The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

This is part 3 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

If you can’t talk freely with the most junior members of your organization, then you’ve lost touch.” ―Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos

We’ve finally labored with our leadership team in creating our essential core as discussed in part 2 – great! Now what? Well, now we need to validate this core by clarifying it. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

This is part 2 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.” ―Jim Collins, Built to Last

Striving for excellence is not the same thing as merely avoiding failure. All too often, our teams and organizations spend too much effort on avoiding failure, reacting to changing circumstances, simply managing the day-to-day minutia of routine and urgent work. These are not the reasons we were inspired to join our organization in the first place.

Contrary to what we are so used to seeing, we should not first respond to our changing environment by asking, “How should we change?” Instead, we must default to the questions of, “Why do we exist and what do we stand for?” These are the ideals that give us purpose and direction, regardless of circumstances, and should rarely change (if ever).

To enable our organizations to actually know why we exist and what we stand for, leaders must create clarity around those ideas; we must codify our organization’s essential core. This is the first of three steps in creating organizational clarity. In this part of the series, we explore what an organizational “core” is, why it’s important to define, and how we can approach creating it for our team. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Imagine a scenario where you take over as the new leader of a team and you work to define the essential core of your team though a well-crafted vision and mission statement. You put considerable effort into formulating these ideas, being highly selective about the message and language. After creating, publishing, and displaying this new core of your team, a senior leader from your larger organization comes to visit your team. During the visit, they see your posted vision and mission and ask one of your direct reports – an upper-level manager on your team who helped create those statements – about it…and the person cannot remember the statements. They can’t recite or describe the statements themselves, or even articulate some of the key words or themes from them. Yikes! I’m sure both you and the senior leader are now questioning what impact these statements are even having on your team.

Unfortunately, we experienced this exact scenario last week as an observing third party. The team’s leader certainly understood he had a leadership challenge. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

When I think back to when I relinquished company command in 2016 (for non-Army readers: completing my 18-month formal command of an Army company of about 120-Soldiers), there is one conversation that still resonates with me and continues to remind me of my “why” for military service. In the closing days of my command, one of my platoon sergeants (senior enlisted leader in the company with 12-years of experience), known as a passionate leader and tactical expert across the entire battalion, made a casual comment to me. He said, “Sir, I just want to thank you for what you’ve done. You’ve reignited my fire and have made this job and the Army fun again. I’ve been missing that for a few years now.”

I still get emotional when recalling that moment, even years later.

But through this and numerous other experiences, I continue to maintain that sometimes, the most important thing I can bring to the team is not some particular skill or ability, but energy and inspiration. Leaders must inspire, both our people today in what our team is doing as well as tomorrow’s future generation of leaders. We do that by being inspired and inspiring others. Continue reading → Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

6 Ways to Make Your Reading More Impactful This Year

Leaders are readers. Period.

I’ve learned from the world’s and history’s best because I have read what they’ve written.

I also view a commitment to developmental reading as a sign of professional maturity and ownership of your own development.

But this piece is not arguing why reading is important; I believe most of us acknowledge that already. If not, I encourage you to explore our Leaders Are Readers Series. Instead, we intend to explore how to do so better.

The reality is that we have so much competing for our time. It is challenging to balance the demands of life, work, and more – all while trying to find time to pour into our own development each day. We must be effective and efficient in our approach to reading to maximize its developmental impact. More is not better…nor feasible.

So, let’s look at a few ways that we can make developmental reading more impactful this year, both for ourselves and for others, because we also know that is an inherent leader responsibility. Continue reading → 6 Ways to Make Your Reading More Impactful This Year

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Bad Leadership Experiences

Toxic, counterproductive, ineffective. These are all synonyms for less-than-ideal leadership examples. But bottom line is, we essentially view these as bad leadership.

We have all had experiences with bad bosses and senior leaders. We wonder how they made it into that position all while putting our head down to muscle through the challenge of leading under and working for them. For many of us, we can identify such experiences multiple times over our careers.

I am no exception. I vividly recall a season early in my career where I felt surrounded by poor leadership examples – my boss was a nice person, but not a proficient and recognized leader within the organization; I did not receive clear guidance, development, or support. As a younger professional and leader at the time, I was less mature and thus was angry and disenfranchised. Continue reading → Don’t Underestimate the Power of Bad Leadership Experiences

Leaders Communicate Perspective

“Leaders communicate perspective. We show Soldiers that who we are, what we do, and why we do it are important… Soldiers who understand why and how their efforts fit into the big picture, perform better. Informed Soldiers are effective Soldiers.”

BG David Hodne

This simple quote from a previous boss and current mentor of mine has become one of the most profound leadership lessons I have learned in my now 10-years of practicing leadership. Though clear and concise, this quote can actually be unpacked to become one of the most complex and important leadership skills that I’ve tried to study and practice. We need to talk about leadership and communicating perspective.

One of my personally favorite definitions of leadership, and one I feel is the most complete, is from the U.S. Army. It states that leaders influence others by providing three things: purpose, direction, and motivation. Perspective is a critical way to provide the purpose. Leaders must create and communicate that perspective for their people.   Continue reading → Leaders Communicate Perspective

Doing Routine Things Routinely – Leaders Must Still Be Managers

“Great organizations do routine things routinely,” is an old saying (at least within the military) that I love and has resonated with me since I heard it earlier in my career. However, with time, I’ve found that while many love the idea of the quote (it sounds impactful and important), I don’t think most fully understand what it actually means.

Moreover, I recently finished Ryan Hawk’s new book, Welcome to Management, where, in it, he quotes his dad who asserts that, “You are now a leader. You must become a ‘numbers guy’ [management] and continue to inspire. You need to lead, manage, and coach. To be excellent, you have to do all three.”

I’m sure most of us can look to a time where we served within an organization that seemed to be merely reacting day-to-day, only tackling the short, immediate issues each day and never working to deliberately shape a distant future. We would walk away from work each day feeling like we strove just to survive, stay afloat, and avoid failure – but not having accomplished anything truly important long-term.

Looking back at Ryan Hawk’s quote, the concepts of leading and coaching are the ‘sexy’ ones that we all want to do and become better at – we read, study, and practice to improve our leadership and coaching abilities. But, unfortunately, the art and science of management don’t get such popular attention because, well, it’s an unsexy topic; it’s not inspiring, doesn’t contribute to some grand legacy, or directly positively impact lives. But managing well is important because, if we don’t, our organization and people do not reach the personal and collective capacity to do the other efforts well. Effective management enables effective leadership, leader development, and coaching by creating capacity. With that added capacity, we can then pour available attention and energy into other, and arguably more important, efforts like developing leaders, building a strong culture, improving performance, and so on. Continue reading → Doing Routine Things Routinely – Leaders Must Still Be Managers

Avoiding Burnout: 9 Things to Build “Leader Resilience”

Outside of three weeks of paternity leave with my family, I have not taken any vacation or leave time since before the COVID pandemic began in March. And though paternity leave was an amazing time for my family and I, it certainly wasn’t a restful time. Bottom line is…I’m tired. Yes, I’m passionate about and love what I do, but it’s been a long year with little to no respite. I believe many are in a similar boat as me – we are at or near professional burnout.

It takes a lot to bring engaged leadership, optimism and energy, and deliberate development to our people and organizations. Burnt-out leaders can’t do that effectively. And while it is important to take necessary time for vacation and rest as leaders, we may not always be able to do that on our own timelines. As much as possible, we need to be resilient leaders able to keep showing up every day and bring the purpose, direction, and motivation that our people are entitled to.

So, we need to talk about ways to avoid burning-out and being resilient leaders able to sustain our personal and collective organizational responsibilities. It’s easy to talk about the idea of being resilient leaders, but hard to enact it day in and day out.

To help contribute this is important conversation of leadership, resiliency, and burnout – I offer nine practical things that help me show up every day and to maintain a full “leadership cup”…because we can’t pour into others from an empty cup. I expect that by sprinkling these small habits or actions over our schedule each week and month, we are able to remain being the leaders we desire to be and that our people deserve for the long haul. Continue reading → Avoiding Burnout: 9 Things to Build “Leader Resilience”

The 2020 Leader Christmas Gift Guide

If you’re looking for a great gift to place under the tree or stick in a stocking for a passionate leader or military professional – 3×5 Leadership is here to help! Below are our favorite items of 2020 – a year marked with many changes in lifestyle and working habits – and the things on our own gift lists. We hope these can help you show the working professional in your life how much you care and make their life a little easier.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! We hope you and your family are safe and well. Continue reading → The 2020 Leader Christmas Gift Guide