’Go to guy’: Getting missions done

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- In almost every work center there is always at least one 'go-to guy'.  Everyone knows who this person is and they are usually easy to spot.  Sometimes the 'go-to guy' is the hardest working Airman in their section.  Other times they are the subject matter expert in their career field, regardless of rank.  The 'go-to guy' is always the person supervisor's stop first when they need the toughest jobs done quickly and correctly. 

From the description you might think it must be great to be the 'go-to guy'.  Why not?  Most people would love to be the superstar of the work center, but being that guy is not always all it is cracked up to be.  You see, the go-to guy is often over-worked and underappreciated.  Giving 100 percent day in and day out, and in many cases producing more than peers and supervisors, can make it easy for the 'go-to guy' to become worn out and unmotivated.

As a young staff sergeant maintainer, I was one of the 'go-to guys' in my shop.  At first, I enjoyed being the Airman everyone went to when they wanted something done.  I was working above my pay grade; leading troops, making decisions, and getting the job done.  It was great for a while...then I started looking around and comparing myself to my peers.  I was working 20-30 hours a week more than they were, and I was always stressed dealing with deadlines and subordinates.  Eventually I became angry and walked around with a poor attitude.  I thought if someone wasn't working as hard as me, they weren't working hard enough.

Fortunately, my supervisor recognized my frustration and knew that I needed a new perspective.  He signed me up for the, at the time brand new, non-commissioned officer professional military education course.  On the last day of the course a Chief Master Sergeant pulled me aside to talk to me about my poor attitude.  I told him about my frustration being the 'go-to guy' and he told me something that changed my career.  He said, "Don't worry about what those around you are doing or not doing. Continue to work hard, eventually your hard work will pay off.  You may not be formally recognized for your actions, but you will be respected by everyone around you." 

I took this advice to heart and it has made me a better Airman and supervisor.

If you are one of the many supervisors out there with 'go-to guys', let them know you appreciate them and recognize their efforts.  Actively seek out those that aren't producing and hold them accountable.  Instead of having one Airman working at 100 percent effort most of the time and three working at 60 percent effort some of the time, strive to have all four give you 75 percent effort all of the time.  The Airmen will be productive and be a more cohesive team.

If you are the 'go-to guy', heed the advice the Chief Master Sergeant gave me 12 years ago.  Keep your head up, keep working hard, and don't worry about how much work others around you are doing.  In the end, your efforts will be noticed.