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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 18, 2022

GS-13 civilians: Grow your leadership skills with SLTC

By Lt. Merrill Gutowski, Coast Guard Office of Leadership

Senior Leader Transition Course (SLTC) is a newly designed leadership development opportunity offered by the Leadership Development Center in New London, Conn., specifically for GS-13 civilian employees and lieutenant commanders (both active duty and reserve). Over four weeks of online work and two weeks in the classroom, students build their skills in strategic and systems thinking, decision making, shared leadership, and change management. 

Jordan Yahiro is a GS-13 Operations Research Analyst in the Office of Strategic Workforce Planning and HR Analytics (CG-126) at Coast Guard Headquarters. He has worked with the Coast Guard for almost two years, and prior to that, was a management consultant supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Jordan made the shift to the Coast Guard to pursue his passion for data science while also continuing to work for DHS. He attended SLTC in August 2021. Six months later, we caught up with him to hear his thoughts on the course. 

What was the most impactful experience while attending SLTC? 

A big part of the class was having many group discussions where we applied a method of learning called “Metacognative Reflection” where we ask four questions: What? So what? Now what? And what is my role? We did that for pretty much every topic we covered. With that framework in the group discussions, I was able to hear a lot of really powerful stories of how other classmates demonstrated our learnings and their leadership in the past, and how they plan to apply what they learn when they return to their units. I really enjoyed getting that exposure to the leadership that already exists within the Coast Guard. 

What was your biggest takeaway in the months since you graduated from the course? 

During SLTC, we spent dedicated time figuring out how to articulate our personal values and also align those with the Coast Guard mission and values. Now that I’m back in my office, I feel like I learned and I’m continuing to learn how to express a genuine personal vision of my leadership that’s based on my strengths instead of trying to fit in a mold. 

Do you have an example of a time where you applied what you learned in SLTC to your work? 

A few months after graduating from SLTC, I was tasked with a project that was very high visibility, with a pretty tight timeline. Our goal was to gather information from dozens of disparate data sources. I was able to approach that project using some of the concepts like partnering and systems thinking to collaborate with other offices, both inside and outside my directorate, and even outside of the Headquarters building. That involved a lot of quick communication and reaching outside my office to accomplish the objectives we needed to in the time we had available. 

What would you tell other civilian employees that may be considering attending a leadership course like SLTC? 

“I would encourage civilians who are eligible to take it to do so because working on your leadership skills allows you to accomplish more than possibly any other skill we can train ourselves in. Through leadership, you inspire and bring others along toward accomplishing a common goal, and in that sense, it makes you a really valuable employee. Of course, there are also the personal benefits of advancing your own career and working toward your professional goals too.  

It may seem like a challenge to leave your office to attend a two-week course, but from what I have seen, we have the support of Coast Guard senior leadership. They’ve dedicated a lot of resources to sending so many of us to this course, and I think the increased productivity as a leader and a team member from attending the course more than makes up for the two weeks of missed work during the residency portion of the class. 

I was a little bit apprehensive when I first arrived in New London for the course because I knew most of the students would be officers and it was my first time on the Coast Guard Academy campus. But my classmates definitely made me feel welcome and it was a great experience. I think all the material covered in SLTC is equally as applicable to civilians as it is to military members. It may be uncomfortable to travel to a new environment and explore these topics with new people, but I would say that you can’t really grow or develop yourself personally or professionally without intentionally putting yourself outside of your comfort zone.” 

Yahiro's supervisor, Mr. Craig Swirbliss, chief of the Office of Strategic Workforce Planning and HR Analytics, shared some observations on Jordan’s performance and leadership following SLTC, “Jordan came aboard as a highly-skilled and ambitious operations research analyst, but was brand new to federal government. SLTC provided exactly what he needed to better understand the bigger picture – allowing him to shift from focusing on tactical, day-to-day issues to focusing on strategic issues that affect the entire Coast Guard. I can also see that Jordan recognized that even though he is not in a leadership position, he has leadership power in all of his interactions at his level, and felt empowered to take action, however small. He has since been more diligent in coordinating his actions externally as well as messaging his intentions out to leadership when needed. He impressively volunteered for several collaterals that are outside his prime duties, including CG-1 Leadership Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC) Chair."

Yahiro's work has been recognized personally by the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support – work that involved situational leadership and initiative as well as coordination skills outside of his office, directorate, and component. I know that taking SLTC provided confidence to navigate those waters with ease and skill! 

Together with his strong work ethic and positive attitude, Jordan now has the framework to becoming a senior leader in the Coast Guard. In short, I am overwhelmingly excited that Jordan had the opportunity to take this leadership course at such an early junction in his very promising career.”