The Feedback Primer Part 3: On Leaders Creating Their Own Feedback Loops

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Brené Brown, one of my favorite authors, uses Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 speech as the foundation for the title and structure of her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. She asserts that this quote perfectly encapsulates her research into why we find being vulnerable such a hard thing to do.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

So, what does this have to do with feedback? Well, I think everything. Continue reading → The Feedback Primer Part 3: On Leaders Creating Their Own Feedback Loops

Do Your People Feel Safe? How Leaders Create Psychological Safety.

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A few years ago, Google studied to determine the keys to successful teams. Through their research, they found that the #1 key to the highest-performing teams was psychological safety within the team. This means that team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other, without feeling insecure or embarrassed.

High psychological safety across the team provides a number of key benefits such as:

  • It encourages members to speak up with ideas, professional dissent, and necessary questions.
  • It enables a culture of feedback and accountability within the team – up, down, and across.
  • Fosters higher levels of innovation, especially from more junior members.

But leaders can’t just create this safety out of thin air, nor can they demand it from their team. We can’t merely tell our teammates, “I want you to feel safe here” if our actions communicate otherwise.

Leaders must build a sense of psychological safety for their team. This is done through deliberate, consistent behavior over time. Here are a few ways that we can start practicing it more now: by using inclusive language, making vulnerability OK for them and for us, trusting first, and enacting our leader love languages. Continue reading → Do Your People Feel Safe? How Leaders Create Psychological Safety.

Words Matter – The Importance of Our Language as Leaders

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If I were to define my “leadership philosophy,” or maybe the top three ways I prefer to lead, I’d articulate it as: leading with love; generating high engagement across the team; and creating clarity for everyone on who we are, what we do, and why we do it. It’s easy to see how important effective communication and use of clear language are when trying to live out that philosophy each day.

Moreover, a mentor of mine taught me years ago: “use precise words precisely.”

While my amateur writing my not live up to those standards, I’m sure all can see that the bottom line is: our language is a critical component to our effectiveness as leaders and developers of other leaders. Even the details of how we structure a question, statement, or word choice can have meaningful impacts. Continue reading → Words Matter – The Importance of Our Language as Leaders

They Must Become Greater, I Must Become Less: On Leadership & Humility

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“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

─── C. S. Lewis

Whenever the topic of leadership and humility comes up, this is the quote I immediately turn to. And while this idea can certainly stir some inspiring emotion in us when we talk about it, it is also easy to do just that…merely talk about it. Our lives are undoubtedly checkered with plenty of experiences involving selfish, self-centered, and arrogant leaders.

To be transformational, to be leaders of character, and to develop other leaders, we must be humble leaders. This does not mean being weak or timid. It’s exactly like C. S. Lewis states above – how can I think less about myself as the formal leader and more about my people in every situation I can. This type of thinking and style is proving more necessary in 21st century leadership. We need to lead through teams of teams, where we likely don’t have all the information and we are likely not the most skilled person in the group in many different ways. We must create engaged teams where we can solicit diversity of thought and ideas up, down, and across the team.

This is best enabled by humble leaders. Continue reading → They Must Become Greater, I Must Become Less: On Leadership & Humility

Engaging Generation Z: A Military Perspective

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

By Patrick Hinton

Know Your Audience

Retaining soldiers is a perennial problem for military forces the world over. It is a central topic in the British Army in the face of a difficult recruitment environment.  Much stock is given to the fluid nature of employment in the modern world, with a focus on younger generations. This has necessitated a discourse on how best to retain troops who look for more than a steady wage and job security. My interest in the topic was spiked by a 2018 War on the Rocks article by KC Reid which is worth a read if you have a spare ten minutes. Reid makes the point that approaches to leadership must take into account the different age demographics which make up the military.

Much has been made of the different approach to work and life of millennials, and more importantly, Generation Z, which organisations are having to coming to terms with. Broadly, Gen Z encapsulates those under 25 years of age which captures the vast number of junior soldiers and officers serving today. The more fluid conception of career and authority identified in younger people is particularly important for the military, which is necessarily hierarchical. Moreover, it has a career management structure generally based on a 15-20 year term, rather than the 3-5 year periods favoured by a younger demographic. As such, all organisations including the military must work hard to provide engaging employment. This demographic sees no problem is leaving an organisation which is not meeting their expectations. Continue reading → Engaging Generation Z: A Military Perspective

We Need to Talk About Our Peoples’ Engagement at Work

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Would you confidently state that your people are highly and consistently engaged at work? I think many of us would naturally respond with yes, myself included, but we unfortunately see too many data points that prove otherwise.

Within my military experience, I’ve found that the #1 identifier on how engaged Soldiers are with their work and training at any given time is counting the number of cell phones currently out distracting them from training, work, and the unit’s mission. This is a universal problem though; we can walk into any large business within any industry and see similar disengagement challenges. During my recent holiday travels, I was fascinated to see the extent of employee disengagement that permeated across multiple airports.

The bottom line is that many of our people are not actively engaged in their work or committed to our team or organization. In Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees worldwide are engage in their jobs.

That’s a problem. And it’s a leadership challenge. Continue reading → We Need to Talk About Our Peoples’ Engagement at Work

An Organization that Reflects Together, Learns Together

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To succeed in today’s complex, technology-saturated operating environments, organizations must become agile and adaptive. To remain so, organizations need to commit to being learning ones.

Just as reflection is an essential part of our individual leader development, learning organizations require a formal approach to “organizational reflection” to continue to learn, adapt, and succeed. I consider organizational reflection as a process that calls select groups of members to spend critical time away from their routine work to think on and capture important insights on organizational issues at many different levels in order to interpret experiences and organizational structures, clarify lessons learned, and think on the essential ways such lessons must be applied in the future.

Moreover, just as personal reflection requires us to deliberately allocate time and focused attention to thinking, so too must organizational reflection. Leaders must ensure time and space is dedicated to this collective level of learning to help make sense of our organization’s experiences and decisions, clarify what we’ve learned, and determine how and why we must apply this in the future toward improved effectiveness. Continue reading → An Organization that Reflects Together, Learns Together

Shared Leadership Series: Developing and Diagnosing Your Team

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This is the 4th and final part of the Shared Leadership Series.

Patrick Lencioni states in his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, that teamwork comes down to courage and persistence. Both are required to enact the things explored in this series as we build and lead effective teams; doing so is incredibly hard, often emotional, and always takes a lot of time. But teamwork remains one of the most sustainable competitive advantages that have been largely untapped in organizations. Lencioni asserts that “as difficult as teamwork is to measure and achieve, its power cannot be denied. When people come together and set aside their individual needs for the good of the whole, they can accomplish what might have looked impossible on paper.”

Through this series, we’ve addressed several important aspects of team development and performance ranging from being clear on a team’s outcomes, to psychological safety, and team cohesion and use of power. If you have not checked out the previous parts of this Shared Leadership Series, I encourage you to start with part 1 here.

Now, I want to end the series by packaging the different topics of shared leadership and team effectiveness into a singular, coherent model to help us better analyze and implement these ideas within our own teams. The GRPI Model of team development, originally offered by Richard Beckhard in 1972, is a great way to mentally organize important aspects of our teams’ development and performance. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Developing and Diagnosing Your Team

Shared Leadership Series: Important Team Dynamics for Leaders’ Attention

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If we require a sense of “shared leadership” among a team of people to be effective leaders in the 21st century, as argued in part 1 of this series, it is necessary to develop and grow our team for improved performance, member satisfaction, and to ultimately ensure team viability. In line with Peter Drucker’s famed quote that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” the first aspect that leaders must target is the team’s culture. In the previous part (part 2) of this series, we addressed three critical team culture artifacts that leaders must emphasize for team development: psychological safety, high learning orientation, and perceptions of organizational justice.

Complete team success relies on three essential outcomes: team performance, member satisfaction, and team viability. All three rely on effective and efficient interactions between team members as they accomplish their mission and day-to-day tasks. Formally, this is referred to team dynamics. As we can see in our own lives, different personalities and ways of doing business among members can impact the team’s ability to accomplish its mission and tasks; gossip and drama are often clear signs of the damaging effects of poor team dynamics. It’s important to improve a team’s dynamics and the processes it uses to do work. I believe leaders should focus on three important aspects of their team’s dynamics: team cohesion; the use and balance of power, authority, and influence; and ensuring that team and individual member purpose, shared values, and goals are clear and consistently communicated. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Important Team Dynamics for Leaders’ Attention

Shared Leadership Series: Targeting Three Essential Team Culture Artifacts to Form an Effective Team

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Established in part 1 of this Shared Leadership Series, effective 21st century leadership requires a “shared leadership” approach, where leaders leverage and operate within teams (and teams of teams) to accomplish a mission and associated tasks. The increased complexities of demands placed on leaders and our operating environments today make it infeasible to lead teams and organizations as a singular leader at the top.

In order to build successful “shared leadership” attitudes and competencies across our teams, leaders must target and build three critical tangible aspects (known as artifacts) of our teams’ cultures: building trust through psychological safety, establishing a high learning-orientation, and achieving clarity in team decision-making and “organizational justice.” These alone do not create a complete model for team development, but these three attitudes and competencies are essential foundations to make the team perform successfully, ensure member satisfaction within the team, and to better enable enduring team viability. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Targeting Three Essential Team Culture Artifacts to Form an Effective Team