Takeaways from a West Point Leadership Workshop

In November, a number of Wisconsin TEC members attended a customized leadership development training at West Point, conducted by alumni of the Academy who are now retired after distinguished careers.

The Purpose: To gain first-hand understanding of the techniques practiced by the Academy in pursuit of its mission of “Developing Leaders of Character,” to understand why the techniques are successful, and to analyze how to incorporate them into our own company cultures to yield higher performance levels.

Key Takeaways

  • The West Point Way: When you develop your own “ABC Company Way,” that is disciplined, the energy, commitment and effectiveness of the organization increases substantially. The components are effectively the elements of your intentional culture, starting with the core values of who you are, and then including the key “what we do” elements.
  • Trust: You MUST be a Leader with TRUST which develops from consistent modeling of valued behaviors. They are essential elements of your leadership philosophy, which you must fully develop and SHARE!
  • After Action Reviews (AAR): After EVERY effort, there is a quick time taken to analyze what didn’t work as well as hoped, and what should/might be tried differently the next time. This assures continuous improvement/learning!
  • One-Third/Two-Thirds Planning Rule: The leader should spend no more than 1/3 of the planning time in communicating and explaining the Commander’s intent, and allow at least 2/3rds of the time for the planning team to develop its strategy.
  • Back Review: The planning team then reviews with the leader the strategy to insure it appears that it will achieve the objective.
  • It is each level of Leaders’ responsibility to assure the needs of his/her direct reports are taken care of before serving his/her own needs.
  • It’s important to develop a person as a competent Leader BEFORE he’s/she’s promoted to a position! Expose him/her to the elements of the job, and leadership elements, as much as possible IN ADVANCE.
  • Have a formal process, involving many people, looking for new trends that will impact you. Schedule feedback and/or analysis meetings.

Enhancing Your Leadership Identity

In one training session, LTG(ret.) Rhett Hernandez, once the highest-ranking Hispanic in the Army who both headed the Army’s Human Resource command and was in charge of cybersecurity/communications for the Army, spoke on this topic. Takeaways:

  • You want to be a Leader with PRESENCE! Includes: professional bearing, Yes. Also fitness: physical, ethical, competence, endurance! Confidence not cockiness or arrogance, which alienate resilience.
  • You MUST be a Leader with TRUST! That comes from consistency in modeling your valued behaviors Key! A MUST! This means: You must know what your driving values are and communicate them. They become the key part of your leadership philosophy. The rest of the elements are other ways of treating people, making things happen, and embracing customers that you want to have happen i.e., what makes your culture. (So, what is yours? Is it written … and articulated often? This is what you want your people to believe and do. It’s your “ABC WAY!”)
  • Your leadership philosophy allows you to:
    • Tell others what is important to you.
    • Establish expectations.
    • Highlight your intent and priorities.

Build Trust, Confidence, Credibility. Then: You must SHARE it!!

  • Communicate constantly to reduce anxiety, assure correct perception. It’s important. Don’t assume. “I used to walk the floor, talking to everyone by name. As we got larger, I assumed they knew I was traveling to benefit the organization and still cared about them. That assumption was wrong, I learned. I had to backtrack and let them know.”

Other Insights:

  • “As my commands got bigger and bigger, my hardest decision was deciding what I needed to decide on and what to stay delegated.”
  • Who are your leaders? Look at your people all of them. Who do people go to for advice? Who do they listen to? Develop them!
  • Yes, there’s a role for vulnerability. You’re not expected to know everything. “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
  • Create an organization that people WANT to join! Build it so it attracts the ‘cream of the crop’ … like they are to West Point. Purpose Duty/Competence, Honor/Character, Country/Commitment

By Phil Hauck Chair, TEC 3, 13, 32