First Sergeant's Corner: Transparency

  • Published
  • By MSgt Matthew Adelman, First Sergeant, AF Life Cycle Management Center
Last month, we examined trust as a key component of being an effective leader and running an effective organization. We noted that transparency was a core component of trust and saw how well it lends itself to building and maintaining a high-trust organization.  Now we focus on transparency in this month’s AFMC Connect subject. As shared last month, transparency is one of the most utilitarian concepts leaders can offer. It stands to ensure that members of our teams understand the mission and goals of our organization.  If we veil our mission, we can often find ourselves encountering problems and experience stalled teams because objectives are not aligned with the correct mission focus. This is why it is imperative that leaders clearly state and share goals. Leaders should help realign their subordinates with the mission by offering clear and honest feedback while validating the team and individuals are hitting their targets.

Leaders also have opportunities to gain feedback from their subordinates to ensure their teams are well supported and have every resource available. More specifically, commanders are called to organize, train, and equip. This is why it is so important for a feedback loop to exist. If members of the team are having difficulty finding childcare, for example, leaders must see this as an opportunity to offer support and seek solutions. At the same time, subordinates must be clear on the problems they face so the right tool can be applied. Perhaps commanders need to advocate for a larger childcare facility or advocate for increased funding or even changes in pay and benefits. Alternatively, they can also ask if there are other ways to help their subordinates, such as offering alternative work hours. No matter what the solution is, transparency on both ends of the relationship is essential.

As First Sergeants, we find ourselves in a unique position to serve the needs of the unit’s members as well as the needs of the commander to provide a ready force to Combatant Commanders across the globe. When commanders are transparent on their goals and initiatives, personnel better understand the why behind a decision.  On the same level, when unit members are transparent with supervisors and commanders, we can offer solutions to their needs that help solve problems instead of perhaps introducing new ones. Unmet and unclear expectations affect both parties all too often.  

Consider a real example of a young family who is having financial problems and unable to report to work on time because spouses share a single vehicle. Supervisors may misdiagnose the problem and assume they have a member who cannot manage their time and apply corrective actions that do not get after the root cause.  Perhaps the supervisor will see this as a disciplinary problem and recommend ineffective solutions such as reporting to work earlier or staying later.  In the end, these solutions could introduce or compound problems. Many problems can disguise themselves as disciplinary issues, when it is quite the opposite. When given the opportunity to seek the root cause, supervisors must be ready to listen and care. In this way, they are both offering and receiving transparency. After a conversation where the subordinate shares their financial issues of caring for their young family and sending money to family members, the supervisor can cue in on real solutions. Perhaps the real solution is to offer the member a ride to work or offer alternative duty hours such as so they can free up their sole vehicle. When the affected family sees the efforts of the team to support them, they feel valued and return that value into their work.

Transparency is such an important, effective, and underutilized tool for supervisors and subordinates. It is more than just 360-degree feedback: it is being open and honest and allowing your subordinates to do the same.