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Posted 3/5/2016

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By Carol E. Davis
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District

Growing leaders from the inside-up is not a new concept. Channeling that concept, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, hosted a senior leadership development workshop, Feb. 19.

This year’s theme, “Building Quality” set the stage for the workshop’s guest speaker, Jay Sukernek, Riverlife’s chief financial officer.

"Leadership must be patient, consistent and is earned not given,” Sukernek said.  “It takes time to accomplish great things, and patient leadership that allows for trust building between partners is the key to success."

Having Sukernek speak to the district’s leaders gave them an opportunity to understand, that every organization faces the same challenges, but how leaders deal with those challenges marks the effectiveness of leadership.

Col. Bernard Lindstrom, district commander, spoke about the difference between being a driven leader who recognizes your subordinate’s strengths and builds on them, verses setting subordinates up for failure by expecting perfection.  

Leaders need to seek continuous development and improvement throughout their career. Leadership is not a profession, so there is varying approaches to good leadership,” Lindstrom said.

When leaders recognize their subordinates are human and are going to make mistakes, they can help them play to their strengths and strive to improve upon their weaknesses – that type of leader will build a successful team, Lindstrom said.

“District supervisory leaders are not well trained on and should specifically seek to improve on their soft skills‎. This is even more critical when the organization is seeking high performance and improved efficiency,” Lindstrom said.

Part of the workshop focused on the district’s philosophy of leadership. According to that philosophy, success requires two things, doing the right thing, and seeking to do things better. Strong organizational values are a major part of the district’s leadership philosophy.

“We could spend time putting out fires and not thinking about the future, or we can stop and think about how we do things and how we can do those things better,” Jeanine Hoey, Engineering and Construction chief, said. “We’re so busy doing, that we don’t think – and thinking is good and necessary if we’re going to improve.”

The one-day event included breakout sessions that focused on improving communication, processes, and relationships.

In the effort to improve communication and processes, the district has put into place an Action Plan Program. The program is an employee-driven tool used to improve the way the district does business. Actions plans can include proposed changes to any established process.

This year’s workshop looked at four such processes. The examined the way the district handles data, knowledge management, leadership vision, as well as how it can create an environment that delivers high quality products.

Each plan reviewed the existing process’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The actions gave the workshop’s 60 participants the opportunity to add value and contribute the intended plan’s success.

“Some of the action plans are going to be more difficult to solve,” Tomma Barnes, Planning and Environmental Branch chief said.  “But, simply by going through the process and discussing them with other leaders, we might get closer to a solution, or at least, a workable compromise.

For one day, district supervisors, who participated in the workshop, took the opportunity to stop answering emails, putting out fires, and put their BlackBerrys down to think about how they did business, as leaders.

“We spend so much time managing and not leading,” Lenna Hawkins, district deputy engineer said. “We need to stop managing and start leading.





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