" is often more than sufficient to convey the message of appreciation. All these actions can trigger several positive effects. 

First, it helps to continue a trend of successful behavior. It's part of our Air Force culture for every Airman to want to succeed. I truly believe Airmen don't know how to fail. We all want to do our very best, and it's not necessarily for the "pat on the back" but for the pride in knowing we did our absolute best. 

Second, positive acknowledgment motivates us to continue to do our very best. It's up to us as leaders and supervisors to ensure our Airmen know they're a valuable part of the organization, and that they have a direct impact on mission success. Best of all, positive motivation can be contagious; it can motivate others to strive to do the best job they can do. 

Motivated people translate into successful people. Successful people become successful leaders. Successful leaders guide successful organizations to accomplish the mission in an outstanding manner. Who would have thought that saying "thank you for a job well done" could inspire so many to accomplish so much? It happens every day across our Air Force, yet we still underestimate the power of these words. 

Let me paint a picture for you. You're at work. You have a deadline to meet. You scurry down the hallway, and the papers in your hands drops. Paper scatters everywhere. Someone stops to help. Say "thank you" and the tension lessens. They'll help you get the papers back in proper order, and you can scurry off to the commander's office. All because you said "thank you." 

There's a group of professionals in my organization that go out every day and perform one of the most thankless jobs in the Air Force. They're the aircraft lavatory servicing and fleet service operations technicians. Now most may think, "who in their right mind would want a duty like that." On the flip side, these Airmen ensure a nutritious snack or meal, as well as a nice and clean latrine facility, are available for use while in flight. They go out and service every aircraft landing here, and they do it with the utmost pride and professionalism. That is why I take every opportunity to thank them as often as possible. I'm sure there are some unsung heroes in every organization. This is your opportunity to seek them out and show them you appreciate their dedication and service to the mission. 

It's incumbent upon each of us as commanders, chiefs, supervisors and leaders to take every opportunity to ensure our Airman and civilians are recognized for their efforts. So the next time you see one of those professionals on the flightline, at the dining facility or in customer service, let them know they are making a difference. They are appreciated for their hard work and dedication accomplishing the Air Force mission. 

Have you thanked an Airman today?