In a recent WorkLife podcast episode I listened to, the host, Adam Grant, made a statement that resonated deeply. He said, “Let’s ban psychological solutions to organizational problems.” That sentence felt like a 100-pound brick being dropped in my lap! He went on to list common examples that may be all too familiar to many of us – organizations applying employee-based fixes like mindfulness activities, emotional intelligence training, or strategies to avoid personal burnout, when really the organization has deeper rooted issues like the need to remove an abusive boss or diagnose ineffective and inefficient systems. And while I have written on emotional intelligence and avoiding personal burnout on this platform, I think Grant’s idea is valid and warrants exploring.More
I recently had a junior leader that I mentor in my office visibly distraught over the lack of perceived change and growth that had occurred within his 130-person team since he took responsibility of leading them some 20 weeks prior. He laid out his efforts up to that point of raising performance and expectation standards, holding members accountable, and doing what he could to explain the intent behind the team’s efforts and priorities. However, he felt that no one on the team was buying in to his efforts, committing, or even caring. He believed he was doing everything right – what he could and needed to do to improve the team through his efforts – but growth was not occurring.
As this leader spoke, I knew his intentions were in the right place and he cared deeply. Yet, as I continued to listen, I couldn’t help but think back to two foundational ideas that heavily influence my leadership style and intentions; there were certainly at play in his scenario:
“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” – John C. Maxwell
“People are interested in those who are interested in them.”
I believed this leader was facing a challenge to many of us at some stage. The challenge is that in an effort to build effective teams, leaders unintentionally overlook the personal, human-dimension of cohesion; we see team members for the value they bring to the team and fail to simply see them as human beings who have worth no matter what. We unfortunately have a limited view of what defines an effective team and the full range of team cohesion sources that feed into it. So, to build effective teams of committed people that last, leaders need to start with a people-first mentality and fully understand what team cohesion actually is.More
“No one sets out to intentionally be the ‘worst boss,’ but no one becomes the ‘best boss’ unless they are intentional.”
–J. Morgan, friend of 3×5 Leadership
Being an intentional leader and consistently deliberate in our approaches have become key to the few critical bedrock principles of effective leadership through more than a decade of pursuing my passion for leadership and developing other leaders. Intentional leaders who are deliberate in their approaches take ownership for their responsibilities and their team, are thoughtful in how they act and why, are careful in their decisions, remain considerate of the impacts they have, and ultimately are incredibly caring for those placed in their charge. As our friend, J. Morgan, asserts above, we cannot be the ‘best boss’ or the outstanding leader that people deserve without a consistent commitment to being intentional.More
I recently had a conversation with an organizational leader who expressed that “empathetic leadership” is one of the biggest threats to the performance of his team. He believed that team members simply sought for their leaders to be more empathetic to their challenges and circumstance (really sympathy), and that leaders felt called to be more nurturing of their people, leading to an inability to maintain high standards of performance. As I listened to this leader speak more on his unapproving perceptions on empathy and leadership, I realized the source of the issue – I think he has an inaccurate and limited view on the role of empathy in leadership.
This issue is not unique to this leader or case. We have an enduring problem in our understanding of empathy and leadership that tends to fall into one of three issues.More
“Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.” –Bob Goff, Love Does.
This quote has so deeply influenced my authentic leadership style in support of my leader philosophy. First and foremost, I choose to lead with love. I truly am passionate about making people & organizations better through leader development; this comes from a genuine wellspring of love for people and their/our work. And still, the longer I lead and the more I experience, the more I find this conviction to be true.
Ultimately, I think it surfaces the need for leaders to show up, genuinely care about others, and create leadership space for them to fill. More often than not, it’s these things that best enable team success and improvement, and less about me as the leader occupying leadership space by fixing, directing, and even speaking.
But how do we accomplish this?More
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. More
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.More
“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.
“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”
―Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
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.More
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.More