The Whole Person Concept

During my six years in the Military Intelligence community, I learned a great many lessons. One that remains near the top of the stack is this: two seemingly opposing ideas can both be truthful simultaneously. I experienced yet another example of this phenomenon this week, as described below.

Truth number one: reading and interpreting government publications, programs, and policies is some of the most mind-numbing work on the planet.

Truth number two: I always try to learn from whatever I’m doing, particularly with a goal of broadening my life’s philosophy, bettering myself, or molding myself into a better leader.

Now, if you’d have told me last week that those two ideas could exist in unison – that I could learn something that would make me a better leader while studying one of the many documents I use to accomplish my job duties, I’d have probably laughed at you or asked you if my boss sent you to manipulate me.

But it happened, man! After being honorably discharged from the military, I did a short stint running a guard force for a contracting company, and then found myself landing in PERSEC. Recently, I was studying the adjudication process, trying to round out my knowledge in a holistic sense, and I came across a concept that I’ve been unable to escape since the moment I read it.

“The Whole Person Concept.”

Essentially, it states that, when adjudicators are trying to determine whether someone is worthy of a security clearance or a trusted government position, they should understand that all people are different, and that people are they way they are for reasons. You aren’t trying to see if you find them morally relatable, but rather, adjudicators are meant to balance the positives with the negatives, and to see whether the subject of their investigation can continue to A. Contribute to the government mission they’re set to serve in, and B. Continue to grow in a holistic sense while doing so, without being susceptible to coercion and the like.

It equally holds people accountable for their actions, while understanding that people make mistakes and grow over time. The federal government, in other words, doesn’t necessarily care about the joint you inhaled when you were 15 years old; they care about who you are today, and how you are managing your past experiences.

Of course, adjudicators view the concept in a limited scope. As leaders, we not only have to understand who someone is as a “whole person,” we also have to contribute to it. We have to observe their strengths and weaknesses, and learn to incorporate them into the workspace. 

My own boss impressed me the other day when I told him that, while I’m a grown man and can handle anything I need to, group events like “Taco Tuesday” or other functions tend to set me on edge because they’re full of surface level, placating conversation. I’d honestly be thrilled to meet and engage with anyone on a one-on-one level, but the group element takes me back to some uncomfortable life experiences. It’s an entirely different scenario if it’s “my group” – if they’ve gathered for a reason and we can get to business. But awkward conversations about the weather or taco seasoning just make me anxious.

“No worries man, it’s not the military and this isn’t ‘Mandatory Fun.'” 

He also uses my passion of writing to let me contribute to our mission by reviewing and editing our own security policies. It makes me feel useful because of the things I naturally love to do, rather than just grinding through the day to day, “Mowing the grass.”

Applying the whole person concept to our own lives also gives us the ability to cut ourselves some slack. We have good days, and we have bad ones, but as long as we seek to understand who we are while being empathetic to the journeys of those around us, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can remained balanced and grow together.

Best government instruction I ever read. Happy Tuesday, folks. Hope this helps you through the remainder of the week.

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