Effective listening, social media, public meetings, and media training were some of the highlights during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) -Great Lakes Leadership Development Program (LDP) II virtual Communications Seminar the week of May 24, 2021.
“This seminar was designed to hone students’ abilities around communication leadership of USACE issues,” course planner and facilitator John Kelly, Headquarters USACE public affairs officer, said. “The course covered a variety of topics including analog, digital, and in-person communication. The most important thing is the people aspect. That is most critical for any communications effort. You got to know who you’re talking to and why you’re talking to them. Hopefully we’re going to capture all of that throughout the week.”
“Our ability to execute our primary missions of ecosystem restoration, navigation, flood risk, and military support is very important,” Deputy District Engineer Steven Fischer said to the group during opening remarks. “Not only within our local area of responsibility but across the country. The Corps has a huge footprint and the ability for us to communicate effectively around the globe is important.”
The weeklong series of classes and workshopping focused on effective and efficient communication of USACE goals, objectives, and information to internal and external audiences. The group worked through the communication process in breakout groups, and participated in hands-on exercises.
The Corps’ Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo districts (the lakes districts of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division) all participated in the session. Selected to participate in LDPII this year from the Chicago District are Jeremiah Haley, electrical engineer; Rasheed Muhammad, engineering technician; and Katarzyna (Kathy) Sitko, structural engineer.
“I applied to LDPII because I wanted to grow, as well as challenge myself as a leader,” Haley said. “I felt that the LDPII Program would help me to self-assess, and learn more about my strengths and weaknesses in leadership.”
The program holds three sessions each year and each are led by one of the three Great Lakes LDPII districts – Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo. The Chicago District traditionally hosts LDPII’s second session on communication. The Detroit District hosted Session I, “Teambuilding,” virtually in February 2021. The Buffalo District will host the final session, “Continuing Development,” this August.
Carin Frank, assistant district counsel; Kristine Meyer, hydraulic engineer; and Kaitlyn McClain, planner, are on LDPII’s steering committee for the Chicago District.
“The steering committee is responsible for planning each fiscal year’s LDPII program and ensuring it provides the opportunity for internal growth, reflection, and leadership training,” Frank said. “Session II has, in recent years, traditionally focused on communication, as good communication is a vital component of leadership.”
The steering committee not only develops and coordinates LDPII assignments and the three week-long sessions, but also reviews LDPII applications, makes participant recommendation to the district’s Corporate Board for approval, develops the project management plan with the Detroit and Buffalo districts, and organizes and hosts the Chicago District’s session.
“Chicago District session always has a communication focus,” McClain said. “The format for the session has shifted in recent years to accommodate the virtual format, but the goals and objectives of the session remain the same. The session has an emphasis on developing messaging and communications for project stakeholders and improving public speaking skills.”
Frank and Meyer participated in LDPII in FY18. McClain completed LDPII in 2020. Meyer also participated in LDPIII in 2020.
“LDPII is a great way to network with individuals in other districts and professions with the Corps,” McClain said. “The program is great for developing leaders across the district.”
“You not only learn leadership skills in LDPII, but also develop lifelong professional relationships,” Meyer said. “There are participants from my LDPII class from other districts that I still communicate with on a regular basis.”
And Frank said the LDP is a great on a personal and professional level.
“LDPII provides a great opportunity to meet coworkers at Detroit and Buffalo districts, learn about your leadership style and areas for improvement, and further your professional development,” Frank said. “If this sounds like something that interests you, please keep an eye out for announcements in October/November 2021 for next year’s program.”