Spring showers ... what are you planting?

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- They tell me spring has finally sprung here in middle Tennessee. So now that we've put the shovels and scrapers away for good, it's time to turn our thoughts to the warmer days ahead and the rejuvenation we always look forward to this time of year.

Some know this time of year as the beginning of the planting season, and I'm no different. Except I have a slightly different perspective on this ... I'm not really much of a farmer, so my question to you is ...What are you planting?

There's a famous quote about leadership that refers to the fact that we are always leading, whether we know it or not ... even if we don't intend to, we might be leading someone astray. So much of that revolves around the example we set for our subordinates, co-workers and colleagues.

But that's a rather passive activity. I'm more interested in the active role we play in each others' lives. In the spirit of spring, I'm talking about reflecting on, and then acting on what you can do to ensure a good "harvest" in the future. In this case, you have an active role in the "seeds" you plant with every contact you make. So again, I ask, what are you planting?

Are you taking classes to improve your skills or knowledge in a particular topic? Are you cultivating relationships that you can rely on in the future? Are you mentoring your subordinates and co-workers to pursue new skills or to deepen their understanding in a field they are already "experts" in?

This is about choices and deliberate actions we must make to grow. If we don't plant the seeds for ourselves and in our workplace (not to mention our homes!), we can't expect a bounty later on. It's even deeper than this. It's a fundamental leadership responsibility. If you are in a formal leadership position, job one is finding, developing and growing your replacement. They won't plant themselves, and we need to tend to these crops regularly.
OK, maybe all these agricultural metaphors sound a little "corny." But think about it. They really do apply to our activities here. In this business, the status quo is already obsolete. General Arnold's vision was an Air Force "Second to None."

This won't happen without our conscious efforts to take our capabilities to the next level. A big part of that is caring enough to invest in ourselves, and our teammates.

And in the spirit of caring, please keep those who have recently endured a painful departure from our family in your prayers. They need us more than ever. In the near future, many of our active duty members will be faced with some tough choices too, as the Air Force continues to work toward meeting the force reductions programmed in the defense budget. In times like these, it's too easy to hunker down and look out for "the ol' #1."

I challenge all of us to do just the opposite. This is the time to reach out. A kind word, an unexpected call or a surprise visit will really make a difference. The seeds you plant in those fields are the most important of all.