Strong performance relies on strong relationships

  • Published
  • By Maj. Curtis St. Amand
  • 8th Fighter Wing Safety Chief
Here in the 8th Fighter Wing, a good working relationship with others can make the difference between mission success and mission failure.

Although this may seem obvious, I have witnessed situations at Kunsan where improved working relationships between agencies would have led to increased productivity and less frustration.

Building solid working relationships can take time, something you do not have a lot of during your one-year assignment. As a result, the people and organizations with whom you rely on require more than a token investment. Kunsan's high personnel turnover -- often without overlap -- can quickly create gaps in the progress of long-term projects. In addition, e-mail addresses, recall rosters and phone numbers become obsolete fast, often disrupting the flow of communication between your shop and other agencies. Depending on the project, you might take weeks or even months to build the relationships you need to meet your deadlines. Here are a couple of practical reminders for building relationships quickly, no matter where you are or who you work with.

My first recommendation is to physically meet the person or group with whom you will be working, either at their workplace or in an informal setting, before it becomes necessary. As chief of safety, I spent my first two weeks at Kunsan visiting as many supervisors as I could in each group so they could begin to put my name with my face. Face-to-face introductions and follow-on, informal meetings set a tone of cooperation and accountability to the task. Try to meet early on, before the inevitable bad news needs to be exchanged. It helps when there is a familiar face behind that news, regardless of which direction it flows. Different geographic locations or shift schedules may make it tough to get together, but I have found when you show people you are willing to take time to meet them before things turn sour, more often than not, they will be willing to work with you instead of pushing your request for help aside.

My second recommendation for anyone who needs to establish, or perhaps re-establish, a working relationship is to get off the computer and pick up the phone. When points of contact change or a newcomer is added to a project already underway, a simple phone call goes a long way in cementing the relationship between you and your cross-agency POC. E-mails can come across as toneless; it can be difficult to convey urgency, understanding or confusion. With a phone call, you can quickly determine how much your counterpart really understands about the task and your expectations, or vice versa. E-mails are an efficient way of getting your message out once relationships are developed, but try calling first to build rapport with your fellow workers across the base.

Remember, establishing a good working relationship with others around the base does not mean disregarding the chain of command. It is not a substitute for professional competence, or a method to circumnavigate proper procedure. Your supervisor should be kept "in the loop" whenever you communicate with other agencies, and you should absolutely produce the highest level of work you can. Yet whether you have been put in charge of a multi-squadron task, or simply need to liaise outside your organization, it is crucial to know your fellow Airmen. The bottom line is, the next time you need to build or re-build a relationship, a little extra genuine, human interaction applied early is a simple, yet powerful tool to successfully accomplish the mission. Bring it!