The Five Types of Developmental Communication

5 Types of Developmental Communication_3x5 Leadership

Any time I interact with someone I lead, I see it as a deliberately developmental opportunity. Through our interaction(s), I aim to grow their knowledge, skills, and/or abilities in some way. Any time I am communicating as a leader, I am engaging in one of five types of developmental communication: setting expectations, giving feedback, teaching, coaching, or mentoring.

I leverage the appropriate type based on the person, the situation, and context. Should I be giving targeted feedback in this moment or should I be helping them better understand by providing perspective as a mentor? Should I set clear expectations or would it be better to coach them through determining their own ideas and plans?

These types can be applied at the individual level (one-on-one) or collective (to a small group, your whole team, etc.). Further, these can all be done in formal or informal settings. For example, feedback can be given formally in a scheduled meeting where you provide planned and thought-out feedback on performance for an evaluation report. Or, it can be offered informally in the moment if someone is failing to meet basic standards or expectations.

As leaders, we must determine and enact the most appropriate type of developmental communication to maximize our peoples’ effectiveness and growth. Continue reading → The Five Types of Developmental Communication

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

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

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. Continue reading → Getting in the Arena: Creating a Culture of Truth & Feedback

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

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

You Need a Peer Coach to Become a Better Leader

Peer Coaching

No one grows as a leader without the support from others, which includes superiors, peers, and even subordinates alike. We need people to help make sense of our experiences and of the world. We are often familiar with developmental relationships where we learn from the experience of others, such as through mentoring and on-the-job learning from superiors within your chain of command. Further, many are gaining familiarity with the idea of coaching as a leadership tool, which you can read more about HERE.

Beyond these developmental relationships, which tend to be an “up-down” relationship (a relationship between a superior and subordinate), there is still one source often untapped: your professional peers. Properly leveraged, your peers can be your best source of learning, professional encouragement, and accountability. Peer coaching is an ideal structure for reflection and just one more reflective activity to add to your arsenal of leader learning tools. Through reflection and feedback within your peer coaching relationship, you develop a clearer awareness of personal behaviors and beliefs that affect your performance. Further, work experience alone is insufficient to foster effective learning; we require the assistance of a partner. Continue reading → You Need a Peer Coach to Become a Better Leader

Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

Thunder Run

Prior to commanding a company, I never gave much thought to evaluations. I am not generally concerned with my own evaluations; I firmly believe that if you take care of your Soldiers and your mission, your evaluation takes care of itself. As a staff officer and platoon leader, I was also never in a position where I was rating or senior rating Soldiers that I didn’t interact with on a daily and professionally intimate basis. Upon assuming command, my pool of subordinates that I rated or senior rated drastically increased. In my 18 months of company command, I rated/senior rated three First Sergeants, three XOs, three Operations Sergeants, nine platoon leaders, nine platoon sergeants, and over a dozen squad leaders. As much as I wanted to and tried, as a company commander, it was not feasible to work with all of these individuals personally, like I could as a platoon leader.

So, how did this impact my Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers?  More broadly, how do leaders ensure they do subordinates justice when it comes time for evaluation reports? This is a conundrum for every commander, from company and beyond. Continue reading → Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development

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By Jeffrey Meinders

All of our subordinates fall into one of three categories: top-third, middle-third, and bottom-third; few people will dispute that simple math.  The problem exists when the middle-third think they are in the top group, and the bottom thinks they are in the middle, creating 66% of your subordinates who believe they are among the best.  This confusion is understandable; we encode our current evaluations with very specific language which is hard for junior officers to decipher. This confusion leads to almost half of your best receiving OERs they think are unfair and unwarranted.  Today’s digital age compounds the problem; where less and less face-to-face interaction occurs.  This may complicate closed door conversations for leaders and their subordinates.

I received my first real counseling after nine years of military service.  The counseling was thorough and straightforward; I since modeled all my future counseling and this article after it.  It is disappointing our profession struggles with this basic of leader development.  My battalion commander once told me “I don’t need to counsel you, we talk every day.” They do this because it is peaceful, they don’t want to upset you. Most leaders prefer the easier development, like group book reviews with junior officers, or brown bag lunches with the commander. Not only do we fail at individual counseling, we also fib on the front of our evaluations with made up counseling dates.

To give junior officers a recipe for success, I discuss the four types of counseling every Soldier deserves: initial, quarterly, performance, and evaluation.  This method will save you time and help you separate the ‘wheat from the chaff.’  I also acknowledge while this is method simple, it is not easy.  There are ten other things every day that will take time away from your plan, but I argue there are none more important than one-on-one time with your rated subordinates. Continue reading → Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development