Without fail, every time I am around a group of young NCOs, there is one subject guaranteed to come up -- the enduring question of "How can I write a stronger EPR for my Airman?"
My answer to this question is fairly standard and is one that a chief shared with me many years ago. The easiest path to improve the strength of your Airman's enlisted performance report has little to do with the words you choose to put on paper, but truly starts months before the first draft of the EPR is ever published. The path to a strong EPR begins when you give your initial feedback.
A strong EPR for your subordinate begins when you sit down with him and set some clear and challenging expectations. It is what we call the initial feedback. It's during the initial feedback session that you have your first opportunity to establish a "to-do" list you will use in the development of your Airman. Make no mistake, developing Airmen is our most important job. Note, I didn't say maintaining the status quo, I didn't say baby-sitting and I didn't say making sure they stay off the radar. I said developing, and for NCOs developing Airmen is not optional.
Unfortunately, I meet too many young NCOs who are not comfortable sitting across the table from their subordinates and giving that initial feedback. The common excuses I hear from supervisors are they feel inadequately prepared for the task. Trust me, you are as prepared as any NCO who has gone before you. You have a well thought-out feedback form you can print and have in front of you. You have several years of your own personal experience to lean on, and you have the confidence of the supervisor you work for. Beyond those three things, there is little else anyone can provide you. If you're serious about writing a strong EPR, then you must get serious about the initial feedback and the important role it plays in achieving that goal.
The topic of feedback deserves much attention right now. Unless you are not paying attention, you should have already seen and heard about the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment feedback form recently published. Here is my challenge to you. Keep an open mind as we all learn how to use the new feedback form. Take time now to study it and figure out how to use it as a development tool for your Airmen. Even if you were not diligent in the past and may have failed at giving feedback to those you rate, the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment feedback process is a chance to start fresh.
Your Airmen deserve honest feedback, and our Air Force has offered a rare do-over. Don't waste this opportunity or let past bad habits define your future. Give the feedback, and you will see your Airman's EPRs get stronger.