Fort Belvoir, Va., Feb. 2, 2021 —
Editor's Note: This article is part of the Black History Month Series.
LaTonya Johnson, Financial Liaison Advisor (FLA), Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Mi. credits her mother and a male cousin for influencing her to become the person she is today. As a teenager and young adult, her cousin encouraged her to educate herself in things of interest. He believed she should learn as much as possible about anything she might consider doing one day. His influence is probably why she always volunteers for things or continually reads leadership books, articles, blogs, watches TED Talks or other videos on leadership. These activities support her desire to learn as much as possible about subjects of interest.
LaTonya’s mother, on the other hand, encourages her (still today) to be who she is and to allow others to get to know her. Her mom says LaTonya is really reserved, which doesn’t allow her “greatness” to always come through during interactions with other people and she may miss out on opportunities if she doesn’t open up more. Her mom also reminds her that she is a good person, a nice person, one that others want to get to know. However, LaTonya has always been a little apprehensive about revealing too much about herself outside of her circle, thinking others wouldn’t really understand or appreciate her background or that no one is really interested in knowing that much about her. “As I’ve gotten older and gained more experience, I have opened up some, and I see the benefit of it,” stated LaTonya. “I’ve been able to form great working relationships, and a few friendships, with many of my co-workers, where mutual respect and trust abound.”
Nowhere has opening up been more important than when she became a supervisory auditor. She needed to let her team get to know her, but more importantly, she needed to know them. She had to make a choice: either do what it takes to be an effective supervisor or be herself and focus only on the work. She took a chance to be vulnerable by letting her guard down some. As she began opening up more, sharing her values, perspective, or even a personal anecdote or story, she noticed her team members doing the same. They got to know each other on another level and fostered deeper relationships. They became more comfortable working together, and it allowed her to better understand what her team needed and expected from their supervisor. Opening up made LaTonya a better supervisor.
LaTonya always tries to make a difference, be an example, and passes her lessons learned on to others. She’s serves as a mentor to several younger family members, and she has also mentored several new hires at DCAA, before DCAA’s official Mentoring program was established. “It feels really good when you can teach, encourage, or influence someone to do a thing the right way, and they understand and agree,” says LaTonya. “I’m hopeful that if you were to ask any of them about me, they would say I made a difference in their life.”