News: How the Leadership Development Program helped me – Mike Richards
Story by James Woods
ROGERS LAKE, Ark. - How has the program assisted you with career progression? Both the SWL LDP II and the SWD LDP III were beneficial for my career progression. Both programs opened several doors and avenues for me to grow as an individual both personally and professionally. This ultimately helped me become a much better team member and leader. Being a part of the SWD LDP III program allowed me to interact and work with highly motivated individuals from around SWD who shared a common desire to be better leaders within the Corps. Working with these individuals within a team environment helped me grow my confidence and abilities to become a successful leader of a dynamic team within the Little Rock District. I began the program when I was a park ranger and am now a Deputy OPM.
What is your official job title? Deputy Operations Project Manager Beaver Lake
When did you graduate from Leadership Development Program III? April 2008
Did you work on any projects during the course that helped the District or Beaver Project if you were there when you completed the course? When you are selected to the LDP III class, you are on a team with two representatives from each district and one from the division, this is your team within the overall LDP III team. The senior leaders of SWD assigned our team the task of reviewing and developing a new LDP II and LDP III program for the Region. This was a pre-cursor for the present day program. Another project was our LDP III class being selected to assist with the coordination of the USACE Senior Leader’s Conference that was hosted by SWD in Dallas. This was a good opportunity for SWD having all of the senior leaders of USACE within the division at one time. It was very interesting and inspiring to see the time and effort first hand that these people dedicate of themselves to the success of our organization and our Nation.
Another great experience that I had while a member of LDP III was to emcee the SWL Change of Command Ceremony when Colonel Wally Walters was leaving and Colonel Ed Jackson was entering.
Is there a specific lesson learned from the course that you apply daily or to projects you work on? I have two. Change is a constant. To be successful within an ever changing environment, you must be cognizant of the “big picture”, be as knowledgeable as you can, and have a vision. A senior leader once told us that he had worked on numerous big projects that he could point to and say that he had helped build them. However, he said his legacy was not the big projects but the people whom he is leading, as they are going to be tomorrow’s leaders. He summed up his statement with “You are my legacy”.
What did you like most about the program? Having the opportunity to observe and interact with our senior leaders within Southwest Division both one on one and in small group settings afforded me the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the complexity of their mission and how my current position fits into that work. Working with my fellow LDP III team was very exciting as we were given several challenging assignments over the course of the program we became a closer and closer group. The relationships that were forged were priceless. We still keep in touch and I am confident that if SWD wants to stand up a team to meet a challenge, we still have that bond that most highly successful teams have to meet any challenge assigned.
Has the LDP program helped you outside the Corps? The LDP program helped me learn to work with people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. This experience helped me be a better leader within community, school and church activities and leadership roles. The team dynamic lent itself to being a support group as well as a working team.
What are your future goals in the Corps? I have enjoyed my career thus far and appreciate all of the opportunities I have in my current position. My future goal’s with the Corps is to work within a Division or Headquarters for OPS. The LDP III program gave me a glimpse of the broad range of activities, goals and challenges that our organization is involved with. I aspire to become more involved at these levels to seek out additional challenges and learning experiences.
Anything else you want to add? I encourage everyone to participate in the leadership program at any level. This is a program that takes time and effort but it gives back to the “you” the individual and the organization many times over. Getting the opportunity to know and work with people that you normally don’t get to work with, in your normal role with USACE is so rewarding. In LDP II, I was the beneficiary of being a part of a team comprised of contracting, geologist, engineers, motor boat captain, park rangers, public affairs specialist. These are all great people that helped me grow through sharing their knowledge and experiences. I appreciate all of the people within SWL and SWD that I have had the opportunity to get to know and work with. I also encourage everyone to seek out a mentor by joining the mentorship program. My mentor has helped guide me throughout my professional career. Most of all, I thank SWL and SWD leadership for providing such a great program and my former supervisor Jim Sandberg who supported my participation in the program.