It took a couple of setbacks before two NAVAIR employees set off on the path to becoming leaders.
Ken Koontz, deputy director of F-35 Program Operations, is a participant in the NAVAIR Leadership Development Program, and Frederick Hampton, a training specialist, is a recent graduate of the Journey Leadership Development Program.
Both programs help prepare civilian and military employees to learn and master leadership skills more effectively. Over the course of several years, participants such as Koontz and Hampton take classroom-based leadership development courses and online training, shadow senior leaders, find a mentor and engage in professional reading.
Hampton’s supervisor suggested he apply to the JLDP in 2016, when he first began his civil service career. He ignored her advice. The next year, he was promoted to work leader, and his supervisor again suggested he apply to the program so he could become a more effective leader. That time, he did – and now says the program “changed the way I lead my team.”
For Koontz, his “aha” moment came when he applied for a promotion he thought he would earn but instead received feedback, after the interview, that he needed strategic thinking experience and leadership experience and training.
“The one element I could do something about on that list was apply for leadership training,” he explained.
Since then, Koontz has been promoted and taken his lessons back to his team, mentoring his employees, providing feedback on their resumes and encouraging everyone to apply to NLDP.
“I am far more encouraging of other NAVAIR employees to improve themselves,” he said. “We need to develop our people, both as better workers and as future leaders, and perhaps even inspire them to greatness.”
In addition to applying to formal leadership training programs, Hampton and Koontz have a few lessons they have learned, below, on how to succeed as a leader.
Think critically and strategically. “There is such an unspoken, huge demand for critical thinking throughout the enterprise. I used to be completely tactical at most every meeting, discussion and action,” Koontz said. “The notion to think about your next meeting in a strategic sense before the meeting and have a strategic goal is helpful.”
Communication is key. “I am more conscious in the way I communicate with my team. We focus on ways to be more efficient and approaches that are conducive to getting the job done. Understanding how my team communicates pays dividends,” Hampton said.
Pursue excellence. “Get promoted every 10 years, whether you think you need it or not,” Koontz said. “I didn’t learn until 30 years into my NAVAIR career that it was a good idea to think and act on personal improvement as an aspect of career development.” Hampton agreed: “Take every opportunity to better yourself for the good of the organization; programs like these help keep pace with the ever-changing needs of the fleet.”