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J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
creased numbers of people and in-
creased interest in the value of
training from the posts and the bu-
I think there’s been a real cul-
ture shift over the last decade re-
garding the value of training. It’s
not unusual to have some of our
more senior officers and retired of-
ficers say: “The only training I ever
did after A-100 was language train-
ing and the deputy chief of mission course.” We would
all talk about why that was true: “People didn’t value
training. People didn’t want to go to training. People
didn’t want to release their employees for training.” And
I think that has really turned around significantly.
We see it in the volume. Since we instituted manda-
tory leadership training in 2002, during Secretary of State
Colin Powell’s tenure, 17,000 people have participated.
The courses get very high marks and high reviews. We
don’t hear people talking about how “I don’t want to go,
but I have to go,” or how they don’t want to let their em-
ployees go, but they have to let them go. I think in gen-
eral, people have come to see the value of letting their
employees improve their skills.
Our most recent customer service survey showed
an overall rate of 94-percent satisfaction with the training.
In it, when we asked: “How did you pick what training to
apply for?” a plurality said, “My supervisor recommended
I take the course.” That’s a change. That shows supervi-
sors are not just willing to let their employees go to train-
ing, but are encouraging them to do so. Part of the
reason for that is we train supervisors to do that in the
leadership school.
How is leadership training changing?
It’s the focus on leadership training from A-100
orientation through a person’s promotion into the senior
ranks. We’re not waiting until people get to be senior to
say: “Now we’ll talk about leadership training.” It builds
an expectation that people in A-100 expect to be treated
well, expect to be well trained and expect to be well led.
I think the whole personnel system has begun to see
the importance of these people skills and leadership
skills, and not just policy skills, in getting you to the top.
It’s a real continuum, from FS-3 to -2 to -1, and into the
senior ranks; talking about practical issues of perform-
ance management, how you super-
vise employees and listen to them,
how you deal with problem em-
ployees and building self-aware-
The senior training is really fo-
cused on how leadership at that
level is really different. When you
move across that threshold into the
senior ranks, you’re really taking on
a different set of responsibilities for
the leadership of the whole department. Tracey and I
were visiting this morning with someone who was in that
course last week, and he talked about how valuable it was
to reflect on his own leadership style. There is a very dif-
ferent attitude toward all of that, with people thinking:
“If I want to be a very successful senior officer, then lead-
ing people is as important as having very strong policy
skills or very strong substantive skills.”
I’m not so sure historically that was always the case.
You could certainly get to the top if you were brilliant
even without having very strong leadership skills. I think
on the whole, today people think that leadership skills are
an important part of rising to the top of the Service.
One of the things I think is really critical about all
of our mandatory leadership courses, all four of them, is
that they include 360-degree feedback. Before taking
the course, each participant is required to send this sur-
vey out to supervisors, peers and subordinates asking
those folks to rank them in a variety of different areas. It
gives everyone the opportunity to identify the person’s
three biggest leadership strengths and three areas for im-
This gets to the issue of self-awareness, which is a key
element to any kind of leadership. It’s a very powerful
tool. It’s not something anyone is using to rate anyone in
the class or judge them. It’s for the officers themselves to
see how they are perceived by others. That helps folks to
direct their training and their professional development,
and to understand how they might interact differently
with people who have different work styles.
Can you quantify the increase in training that’s
At the end of Fiscal Year 2011, the number of
enrollments in training and number of hours people
spend in training are up by at least 30 percent since 2005.
“I think there’s been
a real culture shift over
the last decade regarding
the value of training.”
— FSI Director Ruth A. Whiteside