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

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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

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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

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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

Three Quick Points to Mentor Your New, Emerging Leaders

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By Joshua Trimble

Bringing new members into formal leadership roles on your team is always exciting, but also comes with leader challenges for you. Let’s consider a few situations: It’s time to sit down with your new team leader and counsel them on what you expect of them now that they are in a leadership position. Or think about newly appointed junior officers who may have read several leadership books; what information can you give them in a counseling session that they can easily remember or is relevant? Or, maybe you just hired a new leader to the team and you want to give them a “quick reference guide” on how you expect leaders act on your team.

There is a plethora of literature available about leadership and characteristics of good leaders. But, when you are working on improving your own leadership skills, have you ever thought about how you might mentor young, emerging leaders within your team? People will reference things that are easy to remember and if you can explain something in three quick and easy points, your chances of making a lasting and effective impression increase. The US Army tried this very approach with Be-Know-Do, but you may want to provide your new leaders with more than a bumper sticker.

The culture of your team must resonate with your first level of leaders, and you want to provide them a foundation for success for them, their team, and the organization at large. What three priority leadership characteristics should you offer in that initial counseling that will set them up for success as an emerging leader and give them a path toward becoming their own great leader? Continue reading → Three Quick Points to Mentor Your New, Emerging Leaders

Feedback: An Acquired Taste

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By Bethany Nunnery, USMA Cadet

Our expressions of ‘an acquired taste’ are usually associated with complex food and drinks. However, diving deeper into the definition of an acquired taste, we find that it can incorporate many other things. A simple online definition search reports that an acquired taste is an appreciation for something unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it. Feedback, I would argue, is an example of an acquired taste. Feedback is often unappreciated by many, especially when it is constructive, but with increased exposure to high quality feedback we can eventually begin to enjoy the value feedback brings. In this post, we explore why constructive feedback is so difficult, why it’s important, and how we increase our genuine appreciation for it. Continue reading → Feedback: An Acquired Taste

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