DLA Aviation employee shares experiences in Executive Mentoring Program

By Bonnie Koenig DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Strategic Acquisition and Programs Directorate’s Randall Dortch, an integrated supplier team supervisor was one of the employees who applied and was selected earlier this year to participate in the two-year DLA Aviation Executive Mentoring Program in Richmond, Virginia.

The program focuses on executive interviews with a Senior Executive Service member, a flag officer, and an industry executive. It also allows shadowing opportunities and a rotational assignment to take the mentee out of their comfort zone and expose them to new challenges and decision making.

On Oct. 8, Dortch met with Deline “Dee” Reardon, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Supply Chain Integration for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Installations and Mission Support within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense and a Senior Executive Service member.

They discussed balancing work, life, and family, performance management, delegation, team building, mentoring, and values.

He said Reardon emphasized managers should develop a ‘people first’ mentality to include focusing on the ‘non-work’ with your workforce. She said this can help to get the work done by building fun into the work, making each win a team-win. Reardon added individual successes do not always add up to team successes and by including employees in on goal setting and accomplishments you will foster winning as a team.

In regard to team building exercises, Reardon said not to make exercises mandatory but make it a way the group gets together to encourage problem solving and sometimes to make it a surprise and fun.  She said that over time participatory management and work family fun will become something your team will look forward to and they will respond.

Reardon said areas to focus on are mentoring and developing others to solve the complex problems and pay attention to employees because they will provide you the signs of how you can best help.

Dortch said one of the most significant take-aways from the meeting was Reardon’s perspective on balancing family life. Reardon emphasized to strive for balance over time rather than day-by-day.

Reardon said to do things to get your head out of work, such as listening to an audio book or something relaxing on the way home, so that when you arrive, you can focus solely on your family and leave the work behind. 

She also said to be aware and understand that there are ebbs and flows to work and life.  At certain points, work will take center stage, and at others, life will take it back.  Also, when on vacation or at home with your family, focus only on them, and let work go.  Strive for balance over time rather than day-by-day.

For delegation and performance management, Reardon said to introduce what needs to be done, create buy-in through shared goal setting and goal attainment with the workforce, and make the team a part of the solution.  Get the team input before finalizing goals so that everyone has a stake in accomplishment.  Align organizational goals with individual goals and celebrate accomplishment of those goals.

Dortch said he applied for the program when it was announced in the Spring of this year and said the program is beneficial because it exposes employees to other perspectives and best practices outside of DLA and also highlights areas to make improvements.  He added that he wanted to participate in order to develop and improve upon his mentoring skills and pass lessons learned on to his employees.

DLA Aviation’s Customer Operations Deputy Director Paul Hughes is the program manager for DLA Aviation’s Executive Mentoring Program. Hughes said the program’s goal is to build ‘bench strength’ for the general service (GS) 13 and 14 grade levels, while preparing them to more effectively transition to the next grade or position, when opportunities are presented.

The next cycle for applying to the Executive Mentoring Program will begin in March 2017.