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NEWS | Jan. 7, 2015

Don't blow your top!

By Maj. Julie Johnson 628th Medical Support Squadron commander

How many times have you spoken something in a moment of anger or emotion only to regret it later?  I know I have! 

As military professionals we owe it to ourselves, and those we supervise and lead, to take a deep breath and cool down before we attempt to correct or mentor them. I make it a habit to take 24 to 48 hours between the infraction and the feedback to ensure I am able to remain objective and remove any residual emotion from the interaction.

I routinely conduct an exercise with new supervisors in which I have them complete a counseling statement immediately after someone has done something inappropriate, but they are not to give it to the individual at that point ... just keep it in their desk. After 24 to 48 hours have passed, I have them complete another counseling statement for the same event. Guess what?  The second counseling statement is more constructive, has a mentoring corrective slant in nature and has a far more professional tone.

Once you let the initial emotion and anger subside you are able to view the situation clearly and focus on what corrective action needs to be put into place and how you can best convey that point to the individual without them feeling like they are picking out their own switch for the impending whipping!

There will be times that on the spot correction must take place, however it is still a good idea to take a minute and compose yourself prior to blowing your top. It is also preferable to correct people in private and praise them in public.  Public shaming accomplishes little and can create a negative, fear based work environment.

I would also encourage you to employ this technique at home. Many times I have had to take a minute or day (maybe three) before addressing an issue with my daughter. If I fail to take that time-out period I usually end up speaking out of anger and raw emotion and do little to get my point across. If I take some time and think about the transgression and what behavior I am trying to get her to correct, I can usually come up with a better game plan and get her to see the big picture, or at least acknowledge that "Mom's" picture is the one that counts right now!

On the other side of the coin, one way to limit poor performance is through positive reinforcement.  Positive reinforcement paves the way towards ensuring people perform to a high standard and goes a long way to create a good working or home environment. Whenever I "catch" someone going above and beyond I recognize their action on the spot and let them know how much I appreciate the effort and that what they are doing is appreciated. This small gesture just validates that they are on the right track, that you do care and you take time to notice the extra energy they are putting into their work.

The best results usually come out of areas that provide a positive, supportive environment that allows individuals to express their concerns and provide input on how to better accomplish a task, be it in an aircraft hangar, a medical treatment room or over the dinner table!