Caring for your people: special victims’ counsel

Leaders, one of the most important things we do is care for our people during crises.

One such crisis is when someone is sexually assaulted, especially for someone in the military. Whether a victim pursues action against a perpetrator, whether they come forward at all for assistance, is affected by a dizzying myriad of concerns. For a military member all of those concerns exist, and they’re heightened by concerns over how the situation will affect their military career and the close knit family-like relationship with their military unit and peers. The military judicial system can overwhelm a victim, making them feel a victim over and over, and over, again.

Well, enough of that. It’s time to empower victims so they don’t feel railroaded by the system. Despite the many recent negatives associated with the budget and downsizing, the Air Force has launched a Special Victims Counsel program for victims of sexual assault.

What’s different in this case? Well, the SVCs work on behalf of the victims. That may sound obvious, but until now consider this: the prosecution works for the Air Force; the Sexual Assualt and Response Coordinators (SARCs) work for the command, and are not lawyers; the ultimate goal of each is prosecution of perpetrators, not addressing the concerns of the victims. The SVCs are duty bound to work on behalf of no one but the victim, just as a defense attorney works for a defendent. For a victim the difference in approach by being directly represented can be tremendous.

You can read more about it here, in a non-military news release:
Here, in the Stars and Stripes:
And here, in an AF JAG one pager:

Air Force leaders, if one of your Airmen is dealing with sexual assault this is one way you can help them regain control. Legal professionals find sexual assualt litigation very challenging; expecting a victim to navigate the legal issues while simultaneously healing and performing their regular military duties is nonsensical. Help them out and recommend they contact an SVC, or reach out to an SVC on their behalf (if appropriate; trust your judgement).

Sister service leaders, this is an Air Force pilot program; should your troops face this by all means contact an Air Force SVC and see if they’ll take one more case on. Unless you try the answer is no; it might be yes if you call. It’s a sad reality we need this program, but hopefully it won’t be long until it’s expanded across DoD.


Saying a dirty word: Management!

In the Air Force the word management is often denigrated.  I once heard an officer complimented with “good job managing that schedule transition” and his response was “dude, those are fightin’ words.”  He literally took offense at having his management skills applauded, as if management is somehow beneath the dignity of a leader.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Peter Drucker said, “good intentions are no substitute for organization, accountability, performance, and results.”  A leader can want those outcomes all they want, but without  management skills they’re not going to get there.  For a leader to be effective they must choose to do the right things (leadership skill) and follow through by doing those chosen things the right way (management skill).

Ironically, although the military disdains the m-word, it relies on it to succeed.  Consider the complex technologies the Air Force leverages every day to outmatch our adversaries.  Consider the logistics issues of deploying joint forces globally, and continuing to supply, feed, and employ them thousands of miles away.  How do these things happen without effective management?  The answer is they don’t.

In my not so humble opinion we hinder ourselves by shunning the m-word.  Strong management skills are essential for leadership success, and the next generation of officers and NCOs needs to be taught that.

I attempted to educate my fellow officer above by telling him he was a moron if he really thought being called a good manager was an insult; at least he could correctly feel ego-hurt at the end of the day.  (Look up “hurt feelings report”, being called a manager must be on the list.)  Still, I feel bad for anyone he supervised that wished to apply a little managerial rigor to their sloppy processes.  It’s very likely they didn’t get any leadership support for attempting to do the right thing.

Many of our leaders are brought up without any business administration education (for example I have science degrees, but no MBA, and my professional military education didn’t fill that gap).  So for those of us lacking formal education on effective management it’s on us to self-educate.

Later entries may touch on time-intensive resources to fully develop our personal business skills, but in the mean time here’s a great website that covers the primary topics of an MBA program (accounting, law, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, management, marketing, operations, statistics, and strategy).

Take a peek, and enjoy!

From the QuickMBA “About” page:

“QuickMBA is an online knowledge resource for business administration. Our goal is to help you to quickly find the business knowledge you need, when you need it, wherever you may be.”

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Simon Sinek describes his “golden circles” theory at a TED talk: First why, then how, then what. Ultimately he discusses the limbic brain, the part that controls behavior, where “gut” decisions come from, the part of the brain that drives decision making within people’s minds. Connecting with the limbic brain by explaining Why? first gets to the core of the mind and establishes a deep connection. Leaders who follow the method of explaining Why? to followers, subordinates, and customers will create a bond that leads to success.