KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
There is an ancient Greek saying that philosophers like Socrates have examined throughout the centuries: know thyself.
For Chief Master Sgt. Monte Snyder, 403rd Maintenance Group maintenance operations superintendent and detailed as the wing process manager, that concept of knowing yourself doesn’t just stop with him, but extends to knowing the people around him, particularly his Air Force wingmen, so that he can have better working and interpersonal relationships with others.
Snyder initially joined the military in 1992, enlisting in the Air Force Reserve nearly 10 years after graduating from high school. He signed up after having worked in various careers because he decided that he wanted to get his aircraft and power plant certification so he could work on aircraft.
Unfortunately, because of the differences in his color vision, he wasn’t able to actually work on aircraft, so he became a plans and scheduler for aircraft maintenance instead. The chief continued to serve as a traditional reservist until 2006, when he became an air reserve technician with the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He joined the 403rd Wing as an ART in 2011.
The chief said he always had an analytic side to him, constantly assessing the people and situations around him, but it wasn’t until he went through the crew chief technical training school, on the road to becoming a chief master sergeant, that he had his “aha” moment.
“I realized I was in the exact place for why I originally joined the Air Force nearly 19 years ago, which was to become a mechanic. But because of my rank, position and responsibilities I wasn’t going to be able to work on aircraft, but that skill set was still a requirement for my Air Force specialty code qualifications. And it all just sort of woke me as to ‘why am I here and what do I need to learn?’” said Snyder. “So because of the position I was going into, I started to read up a lot about leadership and understanding people.”
On his own initiative, Snyder started looking for outside courses and seminars to help him with public speaking, and to give him a better understanding of the different personalities people have and how he could work with them based upon their personality traits, something he believes is critical to being an effective supervisor, leader and follower.
“That started me on a different path to try and understand people, lead people, and influence people,” said Snyder.
Snyder sought out these personality, public speaking and leadership seminars for a dual purpose.
“It was something I could use to help me grow, change and improve myself, as well as use to teach and train military members,” said Snyder.
The chief said many of the seminars he attended teach assessment methods similar to those used by the Air Force, such as the DISC personality assessment and Four Lenses, which are designed to help people recognize their own temperaments and those of others so they can work together and relate with each other more effectively.
It was at one of these public speaking conferences that the chief found out about how he could be certified as a trainer for the DISC personality assessment.
“Of course it interested me, so I signed up and took the class so I could train it, and now I’m a Level 2 certified DISC trainer,” said Snyder, who periodically offers this training during 403rd unit training assemblies and when serving as a guest speaker for seminars and courses offered by the Professional Development Center here.
The DISC personality assessment divides people into four personality types (dominant, inspiring, supportive and cautious), while the Four Lenses associates their different temperaments with four separate colors (green for logical/analytical thought, blue for feelings/emotional support, gold for structure/security/order temperaments, and orange for competitive/action-oriented personalities).
Not all people match these assessments perfectly, said Snyder, and everyone has a unique blend of the different personality types. These assessments also aren’t meant to pigeonhole people into these specific temperaments, but are designed to help give people a better understanding of themselves and the people with whom they associate.
“The biggest benefit is you get to learn your wingman better – and that’s what the Air Force needs for you as a supervisor, to be able to be effective in that way so that you can say, ‘Okay, I really need to step back here in this situation, or I need to be more engaged on what they’re dealing with,’ based on their personality traits,” said Tech. Sgt. Dennis Baker, 81st Training Wing First Term Airmen Center professional development noncommissioned officer in charge here. Baker also noted that the Air Force incorporates the Four Lenses assessment into its teachings for the NCO Academy distance learning course, and the DISC assessment into its Senior NCO Academy course.
Snyder acknowledged that in the military, Airmen might not always be given the tasks best suited to their personalities because of the needs of the Air Force, but understanding their personalities can help to put these wingmen into a position that allows them to more effectively accomplish the Air Force mission.
“I’ve learned that you need to try to understand people, try to get them in their best possible position to perform well,” said Snyder. “It has its limits in a government environment or a military environment, but if you give them those opportunities, they are going to perform because that’s what they like to do, that’s what their interests are in, and that’s what they were designed to do.”