Saturday, April 23, 2016

Leader Character and Self-Regulation


Last week, while I was talking to a colleague, he told me about the experiences he was having with his morning meetings. On a regular basis, he holds morning huddles to ensure the department has a shared understanding of priorities.

He told me that at the beginning of each meeting, he shares a story or short video clip to motivate the team. Typically, the content is sports related. However, the stories and videos do no seem to register with his team members.  At most, one or two were connecting to the message.

This exchange reminded me of the leader character dimensions of courage and judgment as described by Sejits, Gandz, Crossan, and Reno in their article Character matters: Character dimensions’ impact on leader performance and outcomes. Each character dimension is comprised of elements. The elements of the character dimensions can create issues when they are lacking or displayed in excess. I had the insight that he lacked situational awareness (an element of judgment) about why these types of activities were not having the expected impact. I also realized that he was determined (an element of courage) to continue trying this method even though he knew it was not working.






I also thought about a book I read recently, “A Failure of Nerve”.  The author makes the connection between self-regulation and learning from experiences writing, “.. all organisms that lack self-regulation will be permanently invading the space of their neighbors.” Additionally,  “…organisms that are unable to self-regulate cannot learn from their experience, which is why the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.”

 It occurred to me he did not have situational awareness because he was not learning from the experiences with his team meeting and he was failing to self-regulate.  His team members were “invulnerable to insight” because of his inability as a leader to self-regulate.

Seeing the opportunity for a quick coaching session, I asked, “Why do you think the team is not getting the message of your videos and stories?”  That led into a great 15-minute coaching conversation that helped him gain situational awareness and learn from the experience. His solution was to continue to use stories and videos, but select different topics.

Having awareness of the impact you have on others is important. Sometimes it helps to talk to a peer or supervisor about obstacles you have encountered. The conversation can lead to a moment of self-discovery with a solution that has a positive impact on your team.


====
Jonathan is an experienced leader and coach with a proven record of leading and developing others to perform at higher levels and improve their overall effectiveness. He has a passion for learning and developing others to improve as leaders. Jonathan brings lessons from over 25 years of experience leading in U.S. Army Infantry, Cavalry, and Armor units in a wide range of assignments, to include leading soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. He is a decorated veteran and a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. Jonathan served as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY before transitioning from the Army in 2015. He is a certified Executive Coach and operates his own leadership coaching business. Check out his website here: http://quicksmartscoaching.com/


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finding Innovative Ideas to Develop our Leaders


This  #CCLKOW weekend post continue the Twitter based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London. This piece is from  Julie Schwetz, a Major in the United States Army currently assigned as faculty to the United States Military Academy. She has an MBA from Harvard Business School and has led soldiers in combat  in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. If you’re interested in participating just “tweet” your response with #CCLKOW


 
‘Our No. 1 priority is , and will continue to be, leader development.’
-Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army

The leader's responsibility to develop others is firmly stated in the U.S. Army’s ADRP 6-22, Army Leadership. Intuitively, we understand that developing others is a leader’s responsibility; how else can we learn from each other if we don’t do our part to share our experiences? The tried and true method of carving out time in schedules and using standardized presentations to train is a failsafe. But, nothing says snooze more than a cookie-cutter PowerPoint slide deck given by a well-intentioned individual.  As leaders, we must continue to find innovative ways to train and inform our soldiers; we must adopt new techniques and methodologies that resonate with our audience.

The idea of sharing lessons learned and improving techniques and technologies based on others’ operational experiences is nothing new. Innovations, like the wristwatch and personal GPS devices, were a result of the ingenuity of soldiers on the battlefield. What concerns me today is that the leader development message is getting lost in translation. It’s time that we bring our innovative spirit to leader development programs. 


Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, consume information more dynamically than previous generations. We use multiple screens at one time. We have shorter engagement spans. We multitask. We are social creatures. We should take advantage of new technologies, like the ubiquitous nature of video archiving, to both communicate and engage with junior leaders. In fact, the CC/PL Team has already curated an on-demand video series that covers a broad range of topics that will shape and guide leader development efforts. These important topics range from building resilient teams to ethical decision-making and leader accountability.

While the idea of integrating this innovation will surely increase engagement, we must not lose sight of the importance of face-to-face discussion. A recent survey conducted by Randstad US, the third-largest HR services and staffing company in the United States, and Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, suggests that younger generations prefer face-to-face communication with their managers. Luckily, the CC/PL Team has already crafted facilitation sheets to accompany each video in their LPD series. The integration of multimedia into training efforts will surely engage leaders across generations; these LPDs will exceed all your expectations.  Check out this Army magazine article on the LPDs for more information.   

Questions for discussion:

How can we develop and equip leaders to be more innovative in developing leader development programs for their organizations?

How can we develop leaders to become early adopters of new ideas and technologies that can be used to increase junior-leader engagements  instead of being in the late majority?

What are some other examples of innovative leader development programs that increase junior- leader engagement?

 ==========
Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Assistant Professor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.The views expressed in this blog are not representative of US Army or DOD.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Innovation and Creativity: What The Army Can Learn from the Fashion World




This post continues the Twitter-based professional conversation between military leaders in the United States and faculty and students at Kings College in London. If you’re interested in participating just “tweet” your response with #CCLKOW


Much has been written about the Army needing to develop innovative leaders. TRADOC Publication 525-3-1, The US Army Operating Concept, Win in a Complex World states:


“What all Army operations will have in common is a need for innovative and adaptive leaders and cohesive teams that thrive in conditions of complexity and uncertainty.”
We can look to the fashion industry on how to design organizations to be innovative and adaptive. It starts with the leaders. As written about in the HBR article titled “Innovation in Turbulent Times” , the fashion industry, which can be described as fast-paced, places creative people in positions of authority. The successful companies form leadership partnerships between creative thinkers and analytical thinkers because they understand that organizations that don’t innovate quickly will die.  They understand that if creative people aren’t in positions of authority then breakthrough innovation will not happen. However, creative people can’t do it alone, as the article points out, and need analytical thinkers as part of the leadership team in order to be successful in business.


As the HBR article states further “Fashion companies have learned to establish and maintain effective partnerships between creative people and numbers-oriented people. They structure the business so that the partners can run it effectively, and they ensure that each is clear about what decisions are his or hers to make. These companies have also learned to foster right-brain–left-brain collaboration at every level, and so continue to attract the kind of talent on which their survival depends.”
Right-brain people can be summed up as “creative thinkers” and left-brain people as more “analytical thinkers." There is a lot more to it than this, building teams of left brain and right brain thinkers might design our formations to be more creative and innovative when the situation calls for it. As Daniel Pink writes in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future ,"...left-brain analytical thinking which has dominated in the Information Age will witness a shift towards an inclusion of more right-brain thinking in the Creative Age.” How we think individually and collectively is becoming an essential source of competitive advantage.”


Apple, one of the most creative companies in recent years, had a right-brain-left-brain team with Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. What if the Army took a more deliberate approach to designing its units to be more innovative and built teams comprised of right-brained-left-brained thinkers and paired its command teams this way?  



Early on in their enlisted or commissioned careers, leaders can be assessed in Professional Military Education (PME) courses with assessments like the Neethling Brain Instrument (NBI) that measure whole-brain thinking and assess the extent to which a person prefers certain types of thinking or mental processes over others.  Given a choice of left-brain vs. right-brain, as well as high vs. low road types of thinking tasks, there tends to be a correlation between what one prefers doing and those things with which one is skilled at.  People tend to develop skills in the areas they prefer.  The assessment can easily be tracked and could become part of the bigger talent management picture. Starting with Company Commanders and First Sergeants, and working up through Brigade Commands to include Battalion and Brigade staff assignments, the Army can build teams that think more creatively.



If the corporate world can design their leadership teams to be innovative and adaptive in order to thrive in the fast-paced environment of the commercial world, the Army can as well. To fight and win in a complex world we need creative, innovative, and adaptive leadership teams at all levels.

For the record I am a right-brainer.

For the purpose of this discussion: How can the Army better identify leadership teams that possess the education, skills, and thinking preferences to be innovative and adaptive and thrive in complex environments? I have offered my thoughts and look forward to the conversation.

 ======
Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Assistant Professor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.The views expressed in this blog are not representative of US Army or DOD.

Monday, November 24, 2014

So you can win battles. So what?


Continuing our series of blog posts and discussion, this weeks piece by Jill Russell @Jsargentr takes aim at the treasured value of “combat effectiveness.” We take for granted that we understand how to value and measure this quality, what is necessary for achieving it, and what issues positively and negatively affect it. Clearly there is something amiss in our approach, because “combat effectiveness” notwithstanding we are lagging at “war effectiveness.” Read the essay and join the discussion on Twitter at #CCLKOW




In the debate regarding women in combat roles and units, the last refuge of the land-power rejectionist camp in both the US and the UK is combat effectiveness [1], the vaunted tactical prowess of the combat arms, particularly the infantry. [2] The stakes – and the implied potency of the argument – rise as one moves from the basic to the special. And let us be clear, combat effectiveness is deployed in any number of policy debates in military affairs. According to many calculations it would seem they are on to something, as Anglo-American dominance of the elite end of the military spectrum is regularly reckoned to account for the top 3 or 4 of the world’s best. And insofar as the standards of combat arms skills go, the regular body of the land forces seem equally indomitable. Clearly this is an enviable position, certainly one worth protecting, regardless of the issue.
Or is it? Considering the record of the last two centuries, the US and the UK seem to do better with an army whose bulk is created as and when. Bear in mind that this alliance defeated the German army despite being the weaker side insofar as close in fighting technique was and has been concerned. [3] On the other hand, the post-WWII advances in tactical capability have not proved their utility, demonstrating instead increasing strategic irrelevance. Of course, dominance of this space, of being the very best individual and small unit fighters and military campaign planners and executors, seems entirely sensible. In reality, however, the diminishing returns to improve past “good enough” to superior have not justified the cost of the attempt, as this must be reckoned not only by the resources used in the pursuit and the record of success, but the opportunity costs of that which has been forsaken as well. Thus, we must accept that the focus upon combat effectiveness has not served the needs of contemporary war. 
This paradox of tactical success nested within strategic failure is clearly on people’s minds. As the US and UK wrap up operations in Afghanistan, the equivocal nature of the results are giving pause. The latest comment last week from US Army Lieutenant General Dubik (ret) surveyed the issue and put the problem on the civilian-military nexus of strategy and policy. [4] And from that perspective he lays out a very convincing case regarding the problems at that level of war. But he never questions the wisdom of attaining or maintaining that tactical prowess, even as it does not deliver success. Assumed within his argument is that if we can only get the strategy and policy in line then we will be able to bring this capability to bear and start winning wars again. 
I do not agree that this paradox is limited to the strategy and policy problems. In addition to the damage done by those issues identified in the general’s article, I would assert as well that the focus upon tactical superiority – in technique, application, and materiel – has incorrectly shaped our thinking. That is, rather than aiming for effective tactical skills combined with other capabilities that link to and support larger goals, tactical superiority alone as its own unquestioned aim and ideal reigns. So strong is the faith that it assumes the status of explanation, “because combat effectiveness.” Any discussion is meant to be nixed at the utterance of that phrase.  Moreover, the further flaw of this focus is that “combat effective” has been defined in the conventional military wisdom as effectiveness AT the constituent parts of combat. Rather, I propose the more useful and relevant view would be that the ideal is the effectiveness OF combat, to the campaign, strategic and policy needs of the conflict. Whereas the former view of combat effectiveness concerns itself with capabilities in a vacuum, the latter forces the consideration to expand to include the relevance and utility of the capability to the larger goals, as well as what else might serve. That is, the goal is not the greatest infantry or the greatest fighters, but the greatest army, to win wars not battles.
As I have taken the liberty to question the very foundations of conventional wisdom I shall leave off specific questions and simply recommend a discussion along this broad theme: 
Given the recent failure of tactical dominance to win wars, what really needs to be considered when calculating combat effectiveness? 
 “Tweet” your response with #CCLKOW

Notes
1 Combat effectiveness, as used in Ango-American military circles, refers to skills and capabilities at the tactical level which are integral to winning battles. These I generally think of as encompassing fighting abilities for the soldiers, cohesion for units, and planning and command for officers. Also referred to as “military readiness.”
2 Richard Kemp, “Female Soldiers Just Lack The Killer Instinct,” November 18, 2014, The Times; Anna Simons, “Here’s Why Women In Combat Units Is A Bad Idea,” November 18, 2014, War on the Rocks.
3 John Buckley has a very strong argument against the manner in which armed forces have chosen to define combat effectiveness in Monty’s Men, pp 13 ff.
4 Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, “Winning Battles, Losing Wars,” ARMY Magazine, November 18, 2014.

=======
The Quadshot Warrior blog is hosted by Jonathan Silk, who is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. The views expressed in this blog are not representative of US Army or DOD.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaders Guide to Storytelling



Storytelling is a powerful catalyst for learning, and likely has been since humans developed language. Telling and hearing stories enables members to reflect on their own, and others’ experiences and abstract knowledge. It is an effective way for catalyzing learning in any organization.

As leaders we learn from experiences, or to put it in a different way, what we learn is experiences. David Kolb, an educational theorist, said “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984). The best way to convey what we learn is through stories of our experiences. Stories contain many different lessons and are educational for people who were not present for the experience.

If you think about it, how many times have you been in a situation where the rules you learned in class or training applied exactly? Probably never! If you think back to situations you have been in you realize that you found the answers for yourself and did not rely on the "rules", or you remembered a story someone shared with you about a similar experience and applied the methods learned from that story to your current situation.

In order to understand anything, we must find the closest item in memory to which it relates. One thing we do when we hear and understand a story is to make a connection to another experience we have had, or know someone else had. Stories help us recognize patterns.

We index our own stories, and stories we have heard from others, based on how we understand them. When we find a belief in a connected story, no further processing needs to be done (Schank,1995).  We rarely look to understand a story from more than one perspective, which explains why people understand stories differently. Leaders in complex, dynamic, and ambiguous situations make rapid decisions by recognizing how each situation they encounter fits the patterns they have learned (Silk, 2014). The pattern-matching part of their decisions is fast and automatic. It was how they used their intuition to quickly identify an option that was likely to succeed (Klein, 1998). For example, stories based on deployment experiences will convey important lessons to the cadets. In the future, the patterns from these stories will possibly match a situation they are in and they will quickly identify a course of action that is likely to succeed.



Becoming effective storytellers

“Stories illustrate points better than simply stating the points themselves because, if the story is good enough, you usually don’t have to state your point at all; the hearer thinks about what you said and figures out the point independently. The more work your hearer does, the more he or she will get out of the story.” (Schank, 1995)


Stories can bring leadership to life. But to tell a good story takes preparation. The essence of a story is actually what is held in memory, not the words of the story itself (Schank, 1995 ) A story has the richness of details, has a point, provides insights, and has emotional impact. A story is not just a chronology of events; it is the story of the storyteller taking action. The storyteller should keep their first person point of view, sharing what they saw, heard, felt, etc. For example, if the story is about solving a problem, it should provide the details of how the problem was solved. It should be told from the storyteller’s viewpoint so the audience can live the experience with them. Another example; If the story is about an experience as part of an organization or a team, the storyteller should include the behaviors and characteristics of the team and what the team members were doing from the storyteller’s perspective. The audience will pick up the values, behaviors, and characteristics that were part of that team.  Stories can share lessons learned but the storyteller should let the listeners take away the lessons they learned not what the storyteller has learned.

We can learn from the stories of others but only if what we hear relates to something we already knew. We want the listeners to live the story with us, so knowing the audience and the types of experiences they have had, and are familiar with, is an important part of preparation. With good preparation, storytelling can be an effective tool in the classroom.



References






Silk, J. (2014, January 14). Casting Knowledge: Building an online community of practice with Leadercast. Center for Collaborative Action Research. http://cadres.pepperdine.edu/ccar/projects.community.html



================


Jonathan is an experienced leader and coach with a proven record of leading and developing others to perform at higher levels and improve their overall effectiveness. He has a passion for learning and developing others to improve as leaders. Jonathan brings lessons from over 25 years of experience leading in U.S. Army Infantry, Cavalry, and Armor units in a wide range of assignments, to include leading soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. He is a decorated veteran and a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. Jonathan served as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY before transitioning from the Army in 2015. He is a certified Executive Coach and operates his own leadership coaching business. Check out his website here: http://quicksmartscoaching.com/