Are You Thoughtful & Deliberate in Everything You Do as a Leader? Because Some Small, Careless Behaviors Can be Sending “Anti-Belonging Cues” to Others.

Last week, I had the great fortune to listen to a lecture by author, Dan Coyle. Both his lecture and his book, The Culture Code (which I highly recommend), emphasize a concept of belonging cues. These refer to small, consistent behaviors that leaders enact to show others that they belong. It communicates that “I value you, your contributions to the team, and that what we are doing is important;” these build psychological safety.

Additionally, I listened to a wonderful Intentional Living & Leadership podcast episode with guest, Ryan Hawk, over the weekend (Ryan is the host of The Learning Leader Show, one of my favorite podcasts). In the episode, the host, Cal, and Ryan discussed how leaders sustain excellence. Ryan’s answer boiled down to the need for leaders to be thoughtful and intentional in their leadership. I couldn’t agree more.

So, why do I share about these seemingly random and insignificant anecdotes? Well, in pairing the ideas from these two sources, I began thinking on some particular ways that leaders unintentionally violate those messages daily in ways that we don’t often think or talk about. Continue reading → Are You Thoughtful & Deliberate in Everything You Do as a Leader? Because Some Small, Careless Behaviors Can be Sending “Anti-Belonging Cues” to Others.

What’s Defining Effective Leadership Today? Inclusiveness.

The key to success in today’s technology-saturated, complex, and adapt-or-die environment is cohesive and disciplined teams. Standard chain of command, pyramid-shaped organizational structures are no longer sufficient. We need people and teams to adapt, act on disciplined initiative, and solve and prevent problems at their own level. And today’s cohesive teams are inclusive teams.

Today’s leaders need to be inclusive ones. So, regardless of rank, position, or industry / field, we need to talk about inclusive leadership. Continue reading → What’s Defining Effective Leadership Today? Inclusiveness.

Three Quick Points to Mentor Your New, Emerging Leaders

Mentor Your New Emerging Leaders_3x5 Leadership

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

Building & Reinforcing a Culture of Development

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 10, the conclusion, of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the series introduction here if you have not yet.

Imagine so valuing the importance of developing people’s capabilities that you design a culture…[which] sweeps every member of the organization into an ongoing developmental journey in the course of working every day.

An Everyone Culture, by Fobert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

I like to imagine our organizational leader development processes like building a garden. We can envision what we want our garden to look like and what we want to get out of it – certain vegetables, plants, and/or flowers. We then build the actual garden in the selected location with high-quality resources. Finally, we plant our desired plants. However, we know that gardening does not stop once the plants are planted; that is only the beginning. Gardens require consistent attention – watering, pruning, re-fertilizing, etc. – all done and re-done season after season. Moreover, different plants have different needs like varied levels of water, sunlight, pruning, and types of fertilizer.

Our leader development approach is very similar. We can create the most robust, highest quality development process with impactful activities, but much like a garden, our developmental approach must receive consistent attention and “pruning.” Leaders must routinely and continuously reinforce a culture of development after we have initiated our processes and activities. Continue reading → Building & Reinforcing a Culture of Development

How Are We Actually Developing Leaders?

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 4 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

John Maxwell states that, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Jocko Willink claims that, “the most important element on the battlefield is leadership.”

GEN (Ret.) David Perkins asserts that in every organization he has seen in his 38-year career, the one “essential sauce” that was needed for success was leadership.

If success on the battlefield, in the workplace, and in our lives comes down to leadership, how are we deliberately developing others and ourselves to become better leaders? How are we impacting the 2nd and 3rd generations of leaders in our organization? Developing our people to become better leaders is far too important to merely resort to passive means or to leave it as an afterthought. We must implement a defined leader development process. Continue reading → How Are We Actually Developing Leaders?

Are You Solving the Problems or Making them Worse?

Solving Soldiers Problems_3x5 Leadership

Guest post by Franklin Annis, creator of The Evolving Warfighter video blog

Former US Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is credited for his famous quote about leaders handling their Soldiers’ problems:

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Continue reading → Are You Solving the Problems or Making them Worse?

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

Discipline Through Accountability and Enforcing Standards

Trip of the Secretary of Defense

Most of what I write, and what others write on similar platforms, focuses on the encouraging and inspirational side of leadership such as motivation, building trust, and developing the next generation of leaders. It’s fun to write and read about these topics because they make us, our people, and our organizations better. They’re also easy to write about. What’s challenging to write about and get people discussing are the less-stimulating sides to leadership such as holding others accountable and enforcing standards. I can already feel the dread overcome me as I write those words…

Critical characteristics for any field to be considered a true profession include high individual and collective responsibility and mutual accountability. In the military, this includes standards like professional appearance and wear of uniforms, physical fitness requirements, maintaining positive control of all assigned Soldiers and equipment, and routine certification in your assigned tasks by your higher headquarters. So, how do we do that well, where we can hold each other accountable while inspiring them to want to inherently be and do better? I believe we can all recall times where someone, such as a boss, unnecessarily tore us down for not maintaining a certain standard; maybe they even targeted us personally, rather than just our undesired behavior. I challenge the assumption held by many that holding others accountable to the standards requires strict and harsh reactions. How can we enact mutual accountability while continuing to build a stronger, more effective, and cohesive team? In his book (which I highly recommend), The Culture Code, Dan Coyle asserts that, “one misconception about highly successful [team] cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.” Continue reading → Discipline Through Accountability and Enforcing Standards

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