About 9 months ago, I wore my Army uniform for the last time and set foot inside the business sector as a civilian. After 16 years of Soldiering, I am head first into the business world as an operations manager. I have heard so much (specifically from my civilian leadership) about the differences in leadership styles that I must now adhere to because, “this isn’t the Army anymore, and you cannot treat team members like Soldiers.”
Here is the thing, though: it isn’t different. Not really…not at all, actually. And here’s why.
If I were to define my “leadership philosophy,” or maybe the top three ways I prefer to lead, I’d articulate it as: leading with love; generating high engagement across the team; and creating clarity for everyone on who we are, what we do, and why we do it. It’s easy to see how important effective communication and use of clear language are when trying to live out that philosophy each day.
Moreover, a mentor of mine taught me years ago: “use precise words precisely.”
While my amateur writing my not live up to those standards, I’m sure all can see that the bottom line is: our language is a critical component to our effectiveness as leaders and developers of other leaders. Even the details of how we structure a question, statement, or word choice can have meaningful impacts.Continue reading → Words Matter – The Importance of Our Language as Leaders
“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
We don’t talk about loyalty very much and what it means within our teams. Thus, many leaders and our teammates are unclear about what loyalty truly means and what it should look like in our organizations. But this value is vital as it is part of the essential bedrock that mutual trust is built upon. Our teams will not get very far in results or development without loyalty to one another and to the organization. There’s an issue if we are unclear about such an important organizational dynamic and value.
Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers. By wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army you are expressing your loyalty. And by doing your share, you show your loyalty to your unit.
It is interesting how this definition offers several things and people that Army Soldiers must be loyal to: The Constitution, the Army as a profession and organization, the subordinate unit(s) we are members of, and our fellow Soldiers. What happens if our loyalty to one of those conflicts with our loyalty to another? I believe we can find ourselves in situations where our loyalties battle against one another, forcing us to choose loyalty to one thing/group over another or an individual versus our unit.
Last year, I assumed a role as a Tactical Officer (TAC) of a West Point Cadet company, where my primary duties include teaching, advising, and coaching the Cadet chain of command as they practice leading and following within a military-style organizational structure. Less than two months into this role, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with how our company was performing. My frustration grew from the gap between my perception of our company’s current level of seemingly average performance and the high amount of potential I saw throughout the entire company and the nearly 120 Cadets in it.
Unfortunately, I let my frustration materialize into my leadership more than I thought and, though unintentional, it started to negatively affect my working relationships with my Cadets. Cadets became colder and more formal in our interactions, they began including me less in their challenges and decision-making, and became less interested in seeking my advice or thoughts. Continue reading → Leadership and the Need for Perpetual Optimism
When you consider your organization and its people, do you consider them a family or a team? It may seem trivial and many leaders may not put much brainpower toward considering what noun to use. Some may even use the words interchangeably.
I believe that the descriptor you use implies a number of assumptions about how your people work together and thus has a major effect on your organization’s interpersonal dynamics. Being considered a family may inherently authorize your people to do certain things, while being a team may unconsciously deter them from those same behaviors. What you call your organization can have major impacts on your climate and certain behavioral norms. Thus, it is rather important to select the right word to describe your organization so that you set the appropriate tone and precedence.
I first offer thoughts from two books that are high on my recommended list for leader development; one supports for a family attitude, while the other adamantly argues against being a family. Finally, I cover thoughts to consider when determining to be a family or team; think on these and determine what is most important and most needed for your organization. Ultimately, I find that there is no right answer. It is a matter of what you value most and the kind of results you want to see from your people. I just encourage others to deliberately consider, and even talk to your people about, what type of organization we want to be: a family or a team. Continue reading → Are We A Family or A Team?
Most of what I write, and what others write on similar platforms, focuses on the encouraging and inspirational side of leadership such as motivation, building trust, and developing the next generation of leaders. It’s fun to write and read about these topics because they make us, our people, and our organizations better. They’re also easy to write about. What’s challenging to write about and get people discussing are the less-stimulating sides to leadership such as holding others accountable and enforcing standards. I can already feel the dread overcome me as I write those words…
Critical characteristics for any field to be considered a true profession include high individual and collective responsibility and mutual accountability. In the military, this includes standards like professional appearance and wear of uniforms, physical fitness requirements, maintaining positive control of all assigned Soldiers and equipment, and routine certification in your assigned tasks by your higher headquarters. So, how do we do that well, where we can hold each other accountable while inspiring them to want to inherently be and do better? I believe we can all recall times where someone, such as a boss, unnecessarily tore us down for not maintaining a certain standard; maybe they even targeted us personally, rather than just our undesired behavior. I challenge the assumption held by many that holding others accountable to the standards requires strict and harsh reactions. How can we enact mutual accountability while continuing to build a stronger, more effective, and cohesive team? In his book (which I highly recommend), The Culture Code, Dan Coyle asserts that, “one misconception about highly successful [team] cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together. This task involves many moments of high-candor feedback, uncomfortable truth-telling, when they confront the gap between where the group is, and where it ought to be.”Continue reading → Discipline Through Accountability and Enforcing Standards