8 Ways to Be an Intentional Leader

“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. Continue reading → 8 Ways to Be an Intentional Leader

What We Need to Know About Empathy & Leadership

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. Continue reading → What We Need to Know About Empathy & Leadership

The Discipline of Habits – 4 Lessons Learned from Unique Cases of Sustained Success

By Aaron Griffing

 Editorial Note: This article highlights a political figure as a case study but is not offered as a supporting endorsement of a particular party, candidacy, or policy. It is strictly offered as a leadership example of the impact of disciplined habits.

What do Coast Redwood trees, Barack Obama, and the University of Alabama have in common?

At first glance, not much. However, in applying the lens of the discipline of habits, they in fact share many commonalities, ultimately demonstrating to us the impact of a commitment to disciplined habits can have on our sustained growth and success.

I recently finished James Clear’s Atomic Habits while simultaneously beginning Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. I could not help but notice some of the principles Clear shares in his book on habits were affirmed in Obama’s presidential memoirs. The two books left me with four major takeaways:

  • You must remain persistent with your habits – they take time to bare results.
  • We often experience a plateau effect before breaking through toward truly impactful improvement and results.
  • The best don’t rest – even after achieving success, continue to seek improvement.
  • Establishing and employing a productive process is more impactful than establishing and achieving a goal.

Continue reading → The Discipline of Habits – 4 Lessons Learned from Unique Cases of Sustained Success

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. Continue reading → Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

6 Ways to Make Your Reading More Impactful This Year

Leaders are readers. Period.

I’ve learned from the world’s and history’s best because I have read what they’ve written.

I also view a commitment to developmental reading as a sign of professional maturity and ownership of your own development.

But this piece is not arguing why reading is important; I believe most of us acknowledge that already. If not, I encourage you to explore our Leaders Are Readers Series. Instead, we intend to explore how to do so better.

The reality is that we have so much competing for our time. It is challenging to balance the demands of life, work, and more – all while trying to find time to pour into our own development each day. We must be effective and efficient in our approach to reading to maximize its developmental impact. More is not better…nor feasible.

So, let’s look at a few ways that we can make developmental reading more impactful this year, both for ourselves and for others, because we also know that is an inherent leader responsibility. Continue reading → 6 Ways to Make Your Reading More Impactful This Year

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Bad Leadership Experiences

Toxic, counterproductive, ineffective. These are all synonyms for less-than-ideal leadership examples. But bottom line is, we essentially view these as bad leadership.

We have all had experiences with bad bosses and senior leaders. We wonder how they made it into that position all while putting our head down to muscle through the challenge of leading under and working for them. For many of us, we can identify such experiences multiple times over our careers.

I am no exception. I vividly recall a season early in my career where I felt surrounded by poor leadership examples – my boss was a nice person, but not a proficient and recognized leader within the organization; I did not receive clear guidance, development, or support. As a younger professional and leader at the time, I was less mature and thus was angry and disenfranchised. Continue reading → Don’t Underestimate the Power of Bad Leadership Experiences

Do We Have a Culture of Practice?

I am passionate about the concept of Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) offered by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey in their book, An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. Overall, their research aims to identify the most powerful ways to develop the capabilities of people at work in the twenty-first century.

The book studies three “DDOs” as models of the twenty-first century way to create a robust incubator for people’s development. Ultimately, they offer the DDO vision, challenging us to, “Imagine so valuing the importance of developing people’s capabilities that you design a culture that itself immersively sweeps every member of the organization into an ongoing developmental journey in the course of working every day.”

One key aspect to these DDOs is being deliberate about a culture of practice. These organizations are, “continuously engaged in getting over themselves – identifying their weaknesses, seeing deeply into the ways they’re stuck, and having regular opportunities to move past their limiting patters of thinking and acting.” Continue reading → Do We Have a Culture of Practice?

The Feedback Primer Part 5: Making the Abstract Tangible – 3 Example Feedback Loops for Your Consideration

The Feedback Primer Series_3x5 Leadership_Primary Graphic

After spending much of this Feedback Primer saturated in abstract concepts about feedback, I want to offer some tangible ideas to consider moving forward. My hope is that by sharing three examples of organizational feedback loops, we can see how all the concepts introduced in this Primer so far integrate to materialize quality developmental feedback for ourselves as leaders, and for our people. More importantly, I hope sharing these examples inspires and equips leaders to create their own. Adopting these examples is certainly feasible, but I challenge you, as leaders, to think how you can adapt them to best fit your team’s specific needs, contexts, and restrictions.

As you read through the examples, pay attention to the diversity of the feedback loop dynamics (from part 4) and how leaders can practice the nuances of giving and receiving feedback well within them (offered in part 2). Continue reading → The Feedback Primer Part 5: Making the Abstract Tangible – 3 Example Feedback Loops for Your Consideration

The Feedback Primer Part 4: Innovating Feedback Across Your Team

The Feedback Primer Series_3x5 Leadership_Primary Graphic

Through our openness to and desire for feedback from others as a leader (addressed in part 3), we have hopefully begun to inspire others to do the same. Following this, it is time we expand these efforts to a collective level. We, the leaders, must create feedback loops for our people and team. We must own and innovate mechanisms to allow feedback to permeate throughout the team; we are not merely victims of our organizational circumstances and should not wait for “them at corporate” or “higher” to create these systems for us. Such feedback loops within the team do require some creativity, leader time investment, and commitment – but it is possible with resources that are universally available. We can start this now. Continue reading → The Feedback Primer Part 4: Innovating Feedback Across Your Team

The Feedback Primer Part 1: Let’s Start with Why

The Feedback Primer Series_3x5 Leadership_Primary Graphic

It all comes back to feedback.

This simple truth is the capstone of what I’ve learned while being in my own “leadership arena” over the last two years. You’re not feeling satisfied or engaged at work? It likely stems from a lack of feedback on your work revealing the impacts of your efforts. Surprised and disappointed by your recent annual evaluation marks? This is a novel feeling because your supervisors failed to provide relevant, consistent, and constructive feedback over time. Is our team not meeting performance metrics or is just plain mediocre? It’s likely because we have not integrated accountability and feedback in our routine ways of doing business on the team.

Recently, I had a Cadet that I mentor share with me his dissatisfaction with the unclear methods of distributing evaluation marks (referencing organizational justice) across his company, the lack of supervisor engagement with subordinates, and the overall lack of feedback occurring across the chain of command. He truly didn’t even care about his subpar evaluation score. Simply, he stated, “Sir, I just want more feedback.”

I think we can all relate. Looking back on my own 10-year Army career so far, I can count the number of times I felt that I have received quality and relevant constructive feedback on one hand. Clearly, that is not sufficient for sustained leader growth and improvement.

Bottom line: we as humans and as leaders suck at feedback. We suck at giving others feedback and we suck at receiving feedback from others. We need to get better in actually doing it (the act of routinely giving and receiving feedback) and at doing it well (ensuring our feedback is high-quality). Improvement requires education, commitment, and repetition. I hope this primer provides you the education necessary to equip and inspire you to “get in the feedback arena” with your people, commit, and begin the important life-long journey of mastering feedback to improve your own leadership effectiveness as well as your peoples’ and team’s performance. Continue reading → The Feedback Primer Part 1: Let’s Start with Why