Sunday, February 16, 2014

MCPON nails it on Senior Enlisted Academy, and a relook at DIVO leadership

I have to admit, every time I read about the MCPON, it reaffirms that we picked the right Sailor for the job. He nails it again on Senior Enlisted Academy:

Essentially, he wants it laser-focused on Senior Chiefs, make it mandatory, and reshape the course so that some is done via distance and only a few, intensive weeks of in-resident training. His goal seems to be that every Master Chief not only be a deckplate leader, but also have a toolbox of leadership traits to be able to lead across a large command.

When you make the jump from division to department, it requires a whole new set of tools, and almost all of our leaders are left finding those tools on their own. The Navy in general is more inclined to OJT a lot of training, including leadership training. Why are we surprised then when commands don't get EVALs in on time? Or when we allow bureaucracy to slow down what should be quick processes? A big part of that is our department leadership never gets the tools to lead groups of over 20 people.

There is one piece where I disagree with the MCPON though:

Stevens said chiefs operate on an equivalent level to a division officer or department head, but unlike those officers, don’t get schooling to help operate at that level.

Sadly, this isn't true. Our DIVO leadership courses are a joke, and DH leadership is more focused on operations than leadership. My DIVO leadership was two weeks of sea stories and being told "The Chief runs the division, you just need to get qualified," which doesn't work. If I had to condense DIVO leadership to one week, I'd have the following:

Day 1:
Class introduction (30 min).
Electronic Record Review (3 hours. Actually go through each persons record on a large screen, identifying different fields and how to change/fix them).
Enlisted Record Review (3 hours. Using sample enlisted records and sitting with a senior enlisted member, go through the differences and how to review enlisted records).

Homework: write up sample FITREP and EVAL bullets.

Day 2:
FITREPs (3 hours, discuss FITREPs, EP/MP limits, what a board sees, etc.).
EVALs (4 hours, discuss differences in EVALs from FITREPs, what boards look for, EVAL timing, planning, etc.)

Homework: write up a sample counseling chit.

Day 3:
Counseling chits (2 hours: how to administer, how to keep in your DIVO notebook, what is/isn't acceptable behavior).
UCMJ (2 hours: UCMJ basics for the DIVO).
Clinical counseling (1 hour, done by a certified counselor from a nearby hospital or FFSC. Get an idea of when to refer Sailors to more intense counseling).
Stress Management (1 hour.)
Coaching (2 hours. How to coach mediocre performers with goal setting).

Homework: writeup a sample Navy Achievement Medal.

Day 4:
Awards (2 hours. How to writeup an award, what an awards board does, what performance merits awards, how to writeup non-Navy servicemembers, etc.).
Sponsorship (1 hour. How the Navy is supposed to run the sponsorship program).
Inspections (2 hours. How to inspect your spaces and your paperwork. Tailored for the group of officers you are training).

Homework: One page essay on leadership.

Day 5:
Leadership (8 hours. Read everyone's essay. Talk about Leadership, about getting out in your spaces, keeping your Sailors engaged, working through problems, etc.)

The goal with this structure is that all the admin things that suck up time (EVALs, FITREPs, awards, counseling, etc.) are actually taught, so your junior officers know how to do them correctly. That saves them time to do the more important things, which is being a leader in their division and getting qualified. I still give time for sea stories (which can sometimes teach something) but I limit it to a day.

I also get the perspective of the Ensigns. That's important. If I led this class, I would fully expect the essays to suck. That's not the point. The point is that you need to see where you are starting and correct issues right away. For example, I had an Ensign from OCS work for me while he was waiting to class up. I was taking a quick break and joking with our department LPO and YN, and I glanced over to see him standing nearby rather awkwardly. I called him into my office later and asked him about it. He told me that the impression he had from OCS was that discussions like mine would be fraternization.

Ouch. OCS had essentially painted the picture that O-1s can't talk to their enlisted Sailors without giving orders. While that works in Newport in a training environment, it doesn't work elsewhere. I set him straight and the staff noticed immediately. It also gave me a chance to talk about fraternization with him, and laid some groundwork for GMT that we gave to the command two months later. I would have NEVER gotten that had I not asked for his opinion.

So thank you MCPON for working to improve our formal enlisted leadership training. If only the officers could do the same thing...