Why We Lead with Gratitude…and How

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything that keeps me inspired and committed to do what I do more than receiving a small, personal note from someone on my team. Even the humblest appreciation note that reveals the impact I have been able to have on someone else stirs strong emotion and joy.

Through such events, I have recognized the power of gratitude. It has become a part of my leadership philosophy, a mechanism for organizational change, and a favorite leader development activity.

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”

―Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Continue reading → Why We Lead with Gratitude…and How

Are You Thoughtful & Deliberate in Everything You Do as a Leader? Because Some Small, Careless Behaviors Can be Sending “Anti-Belonging Cues” to Others.

Last week, I had the great fortune to listen to a lecture by author, Dan Coyle. Both his lecture and his book, The Culture Code (which I highly recommend), emphasize a concept of belonging cues. These refer to small, consistent behaviors that leaders enact to show others that they belong. It communicates that “I value you, your contributions to the team, and that what we are doing is important;” these build psychological safety.

Additionally, I listened to a wonderful Intentional Living & Leadership podcast episode with guest, Ryan Hawk, over the weekend (Ryan is the host of The Learning Leader Show, one of my favorite podcasts). In the episode, the host, Cal, and Ryan discussed how leaders sustain excellence. Ryan’s answer boiled down to the need for leaders to be thoughtful and intentional in their leadership. I couldn’t agree more.

So, why do I share about these seemingly random and insignificant anecdotes? Well, in pairing the ideas from these two sources, I began thinking on some particular ways that leaders unintentionally violate those messages daily in ways that we don’t often think or talk about. Continue reading → Are You Thoughtful & Deliberate in Everything You Do as a Leader? Because Some Small, Careless Behaviors Can be Sending “Anti-Belonging Cues” to Others.

What’s Defining Effective Leadership Today? Inclusiveness.

The key to success in today’s technology-saturated, complex, and adapt-or-die environment is cohesive and disciplined teams. Standard chain of command, pyramid-shaped organizational structures are no longer sufficient. We need people and teams to adapt, act on disciplined initiative, and solve and prevent problems at their own level. And today’s cohesive teams are inclusive teams.

Today’s leaders need to be inclusive ones. So, regardless of rank, position, or industry / field, we need to talk about inclusive leadership. Continue reading → What’s Defining Effective Leadership Today? Inclusiveness.

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