The National Weather Service is constantly faced with changes and challenges. Technology continues to change at a rate unequaled in the history of our organization, while customer/partner needs are also evolving at a rate commensurate with the rapid technological advances.
Within the NWS, local offices are at the forefront of using the latest technology and science to better serve the American people. Accordingly, the rapidly changing world of today and tomorrow will directly link the future health of the agency with the ability of local office leaders (both official and unofficial) to better serve local customers and partners.
Progressive field leaders are essential to a viable NWS of the future. Good leaders do many things well, but in particular, they plan for the future by preparing and nurturing potential leaders. Future leaders also must be aggressive in meeting external challenges (science, technology, customer/partner needs), while at the same time, recognizing and respecting the contributions and abilities of others.
The development of effective leaders is not easy and is not necessarily the same as producing excellent managers. Leadership and management require different blends of knowledge, skills, and abilities, but good leadership skills frequently translate into good management.
Managers follow established rules and guidelines to produce important day-to-day mission delivery, to ensure predictability, order, efficiency, and quality. Leaders are excellent managers that take people and organizations through significant change.
Those organizations that have earned reputations for attracting and keeping the best talent and for developing a cadre of strong leaders all share something in common-the existence of a strong culture with shared norms and values concerning the importance of effective leadership. Winning companies win because they nurture the development of leaders at all levels of the organization. These future leaders are...
- Developed through personal example, i.e., training through sharing,
- Developed through significant relationships and effective coaching, and
- Developed through varied professional experiences.
Future Leadership Challenges to Southern Region
Many senior leaders will be eligible to retire from federal service within the next few years. A large pool of talented people exists in the Southern Region to meet future leadership demands. However, a designed mechanism is needed to ensure all such talented individuals have the opportunities to further develop their leadership skills for a solid tomorrow.
Ensuring a well prepared next generation of leaders is one of the most important roles current NWS leaders can undertake. Existing leaders have an opportunity to share public service values and their leadership skills with future leaders, who in turn, will help train and grow their potential successors.
BLAST - Building Leaders for A Solid Tomorrow, Southern Region BLAST
The Southern Region Region has established a program to invest in, and develop a pool of potential leaders. This program is formulated around the interest of employees to improve their leadership talents. The foundation of BLAST is built around current field and regional leaders sharing progressive leadership knowledge and concepts with BLAST participants.
Additionally, BLAST is a harmonic complement to the NOAA/NWS Diversity and EEO programs and its goals. Local Southern Region field leaders are critical to BLAST, being in a good position to identify and nurture local leadership talents and mentor on a day-to-day basis.
The goal of BLAST is to provide and enhance leadership skills to as many employees as possible. Some may advance in their career to become office managers, but BLAST is designed to grow future leaders at all levels of the organization. All individuals posses the ability to lead and would benefit from participation in BLAST. Participation in BLAST does not in any way provide participants priority consideration in future recruitment actions.
The objectives of BLAST are for participants to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to...
- Foster growth and entrepreneurial mentality in meeting the NWS mission,
- Meet the challenge of change,
- Think outside the box,
- Lead by serving,
- Translate NWS Core Values into day-to-day reality, and
- Plan for the future.
This program is built around two independent components-one at the local office level and another more formal version at the regional level. This is Southern Region's approach to Building Leaders for A Solid Tomorrow-BLAST.
Local Office Component of BLAST (Local BLAST)
The purpose of the local office component of BLAST is to provide a mechanism whereby any staff member with leadership interest and talent will have the opportunity to explore and expand those capabilities for the good of the NWS. Local BLAST is available to any office staff member and is applicable to all Southern Region field offices and regional divisions. Each manager is encouraged to establish a Local BLAST Program.
A Local BLAST Programs may contain the following general structure...
- Local projects in consonance with the office mission and of varied disciplines (e.g., outreach with partners, diversity, operations, responding to customer needs, etc.) for the participants. Length, scope, and frequency of local projects would be determined by the local manager and BLAST participants.
- Sharing of leadership experiences and lessons learned.
- Local training (vendor training through one-day courses, on-line training via Internet, or formal courses from academia or U.S. Government). This training will be provided based on availability of local funding and level of interest exhibited by participants.
Local managers are encouraged to develop local leadership training and development plans. They may also choose to coordinate and adopt plans of other successful local office leadership initiatives.
Participation by local staff members is voluntary, and individuals may notify their supervisor of their interest to participate in the local office component of BLAST. Much of the training and development would be accomplished during supernumerary or on an individuals own initiative.
Southern Region Component of BLAST (BLAST)
BLAST will provide a formal training program that will allow participants to be better, pro-active, and sensitive leaders. The goal of BLAST is to provide the participants with the foundation and tools to further enhance their leadership capabilities. BLAST is not the end, but rather the launching pad for additional reading, study, and learning on progressive leadership concepts. Participation in BLAST does not in any way provide participants priority consideration in future recruitment actions.
Since some personal development time will be devoted to studying leadership principles, BLAST candidates should be comfortable and competent in their current position when they apply for the program. BLAST applicants should have also demonstrated initiative with respect to leadership. This includes aggressively meeting customer/partner needs, thinking strategically, exercising team leadership concepts, being sensitive to others, embracing change for operational improvement, supporting diversity, and exercising business acumen.
Upon completion of the program, each participant in BLAST will be able to...
- Use the challenges in the workplace to develop and exercise leadership.
- Analyze required change and the participant's leadership style to emphasize positive change.
- Learn how to build on the leadership training from the classroom to apply in real world settings.
- Use leadership concepts to serve others.
- Initiate a sustained leadership plan.
- Use and build on the knowledge and experiences of other leaders.
BLAST is a two-year formal program with the first year directed toward an off-site training (workshop) and participating in on-site training opportunities. The second year primarily will consist of regularly scheduled on-site training and one week of visitation to SRH which will include a leadership issue presentation. Each year, a new BLAST group of up to 14 participants will be selected for the program.
BLAST will be competitively open to all NWS personnel in the Southern Region and the Storm Prediction Center with at least 1 year or more of NWS work experience (exception - MICs, HICs, and Southern Region Headquarters Division/Branch Chiefs are not eligible for this program). To be considered for BLAST, applicants are encouraged to coordinate and gain the support of their office supervisor.
Support by the supervisor indicates he/she will provide local guidance to the participant as well as assigning and evaluating short-term local assignments. Every effort will be made to consider mission operations as top priority and time away from office will be reasonably minimized.
Applicants' packages will be screened by a team made up of field leaders. After the screening process, the team will conduct interviews of the remaining participants. The team's recommendation of up to 14 participants will be sent to the Regional Director for consideration and selection.