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

Leader Awareness Series Part II: Leader Assessment Instruments

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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 four (of eight) self-assessments to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware.

As stated in Part I, the academic study of leadership is about a century old. To this point, there are around 15 major leadership theories, each theory having several proprietary models to explain and enact that theory. Below are eight assessments that are based on eight of those theories that best aid in leaders becoming more self-aware.

With each assessment, I outline what it aims to measure and how to interpret scores. I also introduce the theory that the assessment stems from and if that assessment can be used to obtain 360-degree feedback. If I claim the assessment can be used as 360-degree feedback, I recommend readers print out up to five additional copies of that particular assessment and have available superiors, peers, and/or subordinates complete the assessment ON YOU as well. That way, you can compare the results of your self-test to their responses. I know mention of 360-degree feedback may trigger anxiety from Army readers due to the MSAF-360 tool. 360-degree tools mentioned throughout this series are considerably shorter. Most important to stress though, is the value of receiving this type of feedback. I encourage readers interested in this series to be willing to commit to receiving external feedback as part of it in order to achieve the most value possible. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part II: Leader Assessment Instruments

Leader Awareness Series Part I: An Introduction to Self-Awareness

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Perception is reality. That is a phrase we all have all heard, and are familiar with. What is less emphasized in the implications of this phrase is the assumption that someone else’s perception (of you likely) is different than your own self-perception. Why is that important? Imagine that you list out what you determine to be your top leadership competencies (strengths) that you bring to your organization, as well as your biggest weaknesses. Then your peers, superiors, and subordinates all list out what they imagine your strengths and weaknesses to be as well (such as in 360-degree feedback). What if your list does not at all match with, or is even similar to, anyone else’s assessments of you? Can you imagine how this may be limiting your leadership impact on your organization? Maybe you’re not as strong of a leader as you thought you were.

The congruence of your self-rating and others’ rating of you is what is known as self-awareness. The more self-aware you are, the higher your performance is as a leader. Numerous organizational psychology research studies have proven this fact. Essentially, self-awareness is accurately knowing your own inner state (identity and personality) and accurately recognizing your impact on others. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part I: An Introduction to Self-Awareness

Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

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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