On-the-Job Development: Leaders as Teachers & Coaches

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 6 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

I have two whiteboards in my office; a 4×3 ft. one for big subjects and a 2×1.5 ft. “lap-sized” board for smaller scale ones. I’m using one of those whiteboards, if not both, every single day. I use them while counseling my Cadets, for teaching moments to help them make sense of new ways of thinking, and of course, to post the weekly #whiteboardwednesday quote. In fact, I just used my lap-board to draw out the first diagram below for one of my Cadets learning how to create developmental experiences for his subordinate.

I share this to communicate a key leader-developer lesson I’ve learned over the last year: every interaction I have with one of my Cadets is a “developmental communication” opportunity. I view every conversation I have with them, at an individual or collective level, through a developmental lens where I can teach, coach, mentor, or counsel. This applies to discussions in my office, passing a Cadet in the barracks hallway, during room inspections, training, meetings, a formal leader development session, or even running into them outside of the barracks on the way to/from class. Leaders can apply this same lens to their own people and organizational context. Continue reading → On-the-Job Development: Leaders as Teachers & Coaches

A Final 3×5 Leadership Reflection on 2017…and A Look Toward 2018!


Over the 47 blog posts to date, there have been a few key posts that seemed to resonate most with readers. I wanted to end the year by highlighting the five most-read 3×5 Leadership blog posts of 2017 and share some insight into what I think that means. These five posts form only 11% of the total published blog material, but have generated 43% of the total traffic to the site. These posts mean something to readers and I think it is important to discover what that is.

Please share any thoughts you may have over the implications of these top five posts below. Is there anything that you feel we should investigate further and write about on the blog in 2018? I enjoy hearing and value others’ reflections on the blog’s material. Continue reading → A Final 3×5 Leadership Reflection on 2017…and A Look Toward 2018!

A Leader’s Mentality: Reflections for Junior Military Leaders

Jason Post Pic

3×5 Leadership Blog Note: This post’s author, Jason, was my third executive officer (XO) while I was in company command. He is a good friend and a professional I highly respect. In being the third XO during my command, Jason’s priorities were not on establishing new and robust unit systems; all of our management systems were in place for the most part. This provided him a rare opportunity to look beyond an XO’s daily “close fight” and pay attention to much larger-scope initiatives. Combining this opportunity with Jason’s professional maturity, high intellect, and passion for transformational leadership, he created the below list for other Lieutenant peers. I was immensely impressed with Jason’s reflections and feel many junior leaders can learn from them.  

By Jason Hu

As I neared the completion of my time as an executive officer and began preparing my replacement to assume responsibility; I wanted to summarize the principles I learned and tried to embody on a daily basis as a junior Army leader. When Josh was my commander, I learned and grew so much, and one of the things he indoctrinated in me was to “always leave the organization better than how you found it”. With that, I decided to write some of the tenets that guided me and publish them to other junior leaders within our company and battalion. Although these tenets are aimed towards junior leaders such as the XO, platoon leaders, and platoon-level NCOs, the extrapolated lessons can be applied to leaders in most echelons. I do not think these reflections are a proven recipe for success, but they do serve as a solid foundation to build upon; they worked for me, and they can be helpful to others too. Continue reading → A Leader’s Mentality: Reflections for Junior Military Leaders

Tactical Decision Exercises 2.0: Additional Resources


Back in February, I published a “Leader Development” mini-series oriented around military small unit leader development programs. The final part of that series addressed a development tool called Tactical Decision Exercises (TDEs). Though not a new concept in the military at all, revitalizing this tool brought a unique, low cost and resource, and effective leader development method to my company and Soldiers. Since sharing that post, it is evident that this tool has resonated with many readers. You can check out that blog post HERE. Continue reading → Tactical Decision Exercises 2.0: Additional Resources

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”


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”

The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback

Feedback Pic

Earlier in my military career, a respected mentor of mine commented that “the Army has lost the art of giving negative feedback.” That statement resonated with me and has stuck with me for years since then. From my experience, Army leaders either fail to provide quality feedback to their subordinates intended to improve them, or do so in an ineffective and destructive manner (which undermines the ultimate purpose). We either are too afraid to have the hard conversations, fail to make time to provide feedback, or (worst case) we out right don’t value developing members of our team or organization with feedback. No matter the reason, it is our subordinates who suffer because a critical aspect of their leader development is missing.

I want to provide some in-depth reflection on the topic of “feedback,” based on both my professional experience as well as recent formal education. Below are my thoughts on effective feedback, which include lessons to consider and tips to incorporate into your own feedback methods. Continue reading → The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback

Family Matters: A Call for Leadership Within Our Families

Family Matters

The military profession is demanding. With deployments, continuous field exercises, readiness exercises, and last minute emergencies, the military tends to occupy a gross amount of any Soldier’s time. It’s easy to let hobbies, and more importantly, our families, take a back seat to these demands.  Eventually though, the military will replace weary Soldiers with younger, more energized versions. When that happens, the fatigued must acquiesce the investment they have or have not made in their families over the years.

We should strive to not let the Army (or a particular profession) define us and potentially undermine the value of our families. In short, we must remember to prioritize family throughout our winding careers.

I don’t have sage wisdom from decades of marriage. I don’t even have kids yet. However, while pursuing my wife and preparing for a future with her, I want to ensure I do this right and do right by her. Similar to the initiative required for my own leader development, I aim to be deliberate in preparing to be a good husband and eventual father. So far, I’ve learned several important lessons from examples like our parents, close friends, and mentors at church. I also learn from research such as from Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast and phenomenal books like Sacred Marriage, by Gary L. Thomas (links to both below). My lessons learned so far are not revolutionary; they are simple concepts. The challenge is committing to them, and to one’s family, every day, no matter the circumstances. Below are my humble takeaways regarding family, thus far, while serving in the military profession. Continue reading → Family Matters: A Call for Leadership Within Our Families

Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

Thunder Run

Prior to commanding a company, I never gave much thought to evaluations. I am not generally concerned with my own evaluations; I firmly believe that if you take care of your Soldiers and your mission, your evaluation takes care of itself. As a staff officer and platoon leader, I was also never in a position where I was rating or senior rating Soldiers that I didn’t interact with on a daily and professionally intimate basis. Upon assuming command, my pool of subordinates that I rated or senior rated drastically increased. In my 18 months of company command, I rated/senior rated three First Sergeants, three XOs, three Operations Sergeants, nine platoon leaders, nine platoon sergeants, and over a dozen squad leaders. As much as I wanted to and tried, as a company commander, it was not feasible to work with all of these individuals personally, like I could as a platoon leader.

So, how did this impact my Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers?  More broadly, how do leaders ensure they do subordinates justice when it comes time for evaluation reports? This is a conundrum for every commander, from company and beyond. Continue reading → Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

Company Command Series Part XII: My Command Regrets


This blog post is the conclusion of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discloses my personal post-command regrets that I’ve reflected on since relinquishing command.

I feel it is appropriate to close out my (admittedly long) Company Command blog series with discussing my personal regrets since relinquishing company command. This post is not so much about the actual regrets themselves as much as it is about the importance to spend time and deliberately reflect, to be honest with yourself, understand you are not (and never will be) a perfect leader, and identify what you wish you were able to accomplish in your formal leadership role. My hope is to first, encourage leaders to be self-aware and willing to admit where they can improve, and second, prevent these below regrets from being on other leaders’ lists of regrets down the road. It’s not weak or unprofessional to assess your post-command regrets; it is a healthy and necessary step to continue your development as a leader. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part XII: My Command Regrets