Established through a partnership with New Mexico State University (NMSU), the WIPP Leadership Academy provides four weeks of training and development through a wide range of curriculum taught by NMSU faculty, WIPP management, and other presenters.
The academy supports a commitment by Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the WIPP management and operations contractor, to develop its employees through skills, training, coaching, mentoring, and effective leadership opportunities. An estimated 450 employees from the EM Carlsbad Field Office and NWP have graduated from the academy since its inception in 2015.
“If we want good leaders, we have to develop them. We can’t just hope it happens,” NWP Human Resources Manager Denis Asay said.
NWP Operations Manager Gene Balsmeier says that leadership is not about whether you were born with the charisma that makes you a leader.
“To me, leadership is a lifelong learning path of recognizing those skills and techniques to help them become better leaders,” Balsmeier said. “We need humility, vulnerability, and commitment. Titles don’t change that.”
The academy is intended to help facilitate continuous improvement in a safety conscious work environment. Participants complete team-building exercises and other activities that require accountability and help them apply what they learn in the academy.
The curriculum includes topics such as nuclear safety culture; human performance improvement; communicating for leadership success; resolving workplace conflicts; leadership and leaving a legacy; time management; effective presentation techniques; leadership styles and personality types; regulatory compliance; fire protection and engineering; transuranic waste handling and facility operations; work planning and maintenance; contractor and quality assurance; human and information resources; project management essentials; and emergency management procedures.
“I believe that the WIPP Leadership Academy is very close to what I see high-performing commercial nuclear plants do for their employees,” said Michael Coyle, a nuclear safety consultant who helped develop the academy.
John Giblin, with NWP’s human Resources and organization development group, is passionate about the academy’s success. He says managing and leading are both necessary for an organization's success, but they are not the same.
“We manage things: protocol, procedure, and policy. We lead people to do the right things,” he said. “Better and more trustworthy leaders, managers, and supervisors equal a safer and better WIPP.”
WIPP program leaders are able to measure the efficacy of the program through follow-up comments.
“A frequent comment from academy participants is that they wish they had been through the program at some time previously in their life,” former NWP Human Resources Manager Dana Dorr said. “They feel that the issues, failures, and problems they encountered in the past could have been avoided or performed differently.”
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