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

Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

3x5 Leadership_Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

Opening note: I interchange the use of appreciation and gratitude in this post; they are synonymous.

I firmly believe that “true” leadership is based on influence, not power or authority. My favorite definition of leadership comes from John C. Maxwell, “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Leading through influence requires leaders to earn the trust of their people; through care, compassion, and empathy; and often being someone that others like to work with (termed social cohesion). One aspect of influence-based leadership that is often ignored is the act of showing appreciation and gratitude. Never underestimate the power of appreciation!

In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff states that, “people need love and appreciation more than they need advice.” I like to pair this thought with two other quotes to best capture the impact of appreciation in our leadership: Charles Schwab is credited for saying, “the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Finally, author Gertrude Stein stated that, “silent gratitude isn’t [worth] very much to anyone.” Continue reading → Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

My New Favorite Question

New Favorite Leader Question_What is your greatest challenge right now_3x5 Leadership

My leadership by wandering around times, the time I dedicate to walking around my unit footprint talking to Soldiers, is not only a chance for me to take a break from the monotony of busy work but is in fact a very deliberate method to maintain my presence in the unit, which directly contributes to my team building efforts. Just as purposeful as the time I dedicate to my leadership presence and leadership by wandering around is the line of questions I leverage when talking to my Soldiers. The questions I ask when interacting with Soldiers are highly-focused and aim to gain new knowledge about something I want to learn about; this can include personal information about the Soldier, their feedback on our unit or recent training, or innovative ideas on how we can improve for the future.

My personal arsenal of questions can range from simple and vague (such as, “how is everything going?”) to organizationally specific (like, “what’s the thing we need to get better at now to become a better company?”) or even personal (“how was your and (spouse’s name)’s vacation to (location)?”). Each question serves a purpose, but are leveraged based on the Soldier, the current situation, and other contextual factors.

However, I recently found my new favorite question to ask subordinate leaders, such as platoon leaders or squad leaders, during these times: what is your biggest challenge right now? Continue reading → My New Favorite Question

4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better

4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better_3x5 Leadership

A number of weeks ago, I asked readers for feedback about the blog through an online survey. I greatly appreciate your time and for sharing your honest thoughts. The #1 piece of feedback centered on practical application, how to materialize the ideas shared through each blog post. Many claimed they appreciated the amount of application found in the posts; others voiced a desire for even more. Message received; this post is strictly application and I will continue to maintain appropriate doses of practical application as I continue to write. Again, thanks for the feedback!

In the US Army, there is an unpopular, but necessary unit duty called Staff Duty. For those not familiar, this 24-hour shift encompasses non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and junior officers serving as the unit commander’s representative for any issue that arises during their tour of duty. This duty is shared by the junior and mid-level leaders within the organization, where most NCOs and officers complete a staff duty tour once every month to quarter. Responsibilities include receiving and escorting VIPs, receiving and managing notices to Soldiers from external agencies (such as the Red Cross), inspecting the unit areas for good order and discipline, managing any emergency that occurs that day (such as barracks maintenance emergencies), and anything else the commander deems necessary. Other military services have a similar duty, such as the Navy’s officer on watch. At the United States Military Academy (USMA), my current assignment, cadet sophomores fulfill this duty for each cadet company, known as the Cadet in Charge of Quarters (CCQ).

Often, this duty is viewed as a check-the-block event, where you conduct your duties, try and stay awake and engaged during your shift, and count the hours until your replacement arrives. However, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot of potential to incorporate leader development into staff duty-like shift assignments. Especially as a current Tactical Officer of USMA cadets, where I get limited touchpoints with cadets each day, I wanted to incorporate some form of leader development into this typically monotonous task. Continue reading → 4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better

A Model of Effective Goal-Setting for Leaders

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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

What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

Leadership One Big Thing_3x5 Leadership

I met with a friend recently who just finished reading Radical Inclusion, by GEN (Ret.) Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman. During our conversation, he anxiously claimed, “there is so much from that book that I want to start doing, I don’t even know where to start.”

I think we have all been there in some capacity. I felt the same way when I finished David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! Personally, with all of the books, blogs, journals, and podcasts I routinely engage in, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed with the new ideas for leadership improvement and organizational development. I often feel compelled to do it all now, though I know it won’t be effective or sustainable. Even all of the 3×5 Leadership blog posts, when considered collectively, can easily send a message of “do all of this now!”

So, I want to offer a simple model of personal leader development and a strategy to focus on the most important improvements to develop as a leader. The model, below, is broken down into four steps that I recommend you follow, where each step encourages you to write out a statement or a list. You’ll end with an identified leader behavior to improve on, the purpose of it, an actionable strategy, and timeline to work in it. Continue reading → What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

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

The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback

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Earlier in my military career, a respected mentor of mine commented that “the Army has lost the art of giving negative feedback.” That statement resonated with me and has stuck with me for years since then. From my experience, Army leaders either fail to provide quality feedback to their subordinates intended to improve them, or do so in an ineffective and destructive manner (which undermines the ultimate purpose). We either are too afraid to have the hard conversations, fail to make time to provide feedback, or (worst case) we out right don’t value developing members of our team or organization with feedback. No matter the reason, it is our subordinates who suffer because a critical aspect of their leader development is missing.

I want to provide some in-depth reflection on the topic of “feedback,” based on both my professional experience as well as recent formal education. Below are my thoughts on effective feedback, which include lessons to consider and tips to incorporate into your own feedback methods. Continue reading → The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback

Leader Awareness Series Part IV: Other Helpful Assessments

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This is the conclusion of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses some additional self-assessments (these ones not necessarily tied to a studied leadership theory) to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware. You can start the series with Part I here.

In the previous two posts, I covered eight leadership theories and associated self-assessments. In this post, I continue by presenting four more assessments that are based on more current research, highly applicable to contemporary leadership, and/or are not directly related to the study of leadership but can help explain your leadership style. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part IV: Other Helpful Assessments

Leader Awareness Series Part III: Leader Assessment Instruments Continued

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This is a continuation of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses the remaining four (of eight) self-assessments to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware. Check out the beginning of this series here, and the first four leadership theories and assessments here.

In the previous post, I covered four leadership theories and associated self-assessments. In this post, I continue by presenting the remaining four theories and assessments, and conclude the post with some questions to consider during subsequent reflection. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part III: Leader Assessment Instruments Continued