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NEWS | May 6, 2015

The formula for success

By Chief Master Sgt. Mark Bronson 628th Air Base Wing command chief

As I am out and about talking with Airmen, one topic that consistently comes up is the new Enlisted Evaluation System.  "What will the new EPR look like?"  "How many people will get the highest promotion rating?"  "Why did we need to change the system?"  These are just some of the questions that I routinely hear.  However, probably the biggest question I get asked is "how can I be successful in the new system?" That is usually followed by their unique situation and why they are afraid of the future changes.

While there is no doubt the system is changing dramatically, I believe the formula for success has not, and will not change.  First and foremost, you need to be a great Airman!  Airmanship is the foundation for who we are and why we do what we do.  For the enlisted force we have AFI 36-2618 or, "the little brown book" as it is affectionately called, as a guide.  It lays out expectations, sets the standards, and is the foundation for what an enlisted Airman needs to understand and do to be successful.  While that document is specifically written for enlisted Airmen, I believe the basic principles can be applied to all Airmen, including our officers.  If you haven't read it or it has been awhile since you reviewed it, I challenge you to dust it off and spend some time reviewing this valuable resource.

Second, you have to not only know the core values, but LIVE the core values.  "Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do" must be more than a punch line or something we recite. They must be the guidelines to our decision making process each and every day.  When we make decisions based on the core values, we are set up for success.  Take a step back and evaluate those situations where you or someone you know was in trouble.  Somewhere along the timeline there was a breach in one or several of those core values.  I challenge you to find a scenario where making a decision based on the core values leads to a bad decision.  These values are the backbone of success not only in the Air Force but in life in general. 

Third, you must receive and provide honest, candid feedback.  Our Air Force implemented a new feedback form, the Airmen Comprehensive Assessment, last July to help with that process.   The form was developed to help improve communication between you and your supervisor.  Even though AFI guidance directs us to have two feedbacks a rating period, we continue to have supervisors not giving adequate feedback.  I believe the failure in the feedback process is the root cause of our inflated rating system.  Quite simply, many Airmen were not receiving proper feedback or, in many cases, feedback at all.  Then when their performance report was due they were given the top rating that they may not have earned or deserved.  Interestingly enough, I think many times supervisors are afraid to give their subordinates honest feedback for fear of hurting their feelings or not being liked anymore. 

The sad irony in the whole situation is that Airmen WANT that feedback, they want to know what they need to work on to be better.  We owe it to them as supervisors to give them proper feedback.  If you are not getting the feedback you deserve, ask for it, formally request it...even demand it!  We owe it to you to be successful.

Finally, simply put, perform!  I am sure you have heard it said; the new evaluation system is about performance.   I would argue, the old system was about performance.  Somewhere along the way we twisted the priorities and Airmen now think getting a degree or volunteering are above job performance and being great in their assigned duties.  If that is your thinking, then we missed the mark.  The Air Force needs you to perform in your primary duty at a high level.  With the resource and manning challenges we face today and in the upcoming years, we cannot afford to have Airmen not performing at peak levels.  Don't get me wrong, getting your education, continuing self-improvement and volunteering are important to being a well-rounded Airman but, those things should not be valued above performance in your assigned duties!  Additionally, when we talk about volunteering, remember true volunteerism is giving of your own time, not getting out of work to "volunteer" at an event. At the end of the day, no one can dispute performance.  If I asked you who is the best performing Airmen in your unit, most could name those top performers.  This new system will force us to recognize them and reward them for that performance. 

I understand there is some reservation with the new Enlisted Evaluation System.  Anytime there is change it can cause anxiety among those that it affects.  However, if you are striving every day to be a great Airman, living the core values, taking action when given feedback and performing at a high level, have faith in the system.   Have faith that those selected to lead you will ensure that you are rewarded for that performance the way the system was always intended to do.