"A squadron's most valuable and most important assets are its personnel. Each of our members is a unique individual who brings something new and different to our unit: whether it be a skill, life experience, perspective, way of overcoming challenges, or any other trait that defines a person. As a squadron, we only succeed because of our ability to collect opinions and ideas from individuals so that we can collaborate as a cohesive team to come to common terms in deciding how to best accomplish our mission. As a unit, our successes are the result of each individual. No matter how big or small of a role a person thinks they play, everyone is significant. Without each member, success is just that much more difficult to attain. As the unit commander, this is not my squadron; this is our squadron. It is my role to serve and support our members.
I am a firm believer that exceptional performance merits recognition. It is critical that we showcase the accomplishments of our members, whether collectively or individually. Awards, decorations, certificates, promotions; these all serve the purpose of identifying perseverance and excellence in one's performance. I encourage every member to become familiar with Civil Air Patrol's awards program. If you see something, say something. If you observe someone go above and beyond the minimum, I want to know about it. I want all of our members to receive the recognition which they deserve, and it is imperative that we all be mindful of one another to never miss the opportunity to showcase outstanding performance."
— Captain Ryan M. McNeilly, Commander
Recognizing Our Extended Family
It is critical that we recognize everyone that makes it possible for our unit to succeed: our Civil Air Patrol members, our boosters and fundraisers, parents of our cadets, members' families, friends, and colleagues throughout the local community and extended CAP network.
Expectations of Personnel
Civil Air Patrol is a professional organization that serves a very important purpose in our community: to grow and develop leaders. This is not a hobby; this is not a club. Leaders may get it wrong sometimes. The important thing is that we learn how to overcome our mistakes and pick ourselves back up. The smallest foul-ups can have the greatest impacts. Every person in the unit is expected to be a leader. Every person must be prepared to take charge at any time. This does not imply that brand-new members must be ready to assume command-level roles right away; but those new members must receive immediate initial mentoring and develop in order to rapidly build independence and autonomy. As more new members join, it is expected that those with more time in CAP are going to step up and start building the next generation of leaders. Everyone is expected to act like a leader. This means:
- Be professional at all times.
- Know your job.
- Know the job of the person above and below you.
- Know the job of the person to the left and right of you.
- Never get lazy or settle for the easy solution.
- Demand the best of everyone around you.
- Hold yourself accountable. Accept nothing from yourself that you would not accept from a subordinate.
- Be prepared to take charge at any moment. Expect that you may always be next in line.
Communication is Critical
Do whatever it takes to find out information. Know what is going on around you. If someone has not heard enough details, they need to ask. Having to be told probably already means that the plan is falling behind the schedule. It is the responsibility of each individual to find out critical information and to pass it along to the next appropriate person. Leaders are expected to check in and challenge their subordinates to ensure that the flow of information is communication essential knowledge in all directions. Lower echelons are expected to be checking in with their peers. Ask: "What is the plan right now? Do you know?" Find issues and fix them immediately.
A lack of communication shows a lack of caring. It shows that leaders are not motivating their subordinate to want to check emails or respond even if they did check. If the attendance turnout is low, we need to rethink what the unit does to incentivize people to show up. Maybe we are not communicating information effectively and we need to reevaluate if we are sharing too much garbled information. Maybe our methods are confusing or just not the right approach for what we are trying to accomplish.
Leaders must be creative while ensuring that the focus is on the effectiveness of the management of people, not necessarily the effectiveness of physical tools and resources. We cannot always control our environment, but we can control how we adapt to it.
Maintaining a Positive Command Climate
Feedback is a must. Everything the unit does requires people to be aware of their performance. This is the only way the unit can constantly improve. The first time someone receives negative feedback should never be during a promotion review. This should also never be the first time someone hears how well they are doing.
Receiving negative feedback is often difficult because it exposes our flaws and weaknesses; it makes us feel vulnerable. Likewise, we often do not like to give negative feedback because it creates awkwardness with the recipient; it hurts our relationship with that person.
Feedback cannot always be negative. Members need positivity and encouragement. That does not mean "sugarcoating." Every person is the unit must learn the art of how to provide constructive feedback. Every person must also learn how to receive feedback and apply it to constructive improvement. This is expected all the way up and down the chain of command. Honest, constructive feedback is critical to the success of our operation.
Leaders in this unit are expected to act as a team; a family. We must work together to resolve issues and build people to be better.
Take Initiative and Delegate Decision Making
Every person must be empowered to make decisions. While there is a clear chain of command, the criticality of time does not always provide for decisions to be made via staff meetings, long planning discussions, or through multiple layers of leadership. Each person will likely face a moment where a rapid decision must be made. Make the call, and take action.
Bad decisions are not to be attacked. Nobody should be chastised for a bad result when the decision was solely on them. These are learning opportunities. Sure, corrections must be applied at times. These corrections must be applied through constructive feedback.
It is more important that individual take action to get a job done than to wait for instructions while the mission falls apart before them. This is an opportunity to showcase where specific skills and technical expertise may lack in making sound decisions. It should be seen as a chance for the unit to review and improve its training programs to ensure that personnel can handle similar tough situations going forward.
Nobody should have to wait for someone else to manage a situation; quite the opposite. Move forward. If a person "goes too far," then there is a process to "pull them back" to adjust the approach. Everyone's input, though, is valued.
Far too often, growth is considered a "numbers game." People see growth as expansion in size and manpower. Our goal is not to expand as rapidly as we can to grow exponentially in size. The goal is to produce a quality output of leaders for future generations. The unit must target the quality of its programs first and foremost.
As new members join, they should be welcomed with their contributions of new skills and new personalities. Incumbent members must continue to produce new leaders who can tackle challenges and make decisions.
Members will always continue to come and go. It is cyclical for us to see cadets grow up and move on in life, go off to college, start a new career. Our adult leaders may change jobs or move away. Some individuals simply lose interest. That said, we always attract a new roster of remarkable recruits and supporters.
It is paramount that we continue to share in our common beliefs in CAP's greater missions and causes. Our greatest new ideas and innovation comes from the variety of skills and character traits that each person brings to our organization. New ways of problem-solving and new methods of operation must always be welcomed.
The Value of Activities
There is an enormous amount of work and effort that goes into the planning of every activity, whether it is a training opportunity, morale-boosting event, or staff meeting. We must ensure that the time each person contributes to an activity is valued not only in their individual sacrifice—whether it be time away from work, school, family, friends, or personal relaxation—but that their contribution is actually part of an important, meaningful event.
For this, activities should always be evaluated that they are meeting the following criteria:
- Affordable: Is the unit respecting the costs associated with the activity?
- Applicable: Does this impact or relate to anything the unit is currently or planning to engage in?
- Challenging: Does the activity test participants' abilities and teach (or showcase) their skills?
- Educational: Are members learning something new from this experience?
- Fun: Will people actually enjoy this?
- Inclusive: Is the unit portraying itself as welcoming of its members to be involved?
- Innovative: Is the activity designed to be creative and different from previous experiences?
- Participatory: Do people actually get to be hands-on and/or contribute?
- Purposeful: Does the activity have a goal? Is this worth everyone's time?
- Unique: Does the activity present an opportunity not regularly afforded in the "outside world" beyond Civil Air Patrol?