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

Do All Things with Energy and Optimism

Marshall_3x5 Leadership_Engery & Optimism

By Tom Correll

George C. Marshall is well known in leadership and military history circles for his service as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and as one of the key architects of the Allied war effort in World War II. While his reputation is largely dominated by his later accomplishments, early actions were no less notable. Following duties in the Philippines, Marshall was assigned to the Allied Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, where he served with distinction in the 1st Infantry Division.

In the fall of 1920 Major Marshall, wrote to Brigadier General (Retired) John Mallory to document a previous conversation on “the advice I would give a young officer going to war, based on my observation of what had constituted the success of the outstanding figures in the American Expeditionary Forces.” (1-176 letter) Mallory was a competent professional of his own right, receiving two Silver Stars in the Philippines, and still found Marshall’s points compelling.

Marshall highlighted four main qualities: optimism, energy, loyalty, and determination. One hundred years later, this letter still resonates today. Continue reading → Do All Things with Energy and Optimism

There Is A Science to Motivation

Motivation Post

Several months ago, I created and shared the above photo on my blog social media platforms. It was shared enough to be viewed by over 20,000 people (big numbers for my humble blog!) and received varying feedback. Since sharing that photo, one particular comment has resonated with me. A very well-intentioned gentleman stated: “Mumbo Jumbo! Don’t waste time on learning ‘motivational theories.’ Spend time learning who your people are.” This comment has stuck with me because I believe that’s exactly the point to my photo and the purpose in understanding researched motivational theories.

Like all things in leadership, there is an art and a science to subordinate motivation in an organizational setting. For this post, I define motivation as the psychological processes that arouse and direct voluntary goal-oriented behavior. Subordinate performance is a function of ability, motivation, and environment.

Motivation is highly individual and requires leaders to know their people. Certain motivational techniques may be unique to only one of your subordinates, where a different motivational focus and style applies better to another. By better understanding your people on an individual level, you can more effectively invest into them to both achieve their personal professional goals AND improve their contribution (performance) to organizational goals. This is why knowing the science of motivation is important. Continue reading → There Is A Science to Motivation

Leadership Communication: “Here is the Most Important Place for Me to Be”

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Inherent to leadership is communication. Whether it is an organizational vision, leader priorities and areas of emphasis, or showing genuine interest and concern for your people – all leaders have much to communicate in order to be effective.

Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. It is also formal and informal. As a leader, you communicate by speaking in formal meetings, talking to someone one-on-one in passing, and even when / where you choose to be present or not. Leader presence is one of the most critical methods of communication to your people and organization. When and where you choose to be at any moment as a leader sends a message. Moreover, how you act in those times sends the most salient message of all. Continue reading → Leadership Communication: “Here is the Most Important Place for Me to Be”