NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 4, 2018) – A dozen personnel with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District graduated today from the second level of the Leadership Development Program during a ceremony at the Scarritt Bennett Center.
Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander, lauded the graduates for their accomplishment and willingness to invest the time to enrich themselves and the district.
Jones said leadership impacts high level issues such as workforce management, project delivery, decision making, acquisitions, and even the operations and maintenance program.
“I think to a single subject… one of the critical factors is leadership,” Jones said. “When we look at workforce management, the number one factor that is going to help us retain a high-quality work force, is first-line supervisors and their interactions with their team – how they are enabling them to be successful.”
The commander said when it comes to risk-informed decision making, leaders will be providing the top cover for people to find ways to revolutionize the Corps of Engineers, and when it comes to project delivery, leaders will challenge the old ways of doing things.
“That starts here,” Jones stressed to the graduates. “You are investing in yourselves so you can be good leaders.”
The leadership students spent the last year participating in group activities and visited Corps of Engineers projects, including the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The students kicked off the program with team building exercises and class orientation at Henry Horton State Park in Chapel Hill, Tenn. During the course of the year they toured corporations such as Ingram Barge Company and Nashville International Airport to learn about processes and leadership concepts.
Classes were held at J. Percy Priest Lake and Old Hickory Lake where students worked on self-awareness, listening and awareness skills. Other presentations covered interest-based problem solving, effective delegation, and praising concepts.
Travis A. Wiley, assistant program coordinator of the Leadership Development Program Level II Course, said the course provided the class with leadership tools and knowledge to apply them in order to build and lead a team.
“They learned through the class a lot of interpersonal skills – communication, conflict management, reflective listening, how to give and receive constructive criticism – and the participation was very good,” Wiley said. “They challenged each other at times, especially during the oral presentations.”
During the course, students had to read a book as assigned on various leadership topics, participate in team building exercises, and had to make presentations about themselves, their jobs and the organization.
Dr. Michael Evans of Evans and Associates instructed the class and said the program served to plant seeds, which the graduates now have to germinate as they continue on with their respective careers with the Corps of Engineers.
Evans said leadership is really about “having the wherewithal to self-manage ourselves when we are in situations, to understand why were are doing what we are doing, ultimately being able to understand what the impact of that is on other individuals around us, which hopefully leads to having better relationships.”
He explained that challenging others and “ourselves” to do the right thing and to react the right way is the key to getting the best results. In this vein he challenged all of the graduates to continue to do the same when it comes to self-awareness and understanding others around them including spouses, supervisors, and mentors.
“Leadership isn’t something that we just learn and now become leaders,” Evans said. “It’s a piece that’s continually developing within all of us.”
During the graduation ceremony, each student spoke one by one about what he or she took away from the year of instruction and the many program activities.
Isaac Taylor, Nashville District Contracting Division, said he spent more time than he ever thought possible reflecting and thinking about why he does the things he does, what his values are, and what his goals should be that orient towards his values.
“I’ve learned to slow down and dig deeper into it,” Taylor said.
Megan Kentner, Nashville District Operations Division, added that there were a lot of introverted engineers in the class, which led to some quiet sessions at first. But as they got to know each other they opened up more.
Kentner said she found value in learning about giving and receiving feedback, reflective listening, and networking with and getting to know others taking the course.
“It was really great to spend time away from the office and get to know everybody a little bit, and to share the experience,” Kentner said.
William Worrall, Regulatory Division, condensed the leadership class into one theme, building relationships with other people. He said he learned that this is done by mentoring and being willing to be mentored, through praise, and being an effective listener.
“The most important thing I learned is to listen,” Worrall said. “Every person that you are working with appreciates if you listen to what they have to say… building relationships are incredibly important and listening is how you do that.”
Patty Coffey, Nashville District deputy district engineer, congratulated the class for endeavoring to embrace and incorporate leadership principles, and she also emphasized the importance of building strong relationships with classmates and with leadership throughout the district.
“Relationships are truly long lasting and terrifically beneficial too,” Coffey said. “Continue to develop your own leadership style and remember that while you may not be in a position that’s considered a supervisory or leadership position, all of us have the opportunity to be leaders in every position we’re in.”
Coffey, who is now the highest ranking civilian service member in the Nashville District, added that she never imagined the path that lay ahead for her when she graduated from the program years ago.
“There were so many things that I learned when I was going through it myself, and I continue to try to apply it,” Coffey said. “Always remember – we judge ourselves from our intentions, but others judge us by our actions. Please put into action some of the things that you have learned.”
The graduates were David Bogema, Dylan Grissom, Taylor, Kenny Claywell, Lacey Thomason, Mason Carter, Kentner, Michael Pardi, Omar Acevedo, Thomas Herbert, Tim Wilder, and Worrall.
(For news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District go to the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)