By Lt. Col. Chris Carnduff, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- Technology has
revolutionized our lives and the Air Force. Our high-tech culture and military
are capable of unprecedented effectiveness and agility due to the speed of
communication. In many facets of our personal and professional lives, technology
gives us the ability to communicate rapidly and accomplish a variety of tasks
with minimal personal interaction. However, this high-tech world introduces a
risk of leaders losing touch with those under their command. To reduce the
potential of technological isolationism, leaders must focus on using high-touch
tactics, including learning about subordinates, providing continuous performance
feedback and taking ownership of the organizations actions.
Leaders cannot lead effectively by sending a barrage of
e-mails; it takes time, effort, creativity and, most of all, requires genuinely
caring about the welfare and development of their personnel. In the age of
social media and mass e-mails, it is easy to think we know people based on what
we see on a computer screen but learning about an individual demands
face-to-face interaction, understanding their non-verbal communications and
gauging their motivations. Only through the process of learning about an
individual can leaders understand how to motivate and mentor their Airmen to
Deliberate performance feedback is critical to correcting
substandard performance, rewarding excellence and putting individuals on a path
to being outstanding contributors to the goals of the organization. Virtual
feedback is not sufficient. Performance feedback must be a face-to-face
communication capitalizing on the knowledge a leader gains from learning about
the subordinate. It is easy for leaders to think they provide continuous
feedback because they give guidance via e-mail or through another virtual means
but those mechanisms are ineffective in comparison to focused personal
interactions aimed at guidance and mentorship. Without engaging in interactive
and personal performance feedback, leaders risk abdicating the responsibility of
taking unbiased ownership of each members actions.
A critical component of effective leadership is taking
complete ownership of the intent and execution of the organizations mission.
One can only achieve such ownership through high-touch interactions. In an age
of digital work accomplishment and communication, a leader can fail to take
responsibility for subordinates work. Many times that failing is due to not
wanting to micromanage Airmen, a noble intent. However, a leader can make the
motivation clearer by involving themselves in their subordinates actions
personally instead of virtually. Additionally, being involved personally,
leaders enable an open dialogue which enhances communications of intent.
The technological revolution our society has undertaken
over the past few decades is awesome and the application of new technologies has
contributed to the U. S. Air Forces dominance in air, space and cyberspace.
However, we must never forget our people are, and will always be, our greatest
asset. Regardless of the generation, people are best understood by, mentored by
and led by peoplenot ones and zeros. A high-tech organization deserves
high-touch leadership to maximize the effectiveness of its people.