Performance and morale often go hand-in-hand–if a company’s performance scores increase, so will their morale. As performance scores increase, winning streaks are created, which in turn helps to build accountability. Then, putting in the effort will become the new norm as motivation becomes contagious.
Beginning in January of this year, MRT-PE’s from the Fort Hood, Texas, Ready and Resilient Performance Center embedded with the 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB) to help Soldiers become more aware of the importance and purpose of completing daily tasks and responsibilities while assisting the Soldiers in developing a more efficient approach to long days in the field. Embedded Performance Experts (EPEs) helped Soldiers understand the intent of their training to encourage them to put in more effort as opposed to merely going through the motions. Building the culture of “practice makes permanent” meaning the more one practices with purpose, the more training with purpose becomes automatic. The goal of the EPE team was to improve performance by acknowledging intent; however, the true first step was to create buy-in.
To do that, the EPE team made sure to show up and start regular conversations one-on-one and with small crews in the unit’s environment. For example, if Soldiers were working on a task, the EPE team would ask what they were doing, showing genuine interest in their day-to-day responsibilities and the purpose behind their tasks.
One benefit of having an embedded team is that the team can observe daily operations regularly. This allows insight into inter-unit relationships and knowledge of what the Army’s daily requirements are. Observing these components on a regular basis allows the team to provide resources better tailored toward 91st BEB specifically. Demonstrating to the unit that the EPE team has bought-in to their mission objectives creates a mutual bond of respect and trust between the EPEs and the Soldiers, which allows for open discussions about mentorship, trust, and group cohesion, creating more optimal performance outcomes as a result.
The next step once the EPE team has obtained buy-in was to decide what skills the unit could benefit from learning and implementing the most. This is typically a collaborative effort between the EPEs and the unit leadership. Lt. Col. John Ordonio, commander of the 91st BEB, observed how EPEs could directly impact the Troopers, thus naming the EPEs the “Lethality Team.”
During a field training exercise, EPEs shortened traditional classroom skills training, such as “Attention Control,” to simple, directed questions such as “Are we shifting effectively?” or stated cues such as: “Okay, walk me through how you’re scanning.” The EPE can then offer immediate feedback and praise when cues are used effectively to aid in performance. The goal of the EPE is to check in daily to maintain the Soldier’s progress. Being embedded allowed the EPE team to provide feedback in ways beyond what PEs have done previously. For example, EPEs are able to sit in the communication tower and hear the teams going through their qualifications and then tailor feedback to the unit based on what they heard during this exercise. EPEs were also able to pick up on patterns from the unit’s high performers, and leverage this in their feedback and guidance to the less experienced performers.
The EPE team’s strategy to leveraging mentorship effectively stemmed from aligning values and goals with the values and goals of the middle leadership for application. Throughout the experienced discussions there are great examples to explain the effectiveness of their strategies by supporting it with performance skills. After nine months of being embedded with the unit, the EPE team found being embedded is extremely beneficial, both to the Troopers and the team itself. Having an embedded team provides more depth and opportunities for EPEs to teach and learn from Soldiers, beyond simply seeing a unit for a short period of time and/or having to juggle multiple different units.
In comparison to the usual classroom training, meeting Soldiers in their own environment allows for a wide range of benefits. Soldiers are more comfortable with the EPE team because they are no longer strangers. Getting to know the unit in this manner also lowers the stigma often surrounding mental skills training professionals who can be seen as “the suicide people” or “the mental health crew.”
Through the EPE team’s method of being present and completing observations, having simple conversations and building rapport, being at the unit’s locations and getting to the point of being able to provide that immediate impactful hip-pocket training, as well as leveraging leadership as mentors, EPEs believe the impact with 91st BEB will be felt for months to come.