Doing Routine Things Routinely – Leaders Must Still Be Managers

“Great organizations do routine things routinely,” is an old saying (at least within the military) that I love and has resonated with me since I heard it earlier in my career. However, with time, I’ve found that while many love the idea of the quote (it sounds impactful and important), I don’t think most fully understand what it actually means.

Moreover, I recently finished Ryan Hawk’s new book, Welcome to Management, where, in it, he quotes his dad who asserts that, “You are now a leader. You must become a ‘numbers guy’ [management] and continue to inspire. You need to lead, manage, and coach. To be excellent, you have to do all three.”

I’m sure most of us can look to a time where we served within an organization that seemed to be merely reacting day-to-day, only tackling the short, immediate issues each day and never working to deliberately shape a distant future. We would walk away from work each day feeling like we strove just to survive, stay afloat, and avoid failure – but not having accomplished anything truly important long-term.

Looking back at Ryan Hawk’s quote, the concepts of leading and coaching are the ‘sexy’ ones that we all want to do and become better at – we read, study, and practice to improve our leadership and coaching abilities. But, unfortunately, the art and science of management don’t get such popular attention because, well, it’s an unsexy topic; it’s not inspiring, doesn’t contribute to some grand legacy, or directly positively impact lives. But managing well is important because, if we don’t, our organization and people do not reach the personal and collective capacity to do the other efforts well. Effective management enables effective leadership, leader development, and coaching by creating capacity. With that added capacity, we can then pour available attention and energy into other, and arguably more important, efforts like developing leaders, building a strong culture, improving performance, and so on. Continue reading → Doing Routine Things Routinely – Leaders Must Still Be Managers

2019 Holiday Shopping Guide for Leaders

Xmas Post Pic

While I’m no Oprah with an internationally famous “Favorite Things” list or Ellen with the 12 days of Giveaways madness, I do recognize the challenges of holiday gift giving — and professional and military leaders are no exception. To help inspire some thinking on gifts for those challenging professionals on your list, below are some of my favorite items from 2019 and ones I’m excited about in 2020.

Most of these items don’t fit the typical “military tactical leader” list of field gear or gadgets. Instead, they more reflect my current operational environment in a “broadening assignment” with less field time and more professional business workplace environment. Yet, I believe many can benefit from these items no matter their field of work or environment. Continue reading → 2019 Holiday Shopping Guide for Leaders

Reimagining Your Organizational “Improvement” Program

Reimagining Your Organizational Improvement Program_3x5 Leadership

By Andrew Bordelon

“Embrace the inspectors!” may sound like part of a naïve motivational speech from a commander preparing his/her unit for an upcoming inspection from higher headquarters staff. However, CAPT (R) L. David Marquet and the Sailors of the USS SANTA FE submarine welcomed inspections during his command with remarkable results, as elaborated in his book Turn the Ship Around!. This kind of embracement is not common among US military units. Eyes roll and breaths sigh as leaders discuss command inspection visits. Command inspections tend to surface deficiencies and fill up red boxes on extensive PowerPoint brief slides to a commander’s supervisor. Some commanders are determined to never fail an inspection and keep their units “green” during status updates. Either mindset is focused on remaining in compliance with Army regulations. Hence, the Organizational Inspection Program (OIP) could easily be renamed the Organizational Compliance Program by those units with the wrong attitude toward inspectors. But the inspection implementation offers an opportunity for remarkable results and growth at any level. Leaders can instead consider the OIP a unit’s Organizational Improvement Program and seek ways to instill continuous improvement within a unit – a mechanism to be an enduringly learning organization. Continue reading → Reimagining Your Organizational “Improvement” Program

A Junior Officer’s Perspective on Surviving as an Aide-de-Camp: 6 Rules for Success

Aide-de-Camp Rules_3x5 Leadership

By CPT Desmond Clay (LG), CPT Paul Guzman (AR), and CPT Kyle Hensley (LG)

Serving as an aide-de-camp to a General Officer is a humbling and unique experience. This is one of the relatively rare jobs where a junior officer has an opportunity to gain insight on how the “Big Army” runs. Although it has been a few years since we served as aide-de-camps (AdC), there are a few enduring lessons we would like to share. Rarely is the transition period long enough to capture or discuss every possible contingency. Although there is a formal course for an enlisted aide, there is not a course for an AdC. Luckily, there is a General Officer Aide Handbook to help you navigate through this small community with some really helpful tips (1). We think there are six rules for success. Continue reading → A Junior Officer’s Perspective on Surviving as an Aide-de-Camp: 6 Rules for Success

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

The 3 Key Elements to a Young Leader’s Organization

3 Key Elements to a Young Leader's Organization_3x5 Leadership

 “Administrative discipline is the index of combat discipline. Any commander who is unwilling or unable to enforce administrative discipline, will be incapable of enforcing combat discipline. An experienced officer can tell, by a very cursory administrative inspection of any unit, the caliber of its commanding officer.” –GEN George Patton, referenced in Commons Sense Training: A Working Philosophy for Leaders, by LTG (Ret.) Arthur S. Collins

On the spectrum of what is urgent and important as a leader, I firmly believe that leader development is one of the most important. But we can only effectively tackle leader development if we are organized to deal with the urgent and other necessary stuff like administrative issues. A leader must be personally organized, and must ensure his/her organization is as well, in order to maximize impact on those important things like leader development.

I write about this now because it is extremely relevant to my current job and I am learning this necessity the hard way. As a Tactical Officer (TAC) of a 120-Cadet company at the United States Military Academy (USMA), my primary responsibilities are Cadet leader development and being the integrator of the four pillars of their development (academic, military, physical, and character). However, I can only begin to think about getting after these priorities if I have comprehensive and effective organizational systems. I am the legal commander of the Cadet company, but I don’t have the headquarters staff of a “normal” company commander, so my days can quickly become overwhelmed by administrative demands. I must have strict personal and company systems in place so we can get to that “graduate level” of leader development that we have the potential to with the Cadets. Continue reading → The 3 Key Elements to a Young Leader’s Organization

Recommended Apps to Support Your Leader Self-Development and Growth

Leader Learning Apps_3x5 Leadership

There are thousands of online lists offering recommended productivity or “life-hack” apps to help improve your time management, collaboration, and organization. Without question, many of these recommendations are immensely valuable. However, I’ve recently come to wonder what apps people use to support their growth and development, especially as leaders. Unfortunately, there are not as many lists targeted to this topic.

Thus, as a follow up to my previous leader growth tools blog post, I want to offer my recommendations of apps that I leverage to aid in my daily pursuits to learn and grow as a leader in the various roles in my life. Many of these are tailored to my preferred methods of learning and may not necessarily work for you. However, I believe this list can at least get you thinking of a system (app or otherwise) to fill that particular void in your learning efforts. Continue reading → Recommended Apps to Support Your Leader Self-Development and Growth

What Tools Are You Using for Your Leader Growth?

Basic CMYK

What is the primary tool you use to learn and grow as a leader?

How do you record key experiential lessons or ideas in the moment?

Finally, how do you maintain them for long-term retention and use?

I argue that every leader should define how they are learning and what tool(s) they use toward that effort.

In his blog, From the Green Notebook, Joe Byerly clearly defines his learning tool as the famous Army green notebook. Here, on 3×5 Leadership, I identify mine as the common 3×5 index card. I believe there is an important message conveyed on the value of defined learning tools when leader development blogs such as these are named after the author’s tool of choice.

After defining what their learning tool of choice is, I often see leaders struggle to make the next necessary step: to do something with the product. I don’t believe it’s terribly effective to keep a bookshelf of filled green notebooks that are likely untouched afterwards, or to keep a box full of hundreds of filled-out index cards somewhere on a shelf or closet. Further, like almost every Army leader, I too use a green notebook. However, it often becomes filled with daily urgent “to do” lists in addition to insightful leader lessons that I should remember years down the road. How do you separate those so the important lessons are not lost in the noise of the notebook daily tasks? To truly learn from the lessons you record, you need to make them easily accessible. I argue that you need to create a personal learning resource to centralize your valuable lessons. Continue reading → What Tools Are You Using for Your Leader Growth?

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

Face It: We Are All Managers

L-M Post Graphic

The Problem

“Manager” is an ignored word in the Army. I don’t claim it as a bad or taboo word necessarily; it’s just rarely a word that comes up in regard to positions and roles for Army personnel. Everyone is a “leader” and that is the end of the discussion. ADRP 6-22 defines leadership in detail, but makes no mention of management. Our Army Values follow a “LDRSHIP” acronym. We send Soldiers to “leader development” schools like Ranger or Sapper (Leader). You get the point.

There may be a belief that if you’re a manager, then you’re not a leader. Everyone wants to be a leader. From day one of our Army experience, we are conditioned to grow as leaders. This thought prevails, and rightfully so; there is nothing glamorous about the idea of management. When I think of a typical manager, I think of a department store employee in charge of four or five direct reports that doesn’t know how to inspire them, build teamwork, or effectively communicate; I envision him/her simply yelling at their workers all of the time. Further, there’s no published model of the “transformational management style” (as compared to transformational leadership). Continue reading → Face It: We Are All Managers