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Profiles in the Desert: Deployed Army Unit Uses LFYS to Strengthen Teams, Boost Morale

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Lieutenant Colonel Philip “Buddy” Winn, U.S. Army chaplain, leads ministry teams serving soldiers and their families of Task Force Spartan, comprised of active and reserve Army and National Guard units.

His job mushroomed recently when troops from Task Force Spartan were deployed to the deserts of southwest Asia as part of Operation Spartan Shield (OSS).

Leading From Your Strengths has strengthened relationships on the team,” said Buddy, noting the importance of cohesiveness in a military unit. “The process has added value to how we support the unit, staff, and command teams.”

Use The Assessments in Teams to Be Collectively Strong

Team building: Task Force Spartan

Members of Task Force Spartan. Courtesy U.S. Army

A close friend introduced Buddy to the Leading From Your Strengths profiles. “He said the profile would help me understand more about myself,” said Buddy. “He was right.”

When Buddy first reviewed his report, his first thought was, Who talked to my wife? “It was astounding how the profile articulated my unique characteristics and strengths so clearly,” he said. The benefit was so obvious that Buddy went on to use the profile with his staff team of five faith professionals.

“It’s essential as leaders that we be strong collectively,” he said. “Whereas I am not a detail-oriented person, I can count on my more systematic teammates to provide that quality to the team. Meanwhile, since I’m strong in integrating technology and relating to external partners, I take the lead there.”

Use The Assessments to Validate Each Member

Word spread within the unit’s headquarters by those found value in LFYS and were positively impacted. Soon, Buddy and his team began using the profiles with others. They set up rounds of intakes followed by short “blocks of instruction” that demonstrated each team’s combined strengths.

Buddy discovered that unit members usually respond to the profiles in one of two ways: (1) the individual believes their spouse had been asked to fill out the information because it is so accurate or (2) the individual feels validated. “The report acknowledges certain characteristics or strengths the user knew he possessed, but that others either ignored or even downplayed as a weakness,” said Buddy.

Group debriefings lead to many smiles and head-nods, further affirming individual profile results and boosting team members’ confidence. Those debriefing sessions allowed members to identify which individuals on the team possess specific strengths, leading to discussions about how to leverage those strengths based on the team’s mission.

A good example is Task Force Spartan member Chief Warrant Officer 3 Keith Schweitzer, who recently completed degrees in organizational and strategic leadership and now leads a human resources team of six soldiers who represent a wide diversity in gender, ethnicity, education, and experience.

“As part of my degree curriculum, I was required to complete a myriad personal and leadership assessments,” said Keith. “The LFYS assessment and profile are among the best I’ve seen.”

He was amazed at the accuracy of his own LFYS profile. His team’s assessments also helped him to better understand the strengths of his teammates, said Keith. “Sharing their individual results was a personal and emotional event for some on the team,” he said. “But the payoff is improved communication, improved expectations, and improved clarity for each member.” Keith and his team are now learning to maximize each one’s strengths as they work together.

Use The Assessments Sooner Than Later

Buddy’s advice for other leaders? “Start by completing the profile and experience how much it can tell you about yourself,” he said.

Then use it for your team. The payoff is high for a relatively small investment of time and money, said Buddy, adding, “You won’t be disappointed.”

In fact, these soldiers say you will be disappointed if you wait rather than proceed.

Keith’s words sum up that sentiment for Task Force Spartan: “I only wish we would have taken the assessment and shared our profiles earlier during our deployment.”

LTC Philip “Buddy” Winn is command chaplain with the U.S. Army’s 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan. Since 2001, the 34th has been tasked with homeland security duties in the continental U.S. and overseas. The task force’s soldiers are comprised largely of Minnesota and Iowa National Guard members. They hail from more than 220 communities throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, and several other states.

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