Leadership and the Need for Perpetual Optimism

Leadership and Perpetual Optimism_3x5 Leadership

Last year, I assumed a role as a Tactical Officer (TAC) of a West Point Cadet company, where my primary duties include teaching, advising, and coaching the Cadet chain of command as they practice leading and following within a military-style organizational structure. Less than two months into this role, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with how our company was performing. My frustration grew from the gap between my perception of our company’s current level of seemingly average performance and the high amount of potential I saw throughout the entire company and the nearly 120 Cadets in it.

Unfortunately, I let my frustration materialize into my leadership more than I thought and, though unintentional, it started to negatively affect my working relationships with my Cadets. Cadets became colder and more formal in our interactions, they began including me less in their challenges and decision-making, and became less interested in seeking my advice or thoughts. Continue reading → Leadership and the Need for Perpetual Optimism

Are We A Family or A Team?

Freeing the beast
Members of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, work at dislodging their M-777 155mm howitzer from the three-foot deep hole it dug its spades into after firing several rocket assisted projectiles Sept. 3. The huge weapon weighs 9,000 pounds and can launch projectiles more 30 kilometers.

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