Keeping his team’s head and heart consistently in the game is how Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) Assistant Federal Security Director (AFSD) Tim Joseph spends his days.
“For my day in the life, I'm engaging with our workforce, finding out what their needs are and doing those things that are necessary to help them be successful,” said Joseph. “A person who is encouraged and motivated and doing the right thing on one particular day could encounter some issues that will eventually take their mind off the mission at hand. It’s important to understand that it’s critical to lean on one another.”
Joseph reminds us no person is an island.
The metaphor turns literal for Nicholette Del Toro. As Deputy AFSD (DAFSD) at Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui, Hawaii, she lives and works on an island.
“The workforce here in Maui is very different than at an airport stateside,” said Del Toro. “Leadership spends a lot of time doing (video conference) calls to ensure we’re all on the same page with the spokes here in the Pacific. We are the eyes and ears for the Federal Security Director (FSD). We act on her behalf because she’s on a different island.”
Del Toro stretches herself at OGG by covering the recently reinstated canine program.
“While I am the DAFSD of screening, we do not have a threat assessment program here on Maui,” said Del Toro. “It resides in Honolulu (at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport), so I assist and help oversee the canine program at OGG.”
At the core, assistants to the FSD build effective relationships with staff and stakeholders.
“Our stakeholders realize that our success hinges on theirs and theirs hinges on ours,” said Joseph about his emphasis on stakeholder engagement.
The answers provided by Joseph and Del Toro to questions posed by the virtual audience at the end of their panel discussion prepared remarks uncovered their leadership styles, what makes them successful and how others might advance their TSA careers.
Given operational need, most officers don’t get computer time for career building. How do you communicate career growth opportunities to your staff?
Joseph: “I think that’s the crux of the workforce engagement piece. I have four deputies and I encourage them to engage their workforce. Communicate those things that are available. Coursework (and collateral duties) are important. You’re not going to be an effective leader if you don’t gain some educational and developmental strategies or take part in those things on your own.”
Del Toro: “We, like everyone else, conduct our daily briefings, and I think one of the main things is the opportunity to … communicate to your workforce before the day starts. We communicate the information, put it in briefing slides, print and post it in break rooms and encourage conversations with people who have expertise in those areas.”
Do you have a favorite leadership book or tool you’ve found exceptionally helpful as you continue to grow as a leader?
Joseph: “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. “I think it’s relevant in the present environment where all kinds of different things are tugging at you, vying for your attention. I try to remain as positive as I can.”
De Toro: “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. “I think it’s helped (us managers) as far as what we need for our operations and how we can be more successful together as opposed to just everybody having their own agenda.”
What advice do you give for people growing their TSA career?
Joseph: “I encourage anybody aspiring to be an AFSD to start out in a smaller location and then work your way up to a (larger airport). Develop the qualities and commit to it. If you don’t plan for it, it can easily get away from you. Plan and strategize your way to success.”
Del Toro: “If you have people in your life who believe in you - like I had and continue to have - if they tell you they believe in you or you can do something, believe them. It means they see something in you that you may not necessarily see in yourself. It’s important to listen to the feedback that’s provided to you.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA’s Strategic Communications & Public Affairs
Editor’s note: AFSD Joseph and DAFSD Del Toro participated in one of a series of Day in the Life panel discussions facilitated by Women Excel@TSA, an employee advocacy council born of the desire to present a unified body of people interested in the retention and cultivation of female talent.