Greg Fondran from the Ninth Coast Guard District recently graduated the New Leader Program. The NLP is a program offered by COMDT (CG-12C) which is tailored for public service employees who demonstrate a high potential for leadership. Fondran shares his experience over his six months in the program.
Written by Greg Fondran
I recently completed the New Leader Program, run by Graduate School USA, for federal civilian employees from GS-7 to GS-11 pay grades. With more than 25 years working for the Coast Guard, including time spent on active duty, in the Reserve, as an Auxiliarist and now as a civil servant, this was by far the best leadership training I’ve participated in. It also helped that I was the only Coastie in the room of about 60 federal employees, so I had no choice but to be open-minded to other ideas and challenges. Virtually all of the major federal agencies were represented, even the National Credit Union Administration!
What sets this program apart from others is the 360 degree Leadership Effectiveness Inventory (LEI), which each participant completes prior to the first week in class. I have always been fascinated by the concept of 360 degree feedback, but it was always mythical and I never thought I’d actually see it! The results of the LEI set the tone and help guide the student in determining which leadership competencies to work on throughout the program, providing focus for a wide variety of assignments to be completed prior to graduation.
The program is approximately six months long, with three one-week residencies in Washington, D.C. When not attending lectures, students are required to complete a number of projects, including a four-week developmental assignment outside of your own work place, two management interviews, a three-day shadow assignment, two leadership book reviews, and a few other supplementary writing assignments. To plan that all out, each student must complete a Personal Development Action Plan, detailing how those assignments will help them work on at least three leadership competencies that the student determined were the most important to them from their LEI results. The 22 leadership competencies that are evaluated are those defined by the Office of Personnel Management as “critical to the success of a federal employee.” Some of the most common competencies chosen by the participants included conflict management, accountability, influencing/negotiating, and political savvy.
The capstone to the program is a 45-minute team presentation on at least three of the 22 leadership competencies, which provided an entertaining finale to the rigorous program. It was interesting to see how differently each of the teams interpreted the assignment and displayed their creative presentations. My group really worked well together, but the same can’t be said for some of the other groups, which isn’t surprising. Throwing together people from different agencies, with different cultures, from all over the country, to work together to create a final product isn’t easy. And that’s precisely the point of the training. Sometimes, teams don’t always work together without a little friction. But it’s learning from that friction, how it happens, how it can be avoided, or at least minimized and mitigated, is part of the leadership journey, whether you’re the formal leader or not. We all work in teams as part of our jobs and this course would be invaluable for any civil servant looking to improve their leadership skills and for anyone who hopes to serve at their highest capacity in the federal government.
The NLP is just one of the many leadership development opportunities available to GS 7-11 civilian employees. For more information on the Coast Guard NLP, visit the Office of Leadership website.