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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2023

Course helps DMA supervisors refine leadership skills

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Civilian and uniformed managers of Virginia Department of Military Affairs employees participated in the DMA Supervisors Course Jan. 24-26, 2023, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. 

Hosted by retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, the DMA Chief Operations Officer, and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tim White, the DMA instructor and trainer, the course teaches supervisors the ins and outs of leading state employees. 

“We created the Supervisors Course as a way to help our DMA supervisors on the state side, as well as uniformed leaders who have state staff in their department or command, to be better informed on how to manage and lead state employees,” said Mercer. “The course is intended to provide training on practical areas such as HR policies, pay and benefits processes, performance evaluations and disciplinary actions, and more.”

During the three-day course, the students take in classroom instruction on different topics presented by DMA’s leaders and experts. 

“With this course we added new DMA instructor staff, Amber Davis from Health and Safety, and Lindsay Glass from Human Resources Recruiting,” said White. “The newly-added instructors brought fresh new perspectives to the course curriculum.”

 In addition to the classroom learning, the students also participate in interactive exercises meant to help refine their problem-solving and managerial skills. 

 “We focus much of our time on hands on activities and role playing focused on problem solving, communication, and leadership issues,” Mercer added. 

The first DMA supervisors course was held in 2018, and has been held two to three times per year since. According to White, approximately 160 people have graduated from the course since its inception, including DMA state employees, technicians and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers who supervise state employees. 

Mercer said the goal is for leaders and managers to use the skills they learn in the class to help develop their employees, departments and ultimately help improve the entire DMA organization. 

“In the end we give leaders a solid understanding of some of the unique policies and procedures required by the commonwealth for state employees, engage the students in learning situations that will make them more effective at managing state staff, and help them discover ways they can grow as communicators and leaders,” Mercer said. “We always get very positive feedback from the class members.”

That feedback helps the DMA leadership team make improvements to the course between each class, though the original formula has proved successful enough for it to stay relatively consistent. 

“Each class is adjusted slightly based on AAR input from students, but the overall program has stayed fairly consistent,” said Mercer. 

The course is just one of several hosted by the DMA leadership team each year. Others include new employee orientations and a leaders course. They also manage a year-long mentorship program, matching DMA employees and leaders in a professional development partnership. 

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