WEST BETHESDA, Md. -- Leaders from across the Navy enterprise came together for the inaugural "Leadership in a Diverse Environment" training event Nov. 28-29, organized by the NAVSEA Warfare Centers and held at NSWC Carderock Division.
The event focused on the challenges and opportunities facing women in leadership, with input welcomed from all, encouraging leadership and potential future leaders to "lean in" and move forward with strategies to hire, train and retain an inclusive workforce that will be even better poised to develop innovative solutions to Navy problems.
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, describing elements put forth in his Navy Leader Development Framework, said character is as important as competency when assessing and evaluating leaders and leadership potential, and called diversity "fundamental to winning."
"How do you overcome or mitigate against your bias? Through diversity," Adm. Richardson said. "It is fundamental to winning. Diversity and collaboration in a team environment are like spotlights shining into all of our blind spots. The diversity of experience, thinking, upbringing - the team approach and inclusion - I try to think of them as flashlights illuminating all of my dark blind spots."
Donald F. McCormack, Naval Surface and Undersea Warfare Centers Executive Director, kicked off the event by posing the question: Why is such training needed?
"As we increase the number of diverse employees at the Warfare Centers, I am not seeing that translate into candidate pools for our top-line management, technical and business leadership positions at a comparable rate," Mr. McCormack said. "I know we have great diversity candidates, I speak to them every day, but I do not see them applying to these leadership positions and I want to know why - and what we can do to change that.
"Our country is becoming more diverse every day, our Navy is becoming more diverse; we need to be as diverse to better understand the challenges they face and how they express those challenges based on their experiences," Mr. McCormack said. "Gender diversity is one part of the picture."
Fostering Leadership in a Diverse Environment is three-fold:
1) Hire, train and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce.
2) Ensure all employees have the opportunities and training to obtain the competency and confidence needed to be leaders across the organization.
3) Ensure the leadership team sets and maintains the environment for the first two steps to be possible and successful.
Pamela Lisiewicz, NUWC Strategic and Corporate Planning Director and chairwoman of the leadership event, set the stage for an all-inclusive environment by inviting two or more representatives from each Warfare Center Division to participate as part of the event steering committee. Attendees from all 10 WC Divisions applied to serve as Division "change-agents," learning through keynote addresses, breakout sessions and panel discussions with question-and-answer segments on topics such as "Leading with Courage, Confidence and Competence" - known as "the three C's" - and "Breaking the Barriers, Conquering the Biases."
"If even one of us learns that we are not alone, and gains a bit more confidence to reach for a goal, then it will be a success. If we each learn just one thing to bring back to our Division and share with others, then it will be a success. If any of you are inspired or a bit more courageous when you leave, then it will be a success. If you are able to encourage one other person to take the next step in achieving their goals, then it will be a success - and personally, if I leave it better than I found it, then it will be a success for me and the Warfare Centers as a whole," said Lisiewicz, who retired Dec. 1.
Retired Navy Commander Dr. Darlene Iskra, the first woman to command a Navy ship, discussed the concepts of courage and grit during her keynote address. Her own study of leadership began as a young naval officer.
"Leadership and diversity is not just some theoretical idea about what diversity is and understanding what it means, but how to effectively lead people who are different from you in regard to family, ethnic or racial backgrounds, geographic location, political ideas, work ideas, cultural ideas, physical capabilities, even generational ideas," Dr. Iskra said. "Far too often in the past those differences were not accepted nor respected, but that is obviously changing.
"Finally, we must acknowledge no one culture is intrinsically superior to another," Dr. Iskra said. "Education and open communications are the keys to success in a diverse and inclusive environment."
Vice. Adm. Raquel Bono, Defense Health Agency Medical Corps Director, the highest ranking Filipino-American naval officer in the United States, delivered a keynote that encapsulated what it takes to be an effective leader and how to continuously self-monitor one's actions in order to rise as a leader.
"It takes courage to lead. Transformation is making change happen - you are going to feel uncomfortable when going against the status quo - lean in and make it happen," Vice Adm. Bono said. "Everyone has a unique perspective . create the space or environment where everyone feels safe and encouraged to share their thoughts."
The training event also featured a "Diversity & Inclusion" breakout session led by U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy Senior Advisor Michael Murray and a "Lean-In Circle" breakout session led by Warfare Center and Program Executive Office-Integrated Warfare Systems employees. The Department of Defense has partnered with Leanln.Org, a nonprofit organization founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg to empower women to achieve their ambitions. Thirty years of social science research has shown that people learn and accomplish more in groups, making Lean-In Circles a fitting catalyst for teamwork. Panels on "New Professionals" and "The Science of Self Defeat" aimed to recalibrate Warfare Center employees' perception of diversity and inclusion, eliminate self-defeating responses and maximize their contributions at work.
"I realized that as a minority, especially as a woman, I am not alone in underestimating my capabilities," said Alisha Tyer, NSWC Carderock Division Survivability, Structures & Materials Department Administrative and Communications Specialist. "Just knowing that others are also finding it difficult to have the courage to step into positions of leadership makes me more determined to develop the three C's, not only for myself and my own career, but to one day be able to encourage another to do the same."
The goal, event leaders and participants said, is for that to take place at individual Divisions and across the enterprise.
"The LDE is an opportunity for our respective Warfare Centers to discuss issues and potential solutions across our respective Divisions," said Ann Turley, NUWC Newport Division Surface Ship & Aviation Systems Division Head. "Following the event, it is important for change-agents to stay connected to increase our effectiveness as we work to foster inclusion among our diverse organizations."
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