Thursday, December 01, 2005

Addressing the Need for Leadership Development as a Human Performance Issue in the United States Coast Guard: An Intervention Designed for MLC LANT

A paper written for “Developing the Organization's Human Capital” (Leadership 8530) in the Fischler School of Education & Human Services of Nova Southeastern University.

Introduction: The Case for Leadership Development as a
Human Performance Problem in the United States Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard is unique among federal agencies in the United States. The Coast Guard defines itself as a maritime, military, multi-mission organization. The Coast Guard is maritime, in that all the service’s roles and responsibilities center around the maritime environment; the Coast Guard is military, in that it is a component of the Armed Forces and is composed primarily of military members; the Coast Guard is multi-mission in that, over the years, the roles and responsibilities bestowed on the service have grown to more than a dozen mission areas ranging from protecting living marine resources to homeland security to search & rescue.

The Coast Guard is unique also because it is the sole Armed Force of the United States which is both a military organization and a law enforcement organization. It is the only Armed Force which has the authority and tasking to regularly enforce laws, treaties, and international agreements within the boundaries of the United States. Another unique factor for the Coast Guard is that it is the smallest of the Armed Forces with 39,000 active duty members, just over 8000 reserve members, and fewer than 7500 civilian employees. (U.S. Coast Guard, 2005) By comparison, the United States Marine Corps is more than four times the size of the Coast Guard. (Department of Defense, 2005) These unique factors are, however, commonly known and commonly discussed. A unique factor which seldom arises when describing the service is the fact that the Coast Guard has no political appointees within the agency. Every position in the agency, including those which create or support policy, is filled by a military member or a civil servant from the competitive or special appointment authority. More than 3,000 civilian employees of the federal government are political appointees who serve at specific request of the President or other senior officials; none are with the Coast Guard. (A. Pippen, personal communication, November 18, 2005)

Coast Guard Culture and the Impact on Performance

That the Coast Guard does not have political appointees forms a fundamental cultural aspect of the agency. Gracey, the Commandant of the Coast Guard from 1982 to 1986, noted that the lack of political appointees impacted the service; he related a conversation with the department deputy secretary who told Gracey that the Coast Guard had to jump through hoops other agencies did not, “Because you’re the only agency that’s not headed by a political appointee. Therefore, you owe no allegiance to the President....Your loyalties are to the people within the organization, not to anybody outside.” (Gracey, p. 545-546) As Phillips (2003) notes, the Coast Guard has a set of cultural norms which form the basis of action within the Coast Guard. Phillips identifies 16 aspects of Coast Guard culture. While one of those aspects is not “has no political appointees,” there are norms such as “promote team over self,” “eliminate the frozen middle,” and “empower the young” which are, in a sense, strong because of the Coast Guard’s independence as an agency.

This independence was seen this past autumn in the Coast Guard’s response to the hurricanes which hammered the Gulf Coast region. Knight Ridder Newspapers reviewed official actions before and after Katrina’s ramrod attack on New Orleans; their research “reveals a depth of government hesitancy and lack of urgency that may have cost scores of peoples their lives.” (2005, para. 1) Knight Ridder also noted that “no senior official was given oversight responsibilities” until well after the storm winds and rains cleared the Big Easy. (para. 12) In addition, Knight Ridder makes the observation that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which “seemed unable to grasp the magnitude of the disaster,” was an agency whose “top ranks (were) filled by political appointees and its budget hit deep by cuts.”

In contrast to the analysis of FEMA’s performance, or the performance of nearly every other federal agency, the Coast Guard received accolades and was heralded as true, prepared, life savers. A Washington Post columnist called the Coast Guard’s response “a silver lining in the storm.” (Barr, 2005) National Public Radio praised the Coast Guard for its quick response. (Arnold, 2005) The Federal Times called the Coast Guard’s efforts a “beacon of excellence.” (Banco, 2005) And, all this response was accomplished by a service which has fewer total military members than the number of National Guardsmen who actually responded to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. (Department of Homeland Security, n.d.) And the Coast Guard maintained ongoing operations around the nation, and, indeed, around the world, owing no allegiance to any person outside the organization other than the citizens of the United States.

Leadership’s Impact on Performance

Blazey (1997) states, “High-performing organizations outrun their competition by delivering increasing value to stakeholders and improving organizational capabilities.” (p. 61) He also notes that good leaders “convey a sense of urgency to reduce the resistance to change that prevents the organization from taking the steps that these values demand. They serve as role models by reinforcing and communicating the core values by their words and actions; words alone are not enough.” (p. 62) Banco (2005) notes the Coast Guard’s response to the Katrina “proved its leaders and rank and file were committed to the agency’s mission, vision and values.” He also notes the Coast Guard provides a “case study in how to manage change in an ever-changing world.” Scott (2003, p. 26) notes, “organizational performance is the result of a complex set of interactions among people; the methods, materials, and equipment they use; and the environment and culture in which they exist.”

Since the Coast Guard grows its own leaders, leadership development is a critical success factor for the entire service. Developing leaders will help the service with performance today while, at the same time, preparing the agency for the future. Tomorrow’s leaders are part of the Coast Guard today. The entirety of the Coast Guard’s senior leadership in 2020 is, today, serving as Coasties. The service must grow leaders, and today’s leaders recognize this critical success factor. In the last several years, the Coast Guard has begun several initiatives to develop leaders. The service established a leadership development center at the Coast Guard Academy; the mission of the center is to “improve the Coast Guard’s performance” through leadership development and, specifically “training members to demonstrate leadership competencies, providing leadership and quality development efforts, and identifying future needs through research and assessment.” (U. S. Coast Guard, n.d.) The Leadership Development Center seeks Coast Guard personnel to “grow in the practice of leadership.”

Another initiative implemented recently is the Unit Leadership Development Program, an effort to drive leadership training, education, coaching, and development to the “unit level.” A unit is the smallest organizational element with a commanding officer or an officer-in-charge and is the primary element in defining organizational membership within the Coast Guard.

A Perceived Need at Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic

One of the Coast Guard’s largest units is the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff in Norfolk, Virginia. More than 450 military members and civilians work in downtown Norfolk providing engineering, personnel, legal, and health & safety support and oversight to all Coast Guard units east of the Rockies. In addition to maintaining all the Coast Guard’s cutters and boats, the Maintenance & Logistics Command handles emergent issues such as disaster response to support Coast Guard units and supplemental staffing needs. Hurricane Katrina stretched the support community as much as it stretched the operational community.

While the Maintenance & Logistics Command provides support, resources, and assistance to the field, it is, first and foremost, a staff unit; nearly all employees, military and civilian, work in cubicle farms. Because of the nature of the office environment – which is significantly than operational, non-staff, Coast Guard units – the senior leaders believe that leadership development is more difficult than in other locations. They are unsure of the effectiveness of leadership development, a process which is a critical success factor for the unit and the entire Coast Guard.

Review of Related Leadership and Performance Literature

The Hay Group, an international management consulting firm, has completed research which indicates “a direct correlation between superior leadership and bottom line performance.” Their data shows that “up to 70% of differences in climate can be attributable to effective leadership and improvements in climate can impact performance by up to 30%.” (Hay Group, n.d.) Their longitudinal work with IBM from 1996 through 2003 showed that leadership competencies can be identified, that effective use of specific leadership competencies drive performance excellence for work groups and organizations, and that organizationally-needed competencies can change over time due to changing external environments, challenges, and opportunities. (Tischler, 2004)

The Impact of Culture on Organizational Performance

Rashid, Sambasivan, & Johari (2003) note that organizational culture – “a set of values, beliefs, and behavior patterns that form the core identity of organizations, and help in shaping employee’s behavior” – has an influence on the performance of the organization. Zenger notes organizational leadership is “ultimately all about results. If leaders do not produce good results for organizations, then they really aren’t good leaders. They may be a wonderful human being, very ethical and honest... I don’t think you could say they were very good leaders.” (Madsen & Gygi, 2005, p. 92) For Zenger, a positive impact on the organization’s results is paramount and an outcome of excellent leadership. Reid & Hubbell (2005) write that organizational excellence is driven by a performance culture which is shaped by organizational leaders.

Strategy and Organizational Performance

Bonomo and Pasternak (2005, p. 11) note that senior leaders must “establish and communicate their strategic priorities” in order to deliver high performance in complex organizations. Blazey (1997, p. 63) goes so far as to specify that a significant portion of senior leader’s time, as much as 60% to 80%, should be spent in visible... (certain) leadership activities, such as goal setting, planning, reviewing performance, recognizing and rewarding high performance, and spending time understanding and communicating with customers and suppliers.” Wongrassamee, Gardiner, & Simmons (2003) also suggest that performance must be measured by a set of “balanced” measures which are tied to an organization’s “strategy and long-term vision.” (p. 15) Schermerhorn & McCarthy (2004, p. 46) suggest “individual behaviour that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes effective functioning of the organization,” impacts performance excellence.

Performance in the Federal Government

And finally, we return to an earlier topic: political appointees in federal employment. According to a study from Princeton University’s Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, “career managers deliver better program results than their politically appointed counterparts.” (Federal Times, 2005, para. 1) The research found a difference in performance of 10% as measured by the Office of Management and Budget’s Program Assessment Rating Tool, which “assesses the effectiveness of a program’s design, goals, management, and results.” (para. 7) While the government’s response to Katrina is perhaps an extreme example, the fact that Michael Brown – former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a political appointee – was replaced by Thad Allen – a Coast Guard officer who had reached his position as the third senior officer of the Coast Guard based on his own merit rather than through a political appointment process – in his role as the principle federal official for the government’s response to Katrina.

In a similar vein to Gracey’s (2001) comments about political appointees, Breul, a former senior advisor to the deputy director of management for the Office of Management and Budget, states that “Without a political appointee, the agency would be adrift and have a lack of connection to the President.” Without a political appointee, an agency isn’t “represented” or “at the table.” (Federal Times, 2005) Not being at the table impacts budget and resources, but it doesn’t seem to impact performance, at least with regard to the Coast Guard’s response to Katrina.

Data Collection and Analysis

All units in the Coast Guard are now required to implement leadership development and conduct periodic leadership development assessments. As a component of the Coast Guard’s new Unit Leadership Development Program, the Leadership Development Center created as assessment survey tool. This 36-question instrument (U. S. Coast Guard, 2004c) provides data points for 19 of the Coast Guard’s 28 leadership competencies. (U.S. Coast Guard, 2004a) The 28 leadership competencies are segmented into four groups: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading Performance & Change, and Leading the Coast Guard. The assessment tool covers all the competencies in the first three segments, only. The Deputy Commander of the Maintenance & Logistics Command tasked the Training & Education Manager with oversight and implementation of the early stages of the staff’s leadership development program and the assessment portion. The Training & Education Manager contracted with the an organizational performance consultant from the next higher echelon to provide guidance, counsel, coaching, and assistance. The Deputy Commander stated in an early alignment meeting that he did not want to survey all 450 employees using this instrument; the consultant suggested using a focus group process, and the Deputy agreed.

Focus Group Process for Data Collection

The Training & Education manager solicited for volunteers to serve on the focus group; the solicitation went to all personnel at the command. Twenty-four people indicated they wanted to participate and were available during the scheduled time for the focus group sessions. The participants were divided into two groups based on their stated availabilities; twelve participants attended a morning session, and twelve attended an evening session. The participants included enlisted military members (from third class petty officer to senior chief petty officers), chief warrant officers, commissioned military officers (lieutenant junior grade to commander), and civilian employees (from GS-5 to GS-14). While the groups were balanced in number, the afternoon session had several senior officers, and the morning session did not. In addition, in the morning session nearly 2/3 of the participants were people of color while the afternoon session had none. In addition, the afternoon session had several supervisor/subordinate pairs.

Both focus group sessions followed the same facilitated process. The sessions started with a brief introduction by Training & Education Manager followed by an introduction from the organizational performance consultant who served as the facilitator for the process. The introductions included an overview of the Coast Guard’s Unit Leadership Development Program as well as an assurance by the Training & Education Manager and the facilitator of non-attribution of all comments and input provided by the participants. Then, participants introduced themselves and provided an example of positive leadership they had experienced during their Coast Guard experience.

Following the introduction, the facilitator went through the ULDP-36 assessment questions; each participant indicated their agreement, disagreement, or neutrality to each question using a colored card voting system.

Following this, each participant selected the five questions which they believed was the strongest at the MLCA staff. They also selected those questions offering the greatest opportunity for improvement. The participants indicated their selection using secret ballots.

The results from this multi-voting provided a set of questions around which there appeared to be significant energy – in terms of votes either placing in the top, bottom, or both – with the participants. With this pared list, participants were asked to silently brainstorm comments – things the unit is doing well, things the staff is doing poorly, concrete suggestions of things which could be done, and general suggestions & comments – for each item. Participants provided these anonymously on sticky notes.

The facilitator then guided an open discussion amongst the participants, seeking clarification of some notes and additional input from the group.

The session concluded with comments by the facilitator and the Training & Education Manager, reiterating the non-attribution standard as well as the establishment of the participants of the focus group as being the initial members of a leadership development advisory group for the unit. Each focus group ran 2 hours.

Similarity of Data from Both Groups

Following both focus groups, the quantitative and qualitative data was analyzed to determine if there were significant differences between the two groups in terms of responses. Both groups' responses were similar. Of 432 votes cast (each participant casting one “vote” for each of the 36 questions), the morning participants agreed (by showing a green card) 63% of the time while the afternoon participants agreed 66% of the time. The qualitative data showed similar consistency in terms of anecdotal comments and participant reflections.

Analysis of Quantitative Data

In initially analyzing the quantitative data, we combined the data for the morning and afternoon groups and looked primarily at the agreed (or green) compared with the neutral and disagreed (red and yellow cards) combined together. Analyzing the percentage of participants who agreed or who disagreed (or were neutral), nine questions had at least 83% agreement and five questions had at least 63% disagreement. Then the segmentation of the “top” and “bottom” questions provided an opportunity for the participants to indicate their defined areas of strength or opportunities for improvement within the unit. Four questions had at least 8 participants who placed these questions in the top segment. Five questions were similarly placed in the bottom segment. Of these all the questions, four questions were in both the “agreement” and “top” lists, and four questions were in both the “disagreement” and “bottom” lists. These eight questions present the issues which are the greatest strength for the unit and present the greatest opportunity for improvement for the unit. Appendix A shows the 36 assessment questions; Appendix B shows the top strongest questions and the questions offering the greatest opportunity for improvement.

Each question on the 36-question assessment instrument is associated with one or more leadership competencies; each question is weighted in providing a numerical value on the assessment. Since the computerized assessment tool was not used, numerical values (reported out by the computerized analysis tool as the average, or arithmetic mean) were not generated. However, since each competency is created from inputs from one or more questions and percentages of the total value are known, it is possible to see which competencies are represented by the questions. In addition, it is possible to determine which competencies are most fully represented. Using the question/competency grid supplied by the Leadership Development Center, the top and bottom questions cover two-thirds of the makeup of two competencies and the full makeup of two other competencies. In addition, the top and bottom questions provide inputs to seven other competencies; those inputs range from a quarter to a half of the competency numerical value. Appendix C shows the linkages between the strongest and weakest assessment questions and the associate leadership competencies; Appendix D provides the Coast Guard’s definitions for these competencies. (U. S. Coast Guard, 2004b)

The strongest leadership competencies represented in the assessment analysis results are “self awareness & learning” and “technical proficiency.” Both of these competencies are in the “leading self” category of the segmented competencies. The greatest opportunities for improvement for individual competencies as represented in the assessment analysis results are “conflict management” and “vision development & implementation;” both of these competencies are in the third competency segment, “leading performance and change.”

Analysis of Qualitative Data

Nine pages of anecdotal comments and qualitative data – more than 300 separate comments – were collected during the focus groups. These comments were merged into a single document and scrubbed to ensure non-attribution when the comments were released. Two general themes became apparent when examining the qualitative data. The first theme was a stated desire to have answers and to be kept informed during periods of rapid change. The entire Coast Guard is facing an initiative to contract out “commercial activities” wherever possible. (Office of Management & Budget, 2003) This contracting initiative is especially problematic to the employees of the Maintenance & Logistics Command as much of the work done by the staff can be considered a commercial activity. Another initiative facing the Coast Guard is the “Deepwater” initiative, a long-term acquisition project to recapitalize the entire cutter and aircraft fleets. One key element of this initiative is the long-term support and maintenance of these platforms, a task the Maintenance & Logistics community currently handles. Both initiatives are wrapped in secrecy, rumor, and scuttlebutt, none of which provides answers as employees look to the future. The second apparent theme revolves around conflict management and conflict resolution within the workplace.


The data from the focus groups provided a wealth of information, much of it actionable. Likely, a variety of interventions could be developed, focusing on any one of the 36 questions or the associated 19 competencies. Two general approaches are familiar to the Coast Guard personnel in terms of interventions following a business analysis: to focus on the “opportunities for improvement” in order to close the gap between current performance and desired performance or to focus on the “strengths” as Buckingham & Coffman suggest. (1999) . They note that if a person or an organization has a particular strength, working to make that strength even more powerful is easier than focusing on a weakness, will provide a greater pay-off, and will address other issues in a trickle-down or system manner.

Focus of Interventions for the Staff at Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic

In order to reduce the number of “balls in the air” and to work within the preferred Coast Guard paradigm, the focus of the interventions focus on the competencies of “conflict management” and “vision development & implementation.” In addition, the recommended interventions create a system for continuous leadership development and program improvement. The performance consultant made 14 recommendations to the Deputy Commander; he chose to move forward with four recommendations and to continue two current practices which he already does. While the other eight recommendations were not dismissed outright, their implementation was delayed. The interventions accepted included chartering three teams: a “guidance team” composed of several senior staff members, an “implementation team” chaired by the Training & Education Manager and assisted by an organizational performance consultant; and the focus group participants as an “advisory team” to ensure all actions and interventions make sense to the personnel at the deckplate level. In addition, the Deputy committed to talk at the next meeting with all 450 staff employees – an “all hands” session – about the leadership development program, the focus group process, the results of the analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data from the focus groups, and the recommended interventions. The Deputy committed to continue challenging the Chiefs’ Mess to be proactive with regard to leadership development, and he committed to continue with informal group conversations with various segments of the staff. The focus of the first initiatives is to create a sustainable system for the implementation of further targeted interventions.

Immediate Interventions

Within framework of the recommended interventions, the Deputy proposed moving forward with the charters within four weeks (early to middle of December). He provided the all hands brief on 15 November. And, finally, he suggested that a vision statement, to include a desired outcome, be developed for the leadership development initiative. He proposed a three-point statement as a starting point: That within twelve months, the majority of staff members at the unit feel they can speak up & be heard, see how their work contributes to the unit’s work, and know the unit creates actual value for the Coast Guard.


The plan for evaluation is two fold: to conduct an evaluation in six months, focusing on the competencies of “conflict management” and “vision development & implementation” using the same focus group participants and the same basic focus group process. This will be followed six months later by conducting a new assessment with a new set of focus group participants, again following the same process. The second part of the evaluation process is to analyze certain unit performance data to determine the overall performance levels and trends of the staff and the staff’s work.

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Arnold, C. (September 9, 2005). Coast Guard Praised for Katrina Response. Washington: National Public Radio, Morning Edition. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from NPR.

Banko, S. (November 4, 2005). Coast Guard Shows Dedication to Changing Mission. Washington, DC: Federal Times. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from Federal Times.

Barr, S. (September 6, 2005). Coast Guard’s Response to Katrina a Silver Lining in the Storm. Washington, DC: The Washington Post. Retrieved November 18, 2005 from The Washington Post.

Blazey, M. (1997). Achieving Performance Excellence. Quality Progress, 30(6), 61-64.

Bonomo, J. & Pasternak, J. (2005). Unlocking Profitability in the Complex Company. The Journal of Business Strategy, 26(3), 10-11.

Buckingham, M. & Coffman, C. (1999). First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently. New York: Simon & Schuster

Department of Defense. (2005). Armed Forces Strength Figures for September 30, 2005. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from

Department of Homeland Security (n.d.). Emergencies & Disasters – Hurricane Katrina: What the Government is Doing. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from

Federal Times. (October 10, 2005). Careerists Make Best Managers: Study Shows They Get Better Results than Political Appointees. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from Federal Times.

Gracey, J. S. (2004). The Reminiscences of Admiral James S. Gracy, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired). Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute.

Hay Group (n.d.). Leadership: Impact on Performance. Retrieved October 26, 2005, from here.

Knight Ridder Newspapers. (September 11, 2005). Government’s Failures Doomed Many. Seattle: The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from here.

Madsen, S. R. & Gygi, J. (2005). A Conversation with John. H. Zenger: Leadership and Change. Organizational Development Journal, 23(3), 89-98.

Office of Management & Budget. (2003). Performance of Commercial Activities, Circular No. A-76 (Revised). Retrieved November 19, 2005, from here.

Phillips, D. T. (with Loy, J. M.). (2003). Character in Action: The U.S. Coast Guard on leadership. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

Rashid, M. D., Sambasivan, M., & Johari, J. (2003). The Influence of Corporate Culture and Organisational Commitment on Performance. The Journal of Management Development, 22, 708-728.

Reid, J. & Hubbel, V. (April/May, 2005). Creating a Performance Culture. Ivey Business Journal, 1-7.

Schermerhorn Jr., J. R., & McCarthy, A. (2004). Enhancing Performance Capacity in the Workplace: A Reflection on the Significance of the Individual. Irish Journal of Management, 25(2), 45-60.

Scott, W. (2003). Performance Improvement Interventions: Their Similarities and Differences. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 26(1), 26-30

Tischler, L. (November, 2004). IBM’s Management Makeover. Fast Company, 88. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from here.

U. S. Coast Guard. (n.d.). Leadership Development Center. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from here.

U. S. Coast Guard. (2004a). Assessment Questions and Competencies Matrix. Unpublished paper, Leadership Development Center, Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2004b). Leadership competencies. Retrieved October 12, 2005, from here.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2004c). ULDP 36: A competency-based assessment instrument for leadership development. New London: Coast Guard Leadership Development Center.

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Wongrassamee, S. Gardiner, P. D., & Simmons, J. E. L. (2003). Performance Measurement Tools: The Balanced Scorecard and the EFQM Excellence Model. Measuring Business Excellence, 7(1), 14-29.

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Appendix A
Assessment Instrument: The ULDP-36

1. Leaders at my unit evaluate the impact of their decisions on people and the mission.
2. I am given opportunities to improve my skills in my unit/command.
3. I have a safe workplace.
4. I know who my important customers are. (Depending on your job customers may be the general public, other mariners, other Government Agencies, or other members of the Coast Guard.)
5. I know what my customers need and want.
6. I receive adequate mission-relevant info to do my job.
7. I receive useful professional/career guidance from members of my unit.
8. People at my unit are comfortable bringing up controversial issues.
9. Members at my unit cooperate with supervisors to ensure successful mission accomplishment.
10. Members at my unit identify and analyze problems to make effective decisions.
11. My Command cares about me.
12. My supervisor/team leader creates a work environment that helps me do my job.
13. My supervisor/team leader recognizes and rewards good performance.
14. My unit follows a work schedule/plan to accomplish a task or mission.
15. My supervisor follows up to ensure my work group is meeting its goals.
16. My work environment encourages creative thinking and innovation.
17. New members receive adequate orientation to the unit.
18. My supervisor asks for my opinions and input.
19. Supervisors/team leaders support member efforts to continue education after work.
20. The leadership at my unit manages and supports better ways to do work.
21. The members at my unit are encouraged to explore alternative solutions to problems.
22. The members at my unit are encouraged to maintain mental and physical well-being.
23. The members at my unit take pride in the unit.
24. The members of my unit align their personal behaviors with the CG Core Values (Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty)
25. I am held accountable for my actions.
26. The people I work with cooperate and work as a team to accomplish the mission.
27. When making decisions, leaders at my unit consider and assess risks.
28. Supervisors let members know how their work contributes to the unit's mission and goals.
29. The members of my unit recognize and use the chain of command appropriately.
30. Members of my unit provide accurate and timely information up the chain of command so our leaders can make good decisions.
31. I seek feedback from others and look for opportunities to learn and develop.
32. The people I work with demonstrate technical expertise in their areas of responsibility.
33. My supervisor motivates me to perform by directing, delegating, coaching, and mentoring as the situation requires.
34. The people I work for create an environment that supports diversity, fairness, dignity and compassion
35. Members of my unit minimize conflict by building strong work relationships with each other.
36. My unit has an inspiring, long-term vision that is clearly communicated, widely shared, and understood.

(United States Coast Guard, 2004c)

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Appendix B
Strongest Questions and Questions Offering the Greatest Opportunity for Improvement

Strongest questions:
  • I am given opportunities to improve my skills in my unit.

  • I have a safe workplace.

  • Supervisor/team leaders support members efforts to continue education after work.

  • The people I work with demonstrate technical expertise in their areas of responsibility.

Weakest questions/greatest opportunities for improvement:
  • People at my unit are comfortable bringing up controversial issues.

  • Supervisors let members know how their work contributes to the unit's mission and goals.

  • Members of the my unit minimize conflict by building strong work relationships with each other.

  • My unit has an inspiring, long-term vision that is clearly communicated, widely shared, and understand.

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Appendix C
Linkages between Identified Questions and Associated Leadership Competencies

Click here for the appendix material.

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Appendix D
Competency Definitions for Areas Identified as Strongest and Greatest for Improvement

The competencies most associated with the strongest areas identified by the focus group participants both fall under the Leading Self category.


Coast Guard leaders are self-objective. They continually work to assess self and personal behavior, seek and are open to feedback to confirm strengths and identify areas for improvement, and are sensitive to the impact of their behavior on others. Successful leaders use various evaluation tools and indicators to assist in this process of understanding themselves. Coast Guard leaders understand that leadership and professional development is a life-long journey and always work to improve knowledge, skills and expertise. To that end, they seek feedback from others and opportunities for self-learning and development, always learning from their experiences. Leaders guide and challenge subordinates and peers, encouraging individuals to ask questions and be involved. Leaders are open to and seek new information, and adapt their behavior and work methods in response to changing conditions.


Coast Guard leaders’ technical knowledge, skills and expertise allow them to effectively organize and prioritize tasks and use resources efficiently. Always aware of how their actions contribute to overall organizational success, leaders demonstrate technical and functional proficiency. They maintain credibility with others on technical matters and keep current on technological advances in professional areas. Successful leaders work to initiate actions and competently maintain systems in their area of responsibility.

The assessment questions identified by the focus group as being the greatest opportunity for improvement (or weakness) are associated with two competencies in the category of Leading Performance and Change.


Coast Guard leaders facilitate open communication of controversial issues while maintaining relationships and teamwork. They effectively use collaboration as a style of managing contention; confront conflict positively and constructively to minimize impact to self, others and the organization; and reduce conflict and build relationships and teams by specifying clear goals, roles and processes.


Leaders are able to envision a preferred future for their units and functions, setting this picture in the context of the Coast Guard’s overall vision, missions, strategy and driving forces. Concerned with long-term success, leaders establish and communicate organizational objectives and monitor progress toward objectives; initiate action; and provide structure and systems to achieve goals. Leaders create a shared vision of the organization; promote wide ownership; manage and champion organizational change; and engineer changes in processes and structure to improve organizational goal accomplishment.

(U.S. Coast Guard, 2004b)

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Appendix E
Recommended Interventions as Presented to the
Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic

Specific recommendations to move forward:
  • Name a ULDP Oversight Team (Deputy, one O-6, one senior civilian, CSC)

  • Charter the ULDP Implementation Team (Dr. Nash, OPC, one O-5, one E-7/8/9, one GS-13/14)

  • Charter the ULDP Advisory Team (focus group members)

  • Deputy provide brief at next all-hands (high-level overview of process, results, interventions, future plan; can use this brief sheet as notes)

  • Distribute weekly read-ahead to all users; periodically include information on hot topics & leadership issues. Make this the place/way written information is passed.

  • Challenge the Chief's Mess to meet regularly & be proactive with regard to leadership and other issues in the building.

  • Sponsor monthly “leadership lunch & learn sessions” ala LANT/D5, FINCEN, and others (this could be jointly sponsored by the Deputy and the ULDP Oversight & Implementation teams).

  • Dust off and use MLCA mission and vision statements.

  • Establish working groups to work on the Deepwater and A-76 issues, developing and implementing a plan for getting information to all staff personnel; can use the weekly read-ahead as mode of communications.

  • Continue with current initiatives in on-site courses and HR/soft-skills training (Dr. Nash to link all to specific leadership competencies)

  • Continue to encourage supervisors to support & encourage their staffs to learn and grow through formal & informal programs.

  • If not already doing so, institute “Deputy Talk Time” with various segments of the staff, perhaps one a month covering all segments in a year.

  • Other initiatives as proposed by ULDP Oversight, Implementation, and Advisory teams.

  • Follow-up focus groups in May 2006; have focus groups use the same process to provide reliability.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Appendix F
Evaluation Plan

Evaluation Plan
1. Conduct follow-up focus groups in April 2006. Follow same process; focus on previously identified areas for improvement.
2. Conduct new focus groups in October 2006. Follow same focus group process. Begin to track quantitative data from the assessment survey.
3. Track unit performance (external outcomes and internal critical success factors) using available metrics. Possible metrics include the following:
  • Number of staff using tuition assistance (pursuing educational opportunities)

  • Number of course credits taken by staff members

  • Number of discipline actions within the unit

  • Number of formal and informal complaints filed by staff members through the civil rights process

  • Number of “lost cutter days” as a measure of naval engineering effectiveness

  • Number of cutter equipment casualties

  • Cost of dockside maintenance & repair over-runs

  • Percentage of growth for drydock maintenance & repair periods

  • Number of days processing medical payments

4. Look for correlation in the quantitative data between leadership development, outcome measures of effectiveness, and critical success factor measures.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Virtual Team-Building Workshop: Meeting the needs of leadership development coaches in the United States Coast Guard

A paper written for “Developing the Organization's Human Capital” (Leadership 8530) in the Fischler School of Education & Human Services of Nova Southeastern University.

The United States Coast Guard traces its roots back to the Revenue Cutter Service; The Revenue Cutter Service was founded in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton realized both the need for the young United States to “suppress smuggling and ensure duties and taxes were paid” (U.S. Coast Guard, 2002, p. 20) and the need for the officers of the infant Revenue Marine to be wise leaders. He had sought authorization from Congress to build cutters to help generate revenue for the United States, and, more importantly – at least for this discussion – Hamilton provided crystal clear leadership direction, in the form of a letter, to the first officers of that service. (Hamilton, 1791) Thus began a tradition of strong leadership in the Coast Guard; for more than 200 years, the service has grown leaders. That strong tradition from our nation’s infancy continues to the present day. Earlier this year the Commandant of the Coast Guard mandated a unit-level leadership development program, building on the strengths of other initiatives employed to increase performance through leadership and management. (U.S. Coast Guard, 2005a) With the advent of the Unit Leadership Development Program, the service is now attempting to institutionalize leadership development at all levels of the organization.

Overview of the Unit Leadership Development Program

The Coast Guard’s Unit Leadership Development Program – commonly referred to by it’s acronym, ULDP – is an overarching framework for unit-level leaders to develop and implement an ongoing leadership development program. The primary feature of the ULDP is a website – see – which has a list of resources for training and non-training leadership interventions, all segmented by the Coast Guard’s defined leadership competencies. More than a decade ago, the Coast Guard developed a list of leadership competencies all military members and civilian employees were expected to be able to demonstrate. The service believed, and still believes, these competencies can be taught, and they can be learned. The Coast Guard now has 28 leadership competencies segmented into four categories: leading self, leading others, leading performance and change, and leading the Coast Guard. (U. S. Coast Guard, 2004a)

The ULDP website also offers unit leaders the opportunity to generate a web-delivered survey instrument, again based on the Coast Guard’s leadership competencies, to determine the unit’s leadership development strengths and areas for improvement. The assessment instrument has 36 questions (U. S. Coast Guard, 2004b), most of which were originally published in the “Organizational Assessment Survey” developed by federal Office of Personnel Management (n.d.) for the Coast Guard or in the “Are We Making Progress” survey developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (2004) for the Baldrige National Quality Program. Once at least 50% of the possible respondents have completed the survey-–commonly called the ULDP-36-–the unit’s responsible person can see the results. The survey results are aggregated by leadership competency; the mean average of the response is provided for each competency. No demographic information is collected with the instrument, so there is no method for segmenting the data to determine response rates for sub-groups such as women at the unit, enlisted members at the unit, or first-term members at the unit.

A third part of the ULDP is a “coach” component. Some 40 Coast Guard civilian employees and military members have received certification as a ULDP Coach. Unit leaders who want personalized assistance as they develop their implementation plan, review their survey results, choose appropriate interventions or resources, or implement their overarching leadership development programs, partner with a certified coach. A list of all the coaches is available on the ULDP website; unit leaders can directly contact a coach, or they can contact a coach coordinator for a referral based on their needs and situation. At the initial beta introduction of the ULDP, specific individuals were invited to attend a one-week training session and become a coach; the invitees were senior noncommissioned officers serving in full-time Command Master Chief billets, faculty and staff from the Leadership Development Center, and internal Organizational Performance Consultants. Since that initial training session in January 2005, the leadership development program manager has opened the rolls of coach to any military member, civilian employee, or volunteer Auxiliarist who has the interest and skills in being a coach and has the appropriate professional experience. The process for certification includes an interview with a coach coordinator, a lengthy application, and a two-part certification test which includes a knowledge portion as well as an application/simulation portion. (U.S. Coast Guard, 2005b)

Statement of Problem

With more than 60,000 full and part-time military members and civilian employees – and another 30,000 volunteer civilians in the Coast Guard Auxiliary (a uniformed volunteer organization similar to the Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol) – spread across the United States and, now in our post-9/11 world of early intervention, across the world, implementing a program like the ULDP has a host of challenges. That nearly every Coastie is attached to a unit – some as small as half-a-dozen people – is one reason for relying on unit leadership for leadership development of members and employees. The “unit” is the smallest consistent measure of membership and provides every assigned person with opportunities to both lead and follow. With units spread across the states and the globe, so, too, are the coaches. In a sense, they are like missionaries; they have been prepared during their certification process to go out into the world and “do good things.” Unlike missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints, these coaches work alone. They are geographically dispersed and they have little, if any, contact with other coaches.

While the ideal coach is a seasoned Coastie with an excellent understanding of the Coast Guard culture, organizational development, and leadership development, they often are faced with issues for which they may be ill prepared to provide coaching. Many of the first coaches were solo professionals; a major staff command will have one command master chief and the service’s organizational performance consultants are generally paired but usually work alone. The opportunities for informal give-and-take, for face-to-face interactions, are limited. And, while the various communities might meet yearly for a conference – for instance the command master chiefs gather several times a year – there is little, if any, time set aside for talking about their leadership development coaching roles. Sadly, the program manager for the ULDP – the Leadership Development Center – does not have the funds to sponsor a regular face-to-face conference. While the Leadership Development Center’s staff is available to provide long-distance assistance, for the most part, coaches, once certified, are left to swim, tread water, or flounder. Certainly, the Coast Guard would like to see the coaches swim. The question remains: how can the ULDP program manager best support these coaches?

Literature Review

Given the constraints of geographic dispersion and solo practice within a larger community, the coaches – a virtual team – are linked to each other through technology. As Houser (2000, p. 61) notes, “The Internet is changing the way people live, work, and conduct business.” The Coast Guard has not been immune to this change, adopting Internet and Intranet technologies to facilitate communication with customers, share information among members and employees of the Coast Guard, and provide immediate and direct communication within the service. Using these technologies, the Coast Guard has embraced the use of matrix and virtual teams for a variety of issues and projects.

Wong & Burton (2000, p. 341) argue that virtual teams have five characteristics. Virtual teams are composed of “culturally and organizationally differentiated members” who are “grouped together temporarily” and “physically dispersed.” Group members are “connected by weak lateral ties” and, finally, they perform “non-routine tasks.” Wong & Burton also suggest that most virtual teams are not “pure;” the teams are virtual by degrees. In the case of the leadership development coaches, however, the team is nearly 100% virtual. The team context is “characterized by low team history, novel tasks, and physically distributed members.” (Wong & Burton, p. 341) The team members are “characterized by the heterogeneity of their cultural and organizational backgrounds.” (Wong & Burton, p. 342) And finally, the connections between the team members are “lateral but weak.” Had the program decided to only use command master chiefs or only use performance consultant, or to only use staff co-located at the Leadership Development Center, perhaps the coaching team would have been less virtual. As constructed, however, the coaching team is very virtual.

Given the virtuality of the coaching team, a key challenge to team building is “creating avenues and opportunities for team members to have a level and depth of dialogue necessary to create a shared future.” (Holton, 2001, p. 36) Ratcheva & Vyakarnam (2001, p. 514) suggest that effective teams – whether virtual or not – are “engaged simultaneously and continuously in three functions.” Effective teams are involved in producing work (which includes solving problems and performing work tasks), supporting colleagues and team-mates, and ensuring group well-being. According to Mohamed, Stankosky, & Murray (2004, p. 128), effective teams are collaborative in nature and depend on the same pillars on which the field of knowledge management is built: “organization, leadership, technology, and learning.” For Mohamed, Stanksosky, & Murray, effective teams will have processes and systems in place which ensure each of these pillars is adequate; the nature of the system in which the team works will determine how strong each of these pillars must be. Townsend, DeMarie, & Hendrickson (1998, p. 20) note virtual teams are “only possible” due to advances in technology. They state, “Because these technologies define the operational environment of the virtual team, it is critical to examine how these technologies come together to form the infrastructure of virtual teamwork.”

Workshop Design

Given the constraints of the Coast Guard’s system – including not having the financial resources to bring all the coaches together to the same geographic location for a team building session – a virtual team-building workshop provides a reasonable compromise. The workshop must address the key challenge of team building – creating a shared future – and provide opportunities for all participants to demonstrate work production, teammate support, and team health. And, the entire workshop must be conducted using current, accessible technology available at all coach work sites.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this workshop, the participants will be able to identify available resources, including teammates, which can provide assistance as they provide leadership development coaching services to unit leaders. In addition, the participants will be able to identify the elements which make a successful coaching interaction or experience. And, finally, the participants will be able to model appropriate coaching skills and behaviors when presented with a scenario, case study, or role play event. All these tasks will be completed in the normal work environment; a standard Coast Guard computer workstation connected to the Coast Guard’s Intranet and to the World Wide Web will be available for use, if the participant wishes to use such a resource.

Instructional Materials

Participants must be logged onto the Coast Guard Intranet through a standard computer workstation. They will need to have a browser open with the Unit Leadership Development Program website up; using a second browser, each participant will need to be logged into Coast Guard Central – the Coast Guard’s intranet portal – and the ULDP Microsite in CG Central. While all necessary resources are available on the ULDP Internet site and the ULDP CG Central Microsite, participants may want to have a hard copy of the Coach Manual and the Coach Certification Simulation Scoring Sheet.

Presentation Format

The leadership development coach team-building workshop will be presented in a synchronous, “distant” – or “on-line” – format. The workshop facilitator will also be on-line. There will be no advantage to coaches who happen to be in same geographic vicinity to come together for this workshop; the expectation is that each coach is participating “solo” and has a computer and a phone at hand.

Team members will log on to the Coast Guard Intranet and into the “microsite” for the ULDP Coaches. The primary method of direct communication will be the built-in “chat” function available through Coast Guard Central, the service’s Intranet portal. The workshop facilitator will pose questions to the group using the chat function; participants will respond. In addition, the facilitator and participants may upload or download documents, including scenarios in Microsoft Word format or presentations in Microsoft Powerpoint format. The CG Central site has the ability for the upload and download of electronic documents.

Evaluation Strategies

Three different evaluations of the workshop will be completed. The first will be a “reaction” evaluation to see how the participants liked the workshop. This survey will be conducted online using survey software managed and supported by the Coast Guard Academy. The second evaluation will look at the participants’ learning based on the stated learning objectives. This evaluation will be completed a week after the workshop and will be conducted online. The emphasis for this evaluation will be the first two learning objectives: identification of available resources and identification of the elements which create a successful coaching interaction or experience. The third evaluation will be conducted four to six weeks after the workshop; this evaluation will take the form of a structured phone interview conducted by each coach coordinator. The interviewer will ask the participants to indicate how they would respond to a specific scenario. Each participant will be presented with five scenarios to respond to.


Rather than allowing the leadership development program coaches to flounder, capitalizing on the characteristics which make them a virtual team and providing them a team-building workshop in a virtual setting, will allow the coaches to better serve their clients. The work of the coaches – including the virtual workshop – appears to be heading down the road predicted by Hauser (2000) as she looks at the future of knowledge workers. The workshop allows the disparate members of the virtual coaching team to belong and create a shared future. (Holton, 2001) And, the Coast Guard’s culture dictates the needed strength of organization, leadership, technology, and learning (Mohamed, Stanksoky, & Murray, 2004) as the service continues to institute leadership development at all levels of the organization.


Coast Guard Leadership Development Center. (2005). Unit Leadership Development Program Coach Manual. New London, CT: Author. Retrieved October 12, 2005, from URL.

Hamilton, A. (1791, June 4). Letter of instruction to the commanding officers of the Revenue Cutters. Retrieved October 13, 2005, from United States Coast Guard Web site.

Holton, J. A. (2001). Building trust and collaboration in a virtual team. Team Performance Management, 7(3/4), 36-47.

Houser, E. (2000). The future of cyperwork. Employment Relations Today, 26(4), 61-71.

Mohamed, M., Stankosky, M, & Murray, A. (2004). Applying knowledge management principles to enhance cross-functional team performance. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8(3), 127-142.

National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2004). Are we making progress? Retrieved October 12, 2005, from URL.

Office of Personnel Management. (n.d.). Organizational assessment survey. Retrieved October 14, 2005, from URL.

Phillips, D. T. (with Loy, J. M.). (2003). Character in Action: The U.S. Coast Guard on leadership. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

Ratcheva, V., & Vyakarnam, S. (2001). Exploring team formation processes in virtual partnerships. Integrated Manufacturing Systems, 12, 512-523.

Townsend, A. M., DeMarie, S. M., & Hendrickson, A. R. (1998). Virtual teams: Technology and the workplace of the future. The Academy of Management Executive, 12(3), 17-29.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2002). U.S. Coast Guard: America’s maritime guardian (Coast Guard Publication 1). Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2004a). Leadership competencies. Retrieved October 12, 2005, from URL.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2004b). ULDP Assessment Questions. Retrieved October 13, 2005, from URL.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2005a). Commandant’s Priorities – People – Unit leadership Development Program Implementation. Retrieved April 9, 2005, from URL.

U.S. Coast Guard. (2005b). Unit leadership development program: Coach application package. Retrieved October 13, 2005, from URL.

Wong, S., & Burton, R. M. (2000). Virtual teams: What are their characteristics, and impact on team performance? Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, 6, 339-360.

Appendix: Virtual Team-Building Workshop Agenda

This team-building workshop is designed for a three to four hour block of dedicated time. Team members will participate in the workshop from their own workspace or another adequate location. Each team member must be logged onto a Coast Guard standard computer workstation, connected to both the Coast Guard’s Intranet and the World Wide Web. In addition, each team member must be logged into Coast Guard Central, the service’s Intranet portal, with the chat function up and running.


The primary activities of the team building workshop will involve on-line brainstorming, a sharing of ideas and responses. The participants will often select some responses they believe are more important, segmenting out the wheat from the chaff in the responses. The topics will include defining the elements of a successful coaching interaction or experience; identifying the benefits of a unit leader working with a coach; identifying what the ULDP program ought to look like in four to five years; and developing alternate ways to respond to difficult scenarios when working with a unit leader.

Instructional Resources

The standard ULDP resources – including the Coaches’ Manual (Coast Guard Leadership Development Center, 2005) and the ULDP website – will be available to the workshop facilitator and participants.

Workshop timeline

The following is an outline of the entire workshop, including time suggestions. This workshop is designed for 12 to 18 participants; the times allotted are for 18 participants.


Click here to view the table.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Lesson of the Sadhu: A case study in organizational ethics

A paper written for “Creating and Leading an Intentional Organization” (Leadership 8520).

The Case of the Sadhu

Bowen McCoy's (1997) “Parable of the Sadhu” gives us the tale of McCoy's journey walking through Nepal. Half-way through his 60-day trip through the Himalayan Mountains, McCoy and his anthropologist friend along for the journey, Stephen, encounter a near dead, almost naked, barefoot, Indian holy man suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion. They found the the Indian holy man, a Sadhu, above 15,500 while on one of the most difficult summit climbs of their entire trip. Climbing the mountain in the vicinity of McCoy and Stephen, and their assorted porters and Sherpas, were three other climbing parties representing an international flavor from New Zealand, Switzerland, and Japan. While representatives from each climbing party provided some assistance to the Sadhu, in the end, the Sadhu was left behind – with clothing, food, and drink – more than two days journey from the nearest village. The climbing parties all pressed on and made the summit, their goal for that particular climb; the fate of the Sadhu was left unknown. Both Stephen and McCoy supposed that, in the end, the Sadhu died. McCoy's dilemma was simple, at least on retroflection: should he have done what he did – provide some assistance and then press on to complete his goal – or should he have done more. As McCoy suggests, “Real moral dilemmas are ambiguous, and many of us hike right through them, unaware they exist.” (1997, p. 58)

Encountering the Sadhu

On our journey through life, all of us encounter our own Sadhus, people who come into our lives and seem to need some help and yet, if we provide that help, we will be pushed from our path toward our goals. Often, if we are even conscious of the dilemma and not just “hiking through it,” we will believe that providing help to the Sadhu will keep us from our goal. Often, we are so focused on the intended goal that we see nothing else. As McCoy (1997) notes, the hikers at 15,500 feet were under stress and oxygen deprived; their decisions were made under duress with the goal of attaining the summit within sight. To turn back, to provide true aid to the Sadhu, would have been to give up the goal of the summit. McCoy also notes that his most interesting experience in Nepal involved living in a Sherpa home for a five days while recovering from altitude sickness; Stephen's most interesting experience was participating in a Nepalese funeral ceremony. Neither of these “most interesting experiences” involve attaining the summit; as a matter of fact, both of them are about taking the unplanned route. Some people would suggest that life is about the journey, not the destination; McCoy's observation seems to support this assertion, although his essay provides clear evidence he is not convinced.

What then, should I do when I encounter Sadhus on my journey through life? Do I stay on the path toward my goal, or do I deviate and provide aid and comfort to the Sadhu? Using Brown's (2000) standards and ethical bases, the answer is simple: it depends. As McCoy notes, “Not every ethical dilemma has a right solution. Reasonable people often disagree; otherwise there would be no dilemma.” (1997, p. 59) Brown's mental model, the decision making diamond, would have us use three steps, or bases, in making a decision (observations, value judgments, and assumptions) to do one proposal or another. (p. 32) Brown suggests we filter the decision-making diamond process through three possible paradigms, examining the proposed action against our purpose for being, against some moral principle, and against the consequences of the action.

McCoy's (1997) analysis of his encounter with the Sadhu shows that only after the encounter did he run the decision making process; his friend Stephen was quicker. On the mountain, the over-riding purpose – attaining the summit that very morning – was paramount for McCoy and all the other climbers but Stephen. Judging their actions against a moral principle or against the consequences did not come into play at all, aside from Stephen's grappling with the issues while in an oxygen-deprived state. While I cannot easily compare my own sense of being and my own decision-making process to those of the climbers on that fateful morning, in quiet of my book-lined study, I believe I would side closer to Stephen than McCoy. In this particular case, it was a likely life-or-death situation. My sense of who I am – and my reason for being on this earth – and my own grounding in Judeo-Christian values (fired with the glaze of progressive philosophical and political bent), leads me to think I would put aside my personal goal to help another. Who we are, suggests Elkins (2000), creates our personal ethics, that which drives our actions.

The brotherhood of the derelict and the Sadhu

While I live in the city, not the suburbs, and I drive a little Kia sedan, not a sport utility vehicle, I do see people in need on the street. Perhaps because I live and work in the city, I see them more than daily. If, as I note above, I would put aside my personal goal and help another, should I (and do I) stop to help the needy and homeless each time I pass? With more than a little hesitation, then, do I admit, “No.” But, more than once, I have stopped. And, frankly, I probably stop and help more than most of my colleagues and friends. On the one hand, this is not a fair comparison to the Sadhu, however. The Sadhu was near-death; no intervention on the part of the climbing parties meant certain death. Most of the homeless and needy people in my city – and in the cities to which I frequently travel – are not near-death. On the other hand, how focused I am on some goal – such as getting to work on time or getting home to spend time with my wife and sons – does impact my actions. Like the climbers, the more focused I am on some goal, the less likely I am to take time out to help.

The nature of responsibility

What are we responsible for if we consider ourselves to be ethical persons? McCoy (1997) noted that often we do not even realize we are faced with an ethical situation; we hike on past, missing the moment and the opportunity. Barlow, Jordan, and Hendrix (2003) suggest a fundamental part of character is “moral knowing.” (p. 566) Moral knowing includes knowing when a situation is one which demands an ethical examination. Moral knowing is realizing the person at the side of the trail needs help; it is the acknowledgment of dilemma. This, then, is the first step to being an ethical person. This “knowing” is only the first step, however. The next step would be to move beyond the knowing and actually do something about it. At this point, Brown's (2000) framework would provide a reasonable process toward ethical decision making. Perhaps fundamental with Brown's three philosophical paradigms is actually knowing the purpose, knowing moral principles, and being able to maturely and appropriately predict the consequences of an action.

McCoy's (1997) anthropologist friend had a strong sense of knowing his greater purpose, being in touch with moral principles, and being able to see how actions would lead to particular consequences. McCoy describes Stephen as a “committed Quaker with deep moral vision.” (p. 56) Stephen's moral fiber was so strong it was able to cut through the oxygen deprivation and provide him with the compass to go in the right direction, to make a decision in alignment with his values. We could see Stephen as exhibiting the “Be, Know, Do” model of leadership (Campbell & Dardis, 2004), although he fell down on the do because he did not receive any support from those around him. Had he acted alone, had he returned with the Sadhu to the village at the foot of the mountain, he might have lost his own life.

What, then, are we responsible for? At the very least, we are responsible for aligning our actions with our values, for ensuring we maintain our overall purpose (which may, or may not, be aligned with the near goal), and for creating the most positive of consequences. We can second guess the actions of those climbers high in the Himalayans, but it is only second guessing. Even McCoy's own musings are second guessing, a philosophical discourse attempting to find both the right answer for the situation and some meaning for his own life. He does not find the right answer, acknowledging that often a dilemma is just that, a dilemma; it cannot be soused out with ease. In terms of meaning, however, McCoy comes closer. For McCoy, a man whose professional life is dedicated to business and organizational development, detecting meaning in terms of group interaction, does bring about some closure. In McCoy's mind, the message is not so much what did the individual do, but what did the individuals do in respect to the overall group.

Guiding a Group Down the Road Less Traveled

For McCoy (1997, p. 64), the lesson of the Sadhu is that without corporate support, the individual is lost. Says McCoy, “In a complex corporate situation, the individual requires and deserves the support of the group.” (p. 64) There is, I believe, a difference between the ad hoc group hiking to the mountain summit – four disparate groups who happen to be on the mountain at the same time – and a true group or team, an intentional organization. In McCoy's scenario, there is no leader. There are guides, professionals who know the mountain, but they are not leaders of the entire group. There are likely formal or informal leaders within each national team, but there is no single person recognized as the overarching leader. And, perhaps understandably, no one steps forward. They are travelers headed in the same direction, voyagers with the same destination, but their coalition is not a coalition; merely coincidently do they travel together that early morning. To judge them against a notion of corporate responsibility or leadership is heavy handed. Where we dealing with a corporate – as in collective – group, the situation would be different.

We expect groups created intentionally – be it a club, a team, a corporation, an organization, or a community – to have shared values, to have a shared sense of purpose, and to have formal and informal leaders. As McCoy (1997) tells us, “It is management's challenge to be sensitive to individual needs, to shape them, and to direct and focus them for the benefit of the group as a whole.” (p. 64) It is not our role to change the values of a group, but then it is also not our role to remain a part of a group whose values are in conflict with our own. McCoy asks “When do we take a stand?” (p. 60) For him, this is the basic question of the case. Our own values, our own moral principles must align with the organization's values and moral principles. McCoy writes,

We cannot quit our jobs over every ethical dilemma, but if we continually ignore our sense of values, who do we become? As a journalist asked at a recent conference on ethics, "Which ditch are we willing to die in?" For each of us, the answer is a bit different. How we act in response to that question defines better than anything else who we are, just as, in a collective sense, our acts define our institutions. In effect, the Sadhu is always there, ready to remind us of the tensions between our own goals and the claims of strangers. (p. 60)
When we come upon a ditch we are willing to die in, it is time to dig in and attempt to change the values of the group. The question remains: how can we change the values of a group? Harter, Edwards, McClanahan, Hopson, and Carson-Stern (2004) suggest success in using “feminist principles of organizing as a backdrop” in changing values of individuals and groups. Barlow, Jordan, and Hendrix (2003) offer a focus on character as key in moral development of individuals within a group. Campbell and Dardis (2004) would join Barlow, Jordan, and Hendrix in relying on shared values as fundamental within any group. Humphreys, Weyant, and Sprague (2003) suggest leader behavior and follower commitment play a large role in organizational commitment, including adjusting values which drive choices. In short, there are a multitude of approaches a person can take. One key element in impacting the value structure of a group is the role the individual plays. A leader can approach a values discussion with more ease then a group member or subordinate. Key in any change attempt, however, is a need for the agent of change to act in alignment with the values. Actions and behaviors must align with values. When a leader or a group member's actions are not in alignment with stated values, their credibility becomes nil and their impact on positive change falls dramatically. This is, perhaps, the most important lesson for anyone who wants to take responsibility to change the values of a group: let actions speak as loud as words.

In McCoy's (1997) parable, Stephen acts in alignment with his values, at least so far as he is physically able. For him, the ethical purpose, principle, and consequence is clear, and he works not only conversationally, but through action, to attempt to bring the group around to his way of thinking. When he realizes he will not change the group's value system, he does what he can for the Sadhu and then heads up the mountain, following his lifeline carried on the backs of Sherpas and porters.

In the “Parable of the Sadhu,” McCoy (1997) offers up a tale which provides a purposely ambiguous story, allowing for ample discussion about the ethical decisions made and not made by the characters. (p. 60) Knowing one's greater purpose and role in life, aligning actions to a that purpose and moral principles, and performing actions which create the best positive consequences, are all important decision points in the Sadhu story. And, they are important in real life, also, providing a framework for each of us in our personal and corporate life.


Barlow, C. B., Jordan, M., & Hendrix, W. H. (2003). Character Assessment: An examination of leadership levels. Journal of Business and Psychology, 17, 563-584.

Brown, M. T. (2000). Working Ethics: Strategies for decision making and organizational responsibility. Oakland, CA: Regent Press.

Campbell, D. J. & Dardis, G. J. (2004). The “Be, Know, Do” Model of Leader Development. Human Resource Planning, 27(2), 26-39.

Elkins, J. R. (2000, February). Practical Moral Advice for Lawyers: Scene 4 – Sadhus we meet along the way. Retrieved July 3, 2005, from: West Virginia University Web site

Harter, L. M, Edwards, A., McClanahan, A., Hopson, M. C., & Carson-Stern, E. (2004). Organizing for Survival and Social Change: The case of Streetwise. Communication Studies, 55(2), 407-424.

Humphreys, J. H., Weyant, L. E., & Sprague, R. D. (2003). Organizational Commitment: The roles of emotional and practical intellect within the leader/follower dyad. Journal of Business and management, 9(2), 189-209.

McCoy, B. H. (1997). The Parable of the Sadhu. Harvard Business Review, 75(3), 54-64.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Leadership Development Plan: A program for implementation of the Commandant-mandated Unit Leadership Development Program for Coast Guard MLC Atlantic

A paper written for “Creating and Leading an Intentional Organization” (Leadership 8520) in the Fischler School of Education & Human Services of Nova Southeastern University.

Introduction and Problem Statement

The United States Coast Guard is one of the five military services of the United States. The Coast Guard is, by far, the smallest of the five services – which also includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – with just 39,000 active duty military members, some 8,000 reserve military members, and just 7,000 civilian employees. The Coast Guard traces its roots back to the early days of the Nation to the founding of the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. Today, the Coast Guard is on the front lines in the protection of the United States as the maritime component of the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard's missions are diverse and include maritime search & rescue, marine environmental protection, and national defense; the Coast Guard's eleven mission areas all revolve around the maritime environment. As the Coast Guard's fact file tells us,
Its core roles are to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports, and inland waterways....The Coast Guard provides unique benefits to the nation because of its distinctive blend of military, humanitarian, and civilian law-enforcement capabilities.
While the Coast Guard faces many challenges, one of the key internal challenges identified over the last several years is leadership development. Within the last decade, the Coast Guard has established a Leadership Development Center housed on the campus of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. The Leadership Development Center is responsible for providing leadership development to all “Team Coast Guard” members: every military member and every civilian employee. The Coast Guard has generally approached leadership from a perspective of “situational leadership,” at least in providing leadership development training to military members and civilian employees. The Leadership Development Center, until recently, has taught Ken Blanchard's Situational Leadership II model; due to a copyright infringement, the Coast Guard has moved to another, but similar model which still provides a situational approach. The Leadership Development Center ensures that all courses, whether taught to cadets or officer candidates, to students in basic and technical training, to mid-level personnel through “road show” training sessions, or to more senior personnel at longer classes at the Leadership Development Center, receive leadership content which is in alignment throughout so that members and employees in the Service can all “speak the same language.” In addition to the situational approach to leadership, the Coast Guard uses a competency-based approach. The service has identified 29 leadership competencies necessary for Coast Guard leaders, including military members and civilian employees, which can be grouped into four clusters: leading self, leading others, leading performance & change, and leading the Coast Guard. (U.S. Coast Guard, 2004b)

Beyond the Leadership Development Center, the Coast Guard just recently created a leadership institute at the Coast Guard Academy, not as a part of the Leadership Development Center but, rather, as a part of the academic departments for undergraduate, cadet education. Within the last six months, the Commandant of the Coast Guard – the Service's senior officer, reporting directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security – approved a recommendation by the staff of the Leadership Development Center to institute a Coast Guard-wide, web-based, leadership development program. Contrary to the staff's initial recommendations to have this program offered as an optional, adjunct initiative, the Commandant decided that, to ensure deployment throughout all of the Coast Guard, he would mandate the program. Announced just several months ago, the program became mandatory for all Coast Guard units at the start of June 2005.

The Unit Leadership Development Program is composed of three main parts. A primary component is the program's website, found at A conscious decision was made to place this site on the Intranet, accessible to anyone on the World Wide Web, rather than on the Coast Guard's own Intranet, accessible only inside the Coast Guard Data Network. The website has two primary parts: a listing of leadership interventions for each of the Coast Guard's leadership Competencies, and an assessment tool which unit leaders can deploy electronically to receive feedback on members' and employees' perceptions on the overall deployment of the leadership competencies within the unit. A second primary component of the Unit Leadership Program is a corps of “coaches” who assist unit leaders in deploying the Program. These coaches are based throughout the nation and coordinated by regional “coach coordinators.” Coaches include performance consultants, who in their normal world of work focus on leadership and management issues and who programmatically fall under the Leadership Development Center, and command master chiefs, senior enlisted members who are designated advisors to flag officers and serve as advocates for the enlisted force. The third primary component is the Leadership Development Center staff who support the entire program including web site maintenance and coach training.

The Coast Guard's Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic, based in Norfolk, Virginia, is responsible for a wide range of maintenance and logistics services at all Coast Guard units east of the Rockies. While the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic community has more than 4000 military members and civilian employees spread throughout 40 states, more than 450 personnel are located at the staff in Norfolk. These personnel include program managers, as well as direct service providers, in the fields of administration, law, naval engineering, civil engineering, electronic engineering, health & safety services, and logistics. The staff's home is a modern office building in downtown Norfolk where they moved in 1996 following the closure of Governor's Island in New York City. The staff occupies seven floors of this tower in the heart of downtown. Roughly half the employees are civilian employees, and half are military members. A challenge for the Maintenance & Logistics Command staff is the deployment of the Unit Leadership Development Program. While it is easy to define the staff, it is not so easy to get them all on page; all-hands sessions are cumbersome while division meetings are both sometimes too large and also too unique for adequate standardization. A mid-grade staff member, Kathy Nash – who happens to be a doctoral graduate of the Fischler School of Education and Human Services – has been designated as the project officer for the deployment of the Unit Leadership Development Program for the entire staff. Her primary function is the Training and Education Officer for the staff. She has tapped the performance consultant detailed to the staff to provide counsel; this consultant serves as the coach coordinator for the mid-Atlantic region and is, coincidently, a current student at the Fischler School.

At all levels of the Coast Guard, and at every unit of the Coast Guard, there is an acknowledgment that every military member and every civilian employee is different. Leadership development must be crafted for the individual. Certainly, there are universals, skills and knowledge that applies across the board, but in developing each leader, the Service cannot take a cookie-cutter approach. Development of the individual can truly only be created one person at a time. (Rossicone, n.d., p. 1)

Mission of the Professional Development Plan

Nash's task is simple to define, but not so simple to implement. The Commandant's direction is three-fold. All units must complete a “command assessment” every six to nine months. Each command is to then review the results of that assessment. Following the review, each command is to develop an action plan to specify the unit's senior leaders' direction and initiatives to bridge the gaps within specific leadership competencies. These expectations are similar to other Coast Guard initiatives including implementing a leadership and management framework based on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This direction for the Unit Leadership Development Program is, however, focused on the leadership competencies. Interestingly, while the program's website has a computer-aided assessment tool, that tool is not mandated in the Commandant's direction. Many units have for the last several years been using either a regular assessment tool taken from Buckingham & Coffman's research with Gallop – using an assessment tool commonly referred to at the “Q-12” – or an assessment tool developed by the Office of Personnel Management which measures similar items but with questions in the public domain; this tool is referred by many to as the “Crew-11.” The assessment included with the Unit Leadership Development Program, sometimes referred to as the “ULDP-36,” was developed using questions from the Crew-11, a Baldrige-based assessment called “Are We Making Progress,” and other questions which provide organizational data based on the leadership competencies.

The task for the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff is to implement the mandated program and at least minimally meeting the three required taskers. More broadly, the task is to increase the level of leadership competencies for all members of the staff.

Outcomes and Goals for the Leadership Development Plan

In implementing the Commandant's mandates Unit Leadership Development Program, the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff will work to satisfy four things. The first goal is the staff-wide assessment using a single tool which allows for analysis by leadership competencies. The second goal is the completion of an analysis of the assessment results. The third goal is the development of an action plan to provide specific initiatives to the staff. The fourth goal is to raise the level of leadership competency throughout the staff.

One of the issues with the first goal is deciding what assessment tool to use. The ULDP-36 tool, while easy to set up and administer, does not provide the ability to collect any demographic information. It is possible to set up several assessment sites and provide the unique Uniform Resource Locator (URL) to different segments of employees. However, the data would be segmented in large chunks; certainly smaller chunks than providing a single URL to the entire command, but large chunks nonetheless. Fairly easily, the staff could be broken down to civilian employees and military members, or men and women; using the current ULDP-36 tool, however, there would be no way to segment military women in one cut and minority civilian employees in another cut. The point here is that the ULDP-36 tool provides no demographic information allowing for analysis. While this may be satisfactory in a small Coast Guard unit of a dozen or two dozen members and employees, it is likely not satisfactory for a large staff with 450 military members and civilian employees. A second issue with the ULDP-36 is that with its current format, the results are not kept for tracking purposes. When a unit starts the second assessment, the data from the first assessment is cleared from the database. The only way to maintain assessment results for tracking is to print a hard copy of the report. The report, however, only provides the score for each specific leadership competency based on a formula taking into account the arithmetic means of questions associated with that particular competency. The tool does not allow to drill down to the specific question; nor does it allow for an analysis based on the mode of responses for a particular question in the ULDP-36. A third issue with the ULDP-36 is that the assessment instrument, while it uses some questions from assessment tools currently used by Coast Guard units, it does not use all the questions from any single tool. Units which have used the Crew-11 and have been tracking trends using this tool, will not be able to convert to the ULDP-36 and continue tracking all questions and results; units will either need to drop current assessment tool data and transition to the ULDP-36, create their own assessment tool based on two or more current assessment tools, or use a tool other than the ULDP-36 and analyze that data through the prism of the leadership competencies.

In a unit the size of the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic, being able to segment responses during the analysis is paramount. Data from 450 individuals, without being able to determine statistically significant differences between key segments of employees and members, will not serve the leaders well. In addition, the staff has more than five years of trend data which has been analyzed and acted on; moving to a new tool will push that work and that initiative through the scupper, making it disappear for good. A possible solution is for the staff to add certain questions to the current tool which is used, questions which allow for analysis through the leadership competencies paradigm. The Leadership Development Center can provide information on how each of the 36 questions relates to each leadership competency so that a valid assessment tool can be developed.

Leadership Development Activities

One of the strengths with the Unit Leadership Development Program is the library of interventions. For each leadership competency, the Leadership Development Center has identified interventions which would help build up that particular competency. Most of the interventions are in the public domain and can be assessed by anyone on the Unit Leadership Development Program's website. Some of the interventions are copyrighted material for which the Coast Guard has purchased a license. For those materials, only registered Coast Guard users – usually the designated unit point-of-contact – may access the materials. While most of the interventions are training interventions, usually short hour or two sessions, the Leadership Development Center is working to create interventions which are not training-based, such as proven practices. Many of the training-based interventions involve discussions or exercises around books or movies; some interventions are video productions from firms such as CRM Learning, a video-training firm which develops films for business and government settings. Development of non-training interventions is an acknowledgment that learning doesn't just happen in a training or education environment; learning can happen in nearly every setting. (Banks, n.d., p. 2)

All interventions should be tied to a specific leadership competency or set of competencies. The mode of delivery is difficult since the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff is large and diverse. Interventions which might work in a smaller command – such as all hands-meetings or brown bag learning lunch sessions – are difficult in a larger command such as the staff. They're difficult if the goal is to reach every employee and member; the staff has too many personnel to provide those sorts of interventions and expect to reach every staff member. November (n.d.) would suggest the use of electronics, such as the Internet, to deliver content to a wide variety of employees. Using some form of electronic delivery would help ensure consistency of message, but it would not delivery personalized content to participants.

Another program in wide-spread use throughout the Coast Guard is the use of the Individual Development Plan. Individual Development Plans are Commandant-required for junior service members; some commands use them for every military member and civilian employee. The Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff uses Individual Development Plans throughout the staff. While not required, most staff members have Individual Development Plans; the plans help align individual desires with organizational needs. Supervisors review and approve plans for individual members and employees; approved plans help align resources to specific initiatives as defined in the plan. For instance, a collateral duty Equal Employment Opportunity counselor might want to develop mediation skills; once listed on an approved Individual Development Plan, the organization can move resources to help the employee attain that shared goal.

One possibility for the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff would be to mandate the use of Individual Development Plans for all personnel, and to ensure that each plan has a leadership development section, allowing each employee to focus part of their development on specified leadership competencies. With a staff-wide use of Individual Development Plans, the organization could then provide a menu of opportunities for leadership development, such as the brown bag learning lunches, which are targeted in nature and would appeal to a targeted group.

In order to accomplish this, a menu of options would have to be available to all staff members. Johnson & Johnson (n.d., p. 10) suggest that partnerships are critical; partnerships bring disparate people together for a common purpose. The common purpose here would be to provide variety and diverse opportunities for leadership development throughout the building and for all staff members. The ideal set of options would be created in partnership between key staff members and leaders from every division and every floor. Some possibilities include monthly leadership videos, off-the-shelf courses of various lengths including the Coast Guard's own 5-day Team Leader & Facilitator course and FranklinCovey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A centralized calendar could be maintained whereby anyone could offer to sponsor an event intervention as listed at the Unit Leadership Development Program web site's resource listing.

Assessment Plan

The deployment of the Unit Leadership Development Program at the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic staff can be assessed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Qualitatively, the training staff can track the trends in the assessments used for the Unit Leadership Development Program rollout. Once a single, reliable, and valid assessment tool is chose, the staff can track progress over time. A second qualitative approach, which should not be used alone, would count the number of interventions scheduled, completed, and attendees. In addition, the staff should assess against the mandated activities: completion of the command assessment, analysis of the assessment results, and the completion of an action plan. Qualitatively, the staff could interview random staff members throughout the building to gather qualitative comments and reflections on the leadership development program and it's effectiveness and impact.

The assessment should be spearheaded by the staff Training and Education Officer, as she is responsible not only for the deployment of the program but also other similar assessment initiatives. Ideally Dr. Nash would use her collateral staff as well as tapping into readily available consultant services.

Summary and Reflection

Certainly, the deployment of the Unit Leadership Development Program is, in some form or another, not only feasible; it is required. If the senior leadership of the Maintenance & Logistics Command Atlantic truly wants to succeed at leadership development, one method of bringing this initiative into the forefront, as well as ensuring tracking over time, would be to add the Unit Leadership Development Program to the organization's strategic plan. (U.S. Coast Guard, 2004a). Adding a leadership development component would ensure that senior leaders keep a focus on the initiative and track the progress over time, making organization-wide decisions based on the ongoing assessment of the program. This aligns with Schlechty's (n.d.) recommendations that change comes about when senior leaders create, build, and maintain vision and focus. By placing the leadership program in the organizational strategic plan, the leaders are putting focus on what they determine to be important: creating leaders for today and tomorrow's Coast Guard.


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