Do We Have a Culture of Practice?

I am passionate about the concept of Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) offered by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey in their book, An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. Overall, their research aims to identify the most powerful ways to develop the capabilities of people at work in the twenty-first century.

The book studies three “DDOs” as models of the twenty-first century way to create a robust incubator for people’s development. Ultimately, they offer the DDO vision, challenging us to, “Imagine so valuing the importance of developing people’s capabilities that you design a culture that itself immersively sweeps every member of the organization into an ongoing developmental journey in the course of working every day.”

One key aspect to these DDOs is being deliberate about a culture of practice. These organizations are, “continuously engaged in getting over themselves – identifying their weaknesses, seeing deeply into the ways they’re stuck, and having regular opportunities to move past their limiting patters of thinking and acting.” Continue reading → Do We Have a Culture of Practice?

Defining Our Leadership Philosophy

In recently starting a new academic year at West Point, NY, I engaged in the important process of initial counseling with my Cadet staff. Over those 25 conversations in getting to know the Cadets better, setting duty expectations between us, and clarifying their developmental goals, I was surprised by a common thread among a majority of them – many wanted to figure out their leadership philosophy. I asked the Cadets their perceptions on a leadership philosophy and what exactly they are looking to create. I quickly found that the comments centered on wanting to first learn what a leadership philosophy is; “I know it’s important and I want to find out how to make my own.”

This is common in the Army and I’m sure other professions experience something similar. For the Army, when young officers prepare to assume command of a company, the process of creating their leadership philosophy is often identified as a mandatory step before formally assuming that role. I think others can relate to having a new brigade commander or some similar role assume command to then immediately publish their leadership philosophy memorandum to all subordinate leaders.

What I’ve found over the years is that everyone, at least within the Army, finds this concept of a leadership philosophy as super important, but are not overly clear on what it actually is, what it should look like, or how we publish or implement it.

So, to help provide some clarity, I offer a model for a leadership philosophy. It’s offered as a model (not the model) as a means to help us better conceptualize and implement this “big shiny object” of leadership that we place a lot of emphasis on, but may not quite know what exactly to do with. I hope we are able to find some ways to best adapt and apply something within this piece to improve our leader effectiveness. Continue reading → Defining Our Leadership Philosophy

Leading Via Social Justice

By Chaveso Cook

Both individuals and organizations around the nation – and the world – are stepping into conversations and actions regarding race, social justice, systematic oppression, and equity. Whereas this is undoubtedly a good thing, the inevitably uncomfortable conversations ensuing came from even more disconcerting events. The recent violence that has gripped the nation is not new and it is not a series of isolated events. Many have come to realize that instead of solely being not racist, we must do as author Ibram X. Kendi suggests and become actively anti-racist. Beyond that, we surely must condemn and actively fight against racism, injustice, inequality, intolerance, prejudice, entitlement, and abuse of power as well. But beyond consuming articles and documentaries or reading books like “White Fragility” or “The New Jim Crow,” how does one do so?

In moments like this we must offer a counter question – “Are you a leader?” Leaders have a responsibility to improve the lives of those around them and make their organizations better. Connecting with, including, and developing people who may not look like you will push diversity into places of opportunity and higher levels of leadership, fostering the momentum for much needed, equitable, systematic change. Continue reading → Leading Via Social Justice

In Whom Do We Trust – Part 3: Trust as Leader Behavior

This is the final part in the 3-part series looking at leadership and trust. You can start the series HERE with part 1.

The heart of what we do in life and leadership should always be “why” – clarifying purpose and passion for what we do. We started off this series in looking at why trust matters for leaders and within teams.

Expanding from that, leaders address the “what” – the things we do to achieve our core purpose. In part 2, we looked at what trust is, defining it by three essential components.

Finally, we must focus on “how” – the tangible ways we are achieving trust and building our cohesive team. For me, there is an important leap from simply understanding trust (why and what) to actively building it in our leader behavior (how). We culminate this series on leadership and trust in looking at how leaders can seek to earn, build, and maintain the trust of our people and teams. Continue reading → In Whom Do We Trust – Part 3: Trust as Leader Behavior

In Whom Do We Trust – Part 2: Defining the Components of Trust

This is the 2nd part in the 3-part series looking at leadership and trust. You can start the series HERE with part 1.

If I asked every reader to write down their definition of trust and to list its critical components in less than 30-seconds, I imagine many of us would start with a blank stare at a blank piece of paper.

That is the case because trust is a complex, “soft-skill” topic that involves so many emotionally driven and intangible qualities. I often consider so many leaders’ view of trust to boil down to something to the effect of “I don’t know much about this thing called trust, but I do know I want more of it.” That mentality does not give me great confidence that such a leader is deliberate in earning, maintaining, and cultivating a culture of trust within their team.

So, after addressing why trust is important in part 1, it’s important to look at what trust is. While there is a high level of art required in the application and earning of trust, there are concrete foundations that establish the science of it, which leaders need to understand. But like in almost all things relating to leadership, there is no objectively right answer, but models available to help us structure our thinking and behavior around it. I would like to offer a simple model to help us define the basic components of trust, ultimately better equipping us to earn and maintain our peoples’ trust in us as leaders. This model is “the three Cs of trust: competence, character, and care.” Continue reading → In Whom Do We Trust – Part 2: Defining the Components of Trust

In Whom Do We Trust – Part 1: On Leadership & Trust

 

Years ago, a mentor of mine offered a leadership perspective that has resonated with me since, stating:

“Soldiers will inherently ask three questions of you when you assume role as their leader:

  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Do you care about me?
  3. Are you committed to excellence?”

While these questions may never be outright asked at some leader “sensing session,” I truly believe these are the issues on peoples’ minds when they are new to joining our team or when we assume a formal leadership role over them. And leaders need to think on how we are deliberately attending to these matters for our people – especially how we are earning their trust. Continue reading → In Whom Do We Trust – Part 1: On Leadership & Trust

Leaders Seek and Surface the Truth

Leaders Seek and Surface the Truth_3x5 Leadership

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant…” –Max DePree

When considering one of my favorite leadership-defining quotes, many (to include myself) focus on the aspects of gratitude and servant leadership. But what about the leader’s first responsibility to define reality? What does that mean and what does that look like?

Leaders defining reality means seeking and surfacing the truth for the team. Improving team performance requires change. To prove the need for change, the team must face their honest reality. This can require addressing brutal facts that have been hidden or ignored. It can be just like any process to recovery – the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Leaders must create a climate within the team where the truth is spoken and heard. This applies up, down, and across the team where no one is above the truth or not responsible to share and address it. Within our high-performing team, we need to have people willing to speak the truth and, more importantly, leaders willing to hear the truth. To enable this team climate of open feedback loops and where people feel safe to speak “truth to power,” I believe there are a few behaviors that leaders should initiate: Continue reading → Leaders Seek and Surface the Truth

Activating the Levers of Organizational Change

Activating the Levers of Organizational Change_3x5 Leadership

Leading change is extremely hard. It challenges the organization’s status quo, interrupts peoples’ assumptions and comfort zones, and creates an often uneasy unknown or unconfirmed future for the organization. Thus, obstacles and resistance to change are often consistent and come from many sources up, down, across, and even external to the organization. Leading change can easily feel overwhelming and unsuccessful at so many points through the process.

But leading change is inherent and essential to leadership. I think back to Jim Mattis’s comments in his book, Call Sign Chaos, claiming that a “leader must be willing to change and make change.” Leaders must get results for their organization and stakeholders absolutely, but I truly believe that alone is insufficient. Leaders must also make the organization and others better; organizational change is critical to effective leadership. Continue reading → Activating the Levers of Organizational Change

My Hard Lesson Learned in Leading Through Crisis

My Hard Lesson Learned in Leading Through Crisis_3x5 Leadership

Leading through crisis has certainly been the hot topic on leadership over the last five months since COVID hit the US. There is no shortage of new work addressing the challenges of and need to lead through crisis well; a simple internet search can offer hundreds of perspectives and ideas. It is an important topic to discuss, though. A crisis can be defined as a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point. A crisis can threaten the wellbeing of our people and mere existence of our organizations; crisis requires effective leadership.

While recognizing the importance of leading well through crisis, I initially chose not to write on the topic. I felt I had no relevant or fresh perspectives to offer on it. But then a friend asked if I would share some personal thoughts on the topic for his blog (below and here). While I was happy to share and humbled by the consideration, I did not feel passionate or qualified on the topic. To be honest, I ended up writing about what I call my “leadership philosophy”: how I intend to authentically lead regardless of circumstances or environment. I think I subconsciously did that to send the message that leaders need to remain authentic to themselves and committed to the organization as they were before the crisis; we don’t merely alter our leadership in response to a crisis. Continue reading → My Hard Lesson Learned in Leading Through Crisis

Thoughts on Leader Self-Development: Do Better

Thoughts on Leader Self-Development-Do Better_3x5 Leadership

I did not take ownership of my professional development and deliberately commit toward self-development until almost four years into my military career. But even when I did start with habits like developmental reading, choices such as my book selection and approach were not intentional; my efforts were scattered and random. And it was still years after starting until I discovered personal book favorites that had major impacts on my life and leadership. I have spent years since then repeatedly saying, “I wish I read (or knew about) this years ago before I was a platoon leader or company commander.”

I share this to disclose something I have come to eventually realize: that our self-development efforts can be frustrating sometimes. My efforts over the years are littered with feelings of personal regret and disappointment for not knowing or doing the things I learn through self-development earlier. After I gain new knowledge or ideas on how to lead better through my self-development habits, I quickly default to thinking, “I wish I knew this years ago!” and “this would have made me a better platoon leader or commander.”

But I recently found this quote by Maya Angelou – an American poet, singer, and civil rights activist – and it immediately adjusted my perspective and personal worries on my self-development: Continue reading → Thoughts on Leader Self-Development: Do Better