ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois (Nov. 30, 2023) – Army Contracting Command-Rock Island leaders at the branch level and above gathered for a Senior Leader Summit Nov. 6 at Heritage Hall here.
This day-long event was a chance for the center’s leaders to individually assess themselves, share knowledge, discuss challenges, and collectively develop ideas for workforce engagement and effectiveness.
Lynda Armer, executive director, Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, said the impetus for this event came from one of her recent trainings, when she determined the center needed a new mission and vision statement.
“At that point, the directors said they’ve heard from this organization that employees want to have a voice in how we move forward, so we need to get from them what’s going on to focus on and to give them a voice in moving forward,” said Armer. “That is why we put this on today.”
Far from a day of briefings and top-down communication, the summit provided the chance for leaders to share their thoughts and set priorities on topics that will help propel the center into the future as an engaged and effective workforce.
“Part of what the directors, division chiefs, Mark and I are going to do is start working through the ideas from today and see what we want to tackle as an organization this year, what we will table for the future,” said Armer. “All of the ideas that you brought and shared were great and we appreciate that.”
Corbin De La Cruz, a branch chief in the Industrial Readiness Division, said he appreciated the engaging format of the event, which began with an ice-breaker activity called “the unstuck box.”
“The unstuck box activity served as a fun way to refamiliarize and reconnect with one another, said De La Cruz. “This initial activity made it easier for the tables to discuss the issues that were to be presented and discussed during the summit. The combination of presentations, open Q&As, and interactive exercises was a great way to include all participants.”
In the morning, the center’s directors led sessions focused on connecting with others, improving communication, team building and leadership in one’s role. After lunch, Mark Mower, deputy to the executive director, ACC-RI, presented ways to maintain ACC-RI as an employer of choice. The group also welcomed Marion Whicker, executive deputy to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command, who shared her thoughts on leadership.
Susan Husson, chief of the Blue Grass Depot Contracting Depot Support Branch, said the sessions provided a good refresher of the many skills necessary to be a good leader, allowed her to reflect on her own performance, and gave her ideas on what she can do to help keep her team connected.
“The fact the event was interactive in nature made all the difference in ensuring the messages were heard, practiced, and can be put into action,” said Husson. “It’s easy to sit, listen and often forget the lesson or message, but when you are involved in the learning process, put in the work, and contribute to the outcomes, the ability to understand and retain the message presented is much greater.”
She said that one of her main takeaways from the event was the skill of “followership”. While Husson said she has read numerous books on leadership and follower/leader relationships, she hadn’t heard the term before, so she googled some articles and found followership skills are equally important in career development as leadership skills.
“This made me wonder, as a leader/supervisor, am I a good follower?” said Husson. “And do I, as a leader/supervisor, foster an environment that allows for good followership? As one of the articles concluded: identifying and developing followers is just as important as developing strong leaders. I think this statement brings into play the intersection and relevance of the topics presented in the Senior Leader Summit.”
The summit concluded with the presentation and signing of ACC-RI’s new mission and vision statements, during which the group broke out into their directorates and discussed the ways they will communicate the guiding statements to their employees and how they will communicate the importance of incorporating the meaning behind the statements into the work that ACC-RI does.
Jill Sommer, a Home Base branch chief in the Acquisition Quality & Training Directorate, said that from her perspective, all employees need to recognize the mission and vision statements are directly tied to their roles and responsibilities in their performance ratings.
“It is the hope that keeping these guiding statements in mind in all the actions employees take will give each of them purpose in not only empowering their development as acquisition professionals, but also cultivating a strategic lens to carry out the vision of the center,” said Sommer.
While it is important for all levels to understand the new mission and vision, De La Cruz feels it is critical for branch chiefs and team leads to make them relevant to all employees. The day after the senior leader summit, he briefed a group of newly promoted team leads during an orientation and touched on the new mission statement’s relevance, emphasizing the importance of innovation and agility while working with customers.
During this orientation briefing, he shared the challenge Marion Whicker mentioned during her presentation: asking acquisition personnel to directly ask their customers what their end-state is.
“To arrive at the desired end-state, contracting personnel and requiring activities will need to share processes and ideas which will help mission partners gain perspective on the total acquisition process,” said De La Cruz. “This idea sharing will lead to innovative and collaborative solutions with our mission partners.”
Deeming the entire summit as a well-executed event that allowed for thoughtful and informative collaboration, AL Pagan, chief of the center’s Infrastructure Branch, said he came away from the event with several ideas on how to incorporate the lessons within his branch. He also hopes for more opportunities to engage in a similar way.
“We should continue to have this forum annually,” said Pagan. “The next one should be focused on our contracting mission versus leadership topics. So, the summit should address leadership every other year and in between, the summit could focus on our contracting mission.