One of Gen. Paul E. Funk II, U.S Army Training and Command’s Commanding General’s, fundamentals is to never waste a good cup of coffee, or the opportunity for conversation that often happens over a cup of joe. The coffee was the only thing missing during the conversation between him and TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel T. Hendrex when they discussed diversity, equality and inclusion during the first virtual leader development program webinar Sept 25, 2020.
The introductory Leader Professional Development webinar, which lasted about 30 minutes, provided the Army – active duty and civilian alike – opportunities to learn about pertinent professional development topics. It was an example of how more conversational, but important discussions, should happen within commands on Army focuses like diversity, sexual assault and harassment, suicide prevention, and racism/extremism.
The webinar, which received more than 4,900 viewers, to include an international audience, is the first of many professional development products to be available. These products emphasize the importance of the command’s mission focus on professional development through unique learning opportunities.
LPD products, like this recorded discussion, provide more informal training opportunities in TRADOC’s continued effort to bring the training to the Soldier. Each will be available for viewing after the live broadcast to further expand the opportunity for training. More than 10,000 people have been reached via social media since it aired.
More than 60 questions were submitted by employees before the live event aired on the command’s Facebook and web pages, with a select few being the catalyst to the discussion with TRADOC’s leaders. The remaining questions are slated to be answered and shared over social media platforms via video clips to act as aids to leaders across the enterprise having similar, small group discussions on tough topics, Hendrex explained.
Future webinars will open the floor to the virtual audience to ask questions of senior leaders and guests in a more coffee talk-style environment aimed at encouraging more unscripted, real conversations about tough topics important to not only TRADOC, but the Army as a whole.
“We [Army] are a kaleidoscope of colors. Diversity is our strength. What we have in common is the name tag we wear and the uniform to help us determine what is reflected around the globe as hope and fear,” Funk said when asked how diversity is key to the Army’s ability to win our nation’s wars. “The uniform means hope to those that need a helping hand. It means fear to our adversaries and our enemies. We must remember it also says U.S. Army on it. We have to understand that each other’s differences are our strengths. We must understand that those corrosive behaviors [sexual assault, sexual harassment, suicide] must be stomped out. It must happen at all levels.”
As senior leaders, Funk and Hendrex hope to set an example of how even having these tough conversations about race, diversity and equality can happen and generate positive dialogue amongst a unit.
“We are going to be creating products for our Army leaders to get after these uncomfortable conversations to help them have an important dialogue,” Hendrex said. “If you are doing anything with a PowerPoint behind you with a large group of people, you are wrong. These conversations need to be very personal. They can be very powerful when you get in a confined environment with your squad to have these discussions.”
Tuning in from her office at Army Materiel Command, Paula Taylor, director, Office of Diversity and Leadership, said they “nailed it,” demonstrating a “must do” for all Army leaders to engage and discuss these important topics.
“It's just great knowing, seeing and hearing our Army senior leaders speak candidly and openly about diversity and inclusion…” she said. “The TRADOC senior leaders show they are truly listening to understand their team. This webinar is valuable, and all members of the Army team should watch, learn and follow TRADOC's lead.”
Aside from her professional investment in these webinars, Taylor explained the messages shared represented a personal connection having a child recently join the Army.
“I've got a son, a brand new recruit at Fort Jackson, South Carolina,” she said. “When the CSM stated he had just returned from that post and engaged with the Soldiers and their families that really gave me hope. I now know that at the highest levels of leadership within TRADOC, they care. This is important.”
The 31st Engineer Battalion leadership group, to include the commander Lt. Col. Meghann Sullivan, also watched the webinar, saying it provided “a lot of important information in a short time.”
As a leader, Sullivan recognizes the importance for Soldiers to hear critical messages from the top and feels these seminars are opportunities to do so.
“Soldiers need to see that the senior leaders care and are committed to doing whatever it takes to make us better - whether we are talking the Army Top 3, the Army as a Profession, ACFT [Army Combat Fitness Test], talent management and leader development, or even pay or housing issues,” she said. “It is an opportunity for Soldiers to hear from the horse’s mouth the changes that are happening and why, and it is a great opportunity to ask questions.”
The next webinar will feature retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick and focus on talent management in the context of diversity and inclusion at 11 a.m. Oct. 22, 2020.
This first webinar as well as all future videos can be viewed on TRADOC’s Vimeo page at https://vimeopro.com/tradoc/leadership-professional-development-webinar-series.