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Maintaining performance standards isn’t just eyewash

Commander, 446th Operations Group

Published: 04:37PM June 19th, 2014

Everyday all of us in the military hear or read about standards of conduct. They form the basis of military professionalism and service.

It is always great to hear about our fellow service members who have exceeded standards by getting an award or beating a record. Excellence and integrity are normal performance standards for us. It is what we expect.

Conversely, we are disappointed when there is a failure to meet standards. Failure can be something small or the stuff of headlines.

Every failure erodes trust, teamwork and the mission we are all working so hard to accomplish.

The standards we are guided by may seem to some to be arbitrary or archaic rules. Certainly the general public doesn’t understand our sometimes “old fashioned” rule set. At times, the operations tempo we are operating in can make it tempting to pick and choose which standards we meet to save time.

But there is a reason for those standards and through communication, managing perceptions, and being respectful to each other, the reasons why we need standards, and why we need to meet them, can be clarified. If you or someone you work with doesn’t understand, help them.

Loyalty to friends and fellow servicemembers might even be over-riding the priority of meeting standards. There are situations where the best of friends end up in the leader-follower or simply a co-worker role. This can be a tough situation, where it is tempting to act more out of loyalty to a friend than to meet organizational standards.

This may be how the norm outside the gate if you’re flipping burgers, but inside the gate we belong to professional military organizations, and this can’t happen. Loyalty and a sense of camaraderie are important, and maybe you have to pull your buddy out of a burning vehicle, but the harder choice, and the sign of a true professional, is pulling your buddy out of a bar and telling them they’re doing something stupid. Sometimes the best choice is holding your buddy to standards, and protecting them from themselves. Even more difficult might be the lowest ranking person in the room respectfully asking the obvious question of “why are we doing this?” to a senior NCO or officer. That senior person needs to be professional enough to consider what that junior person has to say. They may be offering up the smartest idea in the situation.

Sometimes you will be in the tough position to make that call. Do it. Keep the mission moving with the highest standards, take care of your buds, and don’t take it personally if you are called out. Sometimes taking care of each other means taking the hard path. We hold each other accountable and realize we can still come back as friends.