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Mindset is everything

I Corps CSM uses podcast to help develop future leaders

I Corps Command Sergeant Major Shawn Carns believes that a mindset of listening to understand is an important aspect of leadership. Photo credit: JM Simpson

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Over 30 years ago, a non-commissioned officer took an interest in then Pvt. Shawn Carns. It's a lesson he has not forgotten.

"He is the NCO who made me the soldier that has allowed me to get to where I am right now," began now I Corps' Command Sergeant Major Carns, "and leadership is a relationship based on trust."

Over the past three decades, Carns has applied and used this philosophy to make a difference in the lives of the soldiers and their families at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Hawaii and Alaska. 

One example, Carns explained, that he is setting for other sergeant majors and non-commissioned officers is that they should do interviews to further their points of view, just like officers do.

"I think it's important for a non-commissioned officer to do this, and I want to set the example to show them that it can be done," continued Carns. "I am getting out of my comfort zone, and I am setting this example so that others will do the same thing."

Getting out of his comfort zone has led Carns to host Connect First, a monthly podcast he began in November 2022 that focuses on leadership, building relationships and development for the future leaders of the Army.

"It's important to not just do interviews but to do podcasts as well," explained Carns. "When we talk about leadership, I want soldiers to watch and listen so they learn how to lead and how to become a better leader."

He cited an example of how helping a soldier with a housing problem underlines how leadership on a foundation of trust.

"I went to his house and talked with him," began Carns. "I didn't come in and just say ‘show me the problem.' I asked about his family and his children - I talked with him to get to know him as a person; I built a personal relationship with him."

After the meeting, Carns contacted the appropriate individuals at JBLM and the problem was fixed.

"If you care for a soldier, he or she will stay in the military," he continued. "I will not force retention down anyone's throat, but if I care for you as a leader, you will want to stay in this organization."

Carns also added that he is getting better at asking questions.

"Leaders have to be present in the conversations; they've got to be active listeners," he said. "Don't just listen to reply; listen to understand - and then ask questions."

He added that his biggest challenge has been maintaining relationships with soldiers not just at JBLM but in Alaska, Hawaii and partners in the Pacific, to say nothing of the civilians he works with.

"Build relationships, both personally and professionally," concluded Carns. "Set the example for others to follow because everyone is watching you every single day. Mindset is everything, so take care of your soldiers and they will take care of you."

To listen to Connect First, google and type Connect First into the search podcast title box.

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