Commentary: Keep some DIMES in your pocket

Senior Master Sgt. Yalonda Parker
88th Dental Squadron

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Senior Master Sgt. Yalonda Parker Superintendent 88th Dental Squadron

If you ask a group of medics what “DIME” represents, many would respond with delayed, immediate, minimal and expectant, often associated with an adverse event.

However, I would like to look at this acronym a little differently and challenge leaders at all levels to keep some DIMES in their pockets.

Every interaction with an Airman is an opportunity to deposit a dime or two. Today’s leaders must strive to develop, inspire, mentor, engage and support ALL Airmen to reach their full potential.

Development is a continuous process and vital to cultivating the next generation of leaders. It can be technical, professional or personal in nature, and requires daily commitment.

There will come a point in every career where the skills and strategies we learned during our developmental process will be vital in the efficient and effective execution of the mission; will your Airmen be ready?

We must ensure we are developing Airmen to face not only the challenges of today, but future challenges that will arise long after we are gone. Who are you developing today to wear your stipes and take on your current responsibilities when you get promoted, relocate, separate or retire?

Inspiration and influence can have long-lasting effects on our Airmen. I refer to these as “pieces of legacy.”

Throughout my career, I have been inspired by some amazing Airmen and I carry small pieces of them within me. These Airmen embodied our core values.

They had the integrity to enforce and abide by the standards. They each demonstrated “service before self” — whether it was completing a permanent change of station without their family or taking extra responsibilities to help alleviate excess pressure on a fellow Airman. They saw a bigger picture.

Lastly, they exemplified excellence. These leaders never settled. They consistently contemplated methods to improve their Airmen and the organization.

These leaders always challenged me to give them just a little more. As a young Airman, it seemed as though the finish line was moved a little further each time; however, they inspired me to deliver safe and quality care and become a better version of me while sustaining excellence. I would later find out this was part of their mentoring process.

Mentorship happens daily for some, and while most people would not consider themselves a mentor, everyday interactions open doors for mentoring opportunities.

If you have ever had a person ask your opinion on how to approach a scenario, whether personal or private, by definition you are a mentor. They trust your judgment and character.

Traditionally, mentors help their mentee set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals and develop plans to achieve them. Sometimes, this SMART process also involves hard conversations. As leaders, we must be prepared for these discussions. As trusted advisers, we must tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

I have sat on both sides of the table during hard conversations and they can be difficult for both parties. However, these conversations are part of the mentorship process and will help grow and develop tomorrow’s leaders.

Engagement and support are companions of mentorship. It is not enough to give advice; as leaders, we must be there to reengage and support our Airmen as they grow.

It is assisting in building study plans and conducting review sessions. It’s helping them understand the “why” of why we do what we do. It is challenging them to step outside their comfort zones, but supporting them through the process. It’s the gentle reminders of why they started the process, when they become frustrated, tired or distracted.

Engagement and support often continues well after you change duty stations. It is the follow-up emails and phone calls to check in. It’s asking about family and checking on progression toward their goals.

Dropping DIMES is deliberate development that occurs vertically and laterally. Remember, every Airman interaction is an opportunity to develop, inspire, mentor, engage and support.

As you progress through life and your career, I encourage each of you to keep some DIMES in your pocket and invest in our future leaders.

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