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Mike Ensch

    Im not so sure that Im a guy who "has found the path to personal success." Actually, I sometimes think Im more of a guy who couldnt hang on to the really great jobs he once had the good fortune to occupy early in his career. One thing for sure, I am proud to work for the Army Corps of Engineers, so Ill try to capture a few observations Ive made along the way. Some of these are personal credos, some are simply lessons learned, but theyve served to guide me through the years. Here you go:

  • Whatever job you choose to do, do it to the absolute best of your ability - build the best nature trail; develop the best OMP; create the best shoreline plan; write the best Title 36 (even if Parsley thinks he has to change it 14 years later). Just put your all into it and be amenable to changes along the way.

  • Invest in people (dont laugh  this isnt the Vision statement). People are the best legacy anyone can leave to the organization. If you get into a position where you can select, or influence the selections of, people, spend concerted effort and time on each individual selection.

  • Know your project. Know everything about it. Dont leave the dam to someone else, understand why Geo-Tech is concerned about seepage; why H&H controls the releases. Know how the lock operates. Lead tours through the powerhouse (youll have to go through earlier yourself to know what its all about). If you cant see the big picture, someone else will be able to.

  • Have Passion - for the Agency; for the program. It will engender your eagerness to learn. Learn the history  of your project, your region, the district, the agency. It gives you perspective. Have you read the Corps book about the Lewis and Clark journey? Its obviously not a "Lonesome Dove" caliber novel, but it is a great chapter in the Nations and, more specifically, the Corps' history.

  • Trust people. If you ask them to do something, let them do it. It will turn out fine.

  • Develop a network. Use it regularly. When in training classes, get to know your classmates, their projects, their accomplishments. Then keep in touch. Go see them.

  • Support the field. If you choose to go to a District or Division or (shudder) Headquarters office, remember the field. Do not ever lose that thought. The field is the foundation of the agency.

  • Visit other projects/Districts. Learn from them. Steal (politely) from them. One of the best things we had going was peer reviews. If peer reviews cant formally be done, do them informally. Go see other projects!

  • Participate in Training  when you go, participate fully. Know the course, why its taught, whos in the class, what they do. Learn from the whole experience. Then, if its in your field, offer to teach. Teachings a killer, but you learn the darndest things.

  • Be Mobile  no one wants to hear this, but it does help. Ive been blessed with having a wonderful wife who made moves easy. We were both eager for each new experience. And the moves came at a time when my family could do it. Tough decisions, but necessary. A corollary I heard a few years ago and have given to more than one roomful of people: Take this same roomful and in 5 years, one third will be gone; one third will be in same exact position; and one third will have moved up. Mobility can influence that curve if up is the way you want to go.

    The last items Ill offer consist of a handwritten list, on one page, of some aphorisms that I have inside one drawer of my desk. I read one or two, or all, of these, every time I open that drawer. Theyre not mine alone, since Ive blatantly stolen each one, but I use them daily.

    For consideration:

    • Be consistent.
    • Dont assume.
    • Think to the future.
    • Have the Corps' best interest in mind.
    • Seek opportunity, but be ready to receive responsibility.

    For those less fortunate and confined, or soon to be confined, in an office situation:

    • Read beforehand.
    • Read. Read again. Understand.
    • Delegate.

    For you chargers, heres a couple:

    • Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.
    • Forgiveness is easier to get than permission (its an old saw, applicable in only certain situations, but something necessary to remember on just one or two of those very special occasions).

    Some general observations:

    • Experience  what you get when you dont get what you want.
    • Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from bad decisions.
    • Hope springs eternal, but hope is not a strategy.

    Last, from a DE I really respected:

    • The best thing in the Corps is pride. The worst thing in the Corps is pride.

    Mike Ensch
    Nashville District
    Headquarters, Chief of Operations

 
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