Fiction and Future War

Fiction and Future War_3x5 Leadership

By Zavier Radecker

If you’re not fighting the war of today, prepare for the war of tomorrow.

Since joining the profession of arms, this has been my guiding principle. If you’re not fighting today, then prepare to fight tomorrow. What we faced in our most recent conflicts will not exactly be what we face in our future conflicts.

In today’s global environment, wars are no longer declared and no longer follow the rules as they did in the past. Asymmetric and indirect operations take precedence and war is waged simultaneously in all physical environments and the information space. The enemy is no longer the most important target in the battlefield. Instead, his critically important facilities are. This has been accepted as the norm, notably in a 2016 report by the Russian Chief of the General Staff. Continue reading → Fiction and Future War

Building & Reinforcing a Culture of Development

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 10, the conclusion, of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the series introduction here if you have not yet.

Imagine so valuing the importance of developing people’s capabilities that you design a culture…[which] sweeps every member of the organization into an ongoing developmental journey in the course of working every day.

An Everyone Culture, by Fobert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

I like to imagine our organizational leader development processes like building a garden. We can envision what we want our garden to look like and what we want to get out of it – certain vegetables, plants, and/or flowers. We then build the actual garden in the selected location with high-quality resources. Finally, we plant our desired plants. However, we know that gardening does not stop once the plants are planted; that is only the beginning. Gardens require consistent attention – watering, pruning, re-fertilizing, etc. – all done and re-done season after season. Moreover, different plants have different needs like varied levels of water, sunlight, pruning, and types of fertilizer.

Our leader development approach is very similar. We can create the most robust, highest quality development process with impactful activities, but much like a garden, our developmental approach must receive consistent attention and “pruning.” Leaders must routinely and continuously reinforce a culture of development after we have initiated our processes and activities. Continue reading → Building & Reinforcing a Culture of Development

Leader Development Through Mentorship

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This is part 9 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the series introduction here if you have not yet.

When looking at the great leaders of the past and present, either universally known or just impactful in our own lives, we often see a trend that they were not self-made men or women. Considering some of the famous military leaders of the 20th century, for example – George Marshall, George Patton, and Dwight Eisenhower – they all share a common thread through their careers: deliberate mentorship by Fox Connor.

I am no expert on mentorship, but any holistic approach to leader development is not complete without the inclusion of this topic. As leadership author, Dr. John C. Maxwell, states, “one of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” We need help looking ahead, filling gaps, and making sense of experiences. Mentorship is essential to an effective leader development process and it is the final method in our Leader Development Matrix. Continue reading → Leader Development Through Mentorship

Leader Development Programs: Creating Time and Space for Leader Development

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This is part 8 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

In his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni challenges readers asking, “how much time has been set aside for team building?” I echo this sentiment to leader development – how much time is being set aside for leader development in our organization?

Leader development is absolutely a process; it must occur daily, not in a day. As we’ve explored throughout this series so far, leaders need to create and maximize the types and quantities of touchpoints for leader development. On-the-job development, coaching, and feedback are great ways we can routinely develop our emerging leaders amidst our day-to-day duties. However, I believe it is also important to carve out dedicated time and space for deliberate leader development, where our people take a pause from the busyness of day-to-day work and focus on our collective leader development. This calls for formal leaders to create a leader development program (LPD) within their organization, which is the third method outlined in our 3×5 Leader Development Matrix. Continue reading → Leader Development Programs: Creating Time and Space for Leader Development

Getting in the Arena: Creating a Culture of Truth & Feedback

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This is part 7 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

I believe too many leaders in the 21st century have lost the art of giving quality and relevant feedback to their people. Such feedback has become a novel experience for so many. In my own experiences within a nine-year career in the Army, I can only recall four instances where I received relevant, eye-opening feedback from a boss or peer that challenged my current ways of thinking and assumptions about my performance. Such feedback cannot be so novel if we desire to become an organization that prioritizes leader development.

This is so challenging, though, because it requires leaders to no longer hide by either using position to be exempt from receiving feedback or not demonstrating the courage to tell the truth about others’ performance. We must demonstrate the candor and care for our people to tell the truth, which makes our 2nd and 3rd generation leaders better and more inspired to keep getting better. This is what leaders “getting in the arena” is about. With practice and time, we become more comfortable in telling the truth to our leaders about their performance, growth, and potential, no longer making it such a novel experience in the work place. Ultimately, we hope that quality feedback (truth shared in love and care for our team members) becomes a commonplace and routine method of leader development that goes up, down, and across the organizational chart.

Feedback is a critical component to developmental counseling, which we introduced as part of developmental communication in part 6 of this Handbook. While setting expectations is the foundation of counseling (leaders must set expectations in order to provide feedback on meeting those expectations), we focus on the challenging topic of feedback within this section of the Handbook.

Developmental Communication Graphic_3x5 Leadership

Counseling, and specifically feedback, are the second method within the 3×5 Leader Development Matrix that we aim to model our developmental process off of, as shown below. When we use the word counseling, we do not mean the profession of clinical or psychology counseling. Developmental counseling, similar to the U.S. Army’s definition, is a process leaders use to outline a subordinate’s initial performance expectations and to routinely review that subordinate’s demonstrated performance and potential.

Leader Development Matrix Graphic_3x5 Leadership

In determining the essential building blocks of a high-performing and learning organization, as shown below, feedback is the critical foundation that all other elements are formed upon.

  • Feedback: Helping our people and our whole organization become more self-aware.
  • Coaching as we discussed in part 6 of the Handbook.
  • Hiring, on-boarding, & socializing: How we get new members committed to who we are, what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
  • Developmental process & programs: Deliberate individual and/or collective learning and growing activities.
  • Recognition & evaluations: Giving necessary credit to those that deserve it and who make us better.
  • Promote: Train, equip, empower, and inspire our 2nd and 3rd generation leaders to assume the responsibility of the future of our team and purpose.

Elements of an Organization Graphic_3x5 Leadership

What is Feedback

Feedback is information focused on how someone is doing in effort to achieve an established goal, mission, or expectation. It is not advice, praise or recognition, evaluation, or coaching. We all have opportunity to give and receive feedback in our leadership roles; it is imperative to practice and grow in doing both well. Feedback is the primary mechanism to improve our emerging leaders’ self-awareness; there is a positive and direct correlation between leaders’ self-awareness and their level of performance.  Leader self-awareness is crucial developmental domain and one I identified within the Leader Development Matrix’s three domains. We have numerous opportunities to give and receive feedback every day.

In his book, Leaders: Myth and Reality, GEN (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal proposes a new definition of leadership, which challenges our century-old assumptions about what leadership is and what leaders do. He claims that leadership is more about being part of a feedback loop within a system of followers and other relevant stakeholders within a specific environment, than it is about being at the top of a command chain or in a formal position.

The Role of Feedback

Feedback fulfills a number of essential roles in our leader development process and our developmental communication:

  • The data we receive from feedback is a leader development resource: it provides clarity about our needed changes and insight on how that gap can be closed.
  • It motivates our people: feedback leads one to desire to close the gap between their current “self” and their desired self. If a leader, subordinate, or peer showcases the candor and care to share constructive feedback well, it motivates us to rise to the occasion, be the best teammate we can, and improve our leader contributions to the organization. It helps inspire commitment to the team and to getting better, not merely compliance.
  • It gives us an understanding where we are now such as strengths, performance and effectiveness measures, and primary needs for development.
  • Stimulates us to better evaluate ourselves and ask questions like: what am I doing well? Where do I need to improve? How do others see me? What’s important to me?
  • Finally, feedback contributes to the power of leader development because the process, either formal or informal, helps us fully understand our situation and become motivated to capitalize on future learning and leading opportunities.

Key Features and Requirements

As we consider how to best integrate feedback as a quality and routine leader development method within our organization, there are a few features and requirements I recommend to consider:

  • Feedback must come multiple sources: up, down, and across the organizational chart. We should aim to create a culture of feedback where we receive it from our boss, peers, subordinates, coaches and mentors, and other stakeholders within our organization. Feedback should become such an integral part of leader development that no one is above receiving it.
  • Aim to maximize feedback touchpoints: ensure we integrate constructive feedback in all of our formal, routine developmental communication events like evaluations, initial counseling, routine counseling (monthly or quarterly performance counseling), following key project or training events (like an After-Action Review), mentorship and coaching, 360-degree assessments, goal-setting, etc.
  • Demonstrate quality and care: feedback must be driven by a love, care, and concern for those that we provide feedback to. Our words, tone, and intent must communicate: I want to share this feedback because I care deeply about you and our team, and I want to make us the best that we can be; I want to help!
  • Relevance: too often, we unintentionally give “low-calorie” feedback. This can be cookie-cutter comments, confusing and unclear thoughts, unfounded speculations, etc. Our feedback must be relevant, well-thought out, and action-oriented.
  • Must be done within a safe and supportive environment: we all desire to get better and make our organization better. In order to encourage leaders to not hide, we must foster a culture where we encourage our people to get in the arena, try their hand at new leadership opportunities, and be ok with failing. We follow-through with our leaders in the arena to help and encourage them to learn from their mistakes; it requires both challenge and
  • We must develop our peoples’ feedback skills: to avoid “low-calorie” feedback, we must educate and coach our teammates how to give high-quality and relevant feedback. One simple model to teach and start with is SBI: rely on communicating the SITUATION, BEHAVIOR, and IMPACT during feedback. So, it can look like, “during (insert specific event or situation), your (action or behavior), indicated that (impact)…or led to our team to (resulting impact).” This helps keep feedback relevant, anchored to a specific experience, and focuses on behavior and impact rather than addressing the person’s personality or who they are.
  • A culture of quality feedback requires dedication: it takes leaders’ time, considerable preparation, and lots of practice. Every one of us can improve our ability to give outstanding feedback; it will take a lifetime to master. Thus, we must commit to refining and improving our candor, care, and abilities to give the best feedback possible.

How to “Do” Feedback

So, after outlining all of this theory about feedback, we need to look at how we can start doing it within our own organizational context. Below are a few recommendations on how to get started.

  • Role-model and set the example: leaders first need to role-model a willingness to receive feedback from others. By setting that example and being willing to receive feedback from peers and subordinates, it inspires others to do the same. If we first get in the feedback arena, others will follow.
  • Establish and enforce formal feedback activities in your organizational processes like counseling: hold your subordinate leaders accountable in their requirements to conduct initial, routine (weekly), event, and evaluation counseling. By requiring these, you at least create the space for feedback to occur, allowing your leaders to practice. For example, in my current role as a tactical officer of a Cadet company at West Point, I’ve established a system where I formally meet with my Cadet company commander and First Sergeant once a week to coach them through current/upcoming decisions, but also to provide them feedback from my perspective. I do this bi-weekly with my Cadet staff executive officer and operations officer, and also bi-weekly (opposite weeks from XO and operations) with my Cadet platoon leaders and platoon sergeants.
  • Create peer feedback events: develop a formal system for peers to offer one another feedback. You can be creative in this area; it will take a sizeable time and effort investment to prepare and follow-up. It can be an online survey, hand-written form, use either/both Likert-scale and written response questions, rankings, and so on. Leaders need to figure out what will work best for their organization and people. I personally like the model from this Harvard Business Review article; it is both simple in its approach and aims to be as objective as possible.
  • Create additional, creative spaces for feedback: one company found that by merely leaving the last 5-minutes of a meeting for feedback to one another, their feedback volume across the company increased seven times. By simply creating more space, opportunity, and touchpoints for feedback, we can improve its inclusion across all we do.
  • Solicit feedback during your Leadership by Wandering Around time: use informal opportunities like this to solicit thoughts from people across your team, especially your most junior people. It helps you get a better pulse on what’s going on and allows you to role-model as mentioned above.

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about the art of giving/receiving feedback, I encourage you to check out these additional resources:

The next part to our 3×5 Leader Development Handbook addresses the third method within our Development Matrix, which is creating a developmental program in our organization.

As always though, lead well, friends!

The content and thoughts within this article are my personal views only. They do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Army or the United States Military Academy.  


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On-the-Job Development: Leaders as Teachers & Coaches

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 6 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

I have two whiteboards in my office; a 4×3 ft. one for big subjects and a 2×1.5 ft. “lap-sized” board for smaller scale ones. I’m using one of those whiteboards, if not both, every single day. I use them while counseling my Cadets, for teaching moments to help them make sense of new ways of thinking, and of course, to post the weekly #whiteboardwednesday quote. In fact, I just used my lap-board to draw out the first diagram below for one of my Cadets learning how to create developmental experiences for his subordinate.

I share this to communicate a key leader-developer lesson I’ve learned over the last year: every interaction I have with one of my Cadets is a “developmental communication” opportunity. I view every conversation I have with them, at an individual or collective level, through a developmental lens where I can teach, coach, mentor, or counsel. This applies to discussions in my office, passing a Cadet in the barracks hallway, during room inspections, training, meetings, a formal leader development session, or even running into them outside of the barracks on the way to/from class. Leaders can apply this same lens to their own people and organizational context. Continue reading → On-the-Job Development: Leaders as Teachers & Coaches

The Domains of Leader Development

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This is part 5 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

In our last installment of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook, we introduced the Leader Development Matrix, below. It helps clarify the process of leader development into domains and methods.

Leader Development Matrix Graphic_3x5 Leadership

Our developmental domains, which we focus on in this part of the Handbook, are the areas that we desire to actually develop our leaders in. They serve as the purpose and the goals of our developmental process. Domains answer the questions, “in what areas do I want to develop my leaders? What skills and abilities do I want them to grow in?” Continue reading → The Domains of Leader Development

How Are We Actually Developing Leaders?

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 4 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

John Maxwell states that, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Jocko Willink claims that, “the most important element on the battlefield is leadership.”

GEN (Ret.) David Perkins asserts that in every organization he has seen in his 38-year career, the one “essential sauce” that was needed for success was leadership.

If success on the battlefield, in the workplace, and in our lives comes down to leadership, how are we deliberately developing others and ourselves to become better leaders? How are we impacting the 2nd and 3rd generations of leaders in our organization? Developing our people to become better leaders is far too important to merely resort to passive means or to leave it as an afterthought. We must implement a defined leader development process. Continue reading → How Are We Actually Developing Leaders?

Self-Development Begets Leader Development

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 3 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

One of the most critical lessons I learned as a junior officer and the first piece of advice I offer to young officers is: the Army won’t teach you everything you need to know to be successful in your next job. You need to demonstrate some initiative and do everything you can to learn key aspects of that next job on your own before you get there.

To be successful as a leader and as a leader developer, there must be a deliberate and routine effort toward self-development.

Self-Development Before Leader Development

Self-development is the second step in our leader development approach, pictured below. Before you can lead others, you must lead yourself well. More importantly, you can’t develop others if you’re not developing yourself. Consistently growing your own knowledge, skills, and abilities must occur before you can begin to do the same for the leaders around you. It’s about setting the example as a life-long learner for others and inspiring them to ultimately take responsibility for their own growth. While role-modeling does not necessarily equate to leader development (you can’t develop leaders only through your personal example), it is a critical first step for every leader developer. Continue reading → Self-Development Begets Leader Development

Creating Opportunities in Our Organizations & Making the Time for Leader Development

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If you are new to the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook, I encourage you to start with the introduction here.

We claim that leader development is important and we always have the best intentions as leader developers. Then, life and work happen. All of the meetings, administrative work requirements, Soldier or employee matters to attend to, special projects, and more tend prevent us from finding the time to actually develop our leaders. Unfortunately, the non-essential urgent of our days tends to overtake the enduring important in our organizations – things like leader development. The next thing we know, it’s weeks and months later with no thought or action towards leader development but a mountain of busywork completed.

Before we can get into the meat of this Leader Development Handbook, it is important to address the need to create opportunity and readiness for leader development first. In this second part of the Leader Development Handbook, we address the first building-block of our leader development approach: managing our organizational demands. Continue reading → Creating Opportunities in Our Organizations & Making the Time for Leader Development