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By Tonya Johnson
DCMA Public Affairs
Barbara Runnels knows that teambuilding exercises are important to strengthening her employees’ communication skills.
“Employees are apt to engage more with their customers and other team members when they know who they are,” said Runnels, who is the Contracts group lead at Defense Contract Management Agency Manassas. “Teambuilding exercises allow individuals to hone their communication skills with each other.”
Runnels, who supervises approximately 50 employees, has been a part of the agency and its predecessors for 35 years. Since she came into her current position in September 2015, she has hosted various events during the year to help her employees bond with one another, use their analytical and problem-solving skills, and learn to think outside of the box, which is important when her contract administrators need to assist their customers.
“Teamwork is created to familiarize employees with each other,” stated Runnels. “I ascribe to the ideology that to know a person is to love them. We are more apt to listen and be willing to resolve conflict if we know each other.”
In addition, Runnels has given her employees personality tests, which also allows employees to understand more about themselves and each other.
“I sent the link to the personality test in order to begin the team members on the journey of knowing who they are,” she said. “The link is to a Myers-Briggs type personality assessment. Later, I scheduled a meeting in our largest conference room.
“The day prior to the meeting, I structured the room in a classroom-type setting that included information on each of the 16 personality types. Employees came in and were seated at the table that corresponded with their personality type. During the meeting, we discussed the personality types and asked each employee if what they discovered about themselves after the test was really them. In other words, did they see themselves in the test?”
Last October, Runnels held an event in which employees were broken into teams to create any thing they wanted after being given certain items. The teams were given clothes pins, paper towel spools, marshmallows, popsicle sticks, twine, tape, paper clips, rubber bands, two by four blocks of wood, glue, macaroni, Styrofoam cups, aluminum foil and construction paper.
There were four teams, with an average of 10 employees per team. Each team had to come up with a name, and some of the names included the Johnny Rockets and the Bumble Bees. Two of the projects included a rocket and a bridge. The Bumble Bees won with their bridge project and received a plaque for their teamwork. The projects were judged based on originality, use of material, project meaning, supervisor contribution and structural integrity.
“Each team had an opportunity to make a presentation about their projects,” said Runnels. “The judges, who were senior leaders, questioned each team with the overall objective of how well employees worked together. The judges asked questions such as, ‘Who emerged as a leader? Did they vote the leader in or did the team just start following the person with the most charisma? Was there any conflict, and if so, how was it resolved? Did everyone contribute?’”
According to Runnels, coordinating events throughout the year also allows supervisors to better understand what matters most to their employees and improve morale.
“These exercises also allow me and the team supervisors to get to know the employees better,” she said. “Knowing what the employee values puts us in a position to motivate and coach the best from the employee. It also prevents us from making the mistake of devaluing what they value.”
Runnels said DCMA Manassas is a great place to work and the leaders believe in constant communication and welcomes feedback from all employees. She said she has learned through her various leadership training the importance of helping employees develop their leadership skills.
“DCMA Manassas is a contract management office where not only the performance of daily duties gets attention,” she said. “Our employees are also being groomed to take the helm at any stage of their career.
“I have been fortunate enough to participate in a couple of leadership development programs and I wanted to pass along the information that I’ve learned over the years. I was a part of the Tomorrow’s Leaders initiative and I was selected to attend the Naval War College. Each time there was a real focus on leadership. I have used these tools as a leader and I want to pass these tips on to others here to pay it forward.”
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