First Sergeant's Corner: Connectedness

  • Published
  • By MSgt Matthew Adelman, First Sergeant, AF Life Cycle Management Center
Fostering healthy relationships is fundamental to growing connectedness within your work center, squadron, division, directorate, group, and wing. When people feel like they are valued for their individuality and their contributions to the team, it stirs something within the unit that makes people feel connected. Just like with any of the AFMC connect subjects, there are unique aspects of connectedness. For example, someone can be connected to another person, a group of people, or to a mission or organization. Achieving the level of connectedness at all of these levels is sure to be an undertaking that requires deliberate action. In spite of this, it is possible and the byproducts can lead to some of the most high-performing organizations and teams. 

Connectedness is not just limited to improvements in duty performance. Consider the impact on the health and welfare of a team that feels they can rely on each other, be vulnerable, and lean in on one another when one or more of the team members experiences personal or professional challenges. When we are going through the muck of what life sometimes hands us, it is nice to know we can rely on each other to stay strong and be supportive. This relationship works both ways with each person finding value in providing and receiving support. 

Common questions about fostering team connections follow with tips on how to make it all work:
Q: What are some reasons why people feel connected or feel they belong to a team?

A: People treasure individual consideration and individual feedback and nurturing. Walking into a work center and saying the obligatory “I am proud and appreciate all of your work” may work well when it comes to senior officials who aren’t in the trenches. Therefore, these leaders and even teammates should be specific when they convey appreciation. Don’t limit your comments to the general, tell them they did a great job editing, or caught a major error on an important document, or how they enforced a project deadline and its impacts. In other words, be specific.
Q: How does feeling connected make it easier to reach out when you need help?

A: When a member of the team feels connected, they seek opportunities to share their lives and offer support for others who are going through difficult times. For example, when my son was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I leaned in on my work center who helped connect me with other people (even in my work center) who had dependents with similar conditions. Without that sense of connection, I would have never used that opportunity to be vulnerable and in-turn recognize the appreciation I had for such an amazing team that wasn’t just good at their job, but cared about their teammates.
Q: What can you do to help people feel they are a valued member of the team?

A: Ask questions like "How is your family doing?" "Are you facing any challenges that I should know about?" "What are some things that you think are important for us to know about your family?" These questions elicit emotional responses that strengthen the bonds between people. Above all, pay attention and follow up later to ensure needs are being met, even if you can’t effect change by providing for every need, knowing you are aware can mean the world to someone who is struggling to feel connected. 
The picture above shows a visit to a digital team located at Peterson SFB. While the team is small, it is comprised of officers, civilians, and contractors. Every single member of the team provided positive feedback about the care and feeding the team’s site lead, Major Alan Frazier fostered in the work center. Everyone was equally important and felt connected to each other and their mission. One of the most telling sentiments was the comment that "...there have been very tough times and we struggle at times to fill vacancies and meet deadlines. If it wasn’t for how well supported I feel here, I wouldn’t have stayed and endured. This team makes it worth it.’"