First commander provides career success guidelines

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Fitzsimmons
  • 71st Flying Training Wing, director of staff
The most difficult part of writing a commentary is choosing the appropriate topic. I've racked my brain trying to come up with some nugget of wisdom that will help make you better Airmen, and possibly, enrich your lives.

I immediately ruled out a discussion on the Air Force's Core Values. Even though they are of the utmost importance, you have read many articles and heard many speeches centered around them. What to discuss... Since I have a fair amount of combat experience, I thought of discussing how the nature of warfare has changed. When I joined the Air Force, President Ronald Reagan was Commander in Chief, the Air Force was enormous, we had a known, predicable enemy and we hardly ever employed force. Now we seem to be one deep in all career fields, are 40 per cent of the size we were then and deploy to actual war zones quite frequently. Of course, this is not news to any of you. What, then, to write about...

I decided to look at this problem from another angle. What was useful to me when I was a young pup? I immediately thought of "Bud's Axioms of Success". Col. (ret) Bud Jackson was my first squadron commander. First commanders, no doubt, leave an indelible mark on young, impressionable Airmen, and Bud was no different. He was the type of officer who always got the next job--one that seemed beyond his pedigree and grooming. I can only attribute his career success to his personality, and the personal approach he took in caring for his troops.

In a venue very similar to this one, Colonel Jackson conveyed the keys to his successful career just prior to his retirement. His Axioms of Success article appeared in Desert Airman, the former Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., base newspaper. These 44 axioms stuck with me and I have been carrying the article around ever since. Hopefully, you will be enriched by Bud's wisdom.

1. The first axiom is what I call "Pride in working." The person who takes pride in his work, who throws himself or herself enthusiastically into every task (regardless of whether he or she is being observed or not) is inevitably headed for success.
2. Be nice and considerate to everyone.
3. Keep a pleasant smile.
4. Look people in the eye--work at this.
5. Avoid arguments, but don't be a "yes" person.
6. Voice your ideas, but remember never pass up the chance to say nothing.
7. Be generous in praise.
8. If wrong, be quick to admit it; fix the mistake and move out on your better decision.
9. Be sympathetic, but never seek sympathy.
10. Keep all promises.
11. Be on time, especially to the meetings you control.
12. Avoid obvious face time. (But, unfortunately, it's necessary at times.)
13. Always keep a "can-do" attitude.
14. Learn to love change.
15. Be sure of yourself; exude self-confidence.
16. Be loyal--both ways; live so your friends can defend you, but never have to.
17. Be fortunate enough to have good luck; but luck is largely a matter of paying attention--you can make good luck.
18. Make people want to do things.
19. Know your people, especially their personal problems.
20. Be a good listener.
21. Always criticize in private (even in jest), but praise in public.
22. Delegate, delegate, delegate--absolutely essential for success.
23. Give away credit. As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It's amazing what you can accomplish as long as you don't have to get all the credit."
24. Avoid domination--your brilliant idea just might be stupid.
25. Show interest to all around you.
26. Give logical reasons for requests--not demands.
27. Practice participative management; "because I said so" or "just because" doesn't hack it.
28. Be consistent and don't show favorites.
29. Ask for help when needed, but not too often.
30. Carry out your plans.
31. Establish measurable goals.
32. Evaluate your goals often.
33. Choose your words carefully (hard for me to do).
34. Gripe "just a little."
35. Create a sense of importance in your work.
36. Make a "To Do" list; keep it updated.
37. Keep almost everything informal.
38. Let people truthfully know exactly where they stand; conduct feedback sessions; discuss known rumors.
39. Don't start believing your performance report!
40. Set the standard and set your style.
41. Establish a strong sense of unit identity.
42. Use positive strokes--avoid the Kick InThe A** method.
43. Allow decisions with "bottom up" emphasis.
44. And, of course, hire a good secretary. (She added this one.)

Bud's parting shot was that "many of these are hard to accomplish. Some may not apply to you. Have a good day, and if you're a happy successful person--smile. (If not, smile anyway; it will help you on your way.)"

Hopefully you will find these axioms as useful in your career as I have in mine. I look forward to seeing you smiling around Vance.