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Conversation with MCPON

MCPON talks about leadership development and his recent trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Editor's note: Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens recently returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest where he had a chance to visit with Sailors and their families in the region. All Hands Magazine had a chance to sit down with him and talk about this trip, and he also spoke with us about the Chief of Naval Operations' new Navy Leadership Development Strategy and the importance of developing leaders in today's Navy.

Q- How essential is it that our Sailors receive leadership training before we expect them to perform at the next pay grade?

A- It just so happens that it's important enough for the CNO to take the time to write and recently release the Navy Leadership Development Strategy, which provides for us a comprehensive approach toward the development of leaders. He also states in his leadership strategy that nothing is more important than the development of leaders, so we have a responsibility to take this strategy that the CNO released and turn it into action by working toward the development of leaders for all Sailors pay grades E-1 to O-10.

Q- When does leadership training begin?

A- Leadership training begins the day you graduate from boot camp, and I dare say that leadership begins the day you start boot camp, and it does not end until your separation from military service. And then the things that you learn as a leader while you're in the Navy or in the military carry themselves over into whatever civilian profession that you take on.

Q- What should Sailors know about the CNO's Navy Leadership Development Strategy?

A- The CNO believes that our most important priority is the development of leaders and leadership. The strategy is a comprehensive approach that allows us to take in all those things that we have in place to develop our leaders and ensure that we are applying it when and where it is most appropriate and when and where it is most practical, at the right time.

Q- Can you discuss the command-delivered enlisted leadership program?

A- We have command-delivered enlisted leadership training - petty officer selectee leadership training and also chief petty officer selectee leadership training. This training is delivered by members within your own command. It's important that the members that are delivering the training are prepared to deliver it. There is a course of instruction that they can attend at CPPD (Center for Professional and Personal Development) that will better enhance their capabilities to deliver the training. We've got to make sure we have the right people with the right skillsets delivering this training, but just as importantly we've got to make sure that we are doing it, and after we've completed it, we have to ensure that we get it documented into our FLTMPS database so that we can track and have a sense for who's attended the training, because, as we all know, it's a requirement to attend the training, to document the training before you are either frocked or advanced to the paygrade which you were advanced or accepted into.

Q- What is the significance of documenting this training in FLTMPS?

A- Well, FLTMPS is the database that we use to ensure that the leadership training has been completed. Now, I believe, based on my experience in fleet engagements that, by and large, the fleet is doing this training; that they are completing the training we're asking them to do. Where we're falling short is the actual documentation into FLTMPS. So, if we actually documented everything that we've done, I believe this to be a non-issue. So, we just need to make sure that once we've done it we document it.

Q- What would you tell Sailors who aren't sure if their training is being documented?

A- What I would tell that Sailor is find out who in your command has access to FLTMPS and is responsible for entering that data. Have them pull up your name, look and ensure that the courses that you've completed are officially documented in FLTMPS.

Q- So you feel that documentation is something Sailors can and should control?

A- Recently I released a letter. Well it wasn't really that recent. It's been about six months. This letter is called "Zeroing in on Excellence," and in that letter I have a focus area called "Controlling What We Own." We own the documentation of our leadership training. We have a responsibility that when that training's completed, and I'm looking at chief petty officers, to ensure that training gets properly documented, because, as we all know, it's not done until it is properly documented.

Q- What resources and schooling do Sailors have available to them to enhance their leadership skills?

A- The first person who has the most responsibility toward developing leaders is the individual themselves, and we must explore and then exploit any training opportunities that we have available, whether that be professional leadership development courses that are available through NKO, or Navy Knowledge Online, or whether that be basic military requirements or basic military courses of instruction that are also available. So, I would get online with Navy Knowledge Online and go to the leadership section of the courses that are available, and just peruse those courses and see if there's anything in there that catches your eye that you would like to do, whether that be a requirement or not a requirement. If it's a requirement, obviously you have to do it. If it's not a requirement, you may see something on there that sparks your interest and you say "You know what, if I did that course, there's a good possibility it's going to increase my ability to lead." I would do those courses.

Q-How can the Chief's Mess help address leadership development for the Navy?

A- The development of leaders is something that's in the DNA of every chief petty officer. We know what we need to do, we just need to do it. I need all chief petty officers to be all in, all the time in the development of leaders.

Q- Are there any future leadership requirements for CPOs to have for promotions?

A- Well, we are working today to put a plan in place that will allow us to provide all of our senior chiefs with the opportunity to attend the Senior Enlisted Academy before becoming eligible for master chief. This is a new requirement that we'd like to implement because we believe that we owe our senior chiefs the time, the tools and the education necessary to be successful in the leading of our Sailors.

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