BLUF – Establish yourself early as an out-front leader to jump start your squadron command tour.
The feeling after the Change of Command ceremony can feel like a whirlwind of emotions. You should definitely take the time to appreciate your accomplishment and celebrate with family and friends that joined you for the big day. However, your first 48 hours should include some key events to hit the ground running. The timing and tempo of having your first Commander’s Call, office calls with key leadership, and a quick huddle with your Command Trinity team (you, Squadron Superintendent, and First Sergeant) after assuming command will set the immediate tone of yourself as a vital leader and teammate.
Your first Commander’s Call should serve as a natural follow-on to the Change of Command ceremony, where you establish your initial command narrative and share information about yourself. The order of these subjects is at your discretion (I tend to start with information about myself), but they are equally important. Information about yourself should be shaped around your personal life: family composition, hobbies and interests, and what you are looking forward to at your new duty location. The point of this section is to show your human side. Everyone knows you are the commander, so don’t feel like you need to remind them. By providing personal information you are also offering bridges to conversations within your squadron. Have a favorite football team? You just made some friends (or rivals). Are you a foodie? No doubt you’ll get some local recommendations. What schools are your children going to? Chances are there are other parents in the audience with children that will attend the same school. Connecting to your new community, both now and throughout your tour, will assist in building trust and relationships as a leader. The other half of your message can provide an overview of your leadership philosophy and any immediate expectations. The “Zeros”, also known as zero tolerance for racial/sexual discrimination, drug use, and domestic violence. are an obvious topic to cover, but don’t dwell too long on them. Spending too much time on “Don’t do ______” can feel like a scolding from a parent to a child. Instead, take the high road and explain that you expect them to act like professional Airmen and will hold them accountable for their actions. Focus your time on sharing your leadership philosophy so that everyone understands your expectations early. To keep their focus, the delivery of your philosophy should not take more than 15 minutes. If it takes longer than that, you will be in danger of losing their attention. Spend time prior to the Commander’s Call honing your delivery and presentation so the overall event is engaging and memorable. You’ll have more opportunities to meet with your new teammates, but by showing a combination of your personal and professional side you can build some early momentum as their newest leader.
The initial meeting with your Superintendent and First Sergeant will help set the tone with the other components of the “Squadron Trinity of Leadership”. This title is important to understand that while you are no doubt the commander and leader of the squadron, you can’t do the job alone. In general, you can discuss the usually assigned subjects of “enlisted issues” for the Superintendent and “discipline issues” for the First Sergeant. More importantly, you should explain to them that you expect them to have honest conversations with you. While you are charged with making the decisions, you must charge them to present you with honest opinions on situations from multiple angles to ensure you are making an informed decision as much as possible. Their experience must be relied upon and trusted to free your time and mind. Your experience may not match theirs combined, but that’s ok. If you work together as a team from the beginning, your tour as squadron commander will be successful. They will work hard to take care of you if you focus on leading the squadron. They aren’t looking for you to be perfect, but they are looking for you to be a reasonable leader that listens to their advice and makes a decision when needed. Never forget that your role as the overall decision maker, but you are surrounded by leadership experience that can help you successfully lead the squadron.
Scheduling office calls with key leaders across the wing is still an effective way for you to have one-on-one engagements focused on specific relationships relevant to your squadron. There is no specific list to run through; you will need to assess the mission of the wing and the mission partners you will be in most contact with. Meeting with all of the group commanders is an efficient way to get their recommendations on which squadron commanders you should visit first. Ongoing missions or projects that require your attention can be immediately jumped on and avoid any lapse in progress. Enduring relationships due to close functions may require recurring meetings with a peer commander and other squadron leadership to ensure everyone is on the same page. You won’t be able to take advantage of these relationships if you don’t get out there and develop your reputation as a team player. Providing your direct contact information should be the last portion of all the initial engagements you have. Similar to a salesman, you want to leave your mission partner with the confidence that they can contact you at any time for assistance. Professional courtesy would be that this offer would be returned to you, but don’t worry if it isn’t. Your job at these office calls is to establish your presence as a leader that can be relied upon to be contacted when necessary and can lead the team to get the job done.
In summary, your first 48 hours can serve as a great catalyst and start to your commander tour when the time is used wisely. Developing relationships early will help you throughout the entirety of your command tour, and you will need everyone’s help to make it a successful tour. From meeting key leaders across the wing, to your first huddle with the “Squadron Trinity of Leadership”, to your first Commander’s Call, you can fill your first 48 hours as a squadron commander with events that will pay off for the rest of your command tour.