Joey Behr, a project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, Middle East District addressed the Rotary Club of Winchester during
their monthly luncheon Aug. 11 at the Travelodge in Winchester.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and
professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high
ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the
world. Behr was asked to speak by Julie Connell, the rotary club
president-elect, who had recently met Behr’s mother, who shared some stories
about his work overseas with USACE. Connell invited him to address her club about
his experiences working for the district and share his thoughts on leadership
and the impact of good leadership.
"As a project manager, I have to motivate, influence and
lead a team of over 100 people, and I don’t have any authority over any of
them,” he said. “I’ve been able to learn from good leaders, but I’ve learned
not to mimic them. The only way to be successful is to be yourself and always
be prepared to be questioned."
Behr said as a 28-year-old project manager, he’s at least a
decade younger than any of his peers. So he has to be ready and willing to be questioned.
“It’s important to be balanced and to try to put yourself in
others’ shoes,” he said. “Always do your research and ask questions.”
Behr began working for the Corps before he even knew what he
wanted to do. He was attending business school at Lord Fairfax Community
College and accepted an internship with the Middle East District in 2008. Later
he was chosen for a Department of the Army internship at the District and he
took as much training as he could during that time. These internships led to a
permanent position with the Corps after he graduated from LFCC with an
associates of business administration and later earned a bachelor’s degree in
civil engineering from Old Dominion University.
Before being promoted to project manager, Behr worked in the
engineering department as a cost estimator and scheduler. He told the Rotary
members about the lessons he learned during his travels to the Middle East,
including the importance of cultural awareness. He shared that it’s
disrespectful to look at or speak to a Saudi woman, and that he learned not to
eat or drink in public during Ramadan.
Brandon Chance, a project manager and Behr’s supervisor,
said Behr’s upbringing in the intern program and time in the engineering
division, have contributed to his success as a leader.
“These experiences have provided him with relationships and
insights into processes and people within the organization,” Chance said. “This
helps him communicate effectively with the various elements of the (project
delivery team) PDT, which is the hardest and most important part of what we
need him to do. Second, he's got a nice,
natural blend of an unassuming demeanor and an engineer's persistence and
attention to detail which makes folks want to work with him to accomplish the mission.”
Behr summed up his leadership style with his final bit of
“If somebody comes to you so frustrated he has steam coming
out of his ears, sometimes the best approach is to just let him talk it out for
10 minutes,” he said. “Don’t interrupt, don’t criticize, don’t offer
suggestions. Just let him talk. Nine times out of 10, the problem is nearly
solved by the time the person finishes talking it out.”