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

Reflection Series, Part IV: An Approach

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

“Preparation and reflection must be the bookends of every experience we encounter as well as ones we offer our subordinates.” – Unknown

This is one of my personal favorite leadership quotes because it stresses the value of two often overlooked aspects of experiential learning. Preparing and reflecting are critical for maximizing learning from our experiences. Reflection, especially, is so often ignored in the actual execution of leader development, which I touch on in part II of this series.

This series aims to provide my perspective and lessons on what I’ve come to learn about reflection, specifically how to engage in it. Last week, in part III of the series, I shared several popular methods for reflection. Now, I provide a personal approach to incorporate a holistic reflective system into your learning and development. This is how I reflect on a routine basis.

Remember, reflection is highly individual and you may prefer to reflect in ways that I don’t and vice versa. My goal in sharing my personal reflective approach is to show you how certain reflective activity “puzzle pieces” can be pieced together to have a big impact. If you are new to this reflection series, I encourage you to start at the beginning, in part I, which introduces this abstract reflection concept. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part IV: An Approach

Reflection Series, Part III: How Leaders Can Reflect

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

Thus far in this reflection series, we’ve addressed what reflection is and why it is important for leaders. If you are new to this series, I encourage you to check out part I and part II of this series first.

Next, we begin to address how to actually engage in reflection. I’ve found these activities to be most effective in the continuous process of “collecting dots and connecting those dots.” The remaining parts to this series aim to materialize this abstract theory and turn it into tangible application.

Reflection Process Framework

Before addressing common reflective activities, I believe it is important to establish a reflection process framework to follow. In order to make reflection as beneficial as possible, the following four things should be met; they can serve as your reflection checklist. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part III: How Leaders Can Reflect

Reflection Series, Part II: Why Reflecting Is Important

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

In part I of this reflection series, I introduced the act of reflecting and how it tends to be viewed as a magical, abstract concept, and less as a deliberate process that leaders can enact. I offered my definition of reflection and addressed the performing and learning dichotomy for leaders. If you haven’t check it out, start the series with part I here.

After defining reflection, it’s important to address why reflection is actually important. In part I, I stated that reflection is critical for effective and sustainable leader development and growth; experience and new knowledge alone is not sufficient for impactful leader growth. Yet, it is often hard to get leaders to commit to routine, deliberate reflection. I believe this is because our professional cultures are over-oriented on performance (we always need to be “doing something”), don’t understand the reflection process, and/or can’t see reflection’s return on investment (we often struggle to show others the product or value of our reflecting habits). This part of the series serves as my argument to others to commit to reflecting. Below I outline why reflection is important as to help readers understand its value and to encourage you to consider engaging reflection activities (which I introduce in part III). Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part II: Why Reflecting Is Important

Reflection Series, Part I: An Introduction to the Abstract

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

How many of us can recall at least one instance of sitting in some lecture or professional development session where the speaker commented, “So, as you reflect on…” or “I challenge you to reflect on this matter this week and…”? Moreover, I personally have yet to find a formal leader development model that does not include some major component titled “reflection.” We cannot escape this word in any conversation relating to leadership or leader development.

So, if reflection is so important to leadership and leader development, how in the heck do we do it? When I think about reflection, I think about some abstract artistic process where a highly-creative leader comes up with a profound product or quote. I envision a leader like John Maxwell going into a room alone and emerging hours later covered in sweat and a whiteboard filled with his new “beautiful mind” revelations. I find this discouraging because I’m not known to be a creative person.

However, I’m a leader, therefore I must reflect, right? Short answer: Yes! Reflection is critical for effective and sustainable leader development and growth. Experience and new knowledge (such as from reading or formal education) alone is not sufficient for impactful leader growth. We need to deliberately take time to think about what we’ve experienced and learned, clarify and make meaning of the lesson, and be able to do something different in the future to improve our impact and performance as leaders. With that being said, reflection is much more of an art than a science. No two people reflect in the same way. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part I: An Introduction to the Abstract

Three New Benefits I Learned About Writing and Sharing

Benefits of Writing_3x5 Leadership

A number of other amateur writers and I have shared numerous thoughts on why we write, and moreover, have challenged our readers to do the same. From contributing to a community of practice, to writing as a means of learning, and forming your legacy, writing has its numerous benefits, both to your greater profession and to you personally.

I started my own writing and the 3×5 Leadership platform over 18 months ago under the premise of two ideas: 1) leader development occurs daily, not in a day, and 2) though my experiences are singular, the lessons from them certainly are not. With no real expectation that others would value, let alone read, my thoughts, I started to write in order to offer reflections from my experiences and recommended application to help others on their daily leader growth journey. Continue reading → Three New Benefits I Learned About Writing and Sharing

What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

Leadership One Big Thing_3x5 Leadership

I met with a friend recently who just finished reading Radical Inclusion, by GEN (Ret.) Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman. During our conversation, he anxiously claimed, “there is so much from that book that I want to start doing, I don’t even know where to start.”

I think we have all been there in some capacity. I felt the same way when I finished David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! Personally, with all of the books, blogs, journals, and podcasts I routinely engage in, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed with the new ideas for leadership improvement and organizational development. I often feel compelled to do it all now, though I know it won’t be effective or sustainable. Even all of the 3×5 Leadership blog posts, when considered collectively, can easily send a message of “do all of this now!”

So, I want to offer a simple model of personal leader development and a strategy to focus on the most important improvements to develop as a leader. The model, below, is broken down into four steps that I recommend you follow, where each step encourages you to write out a statement or a list. You’ll end with an identified leader behavior to improve on, the purpose of it, an actionable strategy, and timeline to work in it. Continue reading → What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Willingness to Learn_Growth Mindset_3x5 Leadership

Inherent to leader development and many of the posts on 3×5 Leadership is the idea that we are all continuously growing and developing our leader capacities. This, then, assumes that leadership is a learned ability and not really a natural trait that we are or are not born with. In my leadership roles within the organizations I serve, I routinely assert that a major goal for my leader development programs is to inspire peoples’ commitment to being life-long learners.

So, how exactly do we approach developing this attitude of and passion for learning leadership? I argue that we must differentiate one’s ability to learn from their willingness to. According to The Center for Creative Leadership’s Leader Development Model, one’s ability to learn from experience is a complex combination of motivational factors, personality factors, and learning tactics; it is one’s cognitive ability and achieved skill of efficiently receiving new knowledge. This is different from a willingness to learn, or what is called a “growth mindset,” which is a term popularized by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset, one’s willingness to learn, is understanding that intelligence and leadership ability is not fixed, but can be gained, and they see learning as valuable in itself. People with growth mindsets commit to learning and are willing to take responsible risks in order to improve. Continue reading → A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

The Character of 21st Century Leaders_3x5 Leadership

In May 1991, following Desert Storm and months before his retirement, GEN Norman Schwartzkopf gave a speech to United States Military Academy (USMA) Cadets. In it, he argued that the two essential traits that must define leaders of the 21st century are competence and character (I highly encourage you to check out the inspiring speech here, in parts one, two, and three). So much time, money, and effort are poured into developing leader competence to achieve performance capacity and organizational success. Hundreds of books, journals, podcasts, and blogs (to include this one) center around developing leader competence. Yet, we pay less attention to character development. I believe it is because character is so intangible, hard to define, and even difficult to determine its impact on an organization; I think it is easy to determine if someone has bad character but it is less clear to determine if they have good character.

Deliberately addressing character is an organizational and leader developer necessity; the lack of such attention is ultimately the root cause of our society’s seemingly extensive erosion of integrity and respect showcased by the many downfalls of high visibility leaders (to include military) and once respected celebrities. My previous brigade commander constantly reiterated to his subordinate leaders that “character counts more than resume.” Continue reading → Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

You Need a Peer Coach to Become a Better Leader

Peer Coaching

No one grows as a leader without the support from others, which includes superiors, peers, and even subordinates alike. We need people to help make sense of our experiences and of the world. We are often familiar with developmental relationships where we learn from the experience of others, such as through mentoring and on-the-job learning from superiors within your chain of command. Further, many are gaining familiarity with the idea of coaching as a leadership tool, which you can read more about HERE.

Beyond these developmental relationships, which tend to be an “up-down” relationship (a relationship between a superior and subordinate), there is still one source often untapped: your professional peers. Properly leveraged, your peers can be your best source of learning, professional encouragement, and accountability. Peer coaching is an ideal structure for reflection and just one more reflective activity to add to your arsenal of leader learning tools. Through reflection and feedback within your peer coaching relationship, you develop a clearer awareness of personal behaviors and beliefs that affect your performance. Further, work experience alone is insufficient to foster effective learning; we require the assistance of a partner. Continue reading → You Need a Peer Coach to Become a Better Leader