The Eagle Way

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Recently, I was given the responsibility of training twenty Leaders and Members from the Northwest region of Team RWB in our EAGLE (Empathetic, Authentic, Genuine, Loyal, Effective) model of Leadership Development.  For this training, I didn’t reserve a conference room, instead I reserved snowshoes. I wanted to challenge them to literally and figuratively move through our EAGLE model in an Authentic way. I wanted to lead through learning.

I am a veteran myself and admittedly, I am not the best leader out there; in fact, I am likely closer to the “follower” end of the scale.  But, I have a burning desire to learn more about leadership and push others to do the same thing.  I believe that Leadership Development, or the pursuit of it, is an incredibly enriching experience to go through.  It doesn’t matter if your aspirations are to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or to voluntarily lead a small chapter of a non-profit organization. Studying leadership is key to personal growth.

How did I accomplish this with no board room, no PowerPoint slides, or without an excessive number of handouts?  First, I surrounded myself with a supportive team. I had my counterpart, Cody Sohn, there to help me craft the right and left limits of the weekend, and make sure EAGLE was the constant goal of the weekend.  Cody and I knew this camp was going to be different. This was the first winter camp in Team RWB history. We would also be integrating EAGLE in a different way, and would have three different shops from the national team all at one camp, actively engaging with eagles.  To sum it up, we were going to show our campers the Eagle Way to developing as a leader and as a person. So, we recruited Dan Brostek, our Director of Marketing, Megan King our Development Director and Chris Schmitt, a NW Eagle Leader Fellow, to help with the camp.

Chris was asked to plan and guide a snowshoe trek that would be challenging for everyone and actually test and apply all aspects of EAGLE in a real-life situation for the campers.  Dan’s role was to document our story and find creative ways to tell it to all that would listen. He killed it – just check out our Instagram feed for proof. Megan’s role was to provide oversight into the delivery of our story and to engage our partners in and around the Bend area.  Again, mission accomplished. As a result of her accomplishment, Gerber Gear came through big time with limited edition personalized knives for everyone in attendance. Thank you, Natasha.

The Leadership Development piece was a bit tricky given that we weren’t going to be in a traditional learning environment.  We were going to be on a snowshoe trail that we were breaking ourselves for the majority of the weekend, therefore, Cody and I had to be creative and tactful with our delivery.  

The design started a couple of weeks before when we developed the theme of the camp with Sarah Roberts, our boss, who just recently gave birth to her sweet little boy and couldn’t be at camp.  The theme developed out of a prior conversation around Leadership Sarah had with her husband, Jeff. I wasn’t present for the conversation, but know that at one point, he told Sarah, “a leader’s job is to set the stage and allow others to dance on it…”.  That was it, we had our theme. “Leaders set the stage for others to dance on…”. Cody and I took this to heart; we knew that our job for that weekend was to build a stage.

We started by envisioning what our individual dances would look like if we were given a stage to dance on.  The first thing we came up with was, Why, why would we be dancing?  Next was What would the dance look like and then How would we do it.  Shout-out to Simon Sinek here.  That was it, we had our whole weekend planned out.  Now we had to apply it to Team RWB and keep it in line with EAGLE.  Too simple, right? Well, it wasn’t; it was a heck of a task and we racked our brains until we finally realized that we already had the shell of our dance choreographed.  It came from a conversation I had with Sarah a few weeks before she left. The two of us outlined three simple, reflective, challenging, and inspiring questions.

  1.     Why are you a leader / member of Team RWB?
  2.     What is your elevator speech?
  3.     How do you engage veterans in your community?

These questions may seem simple and not too challenging, but when you surround them with EAGLE, they became our guide to leadership development that weekend.

The first question, Why are you a leader / member of Team RWB, was designed to stimulate self-reflection and self-awareness while giving the person a view into their motivating factor behind being at this camp.  This was our authentic self in action piece. At Team RWB when we talk about being Authentic, we generally say it’s knowing yourself and having a solid idea of what drives you.

The second question, What is your elevator speech, explored aspects of Genuine; or how you present yourself to others. This is where we challenged our leaders to interact with others and draw their own connections with our mission and eagle ethos.  At Team RWB, we say that being Genuine is an ability to give your authentic self and receive others where they are.

The third question, How do you engage veterans in your community?  This one seemed to be the one people wanted to talk about the most.  It was clear that they wanted to learn from each other. This one has a bit of Authentic, Genuine, and Empathy built into it.  We wanted them to engage with each other and and really get into a discussion around who Team RWB is and to talk about the positive impact we are having around the country and specifically in our region.

The Theme of our weekend was the Loyalty and Effective pieces.  They had to truly believe in Team RWB, our mission, and our Eagle Ethos in order to accept the challenge Cody and I laid out in front of them, to get up on that stage.  In this case our stage was the snowshoeing trail. The Effective side was their personal dance on that stage.  Or, their ability to lead themselves and follow others throughout the weekend.  I truly believe that these two pieces can only be achieved after extensive self-reflection and true understanding of the people around you.  Although the theme came first in our delivery, it was the last thing to be accomplished that weekend. Our leaders learned how to be Effective in their communities.

When they reflect on this weekend, my hope is that they will recognize their accomplishments and take a piece of the EAGLE model forward with them in their journey of growth.  I hope that they will celebrate the joy of climbing a mountain with twenty other eagles. My hope for them is that when they look back, they are able to say, my team got me up that mountain, and my leadership showed me how to enjoy it.

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