News | May 19, 2020

DLA Aviation leader uses virtual fist bump to connect with staff

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Roy Drake knows greetings matter and can change the course of someone’s day and outlook. Communicating during the COVID-19 pandemic remains a priority for him in combating stress, uncertainty and social distancing among his staff.

Since becoming the Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Marine Corps Customer Facing Division deputy chief within the Customer Operations Directorate in October, Drake has greeted division employees each morning with a fist bump.

He said it’s in his nature to greet others and encourage a positive environment. Over his 35-year career, Drake’s greetings have evolved from “What’s up?” and high-fives to fist bumps in social and professional interactions.

Fist bumps are a small daily gesture that align with DLA’s People and Culture Plan,” Drake said. “It provides me a great way to be aware of the ‘pulse’ of the division.”

With widespread telework, Drake is fist bumping virtually through daily email after meeting online with his division’s senior leaders on the mission, customer requirements, plans and employees’ wellbeing. He boosts morale by greeting employees as “superstars,” “world-class logisticians” and “dream team.”

Dan Holt is a customer account specialist in Drake’s division whose job is to try to fill backorders when DLA is unable to fill them through the normal procurement processes.

He said on one unsuccessful, particularly trying day filled with numerous customer requests to expedite shipments of material, he received Drake’s virtual first bump letting him know that DLA employees are in this fight together.

“It let me know that management is also concerned with our well-being and motivated me to press forward in hopes of obtaining an expedited shipment for my assigned Marine squadrons,” Holt said.

Drake said he has a great team and the daily greetings - now and before social distancing - allow him to learn more about his employees, like their past experiences, goals, hobbies, career interests and educational accomplishments.

“I learn a host of things that provide me with insight to manage these talented professionals and optimize their output,” Drake said.

Through fist bump interactions, he learned one of his teams love snowboarding.

“I see how that unity has translated in their daily accomplishments and has spilled over into their team unity,” he said. “It solidifies good working relationships that ultimately contributes to good overall team performance.”

By building relationships, team members know he can also provide them with useful information. As in the case where he learned an employee aspired to increase her technical knowledge and leadership skills. Drake said he was able to identify potential opportunities to help her accomplish her goals which also enhanced the team’s abilities.

Marcus Hawkins is a H-1 helicopter weapon system program manager in Drake’s division who also appreciates the daily contact.

“The virtual fist bumps made me feel as if I’m still in the office face-to-face with Roy and as if nothing’s changed because he’s made an effort to maintain the same presence he had in the office,” he said. “It’s motivated me to maintain the same presence within my H-1 team.”