First Sergeant's Corner: Confidence

  • Published
  • By MSgt Matthew Adelman, First Sergeant, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center
Back in March 2020, I was attending the First Sergeant Academy and heard one of the realest things that I carry to this day: It doesn’t matter if you are a Shirt on your first day or last, the Airmen in your unit will only see that diamond and expect that you know what you’re doing. 

During my first week as a First Sergeant, an OSI agent came into my office and handed me what would become the first of countless Reports of Investigation, or ROIs.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I was handed. In the world of First Sergeants, we get to see the best in people -- but that also means we get to see the worst. This was by far one of the worst and the details of that case still affect me today. It did not matter that it was my first week, I was expected to show up because it was what the Airmen in my unit deserved. 
I was expected to demonstrate great confidence when supporting the victim, subject, commander, and the unit at large. This was the kind of case where everyone needed something. The subject has rights, the victim deserves justice, and the commander and I had responsibilities. Through every decision we made, we relied on countless helping agencies to render aid at all levels. The commander and I had to be confident in the decisions that we made because people’s lives depended on those decisions and actions. Commanders and First Sergeants face "firsts" all the time, but the Airmen in our units deserve to rely on our confidence in navigating it. We must rely on the confidence to ask the right questions, seek the right answers, and come to the best decision.

This month’s AFMC Connect focus subject is Confidence and lends well to many stories any First Sergeant can share. Shirts know that Airmen do not care if you are on your first day or your last with the diamond on -- they expect you to help and to be confident when you do. 
So how can we cultivate confidence? Reaching back to my time in aircraft maintenance, I relied on making sure I had the right tools, training, guidance, and attitude for the job at hand. Having the right tools might literally mean not using a ratchet as a hammer. It could also be having the right software, the right vehicle, or the right helping agency. Training is something we can never get enough of because even the best tool becomes useless if you have no idea how to use it. Directing an Airman to SAPR when they should be talking with EO can make a big difference in fostering trust and confidence on both sides of the relationship. 

Next is having guidance. This can be the correct policy, tech data, or even finding a peer who has been through a similar situation to help you out.

Lastly is attitude, which is going into situations with the right mindset. That mindset could be one set on listening, celebrating, learning, or action. Just like I did not change my first engine in maintenance by myself, I relied on having the right tools in the tool kit available, the training to understand what I was doing, the tech data and a mentor to provide guidance, and an attitude to accomplish the task at hand.
We can also cultivate confidence in others by following a few key concepts: we should provide positive feedback, leverage strengths, treat everyone with dignity and respect, provide opportunities for growth, and foster an environment where mistakes are used to teach so Airmen are supported to foster growth. This is what it means to be a transformational leader, working to transform our Airmen into the best version of themselves.
Rely on these concepts and you’ll build confidence in yourself and in the Airmen all around you. This is how I, as an aircraft maintenance Airman, was able to lead as the First Sergeant within a Civil Engineer, Healthcare Operations, Reconnaissance and Attack, and now a whole Center environment.