Building Leader Vulnerability: An Important Benefit of Personal Reflection

Thus far over my career of leading and managing others, I’ve found that my toughest challenges have not been technical work issues, struggles to meet team metrics or goals, or worries over team execution matters. While those are demanding, yes, my toughest challenges have been helping people be able to bring their full selves to the team every day, which often includes baggage from life.

I have had to fill sensitive spaces as a leader by loving, supporting, and working with others through life challenges like loss of family and loved ones, divorce, health difficulties, financial issues, harassment & assault, mental and emotional concerns, performance failures, and much more. Despite no formal education in these spaces, I’ve had to wear hats as an unofficial marriage and family counselor, financial advisor, and conflict resolution mediator more often than I can count to best love, lead, and enable people on my team to be successful – both within the team and in life.

These challenges are not unique to my own experiences or a select set of teams or industries. These span across all leadership & management roles. To feel safe and to maximize potential for success on the team, people must be able to bring their full selves to work every day. Thus, to help support others through the challenges of life, leaders must be able and willing to fill sensitive, challenging spaces. This requires a developed sense of and confidence in leader vulnerability. Continue reading → Building Leader Vulnerability: An Important Benefit of Personal Reflection

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

Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

When I think back to when I relinquished company command in 2016 (for non-Army readers: completing my 18-month formal command of an Army company of about 120-Soldiers), there is one conversation that still resonates with me and continues to remind me of my “why” for military service. In the closing days of my command, one of my platoon sergeants (senior enlisted leader in the company with 12-years of experience), known as a passionate leader and tactical expert across the entire battalion, made a casual comment to me. He said, “Sir, I just want to thank you for what you’ve done. You’ve reignited my fire and have made this job and the Army fun again. I’ve been missing that for a few years now.”

I still get emotional when recalling that moment, even years later.

But through this and numerous other experiences, I continue to maintain that sometimes, the most important thing I can bring to the team is not some particular skill or ability, but energy and inspiration. Leaders must inspire, both our people today in what our team is doing as well as tomorrow’s future generation of leaders. We do that by being inspired and inspiring others. Continue reading → Inspired & Inspiring – 8 Ways Leaders Fulfill Their Responsibility to Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

What’s Defining Effective Leadership Today? Inclusiveness.

The key to success in today’s technology-saturated, complex, and adapt-or-die environment is cohesive and disciplined teams. Standard chain of command, pyramid-shaped organizational structures are no longer sufficient. We need people and teams to adapt, act on disciplined initiative, and solve and prevent problems at their own level. And today’s cohesive teams are inclusive teams.

Today’s leaders need to be inclusive ones. So, regardless of rank, position, or industry / field, we need to talk about inclusive leadership. Continue reading → What’s Defining Effective Leadership Today? Inclusiveness.

In Whom Do We Trust – Part 3: Trust as Leader Behavior

This is the final part in the 3-part series looking at leadership and trust. You can start the series HERE with part 1.

The heart of what we do in life and leadership should always be “why” – clarifying purpose and passion for what we do. We started off this series in looking at why trust matters for leaders and within teams.

Expanding from that, leaders address the “what” – the things we do to achieve our core purpose. In part 2, we looked at what trust is, defining it by three essential components.

Finally, we must focus on “how” – the tangible ways we are achieving trust and building our cohesive team. For me, there is an important leap from simply understanding trust (why and what) to actively building it in our leader behavior (how). We culminate this series on leadership and trust in looking at how leaders can seek to earn, build, and maintain the trust of our people and teams. Continue reading → In Whom Do We Trust – Part 3: Trust as Leader Behavior

In Whom Do We Trust – Part 1: On Leadership & Trust

 

Years ago, a mentor of mine offered a leadership perspective that has resonated with me since, stating:

“Soldiers will inherently ask three questions of you when you assume role as their leader:

  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Do you care about me?
  3. Are you committed to excellence?”

While these questions may never be outright asked at some leader “sensing session,” I truly believe these are the issues on peoples’ minds when they are new to joining our team or when we assume a formal leadership role over them. And leaders need to think on how we are deliberately attending to these matters for our people – especially how we are earning their trust. Continue reading → In Whom Do We Trust – Part 1: On Leadership & Trust

Shared Leadership Series: Important Team Dynamics for Leaders’ Attention

Shared Leadership Series_3x5 Leadership

If we require a sense of “shared leadership” among a team of people to be effective leaders in the 21st century, as argued in part 1 of this series, it is necessary to develop and grow our team for improved performance, member satisfaction, and to ultimately ensure team viability. In line with Peter Drucker’s famed quote that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” the first aspect that leaders must target is the team’s culture. In the previous part (part 2) of this series, we addressed three critical team culture artifacts that leaders must emphasize for team development: psychological safety, high learning orientation, and perceptions of organizational justice.

Complete team success relies on three essential outcomes: team performance, member satisfaction, and team viability. All three rely on effective and efficient interactions between team members as they accomplish their mission and day-to-day tasks. Formally, this is referred to team dynamics. As we can see in our own lives, different personalities and ways of doing business among members can impact the team’s ability to accomplish its mission and tasks; gossip and drama are often clear signs of the damaging effects of poor team dynamics. It’s important to improve a team’s dynamics and the processes it uses to do work. I believe leaders should focus on three important aspects of their team’s dynamics: team cohesion; the use and balance of power, authority, and influence; and ensuring that team and individual member purpose, shared values, and goals are clear and consistently communicated. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Important Team Dynamics for Leaders’ Attention