By Kari Hawkins, AMCOM July 20, 2015
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Time is often considered a leader's most valuable asset.
There's never enough of it, someone always wants it and it is fleeting when it's most needed. So, it goes without saying that time management is essential to effective leadership.
But, for one of the Aviation and Missile Command's long-time leaders, time takes on a whole different dimension when a leader uses it to move an organization and its employees forward.
Rick Turner, a 33-year Department of the Army civilian who retired from AMCOM in 2009 after serving as a senior executive service member and being named the top Department of the Army civilian by the Association of the U.S. Army, shared his view of a leader's time on July 15 with 59 employees from 20 organizations across Redstone in AMCOM's Leader Investment for Tomorrow Leadership Forum at The Summit. He was also an instrumental leader in the formation of the LIFT program, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year.
What a leader spends time on indicates what is important to them, said Turner, who now works as a defense contractor. There are six things he highly recommends that leaders take time to do when they are leading employees.
First on the list -- take time to be grateful and give credit to others.
Mentioning the popular leadership book "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren, Turner said that leaders must realize that their organization is "not about them. Take yourself out of the equation. Find time for your employees."
Thanking employees in person with a pat on the back or a "job well done," writing thank you cards, conducting awards ceremonies and attending major events in employee's lives all send a message to employees that they are valued, he said.
"It doesn't take a lot of time to say thank you and to encourage employees," Turner said.
Second, he said, is to take time to learn about your employees.
"Take time to listen and to watch," Turner said. "Listen to what people are telling you nonverbally … As a leader, watch for the little details. People are telling you what is important to them even if they say it's not important. Get out on the floor. Figure out a way to get time for your employees."
During his last three years with AMCOM, Turner was the executive director for AMCOM's Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity, where he was responsible for the execution of the Army's calibration and repair program for all test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment, leading more than 620 employees responsible for the Army's calibration, metrology, and repair mission at more than 61 lab sites worldwide with a presence in 11 countries and 26 states.
While at the helm of the organization, Turner managed to visit 59 of the 61 USATA labs.
"Remember, if you are a leader, people want to see you," he said.
He suggested that leaders find unique ways to show their appreciation to employees and to learn from other leaders on how they show appreciation. Turner learned from a leader in a local manufacturing plant how he would find out what his employees' favorite candy was and then he would surprise them with it.
"It doesn't look like you are buying them off. They will see it as 'This leader cares enough to know what kind of candy bar I like.' It's part of finding out about your employees, what they like, what they like to do, about their family."
Third is to take time to get out of your comfort zone.
"Whether you like it or not, somebody's got to be in charge. You might be the one to take charge" when you least expect it, Turner said.
He recalled the work environment of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was deputy executive director of AMCOM's Integrated Materiel Management Center and then-Maj. Gen. Larry Dodgen had been in command of AMCOM for less than 24 hours. After the World Trade Center Towers were struck, Turner went to AMCOM's Emergency Operations Center to see how he could support in responding to the situation.
"We didn't know how many of our employees were in New York or in Washington. General Dodgen pointed at me and said 'Why not? Why don't you know?' That was a real wake up call," he said. "If no one else is in charge, take charge."
Turner said he likes to live by the words of American radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, who used to always say "Do more than what's expected of you."
"Give 110 percent of yourself. There's no excuse to be in a group and not give 110 percent," he said.
"The Greek definition for happiness is the full use of your power along the lines of excellence. God gave you abilities and talents. That is your power. Use it support of Soldiers, and you will have a happy and fruitful career.
Fourth, a leader should take time to encourage, mentor, protect and teach. Often, this requires a leader to have personal courage.
Turner advised that leaders should find out what their employees are good at and then let them do their job. And, when things aren't going well or are controversial, and a briefing is expected to be tough, the leader should have their employees step back, do the briefing in their place, and have their employees learn by example.
"Leaders should step up and take the hit for their employees," he said.
Fifth, Turner recommends that leaders take time to lead a balanced life. Career, community, relationships and self are the four areas that need to be balanced in any employee's life.
And, sixth, Turner said leaders should take time to laugh. Finding enjoyment in life and in their career will make a leader healthier and more effective.
Turner's comments were followed by a leadership panel discussion with five senior executive services members followed by a luncheon with 12 leaders who addressed questions one-on-one from the LIFT program participants at each of the tables. The leadership panel discussion included Bill Marriott, AMCOM's deputy commander; Audrey Robinson, chief counsel for Marshall Space Flight Center; Marsha Thornton, director of contracts for the Missile Defense Agency; Brian Toland, chief command council for the Army Materiel Command; and Rebecca Weirick, director of Army Contracting Command-Redstone, who shared their views on leadership.
Employees should begin their quest to be a leader by taking on new challenges, different jobs and various responsibilities. Adaptive leaders are those who know how to manage whatever challenge they are given.
"Experience builds up and creates a lot of value," said Marriott, whose Navy and civilian careers have included a variety of jobs, many supporting leaders in the nation's capital. He came to Redstone Arsenal with the Army Materiel Command, leading its Human Resources mission, and just recently became AMCOM's deputy commander.
"Don't stay in a job too long. If you do, you have to accept the limitations of staying in the same job. Learn to be an adaptive leader with new positions and new challenges," he said.
"The key attributes leaders look for in junior employees that set them aside as future leaders are a willingness to step out of their comfort zone, a willingness to take chances and to do the extra work. You can almost feel their passion. They have a dedication and understanding that it's about taking care of the Soldiers and they are willing to go the extra mile to do that. They have the ability to communicate up and down, and work out issues face to face."
For those who want to read about leadership, Toland said there is a cottage industry of leadership books available. But, for him, leadership comes down to two things: trust and selfless service.
"Effective leaders have the trust of their employees. And an effective leader puts employees in front of their own interests," he said.
"Leadership is all about looking out for the people who work for you. Leaders have to adhere to the organizational culture, know the mission of their organization and its goals, and be able to communicate as a leader. Leaders have got to get out there, meet people, listen, adjust. Every day is a new challenge. Get out there and work and laugh and enjoy it."
Robinson, who is the second female and first black chief counsel at MSFC summed up leadership in five words -- excellence, integrity, humanity, courage and gratitude.
She defined excellence as doing "the best job that you can do on the tasks you are assigned," integrity as "being about trust, being respectful and being a person of our word," humanity as "needing to have balance in your life, and about being caring and concerned about your employees from a genuine place," courage as "always dealing with what needs to be dealt with," and gratitude as showing thankfulness to employees.
"Those five things have been with me throughout my career," she said.
For Thornton, leadership starts with doing the best work possible and understanding the details. She credited much of her leadership success to the mentors and teams that have supported her along her career journey.
"You need to maintain and build relationships. None of us is at everything. Make friends with people who are good at things that you're not your best at," she advised.
Weirick, who had a career as an Air Force officer before beginning her second career with the Army Contracting Command, suggested that becoming a leader involves doing 10 percent more than anyone else, volunteering for jobs that nobody else wants to do, having mentors who can guide and advise, being reliable, and appreciating the people who work for you.
"As a leader, you serve your subordinates and they give you the gift of following. They take your vision as their own. They take on your objectives and your goals," she said.
"You don't have to be a leader to lead. But you always need to be caring and truthful, and have integrity."