Some may ask — what does ice cream have to do with developing leadership and teamwork skills? The answer may surprise you.
Today, the Army observes its 243rd birthday, and Fort Leonard Wood will celebrate with a cake-cutting ceremony by the installation’s eldest and youngest service members and Department of the Army civilians. This year, the command added an ice cream social to the list of events, which created an opportunity for Installation Management Command’s Junior Executive Development Initiative team to put their leadership skills to the test.
Project leads Samantha Hooker and Bobbie Petersen said with more than 2,000 expected to attend the ice cream social, the project’s logistics were a challenge.
“When we started the process, there were so many questions,” Petersen said. “Hundreds of questions like: how much ice cream; what kind of ice cream; where do we get it; and who’s paying for it? We had to figure out all of the moving parts, to include what an IPR looks like and why they are important.”
Hooker added, “We were given the task because it teaches us how to lead and work as a team.”
The team is made up of 16 individuals from various garrison organizations, which Petersen said helps, because of the knowledge, experience and connections that each person brings.
Through teamwork and brainstorming sessions, the team worked out all the details to include the storage, serving and transporting of 2,500 ice cream sandwiches.
“Those are the things that we were working through, and when they all come to fruition at the end, it will be very rewarding,” Petersen said.
The Junior Executive Development Initiative team
According to Bryan Parker, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office director and team mentor, the program is in its third year and is designed to help cultivate leadership abilities in junior government service team members.
“Team members have the opportunity to understand the overall garrison mission, to evaluate garrison systems and processes, and to practice leadership in a variety of team projects,” he said.
Each year, the garrison selects new members through a competitive process that includes sending in a resume and an essay on why applicants want to be a part of the team. Those chosen commit to weekly meetings and understand that the appointment is an extra duty to be completed in addition to their regular job.
Petersen, who works as the installation’s school liaison specialist, said she applied to learn more about the individuals she helps daily.
“I work with garrison, but I also work with the spouses as well as their sponsors, and I don’t know much about all the inner workings of Fort Leonard Wood,” she said. “Understanding what the sponsors do, I thought would be helpful in how I would be able to help their families.”
Hooker applied to learn leadership skills to help her advance in her career.
“I work at (Directorate of Public Works) in the work-order section, so I only see the maintenance and the buildings in garrison. Until we went on a tour, I had no idea everything that goes on, so it was very enlightening,” she said. “Also, I wanted to learn more about leading and expand outside of my box, so to speak. My little world is data entry, which is pretty easy, and I’m ready to move to a more difficult position.”
In addition to the ice cream social and other projects, the team will be doing the Baldrige self-assessment as their culminating task and recently completed a training session on the subject. Parker said IMCOM uses the Baldrige criteria as a tool to evaluate installations for the Army Communities of Excellence award.
“The training teaches you how to assess your company or organization, and it’s taught throughout the country,” Hooker explained. “You gather information about how your organization works and you analyze it to see where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are, so you can make your organization better. It was quite interesting. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.”
“We will be building on and rewriting what the team did last year,” she added.
Both Hooker and Petersen said they have learned a lot and enjoy working with their teammates.
“I would encourage people to (apply for the program),” Hooker said. “I know, for me, it’s huge, stepping out of your box and doing something you never would have thought you’d do. All the things that I’ve done in the past, I hadn’t had the opportunity to really be (part of) a team. It’s a good experience, especially if you’re wanting to move up and don’t have a lot of leadership experience. It’s a great way to learn.”
“I would really encourage anyone, if they’re interested in broadening their knowledge of how the garrison works, to apply,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but it is well worth it. You make connections with other folks on the installation, as well as learning what they’re doing. It gets you out of your own little fox hole.”