Many people work tirelessly behind the scenes to make trainers and training programs successful, and Ryan Sellers is one of those unique individuals, according to Melissa Sease, Master Trainer and director of public relations at SOS Intl, a provider of training and compliance consulting to the power industry.
One of Sellers’ greatest lessons has been the lesson of servant leadership. He is training project manager at SOS Intl, planning and coordinating custom training modules and class development projects. During his Air Force enlistment early in his career, he was able to work with many people and teams and always noticed that more was accomplished when they had leaders who were in tune with the people they were directing.
Sellers told of commanders who would take the time to walk around and have lunch with the troops or shadow them as they repaired aircraft to learn what they were doing.
“One day I was working on a jet in 120-degree Saudi Arabia heat and the base commander (a general) saw me and walked over to ask me how I was doing,” Seller said. “This man was responsible for billions of dollars’ worth of aircraft and personnel. I was impressed that he took time out of his day to inquire about mine. His actions impressed upon me that I was definitely part of a great team and it made me want to perform at an even higher level.”
Now Sellers tries to incorporate these same universal principles in his leadership by:
- Placing emphasis on listening effectively to others (like the general did). Everyone likes to be heard.
- Showing empathy, it is important to understand others’ feelings and perspectives, he said. “If someone on our team has a loved one fighting illness in the hospital then I want know about it so I can shift some of the work load off of that person.
“Effective listening and showing empathy may sound easy enough but it can sometimes fall by the wayside when deadlines are looming and budgets are running thin,” Sellers said. “A good project manager knows how to continually adjust and rebalance to maintain effectiveness.”
Sellers has worked on projects where SOS developed training for CIP, Back Up Control Centers, System Operation Performance Improvement, Capacity and Energy Emergency Training, Hurricane Preparedness, NERC Compliance Awareness Training, Restoration Principles, Switching and Tagging, FERC Standards of Conduct, Substation & Craft Training, Blackstart System Restoration, Peaker Unit Operation, Power Delivery Engineering, Power Plant Operating Characteristics, Safe Driving, Hydro Operation & Vegetation Management, to name a few.
He has worked on custom training for clients such as Duke Energy, DTE Energy Co, Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), Red Oak Energy Partners, and AES Corp.
As a training project manager, Sellers takes communications seriously. “Good communication takes forethought and planning when done well and can have a huge impact, good or bad, with respect to project success. I continually ask myself, will what I am about to communicate raise more questions than answers? What are all the possible follow-up questions to what I am about to communicate? Am I providing the team with all the details they will need to know to get stuff done?” he said.
He maintains that it is important for everyone involved in the project to “sing from the same sheet of music.” He invests time writing project charters, even for small projects. He also said it is important to never neglect details, especially at the end of a project when everyone’s mind may be distracted or dulled.
“Project managers in the training industry ensure that training projects get accomplished and meet the goals established for the training, are completed on time and within budget,” Sellers said.
Sellers is in the right position considering that ever since his childhood , he has been good at attention to detail and organizing. “I used to take great pride in organizing my dad’s tools and lawn equipment. In the Air Force, I was often chosen to coordinate maintenance teams and equipment because of my God-given talents. Going into project management was a natural progression and use of my skills.”
He loves the variety of his job. He gets to narrate some of the online training modules, host webinars, manage online and instructor-led training projects, along with the digital assets.
He also enjoys the outdoors with his family when he is not organizing and managing. “I see it as a way to escape for a while so I can recharge and return to work energized.”