Do You Want a Discount?

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Okay, so I got your attention with the word “discount.” The next question is: What am I selling? Answer: Sorry, nothing tangible but since I have your attention, and if you’ll read a bit more, I’ll provide some free and important advice.

Over the years I’ve served in various positions from the flight to headquarters level. In these positions I noticed how detail oriented senior leaders are when it comes to civilian appraisals, military performance reports and written correspondence in general. During my last two and a half years of command I’ve learned to fully understand why your signature, regardless of the document or its level of importance, tells the reader a lot about you, and your credibility as a leader and supervisor.

As a group level executive officer, at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, in 2005, I had the opportunity to attend several writing seminars provided by Lt. Gen. William Welser III, 18th Air Force commander. His efforts were to assist us in ensuring documentation sent for his signature flowed smoothly, quickly, was clear, concise, consistent and was formatted properly. I was amazed at the amount of time he spent with us, but given the number of documents he signed everyday I’m sure it was time well invested.

It took me several months to fully grasp his writing style and what he was looking for. Once I translated it into action, I found the flow of performance reports and promotion recommendation forms to be seamless from group, to wing, to Numbered Air Force. It did amount to some pain on my end as I scrutinized and sent back poorly written reports (only to make more enemies than friends). Regardless, one of the key fundamentals I learned from my time as an executive officer was every performance report, promotion recommendation, decoration or document you send forth should be your best product and you should not expect it to come back for changes (even though minor tweaks are almost a given). The next reviewer (likely your supervisor) should not be screening it for accuracy, clarity and format.

Flash-forward nine years, upon taking command of the 21st Medical Support Squadron in the summer 2014, I attended the AFSPC Squadron Commander’s course. One of the hosts during the course was, at the time, Brig. Gen. David J. Buck. He too stressed the importance of quality written correspondence and to never discount your signature. As a commander I review, write and sign countless documents and performance reports and I’ve taken it to heart to go the extra mile ensuring every item is the best it can be. Just like my time as an executive officer; being strict on all written correspondence has sometimes made more enemies than friends.

Regardless of an individual’s performance, the same attention to detail and effort is required in writing all performance reports. When I see a poorly written performance report reflecting below average work I often wonder: Is the problem the employee, or the supervisor? Even if the employee is not meeting standards the report should be free of errors and paint a very clear picture of below average performance.

Next time you write an Officer Performance Report, Enlisted Performance Report, decoration or civilian appraisal, I challenge you to take time to review it again, and again…and maybe again, to ensure the product you’re producing is one you’ll be proud to sign. So when it comes to your signature, you don’t want a discount. Sticking to this philosophy is often time consuming and never easy, but it always pays dividends for you, those you supervise, your organization and ultimately your reputation.