Feedback: An Acquired Taste

Feedback is an Acquired Taste_3x5 Leadership

By Bethany Nunnery, USMA Cadet

Our expressions of ‘an acquired taste’ are usually associated with complex food and drinks. However, diving deeper into the definition of an acquired taste, we find that it can incorporate many other things. A simple online definition search reports that an acquired taste is an appreciation for something unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it. Feedback, I would argue, is an example of an acquired taste. Feedback is often unappreciated by many, especially when it is constructive, but with increased exposure to high quality feedback we can eventually begin to enjoy the value feedback brings. In this post, we explore why constructive feedback is so difficult, why it’s important, and how we increase our genuine appreciation for it. Continue reading → Feedback: An Acquired Taste

They Must Become Greater, I Must Become Less: On Leadership & Humility

Leadership Humility_3x5 Leadership

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

─── C. S. Lewis

Whenever the topic of leadership and humility comes up, this is the quote I immediately turn to. And while this idea can certainly stir some inspiring emotion in us when we talk about it, it is also easy to do just that…merely talk about it. Our lives are undoubtedly checkered with plenty of experiences involving selfish, self-centered, and arrogant leaders.

To be transformational, to be leaders of character, and to develop other leaders, we must be humble leaders. This does not mean being weak or timid. It’s exactly like C. S. Lewis states above – how can I think less about myself as the formal leader and more about my people in every situation I can. This type of thinking and style is proving more necessary in 21st century leadership. We need to lead through teams of teams, where we likely don’t have all the information and we are likely not the most skilled person in the group in many different ways. We must create engaged teams where we can solicit diversity of thought and ideas up, down, and across the team.

This is best enabled by humble leaders. Continue reading → They Must Become Greater, I Must Become Less: On Leadership & Humility

The Emotional Side of Leadership: Why You Need to Care About Emotional Intelligence & What to do About It

Emotional Intelligence_3x5 Leadership

Recently, I listened to a seasoned Command Sergeant Major, who was new to his senior enlisted leader billet, lecture a room of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs; predominantly Sergeant First Classes with 11-17 years in the Army) on his leadership philosophy. His #1 point: emotional intelligence is paramount. While I could not agree more, I could tell the impact of his words were a bit lost on the audience because many NCOs in the room did not know what he meant by “emotional intelligence.” I think numerous formal and informal leaders can relate; this is a complex and often confusing concept. It’s important we clarify emotional intelligence for leaders. It drastically amplifies our leadership impact on our people.

What is “Emotional Intelligence” and Why Do I Need to Care About It?

Emotional intelligence (also referred to EQ – emotional quotient) has two sides to consider. First, it is our capacity to be aware of, control, and express our own emotions appropriately. Second, it our ability to handle relationships with others well; this involves those “squishy” topics like empathy.

Simply, EQ is what enables us to best leverage or control our emotions in our thinking, decision-making, and how we interact with others as leaders. We can probably look at our past experiences as leaders and recall a particular moment when we should have better regulated our emotions and, conversely, times when injecting a bit of our emotion into a situation positively contributed to the outcome or impact. Continue reading → The Emotional Side of Leadership: Why You Need to Care About Emotional Intelligence & What to do About It

Keeping Our Leadership Tank Full

Keeping Our Leadership Tank Full_3x5 Leadership

I think many of us spend a lot of personal time thinking on, learning more about, and talking with others about leadership. As a personal example, in a year, I may read several dozen or so books, listen to numerous podcasts, and consume hundreds of different articles aimed at informing how I can lead, influence, and develop other people better.

But, why? What does all this give me? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is a long list of behaviors and attitudes that I need to start, improve, refine, and stop doing. Realizing this can be very overwhelming and humbling though; identifying all of the things I need to fix to lead and develop others better is hard. But I think there is a less tangible, but more important, benefit to this continued personal commitment to self-development: it keeps my leadership tank full. Continue reading → Keeping Our Leadership Tank Full

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

I Will Go On: Leadership and Resilience

IRAQ-WAR-US TROOPS

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

—Samuel Beckett

Earlier this fall, I attended a GEN (Ret.) Martin Dempsey lecture to West Point Cadets on leadership and building a meaningful life. His first visual to support the lecture was this simple line from novelist, Samuel Beckett, with a black and white photo of a WWI Doughboy assaulting from a trench. Dempsey’s argument: you, as a leader, must be the period between those two thoughts. You must lead and inspire your Soldiers from a place where they think they cannot go on toward a resolute “I will go on” – in life, our professional missions, and in our own continued growth and development. I’ve thought on this point often since that lecture. Not only must leaders model resiliency themselves, but also develop it in others. Further, I continue to reflect on the fact that in a lecture on “building a meaningful life,” Dempsey’s first point addressed the importance of personal and collective resiliency. Continue reading → I Will Go On: Leadership and Resilience

The Five Types of Developmental Communication

5 Types of Developmental Communication_3x5 Leadership

Any time I interact with someone I lead, I see it as a deliberately developmental opportunity. Through our interaction(s), I aim to grow their knowledge, skills, and/or abilities in some way. Any time I am communicating as a leader, I am engaging in one of five types of developmental communication: setting expectations, giving feedback, teaching, coaching, or mentoring.

I leverage the appropriate type based on the person, the situation, and context. Should I be giving targeted feedback in this moment or should I be helping them better understand by providing perspective as a mentor? Should I set clear expectations or would it be better to coach them through determining their own ideas and plans?

These types can be applied at the individual level (one-on-one) or collective (to a small group, your whole team, etc.). Further, these can all be done in formal or informal settings. For example, feedback can be given formally in a scheduled meeting where you provide planned and thought-out feedback on performance for an evaluation report. Or, it can be offered informally in the moment if someone is failing to meet basic standards or expectations.

As leaders, we must determine and enact the most appropriate type of developmental communication to maximize our peoples’ effectiveness and growth. Continue reading → The Five Types of Developmental Communication

Shared Leadership Series: Targeting Three Essential Team Culture Artifacts to Form an Effective Team

Shared Leadership Series_3x5 Leadership

Established in part 1 of this Shared Leadership Series, effective 21st century leadership requires a “shared leadership” approach, where leaders leverage and operate within teams (and teams of teams) to accomplish a mission and associated tasks. The increased complexities of demands placed on leaders and our operating environments today make it infeasible to lead teams and organizations as a singular leader at the top.

In order to build successful “shared leadership” attitudes and competencies across our teams, leaders must target and build three critical tangible aspects (known as artifacts) of our teams’ cultures: building trust through psychological safety, establishing a high learning-orientation, and achieving clarity in team decision-making and “organizational justice.” These alone do not create a complete model for team development, but these three attitudes and competencies are essential foundations to make the team perform successfully, ensure member satisfaction within the team, and to better enable enduring team viability. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Targeting Three Essential Team Culture Artifacts to Form an Effective Team

Self-Awareness & Your Leadership Effectiveness

Self-Awareness & Your Leadership Effectiveness_3x5 Leadership

Bottom line: improved self-awareness directly leads to improved effectiveness as a leader. Research proves it. And I bet many of your own experiences prove it as well.

This concept of self-awareness is challenging, though. It’s complex, it’s hard to conceptualize, and often harder to operationalize in our own or others’ lives. But, it is essential in our growth and development as leaders.

In my experience and my learning, I’ve found that we can categorize self-awareness into three primary domains: personality, skills & abilities, values & motives. This model helps us better understand and simplify this complex concept, improve our learning and the language we use to discuss it, and ultimately more effectively operationalize it in our behaviors. Continue reading → Self-Awareness & Your Leadership Effectiveness

Reflection Series, Part V: Organizational Reflection

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

Thus far, this series has analyzed reflection at the individual level and how it helps us learn as leaders to improve our leadership. We conclude the series, however, looking at reflection at the organizational level and how a team can collectively reflect. Reflecting at the organizational level becomes a driving force that leads to collective institutional learning. Just like our own individual learning through reflection makes us better leaders, reflecting as a group or team can make us more effective as an organization.

Below are a few recommended organizational reflective exercises to help your team collectively “connect the dots” and figure out what to with those new connections. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part V: Organizational Reflection