As a leader, I typically spend 75% of my day engaging in mentoring, problem solving, crisis management and other communication sessions with those I lead. The majority of my time however, is deliberately focused on their career and personal development, which includes the wellness of their families.
I learned from many leaders (both in real life and in the pages of their biographies) about giving the gift of time to their followers. The real life lesson about a giving time to followers came to me during my instructor internship at Vandenberg Airman Leadership School. My supervisor, who I affectionately call the Yoda of Professional Military Education had a Masters Degree in counseling and worked as a domestic violence family counselor in Texas. She was barely 5′ tall, yet her compassion, empathy and skill at listening to and reaching Airmen made her seem like a giant! I observed her interactions with the Airmen for two years. She was like their older and wiser sister – Yoda Quynh who was always dropping life wisdom nuggets while giving her time to listen to and help Airmen. Not once did I ever see her look at the clock during those sessions, often staying past class hours. Even secretly buying and leaving a struggling airman a new pair of running shoes because his had holes in the toes. Shoes were the last thing on that Airman’s mind. He had spent the last year deployed while financially supporting two younger siblings and his mom back in his home state. An Airmen who’s own leadership knew nothing of his struggle…yet in one counseling session Quynh’s empathy and compassion opened his heart to share why his shoes really had holes.
She was completely engaged in his story, listening deeply, responding with empathy and honesty. I’ve hoped in my years since learning from TSgt McCauley, I’ve reached half the Airmen as deeply as she did during her career.
I wrote to her a few months ago to thank her and she sent me a note that echoed some of the same things I observed in her. She told me she was proud of where I’ve gone in my career. I am grateful and proud to have witnessed her leadership in action.
She showed all of us why helping our Airmen would always be…Time well spent!
The real truth is this…
The quality time you give to those you lead, will leave a legacy of followers caring for their people long after you are gone. I mean (really caring, listening, giving them the shirt off your back if necessary). There have been times where my kids have been beside me when an Airman needs a minute of my time. It’s in those moments when I know it’s time well spent. I know this because my own children have thanked me for helping my Airmen. Not once have they been bitter or sad. They’ve been along with me on this ride and when someone asks them what my job is…they say “My mom helps her Airmen and we love them.”
The time you give away will come back in many intangible ways and often when you need it most!
Love & Leadership,