The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 4 – Communicating What’s Essential Always in All Ways

This is part 4 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“Leadership requires two things: A vision of the world that does not exist yet and the ability to communicate it.” Simon Sinek, Start with Why

How many attempts does it take to break a bad habit? Or to start a new one? Or how many times must we interact (read, write, recite, etc.) with new information to remember and internalize it?

Once we’ve gone through the important labor of creating and clarifying our team’s essential core, we unfortunately see so many leaders merely publish it to their team in some isolated, grand reveal. They may publish it through a speech, memo, email, or something. They may hang it on a poster or paint it on their team’s work area wall. But then that’s it; it ends after that “grand” reveal and introduction. The issue is, though, that no one’s mind was ever changed by a single speech, lecture, email, or memo. They certainly won’t remember it after just one either. As the opening questions allude to, this requires repetition.

It takes us a comparatively short amount of time to cultivate our team’s core and then clarify it. It may take you and select leaders within your organization a few days, weeks, or even months. But once codified, we must now enter the long journey of sustaining that core – for years and years.

Leaders create and clarify the team’s essential core. But, once established, they must anchor it every day by communicating it in a variety of ways to make it relevant and, in fact, essential. The role of leader is synonymous with “Chief Reminding Officer” – reinforcing to everyone on the team who we are, what we do, and why we do it…always and in all ways. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 4 – Communicating What’s Essential Always in All Ways

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

This is part 3 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

If you can’t talk freely with the most junior members of your organization, then you’ve lost touch.” ―Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos

We’ve finally labored with our leadership team in creating our essential core as discussed in part 2 – great! Now what? Well, now we need to validate this core by clarifying it. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

This is part 2 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.” ―Jim Collins, Built to Last

Striving for excellence is not the same thing as merely avoiding failure. All too often, our teams and organizations spend too much effort on avoiding failure, reacting to changing circumstances, simply managing the day-to-day minutia of routine and urgent work. These are not the reasons we were inspired to join our organization in the first place.

Contrary to what we are so used to seeing, we should not first respond to our changing environment by asking, “How should we change?” Instead, we must default to the questions of, “Why do we exist and what do we stand for?” These are the ideals that give us purpose and direction, regardless of circumstances, and should rarely change (if ever).

To enable our organizations to actually know why we exist and what we stand for, leaders must create clarity around those ideas; we must codify our organization’s essential core. This is the first of three steps in creating organizational clarity. In this part of the series, we explore what an organizational “core” is, why it’s important to define, and how we can approach creating it for our team. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Imagine a scenario where you take over as the new leader of a team and you work to define the essential core of your team though a well-crafted vision and mission statement. You put considerable effort into formulating these ideas, being highly selective about the message and language. After creating, publishing, and displaying this new core of your team, a senior leader from your larger organization comes to visit your team. During the visit, they see your posted vision and mission and ask one of your direct reports – an upper-level manager on your team who helped create those statements – about it…and the person cannot remember the statements. They can’t recite or describe the statements themselves, or even articulate some of the key words or themes from them. Yikes! I’m sure both you and the senior leader are now questioning what impact these statements are even having on your team.

Unfortunately, we experienced this exact scenario last week as an observing third party. The team’s leader certainly understood he had a leadership challenge. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Defining Our Leadership Philosophy

In recently starting a new academic year at West Point, NY, I engaged in the important process of initial counseling with my Cadet staff. Over those 25 conversations in getting to know the Cadets better, setting duty expectations between us, and clarifying their developmental goals, I was surprised by a common thread among a majority of them – many wanted to figure out their leadership philosophy. I asked the Cadets their perceptions on a leadership philosophy and what exactly they are looking to create. I quickly found that the comments centered on wanting to first learn what a leadership philosophy is; “I know it’s important and I want to find out how to make my own.”

This is common in the Army and I’m sure other professions experience something similar. For the Army, when young officers prepare to assume command of a company, the process of creating their leadership philosophy is often identified as a mandatory step before formally assuming that role. I think others can relate to having a new brigade commander or some similar role assume command to then immediately publish their leadership philosophy memorandum to all subordinate leaders.

What I’ve found over the years is that everyone, at least within the Army, finds this concept of a leadership philosophy as super important, but are not overly clear on what it actually is, what it should look like, or how we publish or implement it.

So, to help provide some clarity, I offer a model for a leadership philosophy. It’s offered as a model (not the model) as a means to help us better conceptualize and implement this “big shiny object” of leadership that we place a lot of emphasis on, but may not quite know what exactly to do with. I hope we are able to find some ways to best adapt and apply something within this piece to improve our leader effectiveness. Continue reading → Defining Our Leadership Philosophy

Activating the Levers of Organizational Change

Activating the Levers of Organizational Change_3x5 Leadership

Leading change is extremely hard. It challenges the organization’s status quo, interrupts peoples’ assumptions and comfort zones, and creates an often uneasy unknown or unconfirmed future for the organization. Thus, obstacles and resistance to change are often consistent and come from many sources up, down, across, and even external to the organization. Leading change can easily feel overwhelming and unsuccessful at so many points through the process.

But leading change is inherent and essential to leadership. I think back to Jim Mattis’s comments in his book, Call Sign Chaos, claiming that a “leader must be willing to change and make change.” Leaders must get results for their organization and stakeholders absolutely, but I truly believe that alone is insufficient. Leaders must also make the organization and others better; organizational change is critical to effective leadership. Continue reading → Activating the Levers of Organizational Change

We Need to Talk About Our Peoples’ Engagement at Work

Employee Engagement_3x5 Leadership

Would you confidently state that your people are highly and consistently engaged at work? I think many of us would naturally respond with yes, myself included, but we unfortunately see too many data points that prove otherwise.

Within my military experience, I’ve found that the #1 identifier on how engaged Soldiers are with their work and training at any given time is counting the number of cell phones currently out distracting them from training, work, and the unit’s mission. This is a universal problem though; we can walk into any large business within any industry and see similar disengagement challenges. During my recent holiday travels, I was fascinated to see the extent of employee disengagement that permeated across multiple airports.

The bottom line is that many of our people are not actively engaged in their work or committed to our team or organization. In Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees worldwide are engage in their jobs.

That’s a problem. And it’s a leadership challenge. Continue reading → We Need to Talk About Our Peoples’ Engagement at Work

An Organization that Reflects Together, Learns Together

Organizational Reflection_3x5 Leadership

To succeed in today’s complex, technology-saturated operating environments, organizations must become agile and adaptive. To remain so, organizations need to commit to being learning ones.

Just as reflection is an essential part of our individual leader development, learning organizations require a formal approach to “organizational reflection” to continue to learn, adapt, and succeed. I consider organizational reflection as a process that calls select groups of members to spend critical time away from their routine work to think on and capture important insights on organizational issues at many different levels in order to interpret experiences and organizational structures, clarify lessons learned, and think on the essential ways such lessons must be applied in the future.

Moreover, just as personal reflection requires us to deliberately allocate time and focused attention to thinking, so too must organizational reflection. Leaders must ensure time and space is dedicated to this collective level of learning to help make sense of our organization’s experiences and decisions, clarify what we’ve learned, and determine how and why we must apply this in the future toward improved effectiveness. Continue reading → An Organization that Reflects Together, Learns Together

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

Shared Leadership Series: Developing and Diagnosing Your Team

Shared Leadership Series_3x5 Leadership

This is the 4th and final part of the Shared Leadership Series.

Patrick Lencioni states in his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, that teamwork comes down to courage and persistence. Both are required to enact the things explored in this series as we build and lead effective teams; doing so is incredibly hard, often emotional, and always takes a lot of time. But teamwork remains one of the most sustainable competitive advantages that have been largely untapped in organizations. Lencioni asserts that “as difficult as teamwork is to measure and achieve, its power cannot be denied. When people come together and set aside their individual needs for the good of the whole, they can accomplish what might have looked impossible on paper.”

Through this series, we’ve addressed several important aspects of team development and performance ranging from being clear on a team’s outcomes, to psychological safety, and team cohesion and use of power. If you have not checked out the previous parts of this Shared Leadership Series, I encourage you to start with part 1 here.

Now, I want to end the series by packaging the different topics of shared leadership and team effectiveness into a singular, coherent model to help us better analyze and implement these ideas within our own teams. The GRPI Model of team development, originally offered by Richard Beckhard in 1972, is a great way to mentally organize important aspects of our teams’ development and performance. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Developing and Diagnosing Your Team