The Misadventures of Airman Snuffy McDufflebag and Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Unless you just arrived here or have no TV, can't read, really have trouble focusing at work and are deaf, you know there is an inspection beginning this week. As Col. "Tip" Stinnette said in his awe-inspiring Pattonesque speech to the members of Team Incirlik, we all know when the time comes "We'll Know What to Do." 

Well, those two commander's calls Aug. 24 served to inspire. For some of us we stuck out our chest with confidence knowing we were prepared for the upcoming task at hand. For others, like Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor, they know some people are just stuck on stupid and inspired to be stupider - I mean dumber - OK habitual line steppers. 

Every since Sergeant Mentor arrived here he knew there would be a surety inspection during his watch at the "Lik." So, almost immediately he began drilling his four components of successful teamwork speech into his Airmen: "commitment to succeed, communication, emotional competency and self-control these are a keys to a successful team." 

Sergeant Mentor's philosophy is a simple one; no one person wins the fight. We do it as a team. He sat around and told stories to his Airmen to reinforce his teamwork concepts. 

He would say we must have commitment to succeed; a number of years ago, a young military recruit was being evaluated on her ability to march a team of 60 people across a concrete runway and maneuver them onto a drill pad adjacent to it. As the point approached to give the proper command, her mind went blank and she missed the optimum point to turn the column. By the time she gave the command and all 60 people completed the turn, it was clear they were headed not for the drill pad, but right through a muddy ditch! 

It was quite a sight when all those freshly pressed, creased pants and spit-polished shoes slogged on through the muck! But they followed her - even though they knew in advance where their steps would take them. No one jumped out of formation to avoid the disaster, or even tried to take over the leader's position. Everyone had taken their turn with this same exercise, and each one knew how difficult it was. 

A commitment to succeed no matter what is a test where many teams fail and it destroys them. The question is not whether they always agree, but can they hang in there and support each other through the tough times? 

Then he would say communication is the key to real teamwork. Studies show there are immense economic advantages to the old adage, "Two heads are better than one." 

People who tap into their team to communicate needs have a huge time advantage. For every 3-5 hours the average person spends gathering solutions to a problem on their own, the high performer spends just one hour tapping into their network of experts. 

To go it alone deprives your teammates of the opportunity to support you and also to test their own problem solving and decision-making skills. 

Well-developed communication is the basis of any successful long-term relationship, as many of today's lucrative partnerships were forged in earlier years at other companies. 

Sergeant Mentor would also talk about emotional competency and how important it was to the success of a team. In 1973, Professor David McClelland of Harvard University found that star team performers possess more than just education, technical skills or intellectual excellence. They possess the competencies of empathy, self-discipline and initiative ... key elements in the area of emotional intelligence. 

Hay/McBer, a well-known research firm, studied star performers from 286 organizations, two-thirds from within the United States, and one-third from 20 other countries with a wide range of job titles and occupations. They evaluated 21 competencies critical to success and found that all but three were based on emotional intelligence. 

Too often, we only give credit to the intellectual part of our brain as a way to gather data and draw conclusions. Going with your gut instincts or intuition is easily dismissed as suspect ... after all, we're more sophisticated than that, aren't we? Studies show, however, that star performers and outstanding teams are made up of people who have highly developed skills that have nothing to do with IQ. In fact, less than 25 percent of the time was IQ a determining factor in their success. 

Then he would talk about self-control. Controlling emotion is another predictor of lifelong success. A number of years ago, a research test was conducted with 4 year olds at Stanford University that was about as "high-tech" as you can get - the test was conducted with marshmallows. The children were brought into a room where a marshmallow was placed before them on their desks. The researcher told the children they had permission to eat the marshmallow right away, but if they could wait until after he returned from running a brief errand, they would get to eat the first marshmallow and also be given a second as a reward. 

Researchers tracked the life experiences of those two control groups and found some interesting differences between the children who grabbed and those who waited. As adults, they were more intellectually skilled, better able to concentrate, more dependable and formed more successful long-term relationships. 

Of the children who grabbed, they were more likely to fall apart under stress, become irritated and pick fights and end up in prison. We are all emotional creatures, but our ability to control and properly direct those emotions makes a huge difference in how successful we are in life. 

What I learned form Sergeant Mentor is whether you are enlisted, officer or civilian -- we are one team, one Wing. If we all follow these simple guidelines, we'll all make the right decisions and move this the 39th Air Base Wing forward and do our part to win the fight each and every day while developing our Airmen. But how will our habitual line stepper do? Will Snuffy take these lessons on teamwork and rise to the challenge or will he do what he does best? Sergeant Mentor and Colonel Stinnette laid down the foundation for teamwork let's see if he'll know what to do!