Defense Civilian Emerging Leadership Program builds foundation for young leaders through unique training and networking opportunities

Today’s post was written by Christina Makhijani of the Army Contracting Command New Jersey

For the past three years, the Department of Defense’s Learning and Leader Development Division and the Office of Personnel Management has been giving competitively selected GS-7 through GS-11s the opportunity to participate in the Defense Civilian Emerging Leader Program (DCELP). This is a one year program that utilizes both residence and web-based courses that cover topics such as leadership, conflict resolution, team building, and effective writing.

Christina Makhijani

Christina Makhijani

As a member of the third DCELP cohort, I can tell you by the end of the program I had become a better version of myself both at work and in my personal life. This program covers the topics I named above in a safe, judgment-free environment with other like-minded individuals across the DoD. DCELP participants were able to take time out of their normal roles several times over the year to come together and focus solely on improving themselves, without the normal interruption of daily work requirements.

DCELP opens with a week-long resident course which focused on each participant learning about themselves using several different self-evaluations. Once you understood your own personal capabilities and limitations, building upon that base with the rest of the DCELP courses was easy. The next course focused on conflict resolution. This course opened with self-assessments regarding our conflict styles. We then compared our styles to others and applied them to a model for conflict resolution. The third resident course week’s topic was team building. This course also had a self-assessment component, as well as a focus on the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model. In addition to the resident portion, this course had an online component as well. The fourth course focused solely on improving each participant’s writing skills. This course covered a variety of different written documents including email, PowerPoint, and budget justifications and how to use each communication method effectively. Lastly, the DCELP closed with a week-long leadership “pot-luck” addressing various topics such as discovering your passion, ethics, and the physical dimension of leadership.

In addition to the course’s educational benefits, the DCELP provides participants with the exclusive opportunity to network across functions and the DoD. Networking within the DCELP cohort is encouraged and supported by

many different group-organized social events. Many participants make life-long friends and develop business partners as a result of this program.

One of the most meaningful topics addressed during DCELP was the Myers Briggs Type Indicator personality type. Although I had taken the evaluation before, DCELP spent a considerable amount of time on this subject. Understanding what my personality preferences are, the advantages and disadvantages of them, and how to work with different personality types has been extremely helpful in my career.

I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to practice my presentation skills throughout the course. Students were asked to present various topics many times during the resident courses. There was even several times where students were asked to present off-the-cuff without any preparation time. This experience has proven very valuable as I am considerably more comfortable speaking and presenting in front of others.

The most important lesson I learned during DCELP is to be the change I want to see, regardless of my environment or job title. This course helped me realize that I can be a leader from my cubicle. I can be someone who sets the right example, produces quality work, is someone who can be trusted, solves problems, is an effective team member, etc. These are behaviors I can exude right now. I don’t have to wait for a promotion or an office to be a leader. This course has given me the confidence to be a leader today. One of my favorite quotes presented during DCELP is, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, then you have never shared a bed with a mosquito.”

DCELP graduation  September 19, 2014

DCELP graduation September 19, 2014

If you are interested in applying to be part of the next DCELP cohort, you can find information here:

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Defense Civilian Emerging Leadership Program builds foundation for young leaders through unique training and networking opportunities