Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Two years ago, a group of Army captains found a combination of pizza and beer was a catalyst for an engaging discussion on innovative methods of leader development. While this topic is normally associated with whiteboards and working groups, the good-idea fairy whipped her wand at this eager group whose members wanted to combine lessons learned from company command with the material they were studying in graduate school.

At this meeting, the idea for a podcast called Leaders Huddle emerged and the project was initiated several months later.

As we near the 18-month anniversary of the podcast’s launch, the Leaders Huddle team provides a behind-the-scenes look, and information, about how you can start your own podcast.

Since identifying current gaps in junior officer development programs—primarily in the areas of training management, supply and maintenance management, and career management—our goal is to help fill that void. Recognizing the opportunity to create a new unique service to the profession, the group posed the idea of developing a widely published podcast that would connect the force in professional discussion and break down the barriers of sharing best practices and leader development. Three months later, the group pitched the concept to the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning at West Point, managers of the Company Command and Platoon Leader online forums.

Within three months, the core production team recorded four episodes and officially launched on iTunes and Google Play in June 2016. Since then, we’ve released an episode every other Tuesday. We’ve received encouraging responses and feedback from our audience.

Podcast Audiences Growing

Recent research by the Pew Research Center indicates that while podcasts are still a budding medium for content, the percentage of Americans who regularly listen to them continues to grow each year. ITunes alone hosts over 200,000 unique podcasts with topics ranging from learning a new language to gardening. Despite all the career and leadership development-type podcasts, we could not find one focused on development of Army junior officers and the organizations they lead.

Podcast episodes are easy to develop, produce, edit and distribute. Listeners simply subscribe to a podcast channel and receive new episodes upon release on their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Our type of “on demand” leader development content appeals to the hyperconnected millennial junior leader who desires choices for additional development beyond what their operational and institutional experiences provide. Listening to podcasts, similar to listening to audiobooks, helps fill dead time with actionable insight for the aspiring leader seeking personal and professional growth. Our episodes help connect ideas in units across formations to accelerate learning and development for our listeners.

Key Ingredients

High-quality content combined with insightful discussions and consistent episode publishing are the key ingredients to successful podcasts. The potential topics of discussion for the Leaders Huddle podcast are limited only by the imaginations of our producers. Our production slate includes self-produced episodes and cultivating content through reading professional publications and blog posts and inviting the writers to share their message on our platform.

Our most popular episodes feature topics such as leading in a digital age, mentoring and coaching relationships, the art of communication, transitioning to field grade assignments and effective NCO-officer relationships. One of the most popular episodes to date was an interview with Col. Kevin McAninch about his September/October 2016 Military Review article on utilizing Multi-Source Assessment Feedback surveys as a catalyst for leader development. Episodes featuring members of the Military Writers Guild and the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum connect other digital-learning networks with our listeners.


Capt. Micah J. Klein, left, and Capt. David Weart record a Leaders Huddle podcast with blogger Capt. Thomas Meyer.
(Credit: U.S. Army/Tom Morel)

Internally produced episodes focus on providing insight into topics including effective training management, command supply discipline, evaluation support forms and serving as an investigation officer. These more technically focused episodes feature actionable advice and lessons learned that you will likely not find in a Center for Army Lessons Learned manual. Recently, Capt. Joshua Bowen, creator of the 3x5 Leadership blog, joined the production team, and future episodes will feature his work on leadership-focused topics.

Creating, Editing, Publishing

The Leaders Huddle production team uses Google Drive for file-sharing and production scheduling and utilizes Slack for routine communication. We record using either Audacity or Logic Pro with an ATR2100 microphone. Episode recordings done with virtual guests occur over Skype using freeware to record the audio file. Editing occurs using Audacity or Logic Pro and edited files are uploaded to a group Dropbox account for the team to listen to, provide feedback and package show notes. We afford our guests the opportunity to listen to the edited file before posting.

Publishing the podcast file occurs by posting the final MP3 file to the Junior Officer Forum’s WordPress site. This site acts a host from which iTunes and Google Play pull the files and publish on their respective platforms. Once an episode releases, the links are shared through our social media feeds.

Getting Started

We’ve explained this process to a handful of other leaders interested in developing their own podcasts. We hope by sharing here to show that developing, managing and publishing your own podcast is simple and intuitive. Perhaps the best reference to get started is John Lee Dumas’ (Army veteran and host of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast) free 14-day course found at his website (www.eofire.com/fpc). There are even podcasts on how to develop and run your own podcast. We encourage other potential podcasters to take the leap. The best time to launch your new idea or passion project is now.

The Leaders Huddle podcast is done on Army time using Army resources and therefore does not have financial sponsors. The best way to support a podcast is by leaving a rating on iTunes and by sharing the podcast through word-of-mouth.

You can connect with the Leaders Huddle team through our Twitter handle @leaders_huddle, our Facebook page Leaders Huddle and our group email [email protected].