DOD Coaching Week Promotes Holistic Approach to Professional Development > U.S. Department of Defense > Story

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The Defense Department recently hosted a series of events aimed at educating leaders and the workforce on the value of coaching for promoting and sustaining professional growth.   

The first ever DOD International Coaching Week featured discussions on topics ranging from integrating experiential learning in leadership development to how coaching bolsters resilience and mental toughness.   

The series of events aligned with the coaching theme: building ready, resilient leaders for great power competition.  

Experienced coaches and managers of DOD-component coaching programs were on hand at the Pentagon for virtual and in-person discussions with DOD employees seeking to learn more about the value of a wholistic approach to professional development.  

“My goal as a coach is to help you live your life on purpose, with purpose,” said Mark Dupont, the principal deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for privacy, civil liberties and transparency and DOD’s senior intelligence oversight official.    

Rather than focusing on professional development separate from other aspects of a client’s life, coaches focus on the whole person and take a tailored approach to helping their clients solve problems and effectively manage transitions.   

Coaches differ from other career development personnel, such as supervisors and mentors, because coaches facilitate a client-driven relationship where the coach is more of a listener rather than a speaker.   

Coaches aim to challenge a client’s assumptions and lead clients down their individual paths to problem solving and assist clients in achieving greater clarity about their own thoughts, emotions, actions and people and situations around them.   

DOD has incorporated coaching as part of its broad suite of professional development tools through departmentwide and component and military service-level programs that match certified coaches with military and DOD civilian personnel.  

DOD coaches require a minimum of 60 hours of accredited coach training and 10 hours of mentor-coach training.   

Melissa Pagar, the DOD’s coaching program manager provides support and guidance to the components, agencies and field activity organizations. Her goal is to ensure that coaching is democratized across the DOD.  

A key aim of the Pentagon event was to spread awareness not only to potential clients, but also to those who want to become coaches.   

“Our inaugural International Coaching Week theme was meant to be a strategic call to the Department of Defense,” Pagar said. “Coaching is a vital tool that has been linked to positive outcomes such as increased employee engagement, resiliency, and retention. A successful coaching engagement promotes and sustains professional growth and competence.”  

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Alain Mukendi, a professionally certified coach who traveled from Japan to attend the coaching week, said the series of events further underscored the value of coaching.  

“I’m deeply appreciative of the chance to participate in both the in-person DOD International Coaching event and the various virtual discussions held throughout the week,” Mukendi said. “This experience has granted me a profound understanding and admiration for the significance of coaching, particularly within the DOD community. As we strive to cultivate ready and resilient leaders for great power competition, coaching emerges as an indispensable tool.”  

Dupont, who is also a professionally certified coach, said both coaches and their clients are key to shaping an engaged workforce.  

Dupont said a key goal of coaching is helping clients break through assumptions that have led to well over a majority of the U.S. workforce reporting that they are not engaged at work.   

“Part of the reason they’re not engaged is because when they come to work, people make assumption about what we can do and how we can contribute, and they direct us to do things,” he said.   

That top-down approach often leads to a tendency to do enough to accomplish the task, but not necessarily contribute at a higher level.  

“Part of coaching is just helping people break down those assumptions — break down those barriers, so that we can configure new ways to encourage engagement,” Dupont said. “And when we start talking to people about how they can contribute, as opposed to directing them what to do, then we will find that there’s a whole bunch of trapped potential in the Department of Defense.  

“Coaching is a tool — it’s not the only tool, but it’s a tool — that allows us to reach and release of some of that untapped potential,” he said.  

Pagar said the department’s investment in coaching is key to maintaining the United States’ warfighting edge.   

“Coaching empowers individuals to be better teammates and ultimately will separate the U.S. Department of Defense from other forces, providing that soft-skill edge that no other force has been able to tap into,” she said.    

For more information: 

Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Services

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