NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 15, 2022) – A dozen employees with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District graduated yesterday from the second level of the Leadership Development Program during a ceremony at the district headquarters.
Lt. Col. Joseph Sahl, Nashville District commander, praised the graduates for their accomplishment and willingness to hone their craft as leaders, but also emphasized that leadership is a team sport.
“I’m amazed and astounded, despite the short amount of time you were together, how much you gelled as a team,” Sahl said. “I would bet you that your team would come up with phenomenal decisions time and time again on things you are aware of because of the strength that you have and the unity and relationships. So continue to look at leadership as a team sport.”
The commander also reminded the graduates that this is a tough time to be a leader because people in the organization are at a point in their lives where they are faced with challenges that run the gamut from work to play to home. The Nashville District is charged with a lot of different missions and has to recruit and maintain the workforce to support the workload and keep the best and the brightest. That’s where leadership comes into play, he added.
“You all have made a commitment to do something in a time where it is very commendable,” Sahl said.
Training sessions were held between February and September at Corps of Engineers projects in Tennessee, which included the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project in Chattanooga, Center Hill Dam in Lancaster, Cheatham Dam in Ashland City, Cordell Hull Dam in Carthage, J. Percy Priest Dam in Nashville, and Old Hickory Dam in Hendersonville. The class also participated in volunteer projects. They assembled water safety bags at Cheatham Lake, cleaned up and mulched at Center Hill Lake, and built fences and benches at Cordell Hull Lake.
Cathy Keith, chief of the Real Estate Division’s Planning and Acquisition Branch and LDP II Program facilitator, explained that the course curriculum builds on organizational fundamentals and forces individuals to look at how to maximize skills and abilities to lead and build up the organization.
“Lifting up and developing employees into valued future leaders is one of the most important things that we can do as an organization,” Keith said.
Dr. Michael Evans of Evans and Associates, Inc., professional instructor with many years of experience with Corps of Engineers’ LDP groups, worked with the class to enhance professional and leadership skills.
In a nutshell, he said the course is broken down around emotional intelligence with self-management, social awareness, and managing relationships.
“Maximizing and getting the highest return on investment on every step and everything that we do in life – that’s what we are concentrating on by taking care of those three areas,” Evans said.
During the course, students received lectures, role played, had to read a book as assigned on various leadership topics, participated in team building exercises, and had to make presentations about themselves, their jobs and the organization.
Evans said participants identified how to maximize their strengths and recognize opportunities for growth as part of leadership development.
“Everybody in here did an awesome job,” Dr. Evans said.
During the graduation ceremony, students spoke about what they took away from the course of instruction and team building activities.
Samantha Iskrzycki, Regulatory Division, said she had to work remotely because of the pandemic about a month after joining the Nashville District, a tough development for someone new to the organization. Fast forward about a year and a half later, she started the leadership development course, which afforded her an opportunity to grow as a leader, but also to network with classmates and to be exposed to other missions across the district.
“Seeing the big picture and how everything works was beneficial,” Iskrzycki said.
During the course, Iskrzycki said she learned to avoid bias caused by making assumptions instead of weighing the facts. She also learned during reflection exercises that her classmates perceived her as being shy.
“I’m quiet but definitely not shy,” Iskrzycki said. “So that’s something I’m trying to break out of. I’m trying to get more words out because I do have a lot of ideas.”
Vincent Harriman, senior mechanic at Center Hill Dam Hydropower Plant, said the focus on self-awareness, which forced him to evaluate himself and how other people view him, is an aspect of the course instruction he thinks will help him be a better leader.
Another aspect he valued involved building a community of leaders, which is in line with leadership being a team sport. Harriman said the last team building activity involved climbing on a ropes course that drained him of his strength. His classmates cheered him on, and he overcame the challenges because of their support.
“That I think is going to live with me for a very long time, and them as well because we’ll be talking about it for years from now. ‘Remember that time the old guy almost died on that course?’ LDP and situations like this is what is going to build this community stronger and better in the future,” Harriman said.
The graduation formally recognized the students’ accomplishment and culminates the part-time, multi-faceted individual development program designed to systematically develop basic leadership skills of Nashville District employees.
The graduates are Peyton Abernathy, Bill Avant, Katie Brown, Cody Flatt, Vincent Harriman, Samantha Iskrzycki, Renee Mach, Karli Pabian, Kelley Philbin, Jody Robinson, Nathan Sporin, and Owen Traughber.
Keith thanked former Nashville District employee William Terry for his role as a co-facilitator prior to his transfer to another agency. She also announced that Project Manager Chris Stoltz will be the program facilitator next year.
(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.)