The 3 Key Elements to a Young Leader’s Organization

3 Key Elements to a Young Leader's Organization_3x5 Leadership

 “Administrative discipline is the index of combat discipline. Any commander who is unwilling or unable to enforce administrative discipline, will be incapable of enforcing combat discipline. An experienced officer can tell, by a very cursory administrative inspection of any unit, the caliber of its commanding officer.” –GEN George Patton, referenced in Commons Sense Training: A Working Philosophy for Leaders, by LTG (Ret.) Arthur S. Collins

On the spectrum of what is urgent and important as a leader, I firmly believe that leader development is one of the most important. But we can only effectively tackle leader development if we are organized to deal with the urgent and other necessary stuff like administrative issues. A leader must be personally organized, and must ensure his/her organization is as well, in order to maximize impact on those important things like leader development.

I write about this now because it is extremely relevant to my current job and I am learning this necessity the hard way. As a Tactical Officer (TAC) of a 120-Cadet company at the United States Military Academy (USMA), my primary responsibilities are Cadet leader development and being the integrator of the four pillars of their development (academic, military, physical, and character). However, I can only begin to think about getting after these priorities if I have comprehensive and effective organizational systems. I am the legal commander of the Cadet company, but I don’t have the headquarters staff of a “normal” company commander, so my days can quickly become overwhelmed by administrative demands. I must have strict personal and company systems in place so we can get to that “graduate level” of leader development that we have the potential to with the Cadets. Continue reading → The 3 Key Elements to a Young Leader’s Organization

Are We A Family or A Team?

Freeing the beast

When you consider your organization and its people, do you consider them a family or a team? It may seem trivial and many leaders may not put much brainpower toward considering what noun to use. Some may even use the words interchangeably.

I believe that the descriptor you use implies a number of assumptions about how your people work together and thus has a major effect on your organization’s interpersonal dynamics. Being considered a family may inherently authorize your people to do certain things, while being a team may unconsciously deter them from those same behaviors. What you call your organization can have major impacts on your climate and certain behavioral norms. Thus, it is rather important to select the right word to describe your organization so that you set the appropriate tone and precedence.

I first offer thoughts from two books that are high on my recommended list for leader development; one supports for a family attitude, while the other adamantly argues against being a family. Finally, I cover thoughts to consider when determining to be a family or team; think on these and determine what is most important and most needed for your organization. Ultimately, I find that there is no right answer. It is a matter of what you value most and the kind of results you want to see from your people. I just encourage others to deliberately consider, and even talk to your people about, what type of organization we want to be: a family or a teamContinue reading → Are We A Family or A Team?

Discipline Through Accountability and Enforcing Standards

Trip of the Secretary of Defense

Most of what I write, and what others write on similar platforms, focuses on the encouraging and inspirational side of leadership such as motivation, building trust, and developing the next generation of leaders. It’s fun to write and read about these topics because they make us, our people, and our organizations better. They’re also easy to write about. What’s challenging to write about and get people discussing are the less-stimulating sides to leadership such as holding others accountable and enforcing standards. I can already feel the dread overcome me as I write those words…

Critical characteristics for any field to be considered a true profession include high individual and collective responsibility and mutual accountability. In the military, this includes standards like professional appearance and wear of uniforms, physical fitness requirements, maintaining positive control of all assigned Soldiers and equipment, and routine certification in your assigned tasks by your higher headquarters. So, how do we do that well, where we can hold each other accountable while inspiring them to want to inherently be and do better? I believe we can all recall times where someone, such as a boss, unnecessarily tore us down for not maintaining a certain standard; maybe they even targeted us personally, rather than just our undesired behavior. I challenge the assumption held by many that holding others accountable to the standards requires strict and harsh reactions. How can we enact mutual accountability while continuing to build a stronger, more effective, and cohesive team? In his book (which I highly recommend), The Culture Code, Dan Coyle asserts that, “one misconception about highly successful [team] cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.” Continue reading → Discipline Through Accountability and Enforcing Standards

My New Favorite Question

New Favorite Leader Question_What is your greatest challenge right now_3x5 Leadership

My leadership by wandering around times, the time I dedicate to walking around my unit footprint talking to Soldiers, is not only a chance for me to take a break from the monotony of busy work but is in fact a very deliberate method to maintain my presence in the unit, which directly contributes to my team building efforts. Just as purposeful as the time I dedicate to my leadership presence and leadership by wandering around is the line of questions I leverage when talking to my Soldiers. The questions I ask when interacting with Soldiers are highly-focused and aim to gain new knowledge about something I want to learn about; this can include personal information about the Soldier, their feedback on our unit or recent training, or innovative ideas on how we can improve for the future.

My personal arsenal of questions can range from simple and vague (such as, “how is everything going?”) to organizationally specific (like, “what’s the thing we need to get better at now to become a better company?”) or even personal (“how was your and (spouse’s name)’s vacation to (location)?”). Each question serves a purpose, but are leveraged based on the Soldier, the current situation, and other contextual factors.

However, I recently found my new favorite question to ask subordinate leaders, such as platoon leaders or squad leaders, during these times: what is your biggest challenge right now? Continue reading → My New Favorite Question

4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better

4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better_3x5 Leadership

A number of weeks ago, I asked readers for feedback about the blog through an online survey. I greatly appreciate your time and for sharing your honest thoughts. The #1 piece of feedback centered on practical application, how to materialize the ideas shared through each blog post. Many claimed they appreciated the amount of application found in the posts; others voiced a desire for even more. Message received; this post is strictly application and I will continue to maintain appropriate doses of practical application as I continue to write. Again, thanks for the feedback!

In the US Army, there is an unpopular, but necessary unit duty called Staff Duty. For those not familiar, this 24-hour shift encompasses non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and junior officers serving as the unit commander’s representative for any issue that arises during their tour of duty. This duty is shared by the junior and mid-level leaders within the organization, where most NCOs and officers complete a staff duty tour once every month to quarter. Responsibilities include receiving and escorting VIPs, receiving and managing notices to Soldiers from external agencies (such as the Red Cross), inspecting the unit areas for good order and discipline, managing any emergency that occurs that day (such as barracks maintenance emergencies), and anything else the commander deems necessary. Other military services have a similar duty, such as the Navy’s officer on watch. At the United States Military Academy (USMA), my current assignment, cadet sophomores fulfill this duty for each cadet company, known as the Cadet in Charge of Quarters (CCQ).

Often, this duty is viewed as a check-the-block event, where you conduct your duties, try and stay awake and engaged during your shift, and count the hours until your replacement arrives. However, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot of potential to incorporate leader development into staff duty-like shift assignments. Especially as a current Tactical Officer of USMA cadets, where I get limited touchpoints with cadets each day, I wanted to incorporate some form of leader development into this typically monotonous task. Continue reading → 4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better

Three New Benefits I Learned About Writing and Sharing

Benefits of Writing_3x5 Leadership

A number of other amateur writers and I have shared numerous thoughts on why we write, and moreover, have challenged our readers to do the same. From contributing to a community of practice, to writing as a means of learning, and forming your legacy, writing has its numerous benefits, both to your greater profession and to you personally.

I started my own writing and the 3×5 Leadership platform over 18 months ago under the premise of two ideas: 1) leader development occurs daily, not in a day, and 2) though my experiences are singular, the lessons from them certainly are not. With no real expectation that others would value, let alone read, my thoughts, I started to write in order to offer reflections from my experiences and recommended application to help others on their daily leader growth journey. Continue reading → Three New Benefits I Learned About Writing and Sharing

A Model of Effective Goal-Setting for Leaders

Goal-Setting_3x5 Leadership

Goal-setting can be an effective tool for leaders to provide challenge, focus, and motivation to their people. Unfortunately, this tool is often underutilized or poorly implemented. I recently showcased how it can be poorly implemented; this is a lesson learned from personal failure.

As part of my role in advising and coaching Cadets through their summer training leadership assignments, I intended to make goal-setting an important component of our initial counseling. During these counselings, I aimed to not only outline the Cadets’ roles and responsibilities for the summer, but to allow them to develop some personal goals for their assignment to help maximize the developmental impact of their experience. I found that I ran into one major issue during these counseling sessions while working with the Cadets to form their goals: the goals they created were poorly defined and incomplete, preventing our ability to track progress and achievement over the five-week experience. The Cadets were creating goals around the right ideas, but they were just incomplete ones. We established goals such as “to delegate and empower my subordinates as much as possible” or “to become better organized and more efficient with my time.” Great ideas, but they have no way of showing tangible progress. That was a failure on my part as the formal leader in the situation. I was not making this an effective developmental tool for the Cadets; it turned into more of a “check the block” requirement with little potential for impact. Continue reading → A Model of Effective Goal-Setting for Leaders

Books of 2018: My Mid-Year Review of Completed Books

3x5 Leadership_2018 Reading List Part I

If you follow 3×5 Leadership, even just casually, you know that I emphasize reading as a critical means of self-development. So far, 2018 has been an extremely impactful time of learning through reading for me. If you want to learn my thoughts on reading for self-development, I encourage you to check out my “Leaders are Readers” series and my Junior Officer Reading & Self-Development List.

I humbly share my reading list, below, to start a “conversation” with readers. I want to get others to not only think about the value of reading, but to help offer recommendations of what books to consider. Continue reading → Books of 2018: My Mid-Year Review of Completed Books

What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

Leadership One Big Thing_3x5 Leadership

I met with a friend recently who just finished reading Radical Inclusion, by GEN (Ret.) Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman. During our conversation, he anxiously claimed, “there is so much from that book that I want to start doing, I don’t even know where to start.”

I think we have all been there in some capacity. I felt the same way when I finished David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! Personally, with all of the books, blogs, journals, and podcasts I routinely engage in, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed with the new ideas for leadership improvement and organizational development. I often feel compelled to do it all now, though I know it won’t be effective or sustainable. Even all of the 3×5 Leadership blog posts, when considered collectively, can easily send a message of “do all of this now!”

So, I want to offer a simple model of personal leader development and a strategy to focus on the most important improvements to develop as a leader. The model, below, is broken down into four steps that I recommend you follow, where each step encourages you to write out a statement or a list. You’ll end with an identified leader behavior to improve on, the purpose of it, an actionable strategy, and timeline to work in it. Continue reading → What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Willingness to Learn_Growth Mindset_3x5 Leadership

Inherent to leader development and many of the posts on 3×5 Leadership is the idea that we are all continuously growing and developing our leader capacities. This, then, assumes that leadership is a learned ability and not really a natural trait that we are or are not born with. In my leadership roles within the organizations I serve, I routinely assert that a major goal for my leader development programs is to inspire peoples’ commitment to being life-long learners.

So, how exactly do we approach developing this attitude of and passion for learning leadership? I argue that we must differentiate one’s ability to learn from their willingness to. According to The Center for Creative Leadership’s Leader Development Model, one’s ability to learn from experience is a complex combination of motivational factors, personality factors, and learning tactics; it is one’s cognitive ability and achieved skill of efficiently receiving new knowledge. This is different from a willingness to learn, or what is called a “growth mindset,” which is a term popularized by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset, one’s willingness to learn, is understanding that intelligence and leadership ability is not fixed, but can be gained, and they see learning as valuable in itself. People with growth mindsets commit to learning and are willing to take responsible risks in order to improve. Continue reading → A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development