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Self-Development Begets Leader Development

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This is part 3 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

One of the most critical lessons I learned as a junior officer and the first piece of advice I offer to young officers is: the Army won’t teach you everything you need to know to be successful in your next job. You need to demonstrate some initiative and do everything you can to learn key aspects of that next job on your own before you get there.

To be successful as a leader and as a leader developer, there must be a deliberate and routine effort toward self-development.

Self-Development Before Leader Development

Self-development is the second step in our leader development approach, pictured below. Before you can lead others, you must lead yourself well. More importantly, you can’t develop others if you’re not developing yourself. Consistently growing your own knowledge, skills, and abilities must occur before you can begin to do the same for the leaders around you. It’s about setting the example as a life-long learner for others and inspiring them to ultimately take responsibility for their own growth. While role-modeling does not necessarily equate to leader development (you can’t develop leaders only through your personal example), it is a critical first step for every leader developer. Continue reading → Self-Development Begets Leader Development

Creating Opportunities in Our Organizations & Making the Time for Leader Development

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

If you are new to the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook, I encourage you to start with the introduction here.

We claim that leader development is important and we always have the best intentions as leader developers. Then, life and work happen. All of the meetings, administrative work requirements, Soldier or employee matters to attend to, special projects, and more tend prevent us from finding the time to actually develop our leaders. Unfortunately, the non-essential urgent of our days tends to overtake the enduring important in our organizations – things like leader development. The next thing we know, it’s weeks and months later with no thought or action towards leader development but a mountain of busywork completed.

Before we can get into the meat of this Leader Development Handbook, it is important to address the need to create opportunity and readiness for leader development first. In this second part of the Leader Development Handbook, we address the first building-block of our leader development approach: managing our organizational demands. Continue reading → Creating Opportunities in Our Organizations & Making the Time for Leader Development

Introducing the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook

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I believe we all progress through a “leader growth journey” in our work and in our lives. In the different organizations and teams that we are members of, we enter as individuals, socialize into followers, assume the identity as leaders, and ultimately, become leader developers. The leader role can be formal, where we carry a title or assigned position of leadership within the organization, or it can be informal – achieving influence throughout the team (up, down, and across) regardless of our title or position. Most importantly though, there is a clear distinction between being a leader and leader developer. Steering the ship yourself is far different from teaching others how to steer the ship and affording them opportunities to do so. The differences span from guiding attitudes, routine behaviors, and leader priorities.

This project, offered through a series of articles, creates the “3×5 Leader Development Handbook,” which provides a holistic approach to becoming an effective leader developer. Continue reading → Introducing the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook

I Used a Commander Social Media Profile for 90 Days; Here’s What Happened

Leader Social Media_3x5Leadership

There’s no argument that social media is now a primary domain for networking and learning connections, receiving news and updates, and staying on top of what’s going on in peoples’ lives that we value. As such, I believe leaders need to seriously consider this domain as one that contributes to their overall leader presence, despite personal opinions about social media. Good commanders go where their Soldiers are; good leaders go where their people are. This idea applies to social media. Our young Soldiers, who are Millennials and now even younger, are on their phones 150 times a day. Why would we not access that rich opportunity to communicate with our people in a domain that they value and already spend so much time in?

So, I gave a commander social media profile a try over the last 90 days. Here is what happened and what I learned. Continue reading → I Used a Commander Social Media Profile for 90 Days; Here’s What Happened

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?”

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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?”

A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Willingness to Learn_Growth Mindset_3x5 Leadership

Inherent to leader development and many of the posts on 3×5 Leadership is the idea that we are all continuously growing and developing our leader capacities. This, then, assumes that leadership is a learned ability and not really a natural trait that we are or are not born with. In my leadership roles within the organizations I serve, I routinely assert that a major goal for my leader development programs is to inspire peoples’ commitment to being life-long learners.

So, how exactly do we approach developing this attitude of and passion for learning leadership? I argue that we must differentiate one’s ability to learn from their willingness to. According to The Center for Creative Leadership’s Leader Development Model, one’s ability to learn from experience is a complex combination of motivational factors, personality factors, and learning tactics; it is one’s cognitive ability and achieved skill of efficiently receiving new knowledge. This is different from a willingness to learn, or what is called a “growth mindset,” which is a term popularized by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset, one’s willingness to learn, is understanding that intelligence and leadership ability is not fixed, but can be gained, and they see learning as valuable in itself. People with growth mindsets commit to learning and are willing to take responsible risks in order to improve. Continue reading → A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

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In May 1991, following Desert Storm and months before his retirement, GEN Norman Schwartzkopf gave a speech to United States Military Academy (USMA) Cadets. In it, he argued that the two essential traits that must define leaders of the 21st century are competence and character (I highly encourage you to check out the inspiring speech here, in parts one, two, and three). So much time, money, and effort are poured into developing leader competence to achieve performance capacity and organizational success. Hundreds of books, journals, podcasts, and blogs (to include this one) center around developing leader competence. Yet, we pay less attention to character development. I believe it is because character is so intangible, hard to define, and even difficult to determine its impact on an organization; I think it is easy to determine if someone has bad character but it is less clear to determine if they have good character.

Deliberately addressing character is an organizational and leader developer necessity; the lack of such attention is ultimately the root cause of our society’s seemingly extensive erosion of integrity and respect showcased by the many downfalls of high visibility leaders (to include military) and once respected celebrities. My previous brigade commander constantly reiterated to his subordinate leaders that “character counts more than resume.” Continue reading → Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century