When my supervisor suggested in January that I consider applying for the Fort Knox Garrison Leadership Academy, I was immediately met with equal feelings of concern that I would have additional work and curiosity about a program I’d heard about years ago but that was still unfamiliar.
As it turns out, it wasn’t much of a beast in the extra work department and though I had learned some of what was discussed through other trainings I had attended, I thought it was extremely beneficial to my growth as both a leader and employee.
Fort Knox Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Randy Moore, who served as one of the instructors, said it best at the beginning of academy: “We’re not here to learn about the science of being a leader. You can learn that from reading books, policy and regulation. We’re here to learn about the art of leadership.”
As federal employees, we are sometimes sent on temporary duty to a variety of Department of the Army training opportunities to learn how to better accomplish our missions. Now post-COVID, and in an era of increasingly constrained resources, some of those opportunities are only available through virtual means. You simply don’t get the same experiences online that you get from interacting directly with peers.
Additionally, when one hears about training that was designed, created and executed by a single garrison command, it’s easy to feel as though this might be a bush-league venture – one lacking in substance and certainly not something that would be easily understood on a resume. I’m glad to report I did not feel that way upon graduation from the academy.
It may not be something that resonates on a resume, but who cares? This is not the kind of thing you do to get a certificate or bragging rights … you do this to be better.
The academy is spread out over the course of about two months and consists of a 1.5-hour lunch-and-learn session every other week, with a full-day session on the off weeks. This is not a terribly difficult time commitment, but as the instruction is condensed into a very short window, it really is vital that participants don’t miss any sessions.
The lessons consist of typical classroom instruction; fun, but practical exercises; and in-depth group discussions on leadership and problem sets occurring often in the workplace. Homework does happen, but it is typically only light reading.
The topics discussed include the following:
· Self-awareness, including individual personality assessments
· Emotional intelligence
· Motivation and languages of appreciation
· Being a role model
· Communication and trust
· How to have difficult conversations
· Coaching and mentoring
· Problem solving and prioritization
· Interviewing and hiring techniques
· Team dynamics
Participants also create a leadership philosophy. This is more of a personal project, and the results are not shared with the group. However, it’s a great way to be more self-aware. It’s also pretty useful to have something you can hand to coworkers so they know exactly what makes you tick and what you expect as a leader.
The experience culminates with a group project, which is briefed to the garrison command team. Our project was to come up with a way to better measure customer service.
My group came up with a method of administering small, three-question surveys through the use of QR codes and links. I’m proud to announce that the idea has actually been adopted by several garrison directorates and offices here. Though in its infancy, it remains to be seen if my group project will turn out to be a truly effective way of gathering customer feedback. It’s something, however, that my teammates and I were pushed to create because of the academy.
While the people intended to participate in the academy are those identified as up-and-coming leaders, I would highly recommend it to any Fort Knox garrison employee. I think even the most non-ambitious individual might learn more about themselves through the coursework that might make a leadership role seem more appealing or attainable.
At the very least, one will leave with a greater respect and understanding of what the boss experiences on a day-to-day basis. That kind of awareness goes a long way toward improving any office.