Friday, November 30, 2012

Leadership Blog Series Parts Five and Six: David Love/Tom Hughes

In recognition of Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's November Leadership Month, a special blog series featuring ECBC employee responses on what it takes to be an effective leader will be featured on the blog throughout the month of November. This final installment features David Love and Tom Hughes, both chemists with the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.

David Love

What leader (famous or personal leader) inspires you the most and what qualities do he or she possess that others can learn from?

There have been two personal leaders that inspired me; one was a community leader during my young adult hood and a supervisor during my professional career. Their personalities were different but they both were honest, trustworthy and treated everyone the same. They made sacrifices for the betterment of the whole. The community leader sacrificed his time and money to advocate for the youth in our community. My supervisor sacrificed his time to enhance his employee skills and advocate to upper management for those he was responsible for. The community leader was also my sports coach and he always encouraged us to do our best and he never showed disappointment when we did not win. He would say “did you do your best”?  We would say yes, he would say “that is all I ask, is that you do your best.”

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received and how have you applied said advice in your daily life?

The best advice that I have ever received is that “you don’t fail, you learn.” No matter what the task is in front of me, I know that if I keep trying, I will eventually learn how to do it and get better at doing it. Failure is not part of my vocabulary.

Can you describe your biggest achievement or disappointment, and what lesson you learned from it?

I had very good athletic skills when I was a young adult and like most youths, I wanted to become a professional athlete (football player). When we played pickup football in the community, I was always chosen first or second to play. There was an organized football team that all the best athletes in the community played on and they had a reputation for winning.

I tried out for the football team and I got cut, I did not make the team.  The hardest part was facing my peers, telling them that I did not make the team. Seeing the disappointment in their eyes hurt.

I learned two things from not making the team; one is that by trying out for the team I learned what I needed to improve on in order to make the team the next year. Second, I learned that life is about timing, it just was not my time. I made the team the next year and the third year I player, we were the POP Warner National Champs.

In your own words, what shapes an effective leader?

The one thing that shapes most leaders is their experiences good and bad. A leader must understand himself/herself, this means knowing his/her strengths and weaknesses. He or she also must take time to know the strengths and weaknesses of those that he/she are responsible for. He/she must be able to communicate and share his/her passion with those around them. They must be willing to take full responsibility when things don’t go well and give credit to the team when the results are successful.  He/she must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for the betterment of all, even if it means he has to do the dirty work. He/she must have confidence in order to raise the level of those he/she is responsible for. An effective leader not only has to be a coach, but he/she needs to be coachable. He/She must have faith and be humble and realize that you cannot do it alone it takes support.

David Love is a chemist for the Protection Equipment Test Branch at ECBC.  He holds an AS Degree in Chemical Engineering, a BS degree in Chemistry and a MS Degree in Business Administration. Love has 30 years of chemical laboratory and supervisory experience, and has worked 20 years in the commercial industry for Union Carbide, Olin Industries, Cytec Industry and Battelle.  In his spare time, David volunteers with the youth in his community.

Leadership Blog Part Six: Tom Hughes

One of the hardest parts of being a new employee at ECBC is reading and understanding all of the rules, policies and procedures that allow us to do our work safely.  For a new employee, navigating the maze of requirements from the DoD level policy to the Branch-level SOPs used every day can be intimidating.  While the high level requirements leave no wiggle room for interpretation, the ECBC guidance and procedures developed for laboratory operations are written in-house and are edited annually.  This annual SOP review provides the perfect opportunity for new group members to become familiarized with and ultimately responsible for the SOPs used in the laboratory.
While the SOP review is the most obvious place to start to talk about authoring and understanding laboratory documents, there are other important aspects of laboratory operations that should go through a similar review.  The two that come to my mind are waste procedures and quality system documentation.  Each laboratory at ECBC generates a unique waste stream and as such will often benefit from review and clarification/specification of the waste IOP provided by the EQO.  Similarly, each laboratory performs unique tests with unique equipment configurations.  By taking the time to prepare and perform a group review of IOPs pertaining to their specific tests, laboratories can promote a more thorough and unambiguous understanding of the work being performed.
In order for there to be a group "buy-in" to the guiding documents of a laboratory, everyone needs to understand what the documents are saying and agree (at least for the most part!) that the documents say it in a clear manner.  It takes a strong leader to first motivate a group to collectively develop the necessary documents for a quality system.  It then takes an even stronger leader to then reconcile the differing opinions from the group into a coherent and concise set of documents that the laboratory personnel can agree to work under.  While it may not seem glamorous, my opinion is that the leader described above does more for a group than any other person alone.
Tom Hughes is an analytical chemist in the Applied Detection Technology Branch of ECBC.  Hughes graduated from Penn State Univeristy in 2009 with a Bachelor's Degree in chemistry.

The content in this blog entry does not represent the views or beliefs of ECBC, its employees, its management or the federal government. 

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