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Get to know your people

By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Hunkins 2nd Mission Support Group

When it comes to recognizing someone for a job well done, we often go straight to putting them in for some form of a monthly, quarterly or even annual award.

Regardless if we are wearing the airman battle uniform or come into work wearing khakis and a collared shirt, being recognized for a job well done, by human nature, makes us feel good and keeps us motivated.

The great thing about thanking someone for a job well done, it can come in any number of ways besides standing in front of your squadron receiving a plaque, statue, certificate or coin.

What motivates one person does not necessarily motivate their peers. Some people prefer tangible rewards or gifts, while others are moved by words and acknowledgement. Then there are some who prefer to receive kind words in front of a crowd, others may prefer a quieter one-on-one form of recognition with their own chain of command. Granted, not all ways to recognize are left up to those receiving the recognition.

However, I have witnessed over the years that if possible, recognize those the way they would like to be recognized. This brings up the question of how do you know what type of recognition will continue to motivate those receiving kudos? Answer: "Get to know your people!"

I was a young buck sergeant and had three Airmen whom I supervised. One month, I put two of my Airmen in for different monthly awards. One was a flight hard-charger and the other was for the flight Airman of the Month. Both Airmen deserved either award for what they had done that month. I was stoked that both of them won their respective awards.

Here is where I learned a valuable lesson.

The following day, the "hard-charger" Airman in a respectful tone asked me if there was a reason why he was not put in for the Airmen of the Month. I explained that both of them would have been competitive in either award, I just decided to go the way I did. Through shop talk I found out later that he would have liked to have received the day pass that the other Airmen had received for the Airman of the Month Award.

He had family visiting and could have used it to make it a three-day weekend with them. There are plenty of scenarios that could have played out with both of these awards. What I am getting at is, had I known something about what was going on in his life I probably would have given him the Friday off, regardless if he had won the award or not. Instead, he focused more on what he did not get versus the recognition for which he had definitely earned and worked hard.

Jump forward three decades later, and the importance of knowing your people is just as important in our Air Force as it was when we had double the manpower. As I mentioned earlier, those being recognized do not always get to choose their award, or how to be recognized. If you can get more bang for the buck by recognizing and awarding in a way that continues to motivate them, then do it.
The answer to finding out what that bang is, "Get to know your people!"