Optimizing Personal Career Management

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By CPO2 McBride
Advanced Leadership Programme (ALP)
June 3, 2021

Introducing the Issue

At a minimum, once a year, our members get a 10-minute interview with the career manager (CM). Usually, these 10 minutes are spent discussing current rank level, possible promotion, a career course and future postings. These CM interviews are designed to allow the CM to layout posting plots, fill established billets within career courses to the maximum number, etc. and maintain forecasted promotions in line with trade succession.

So, in context, is the CM managing the trade requirements or is he managing the members requirements?

The intent of this issue is to investigate, using the “Rational Decision-Making Model” (Bentley, 2008, p. 218), how the CAF, and more specifically the Signal Intelligence Specialist (SIGINT Spec) trade, can better empower our juniors to manage their own career path (within reason) and effectively communicate how to set them up for success in the long term.

Are we, as an organization, allowing our members to develop their own personal long-term career goals, or are we making decisions for them?

In the analysis conducted by LCdr A.L.O. Cauty, the report states “It is widely known that members of the CAF pejoratively joke about the career management system; some even go as far as calling their CM – “career manglers”” (Cauty, 2016, p. 1). Although meant as a derogatory label, this is one of the issues that may unravel itself within this paper.

Describing the Context

According to Queens Regulations & Orders (QR&O) 5.01 para c., “A non-commissioned member shall promote the welfare, efficiency and good discipline of all who are subordinate to the member” (DND, 2015). This type of promotion of welfare is well defined within various dimensions of the CF Effectiveness framework (DND, 2005, Figure 2-1, p. 19). Senior leadership within the CAF, need to blend the leadership dimensions as we Lead People and Lead the Institute (DND,2005, p.48), into our daily support to our juniors and enable their personal capacity.

On a day-to-day basis at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Leitrim, Ottawa, the operations building is manned 24/7. A five-shift rotation provides the manning and ability to deliver Signals Intelligence information to the Government of Canada (GoC), the CAF and the intelligence community worldwide. The leadership responsibilities to contribute to this dynamic environment can be quite daunting. We need to get “the right person, at the right time, for the right position, with the right qualification, and for the right reason” (Belanger, 2016, p. 68). Within the preliminary investigation, it appears that habitually what the senior leadership perceives as efficient and beneficial to the member, is perhaps the opposite.

According to research, members within the CFS Leitrim organization work within the tactical and operational levels and the senior leadership work within the strategic level (DND, 2005, p.21). Or at least attempt to.

A survey (Appendix A), posed to a variety of members of the trade should help determine what dimensions of the framework are being mismanaged. Whereas a member’s personal career goals are not interpreted properly to the CM and may be the key enabler to bad decisions (or good?) being made on behalf of the institute and not the member’s well-being (DND, 2005, Table 4-1, p.48) and personal career path.

In order to obtain mission success in a team environment, such as the SIGINT atmosphere, senior leaders need to establish strategic direction & goals (DND, 2005, Table 1, p. 48) in line with GoC intelligence requirements. The breakdown appears to be when we attempt to blend the CF Leadership dimensions with the obligation to also accommodate personal needs in professional development/career system (DND, 2005, Table 1, p. 48).

As part of this attempt to blend the dimensions, and avoid the tension that naturally unravels between them, leaders must be able to balance the values associated with “Mission, people, self” (DND, 2005, p. 20). Not only is mission success imperative, but in the forefront, there should always be “a concern for people and the quality of their conditions of service” (DND, 2005, p. 20).

Mapping the Environment

As noted, when introducing the issue, there is minimal time available for yearly CM interviews. This is not the way to optimize someone’s career. Within the trade, leadership at all levels need to spend more time with junior members and openly discuss with them what they think their career should look like. As the senior leadership, guidance and help should be provided constantly along the way.

In order to create “The Ultimate Sailor” mind map (Appendix C), leadership needs to promote their welfare and efficiency. The mind map depicts four key systems and numerous sub-systems to visualize and portray how to link all the key concepts together.

Career Progression

A CAF member needs to understand and buy-in to their own career progression for their entire career. Members need to consistently develop their own aspirations. They need to look at whether they want to be a shift worker, a day worker or accept what is chosen for them. With all these decisions being made in line with their own skills, education and more importantly at times, their family necessities. For example, “Personal returning from OUTCAN with new skills aren’t being placed in the right positions, they are being placed in positions to accommodate manning requirements” (Sgt, personal communication, Appendix B, Apr 21).


Once a member can ascertain their own goals, they will need the proper guidance. Junior members will require motivation (Bentley, 2008) and constant face to face communication (MacIntyre, 2008). This will assist them in choosing the appropriate training and various specialty paths. Timings of courses, when to achieve that specialty in their career and the implications of not applying at the right time can de-motivate some members. Through the guidance process we need to ensure feedback is taken and given. For example, “However, the communication about if you are a backup and where on the list you are, is lacking” (Cpl, personal communication, Appendix B, Apr 21)


In order to build “The Ultimate Sailor”, leadership need to take responsibility of assisting the member’s career progression and maintain guidance. A leader should act accordingly by being fair with the members through proper mentorship and instilling the proper values in order to build trust. For example, “The most fundamental issue is the overall lack of mentorship. No one is investing their time and experience into shaping the next (or newest) generation of leaders” (WO, personal communication, Appendix B, Apr 21).


Although it’s an individuals’ career progression, it’s imperative that teamwork (Walker, MacIntyre, Bentley 2008, p. 503) remains the forefront of the entire cycle. The dynamics in optimizing personal career management are dependent on teamwork. Both member and leader need to participate in the evolution, create a relationship in order to reach the common goals of the member. Without teamwork and all available resources, there is a chance the member may fail in achieving career goals. For example, “It does seem to me that career progression and promises, seem to be all talk and no action” (Cpl, personal communication, Appendix B, Apr 21).

If all leaders can continue to instil the values and ethics held within the Strong, Security Engaged (SSE) policy (DND, 2017) and abide by QR&O 5.01, (DND, 2015) leadership should all be on the right path to creating “The Ultimate Sailor”.

Leaders need to link these systems and key concepts together to assist juniors in their careers. By putting emphasis on the systems and sub systems, the leader will then be able to establish early on, those select few who stand out amongst their peers and could possibly be associated with succession planning (SP). As noted in the mind map diagram (Appendix C), the links and continuous blending of the systems takes SP into consideration, and particularly when looking at leadership responsibilities. It’s imperative that senior leadership select individuals early in their careers, if possible, so that the member can fully understand the SP process, when is the perfect time to enter SP, at what rank, etc. More importantly the personal commitment required to be part of the evolution between the Tactical Employment Model (TEM) and the Strategic Employment Model for CPO1/CWO (SEM) (DND, 2011).

Analysing the problem

The next step is to analyse the problem and conduct a thorough analysis of the issue. Through this analysis phase, efforts were concentrated on three specific concepts that were relevant to the overall issue.


“A leader must be confident enough, while communicating with others. People must believe the communications made by their leaders. Lack of confidence while communicating, can make team members uncomfortable, and unenthusiastic about their work. Confidence helps a team to work together to achieve desired goals” (McGill, 2015, p. 46).

One of the challenges of the issue is communications (MacIntyre & Charbonneau, 2008). Failing to communicate properly with your troops can lead to poor morale, trust issues and more importantly relationships can breakdown. While reviewing responses from the survey (Appendix B), over 75% of the input made note that there is poor communication within the workplace and even poorer communications between senior NCMs and junior NCMs. A great majority of the decisions being made are strictly on operational requirements and are not taking the members needs into account, nor are leaders using intrinsic motivation (Browne & Walker, 2008, p. 417) to make it enjoyable for themselves!

Senior leaders are not taking the time to understand who their team members and audiences are. (MacIntyre & Charbonneau, 2008) They are not engaging accordingly. When analysing the problem set through a value-based leadership style, Member well-being and commitment constitutes the principal value in the analysis. Members of the survey (Appendix B), were specifically asked “Have you ever sat down with someone senior to you and discussed your personal career path?”. Remarkably and shamefully, a good majority of the replies were a blatant NO!

Team Effectiveness

“Team effectiveness is the capacity of a group of people, usually with complementary skills, to work together to accomplish goals set out by an authority, members, or leaders of the team” (Kelechi Udoagwu, 2020).

In analysing the overall professional issue, it becomes quickly apparent that team effectiveness (Walker, MacIntyre, Bentley, 2008), also plays a key role in the overall performance of the institution. In this analysis phase it’s also imperative to note that the notion of team effectiveness is also heavily reliant on communications. In order to achieve mission success, teams need to be committed, engaged, and supportive. (Walker, MacIntyre, Bentley, 2008, p. 505) This commitment will allow leaders to adjust accordingly and enable the team to shape their dynamics around the task at hand.

Every leader must possess the proper attributes to ensure the team stays together. One of the key values is trust. A team leader needs to build trust amongst his group, look after things such as demonstrating concern for their well-being, representing their interests and be a team player themselves. (Walker, MacIntyre, Bentley, 2008, p. 503)

When looking at team effectiveness, specifically from the top down, we need to also analyse how MWO/CPO2s lead the institute and yet still maintain leadership over the people. The balance between leading the people and the institute is a key attribute to maintain in order to ensure that those above the rank of Sgt continue to be team players and look after the troops.

This will also help integrate the SEM model as we attempt a pull up system rather than a push up system (Belanger, 2016, p. 69), as we continue to ensure the right person, with the right qualification, is chosen for the right position.


“By participating in their leadership, professional, career, and personal development, leaders, as mentors, embrace mentoring as a learning capacity in enhancing individuals' abilities” (Lagace-Roy, 2008, p. 385).

If you were to define mentorship (Lagace-Roy, 2008, p. 379) as a medium to long-term learning relationship founded on respect, honesty, trust, and mutual goals, we notice that some of these key words (trust, respect) have already been discussed in the 1st and 2nd analysis. This leads to a good analogy that every attribute a leader should possess can be blended in order to fully enhance a member’s career and personal development. For a leader to achieve mission success they need to think and act in terms of the larger team.

“Taking care of the subordinates' personal development is an essential aspect of military leadership. Change takes effort, time, and support but it will be beneficial for both the individual and the organization” (Charbonneau, MacIntyre, 2008, p. 363).

Whilst mentoring, and at times, coaching teams, leaders need to continuously concentrate on the five values expressed within the values-based leadership module (DND, 2005, pp. 15-31), in order to enhance their subordinates’ personal development. Continuing on from the question posed within the survey (Appendix A), members were asked whether senior leadership have taken the time to discuss career paths, it’s also key to note that regarding some of the replies, although positive in nature, a great majority of the leaders never followed up.

Presenting the Recommendations

After examining the various responsibilities of CF Leaders (DND, 2005) and reviewing the research, it appears that there is a communication gap, lack of mentoring and team effectiveness amongst senior NCMs when it comes to assisting and guiding junior NCMs and their personal career management. “Unit cohesion is crucial to the ability of military establishments to perform effectively” (Gabriel, 2007, p. 70). Without this cohesion there is an obvious breakdown in effectiveness.

Due to these gaps in the leadership responsibilities, it is recommended that CFS Leitrim and the wider SIGINT Spec Trade create a mentorship program designed at the Sgt level.

The recommended rank of Sergeant (Sgt) was chosen as they are the first-tier senior ranks who have the most direct influence on J1 activities. CAF members at the rank of MCpl receive leadership training during their Primary Leadership Qualification (PLQ) and members at the rank of WO receive their leadership training from their Intermediate Leadership Program (ILP). This creates a learning gap at the rank of Sgt when it pertains to leadership.

The following recommendations should be considered:

Recommendation 1 - Create a mentorship program within the trade and recommend that every member in the SIGINT Spec trade specifically at the rank of Sgt, receive a minimum of 16 hours of professional development and training on communication and more specifically mentorship skills.

Result: The senior trade advisor CWO, in consultation with the Commanding Officer (CO), shall be the main point of contact for the program.

Recommendation 2 - The program should be run in 12-month segments, with the training held in the first two months of the Fiscal Year (FY).

Result: The senior trade advisor should then be able to start to measure progress and the benefits of the training after the first segment.

Recommendation 3 - The CO should budget no less than $5000 per calendar year, with all monies directed towards the mentorship program.

Result: This reasonable allocation of funding should be utilized at the beginning of the next fiscal year, with an achievable goal of starting the program within 18 months.

Recommendation 4 - The CO and the Senior Trade Advisor must communicate to the Sgts and the rest of the trade, the values and rewards of a mentorship program and why it is relevant to the responsibilities of leadership towards the development of junior members within the CAF.

Result: This communication, if done properly, should change the attitudes of senior leadership and ensure that the “behavioural norms for their subordinates are consistent with the military ethos and values” (DND, 2005, Table 1).

Recommendation 5 - The trade advisor should establish this program over the long term with the intention of reviewing the effectiveness of it every 24 months.

Result: If the program is maintained and consistently managed, the results should start to show when the junior NCMs display interest in their own career progression. This timeline will assist their own choices for specialization within the trade and create career paths that will only guide them to success, and at times, assist them in the choice for SP.


The conclusion with this issue, is that there is indeed a severe lack from leadership to abide by QR&O 5.01 “A non-commissioned member shall promote the welfare, efficiency and good discipline of all who are subordinate to the member” (DND, 2015).

Junior members welfare, and more specifically the guidance provided to them in optimizing their personal career management is not being looked after.

It appears that senior leadership are more focused on the tactical, operational and strategic levels and probably to no fault of their own, miss the mark when it comes to the first principle in Duty with Honour “commitment to CF members and their families” (DND, 2009).

In an article published by the Canadian Military Journal and authored by MWO Stackhouse, his analysis determined that “units must ensure new soldiers feel safe, comfortable, and welcomed. When our soldiers feel comfortable, they will feel as though they are a valuable part of the team; if they are a part of the team, the team will be successful” (Stackhouse, 2021).

List of References

Belanger, Necole. (2016). The Accidental Strategic Chief Petty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer, Canadian Military Journal, 16(3), (pp. 66-71). Retrieved from http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vol16/no3/PDF/CMJ163Ep66.pdf

Bentley, B. & Walker, R.W. (2008), B. & Walker, R.W. (Ed.), The Military Leadership Handbook. Toronto: Dundurn Press

Browne. P. & Walker. R. (2008), “Motivation”, in Horn, B. & Walker, R.W. (Ed.), The Military Leadership Handbook. (pp. 414-428), Toronto: Dundurn Press.

Cauty, A.L.O (2016). An Analysis of the CAF Career Management System, Canadian Forces College, https://www.cfc.forces.gc.ca/259/290/318/305/cauty.pdf

Department of National Defence. (2005), Chapter 2 – Values-Based Leadership, in Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Conceptual Foundations. (pp. 15-31), Kingston: Canadian Defence Academy and Canadian Forces Leadership Institute

Department of National Defence. (2005), Chapter 4 – Responsibilities of CF Leaders, in Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Conceptual Foundations. (pp. 45-56), Kingston: Canadian Defence Academy and Canadian Forces Leadership Institute

Department of National Defence. (2009), Duty with Honour. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/duty-with-honour-2009.html

Department of National Defence. (2011). Beyond Transformation: The CPO1/CWO Strategic Employment Model, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/beyond-transformation-the-cpo1-cwo-strategic-employment-model.html

Department of National Defence. (2017). Strong, secure, engaged : Canada's defence policy, http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/mdn-dnd/D2-386-2017-eng.pdf

GABRIEL, Richard A. The Warrior's Way: A Treatise on Military Ethics. (Kingston, Ontario): Canadian Defence Academy Press, (2007). "Produced for the Canadian Defence Academy Press by 17 Wing Winnipeg Publishing Office." Retrieved from https://www.doullbooks.com/product/105551/The-Warriors-Way--A-Treatise-on-Military-Ethics---GABRIEL-Richard-A-GOSSELIN-JPYD-Major-General-foreword

Lagacé-Roy, D. (2008), “Mentoring”, in Horn, B. & Walker, R.W. (Ed.), The Military Leadership Handbook. (pp. 378-390), Toronto: Dundurn Press.

MacIntyre. A. & Charbonneau, D. (2008), “Communication”, in Horn, B. & Walker, R.W. (Ed.), The Military Leadership Handbook. (pp. 114-128), Toronto: Dundurn Press.

McGill University. (2020), 9 (Online) Effective Leadership is all About Communicating Effectively: Connecting Leadership and Communication, (p. 46), retrieved from https://www.mcgill.ca/engage/files/engage/effective_leadership_is_all_about_communicating_effectively_luthra_dahiya_2015.pdf

Queens Regulations & Orders: Volume I - Chapter 5 Duties and Responsibilities of Non-Commissioned Members, 5.01 para C., https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/policies-standards/queens-regulations-orders/vol-1-administration/ch-5-duties-responsibilities-non-commissioned-members.html

Timothy S. Stackhouse (2021). Mentoring and Motivating Millennials and Post-Millennials at the Unit and Sub-Unit Levels, Canadian Military Journal, 21(2), pp. 59-63, http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vol21/no2/PDF/CMJ212Ep59.pdf

Udoagwu, Kelechi. (2020), 6 Different Team Effectiveness Models to Understand Your Team Better. Retrieved from https://www.wrike.com/blog/6-different-team-effectiveness-models/

Walker, R.W., MacIntyre, A. & Bentley, B. (2008), “Teams”, in Horn, B. & Walker, R.W. (Ed.), The Military Leadership Handbook. (pp. 494-511), Toronto: Dundurn Press

List of References

Appendix A – Survey Questionnaire

Appendix B – Sample Survey answers

Appendix C – Optimizing personal career management Mind Map

Appendix A

Survey Questionnaire

The following questionnaire was sent out as a survey to determine the current situation within the trade. The survey was sent to a diverse group, which included senior and junior ranks.

Appendix B

Sample Survey answers

The following are excerpts from the survey conducted April 2021.

NOTE: This is only a sample of results from the survey. Names and location have been withheld for privacy concerns.

Appendix C

Optimizing personal career management Mind Map

The following is a pictorial of the mind map centred around my issue.

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