Impacting the people around us

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Allan Fiel
  • 341st Security Forces Group
When a stone is tossed in a pond, one can see the ripples it produces extend hundreds of times the diameter of the stone.  Our day to day interactions with our peers and subordinates can have the same sort of effect, without our even realizing it. 

A decade ago, one of my Airman experienced a tragic personal loss, which dramatically affected her.  The leadership team ensured she was given time off to recover and the unit sent a card and flowers, and followed up with phone calls to make sure everything was as good as it could be under the circumstances. 

However, my wife and I decided to take the extra step of stopping by her home with some flowers and a card of our own.  Her husband answered the door, and at first, she didn't want to see us.  I urged her husband to let us see her, and eventually she came to the door.  Her eyes welled up with tears as she approached, but she walked up and unexpectedly gave me a big hug and thanked us for making the effort to come by and see her.  We left feeling somewhat better about the situation and were glad to have made the effort to support her in that little way, but didn't think much more about it. 

I was fortunate enough to see this outstanding individual a decade later, and she casually mentioned I was responsible for her still being in the Air Force, and for becoming a senior non-commissioned officer.  Puzzled, I asked her what I had ever done to deserve that accolade.  She told me that after her tragic loss, she had become very depressed and wanted to separate from the Air Force, but the one small gesture of her squadron commander and his spouse showing up at her door had made all the difference.  It was at that point she realized that people she worked with truly cared, and she changed all of her plans as a result.  I was stunned that such a small gesture of kindness on our part could have such a dramatic effect on an individual's life, but she was adamant that it had. 

While it is easy to get caught up in the daily challenges we all face, it is important to keep in mind the things we do and say as leaders can have a far-reaching impact on the people around us.