FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 28, 2021
Release #2152 Point of Contact—Jeffrey Prater (401) 832-2039
Courses help NUWC Division Newport employees develop leadership skills
by NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs
As the head of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport Hull Arrays and Distribution Sensors Engineering Branch in the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department, Brian Fuhrman is always looking for new ways to be a better supervisor. It is what led him to take part in the “Everything DiSC Agile EQ” leadership development course held virtually on July 20.
“I’m always a fan of these soft-skill courses,” Fuhrman said. “I really got a lot out of this one in particular.”
The Everything DiSC course was just one of a handful of pilot classes designed to improve leadership skills among the workforce that recently was held at Division Newport. A similar one-day pilot course on self-leadership was held July 29 and on Aug. 11, a NUWC University pilot class titled “Self Leadership and Communication” also was held.
“I enrolled in the class thinking that I would get some sort of lecture on ‘how to manage your team efficiently,’ but instead I got something better,” Rabbil Ahmed, Virginia- and Columbia-class cyber lead in the Security Engineering Branch of the Undersea Warfare Combat Systems Department, said of the July 29 class. “I learned how to take charge of my own needs and drive a conversation with leaders, as well as how to orient myself so that I can be a better employee and a better leader.”
Under the guidance of John Averill, head, Corporate Business Office in the Corporate Operations Department, and his team, a leadership competency training curriculum has been developed to cultivate competent and successful leaders within the Division Newport workforce. The recent pilot classes were designed to help shape the program.
The curriculum utilizes multiple training methods, such as LinkedIn Learning, NUWC University and vendor-provided training. There are multiple training opportunities, and each is geared toward an employee’s career and leadership paths. Curriculums include self-leadership, aspiring leaders, technical program managers and team leads, the Naval Sea Systems Command programs PROPEL Launch and PROPEL Boost. The PROPEL classes have been developed by Warfare Center Headquarters and serve as a baseline for the other curriculums so that the entire workforce is able to be exposed to these critical concepts.
“These courses help all of us to know ourselves and understand how that can impact our team members in the workplace,” Averill said. “That’s a critical part of Division Newport’s mission.”
The 23 people who participated in the Everything DiSC course saw that firsthand. The class is designed to help participants understand their DiSC (Dominance, influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness) styles and the role of emotional intelligence (EI). Another goal is to understand how to use those skills to read the emotional and interpersonal needs of a situation and respond accordingly.
“This allows you to communicate more effectively,” said Dr. Zeke Brown, president and CEO of ZB Training Solutions, who served as one of the proctors for the course. “This is not a psychological tool; it’s a leadership development tool.”
Brown, who was on active duty in the U.S. Army for 22 years before retiring in 2003, was joined by Dr. Maggie Sizer, a former air traffic controller in the Air Force, to administer the course. The online class switched between a number of different training methods, at times utilizing videos while at others breakout rooms for small group discussion.
In addition to describing each element of DiSC, the course also explained how understanding it can be utilized to become a better leader. This knowledge helps discover natural tendencies in people, and recognize when to move beyond those familiar patterns. This is what allows people to act, adapting to whatever situation they may be facing — agility, according to the course.
People’s demeanors fall into each of the four quadrants of DiSC to varying degrees — slight moderate or strong — and within that, there are different mindsets. According to Brown and Sizer, there are eight mindsets: Self-assured, dynamic, outgoing, empathizing, receptive, composed, objective and resolute.
Understanding these mindsets affords people the ability not only to understand more about oneself, but also others with whom they interact.
“I thought this was a good opportunity for me to learn more about other people,” Sharon Dziekan of the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department, said. “It’s important that we get all that we can out of all our employees and I’m hoping this course helps me to better connect with them.”
Similar lessons were taught in the July 29 self-leadership course, which also elicited some positive feedback from participants.
“The self-leadership class was awesome,” said one of the 19 course participants, Vijay Peddinti, an engineer in the Signal Processing Algorithm Development Branch of the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department. “Initially, I was not entirely sure what to expect, but I was really glad I took the course. One of the main focus areas was communicating effectively and clearly with leaders, and informing them of our requirements for working on or completing a task. I have already incorporated this in a meeting with my branch head, and will be using this approach in other projects as well.”
Self-leadership, or having the mindset and skillset to get what one needs to succeed, is an important capability in becoming an empowered, proactive leader that takes control of one’s own success and is fully committed to getting results.
“A leader is anyone that you need to get your work done,” said Bob Freytag, senior consulting partner and director of Consulting Services with the Ken Blanchard Cos. and a retired U.S. Navy master chief petty officer.
Participants spent the beginning of the day in groups discussing and exploring answers to questions such as:
- “What keeps people from telling their leaders what they need?”
- “What is the possible impact on day-to-day life at work if a leader truly doesn’t know what you need?”
The group identified keys to working well with one another, honing in on aspects like listening to learn, staying positive and genuine, having fun and speaking up.
They also spent some time defining what they wanted to get out of the course.
“This course helps provide a framework for setting goals, recognizing your needs and learning how to ask for them,” Elena Rittling, an engineer in the Infrastructure Department, said. “It makes a point that all skills have a learning curve, and a developmental stage is only a location you are at, not who you are, which is an important distinction and a good reminder. Being in the beginning stages of learning a new skill does not mean you are incompetent as a person.”
Diving into the main topics of the curriculum, the group learned about the various aspects that make up a self-leader’s skillset and mindset. The group learned how to cultivate these traits through group discussions, workbook exercises, conversation starters, self-reflection and dissecting hypothetical scenarios.
These exercises helped the group to identify the critical attributes of self-leaders, which the course identified as goal-setting, diagnosing and matching.
The mindset of a self-leader includes challenging assumed constraints, activating points of power and being proactive. The assumed constraints discussion was noteworthy, with Freytag asking the group, “What beliefs do you have that are holding you back?”
He shared the negative implications of assumed constraints as well, saying that “they prevent you from doing your best work, and can also defeat you before you even try.”
Once these constraints are identified, Freytag said, they then can be reframed and action can be taken upon them.
“If we don’t challenge assumed constraints, they’ll become actual constraints,” he said. “If you pin yourself against the assumed constraints, then it’s a short trip through the door of ‘why bother.’”
At the Aug. 11 course, mental models, with a particular focus on the “Ladder of Inference,” were discussed to demonstrate how past observations lead us to quickly react to certain circumstances.
The course also focused on how these reactions can be a barrier to effective communication, as well as how to recognize when assumptions can be made without stopping to think. Tips and tools for how to avoid this ladder and communicate more effectively also were reviewed, and a great discussion about media richness theory ensued.
“Based on the positive student feedback received for all these classes, we anticipate they will continue to be offered going forward,” Averill said.
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.
Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport employees participate in a self-leadership course on July 29, 2021, which is part of several pilot classes designed to improve leadership skills. Pictured are Brian Wise (standing, from left), Undersea Warfare (USW) Platforms and Payload Integration Department; Jimmie Reid, Sensors and Sonar Systems Department; Bob Freytag, senior consulting partner and director of Consulting Services with the Ken Blanchard Cos.; Phillip Trujillo (sitting, from left),USW Weapons, Vehicles and Defensive Systems Department; and Ying Xia, Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department. (U.S. Navy photo by Dave Stoehr)