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Hammering the point home

Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Kollbaum, 314th Operations Group superintendent

Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Kollbaum, 314th Operations Group superintendent

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- "Never use a hammer to swat a fly off someone's head"
--John C. Maxwell.

Many of my life lessons came from my parents. They would find something I did like getting home after curfew and they would calmly explain their concern for me and how they thought something bad had happened. In the end, everything was alright, but I was stuck with the guilty feeling as I thought about how worried and disappointed they were.

I am sure a few of you have been wearing those shoes and maybe your parents didn't react in the same way. If their message came across "loud and clear," it possibly went right over your head. Now, I wasn't raised as part of the "Brady Bunch," so I did receive the occasional one-way conversation. Most of the time my parents used a "whisper" to correct me rather than a "shout." After learning this calm way of dealing with situations, I did find another way to handle things in the military.

When making a point in the Air Force, nothing gets the blood pumping like a training instructor, supervisor or commander barking commands. Forceful words are essential tools to use when the point is clear with no possibility of being misunderstood. If someone must execute a "right face" or be corrected quickly, the words must be sharp and distinct.

I have heard these types of words in formation and coming from a first sergeant's office on many occasions. They are great to use for return customers who need a firm reminder if they don't get it the first time. Raising the level is appropriate and effective at times but I have seen this type of leadership misused and it was not good for the unit.

In my case, I had a shift supervisor in my past who was always upset. Every day he would storm into the shop, bark out the orders, then return to his office. I never understood why he was so abrupt or upset. I avoided him as much as possible and my co-workers did also. We moved from task to task as he took care of his office duties. Our job was to get things done without drawing his attention. His brash attitude left us needing a trainer, a boss and a leader. He may have been a supervisor in the unit but he wasn't leading ... no one was behind him. In the end he did teach me what not to do as a supervisor in addition to prompting me to look for ways to deal with people. I have found that professional military education and reading books are great ways to gain those skills.

The quotation from above came from a book called "Winning with People." John C. Maxwell writes about the Hammer Principle and how people can build relationships by adhering to a few ideas.

1) Total Picture - get the whole story from all sides before reacting to it. Your hasty action could leave you missing the key piece of the problem.

2) Timing - realize it is easy to find someone to pat you on the back when you do something good but it may be hard to find a friend when you do something bad.

3) Tone - you can spin up a bad situation with harsh words or tone it down with kind ones.

4) Temperature - take the emotion out of the situation. Feelings make a bad situation worse so let time pass before tackling it. As you work through it, you may need to take a couple of breaks along the way.

It seems my parents knew these concepts without ever reading the book. I have seen all four of these qualities in my parents and in the leaders I admire. They were masters at dealing with conflicts and issues. As a leader, how you deal with each situation can enhance a relationship and change a behavior or it can make things worse.

Make a calculated decision on how you take care of issues.