Friday, March 14, 2014

Competence and the Trust Meter



“I Don’t Trust You!!!!!”

  The other day in class I told my cadets that they could hear that from their superiors and/or subordinates when they arrive at their first unit after being commissioned as Army Officers.  My message to them was trust is earned, and until they demonstrate their competence, they will not be fully trusted as leaders.


I then introduced the concept of the "Trust Meter" and how competence is a critical component of trust. In his book, The Speed of Trust ,Stephen Covey writes "Trust is a function of two things: Character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital."


I explained that when new leaders arrive at a unit; the trust meter is hovering right around "empty."  Unless they have previously established reputations and relationships then there is no basis for trust. Leaders have to do something every single day that moves them closer to being "full" on the meter. Over time and through shared experiences, they will demonstrate their competence and effectiveness.

Leadership Counts!!!

NOTE: The idea to use the "Trust Meter" concept in class and write this post came after hearing COL John O’Grady’s remarks on trust and competence during a Leader Professional Development (LPD) session LTC Pete Kilner and I facilitated for his brigade. Read more here

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 Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development andOrganizational 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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Great Teams Storytelling and Vision Exercise

Last week I conducted the “Great Team Exercise” with my class. The exercise was conducted in the same way as in previous semesters (Read more here and here). All the cadets in my section will be commissioned officers in approximately 5 months. The class I teach helps them make the transition from cadet to lieutenant (commissioned officer), and platoon leader (in charge of a team of approximately 20-40 soldiers).


In the exercise the cadets tell stories of great teams they have been members of.  The main focus is on their storytelling skills. In the exercise they will tell their story four times to four separate groups, refining the story each time.  The reason for the focus on storytelling is that well-told stories really touch the listener and pull them along. They simulate the actual experience of being on the team and give listeners a compelling way to learn about that particular team experience. Well-told stories put the behavior in real context, bringing the values to life.

Prior to class, the cadets had been instructed to think of a great team they had been part of and what made it a “great” team. The class started with a 5-minute reflective journaling exercise where the cadets described the great team they had been part of (it could be any team- grade school, youth group, Church, High School, West Point, etc…).

After the journal exercise was complete, the cadets shared their stories with their small groups . Each student had one minute to share their story. The time constraint made them focus only on the important details about what made the team great. Once they had shared the story with everyone in the group, one cadet stayed at the table while the others (not as a group) rotated to a new table that now had all new participants. After four rounds of storytelling, every cadet in the class had heard every other cadets' story about the great team they had been part of.

After the storytelling exercise was complete, the cadets were instructed to go to the person whose story they connected with the most and put their hand on that person's shoulder. This was a little chaotic as cadets moved all over the room to reach the person whose story had registered with them. After the dust settled there were three cadets who had many hands connected to them.  I then asked the three cadets to share their great team stories again with the whole class.






That evening I posted a question in the Glassboard mobile learning application (read more on Glassboard here and here) instructing the cadets to write a post about the key themes, characteristics, and values they heard in the great team stories.

Here is one response (name removed)




This was a powerful exercise which got the cadets thinking about what they valued most in a team. It also demonstrated how to use storytelling to communicate vision to their subordinates when they are building and leading their own teams in the near future as Army officers.

Leadership Counts!




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 Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development andOrganizational 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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Myths of Leader Development




I recently had a discussion with an Instructor from FT. Benning about a seminar he conducted with some Maneuver Captains Career Course students at FT. Benning, Ga. He shared with me that during the seminar a Captain said “I never thought about what I will do to develop Lieutenants as a commander."  I thought “WOW, what kind of leader would not have a plan to develop his/her subordinates?” As I thought about it some more it was obvious that the captain’s statement was an indicator of a much larger problem, a HUGE leader development problem. Leader development was obviously not a priority in the units he had previously been assigned to or he would have had some idea on how to develop his lieutenants when he took command.


Commanders have a duty to provide leader development opportunities for their subordinates by regulation,  but based on the example given above, there seems to be a lack of understanding about leader development is. To have shared understanding, leaders need to speak the same language. The Army describes leader development as occurring “through the lifelong synthesis of education, training, and experience.” Over the past 10 years, leader development has mostly occurred from operational experiences.  As a result of being at war for the past decade, the three pillars of leader development; the operational, institutional, and self-development domains have become out of balance. To bring the components back into balance there needs to be a common understanding of what a leader development program is.
I recently had a discussion with Col Tom Guthrie, author of Mission Command: Do We Have the Stomach For What Is Really Required?”   He agrees that there is a lack of shared understanding about what leader development is and that the language needs to be corrected.  

He shared the four myths of Leader Development:

Myth #1:  Leader development is just having unit Officer Professional Development (OPD) sessions and Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development (NCOPD) sessions regularly. It is not.   Although often great events, having them is not THE unit's leader development program; it is hopefully a part of a more consciously thought through, larger, holistic program.

Myth #2:  Leader development is synonymous with one's assignment progression over time.  When people believe this, we see the G1's of the world being the lead for leader development and although they do great work, when that happens, we end up boiling development down to how many months an NCO or officer has had as a squad leader or platoon leader and we miss the bigger picture. 

Myth #3:  Leader development is synonymous with counseling.  Again, counseling is very, very important for the growth of our leaders, but it is just one piece (like OPDs/NCOPDs) of a quality unit developmental program.

And finally Myth #4:  Leader development is something that Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) does – meaning it is synonymous with education or the Institutional Army.  The TRADOC Commander is charged by the CSA to lead and manage Leader Development at the Army level and they do a great service, but the fact is that in a 20 year or more career, a leader is only typically in the schoolhouse as a student for about 10-15% of their career, so in terms of time, we must admit that most of our actual development happens in units like many of them in Forces Command (FORSCOM).



Leaders need to get the language right, and create a shared understanding of what leader development is in order for any approach to leader development to be successful. Until we have shared understanding we cannot hope to implement mission command and we will have more captains from the example given above with no idea on how to develop their lieutenants.

Leadership Counts! 



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 Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development andOrganizational 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.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hashtag(#) Leader Development: Using Twitter to Develop a Professional Learning Network for Leaders


 
Time is a limited resource for leaders. While many leaders are passionate about leader development, they don't always have time to study for self-development or plan development sessions where participants sit around and discuss an article, book or other topic. Both avenues of development are easily disrupted by competing priorities. Social media and mobile technology platforms are great resources for leaders to interact with others and build relationships that will lead to learning and development. One platform that works well is Twitter. The capabilities of Twitter combined with mobile platforms allow both self-development and leader-led professional discussions to take place in any location, at any time, and not be restrained by time and location. This post is about using Twitter for self-development and leading professional discussions as part of a leader development program. 



 

Twitter 101 (Skip ahead to Leader Development if you are familiar with PLNs, self-development and Twitter)

Twitter is one resource that leaders can use for learning by developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN). A PLN is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner connects and interacts with for the purpose of learning. Learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge (Click here for a good blog about PLNs) .The learner does not have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person. This network is relatively easy to set up over Twitter and is a simple and powerful way to both self-develop and develop others. Twitter can be a great source of information if you know how to search for and evaluate the sources. There is a wide variety of information available on Twitter; for example, almost every magazine or professional publication posts on Twitter. 




People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase in their Tweet to categorize those tweets and help them show up more easily in Twitter Search. The learner simply searches for the topic or, if they know a hashtag associated with the subject, they can use that as the terms for the search (see screenshots below).  For example, one of the screen shots below shows a search for “Land Warfare” and the results delivered range from various individuals to “Doctrine Man”, to ”Pakistan Defence”.

 
Search for Land Warfare on Twitter for iPad


Search for #Leadership on Twitter for iPad.


Search for #Innovation on Twitter for iPad.

Once the results are delivered learners can sort through the posts and evaluate the information. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows all the other tweets marked with that keyword. Many of these posts will have links to blogs or articles that contain information the learner is looking for. As the learner finds reliable posts, they can follow the user and build their PLN ( It is also interesting to see who the users you are following, follow as well.) One way to evaluate whether a user on Twitter is credible is by the number of follows and followers they have. Learners can also check out previous tweets by the source, which is another way to evaluate if the source is credible or not. The reporters and other contributors that work for most major news organizations post to Twitter as well and can be a good addition to a PLN.



Leader Development Program:

Twitter is a great way to share information to develop others. Leaders connect with their subordinates over Twitter and share relevant content with a hashtag. Twitter can also be used for “Twitter Chats” . Twitter chats are chats that occur using a hashtag. Instead of tweeting one-on-one learners are now engaged in a conversation with many people around a particular topic or piece of content such as an article or blog post.  Pictures and other media can be used as well to add more context to discussions. Twitter chats lets a group maximize their time on Twitter and participate in existing conversations when it is convenient for them. Twitter chats can take place over extended periods, and from any location, extending learning and development well beyond the walls of an office, building, or other location commonly used for these sessions.  This capability lengthens the period of engagement and can lead to higher quality discussions, which might not be attainable in a normal face-to-face professional development session that is constrained by time and location (a leader development session scheduled from 1-2pm in a conference room).   There are also tools available, like Storify for example, that can help learners manage and archive the chats for later reference. Through professional discussion, leaders can get to know their subordinates better and evaluate their level of competence, which can help build trust in an organization.

Leaders develop subordinates by creating experiences. Professional discussion is one of those experiences. It can improve learning and leader development across an organization. When time is a limited resource, social media is an excellent and simple way to engage subordinates in professional discussion. 


Follow me @quadshotwarrior


Leadership Counts!!!








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 Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development andOrganizational 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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trust: The Cornerstone of Mission Command




                                                      
A cornerstone is usually the first stone laid in the construction of a building.It is essential and indispensable since it unites the walls of a building at an intersection. Leadership is based on relationships and a key building block in any relationship is the cornerstone of trust. I teach a leadership course based on the Mission Command leadership philosophy.

Here is what  Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 6-0 Mission Command says about trust:

“Trust must flow throughout the chain of command. To function effectively, commanders must trust their subordinates, and subordinates must trust their commanders.”

Mission Command includes the following principals :

-Build Cohesive Teams through Mutual trust.
-Create shared understanding
-Provide a clear Commander's intent
-Exercise Disciplined Initiative
-Use mission orders
-Accept prudent risk

Trust is the cornerstone of Mission Command.  It is the responsibility of leaders to earn trust through the building of relationships. There is a reason “ Build Cohesive Teams through Mutual trust” is at the top of the list. The mission command philosophy emphasizes the decentralization of decision authority. This requires “Mutual Trust” and if there is no trust then leaders will centralize decision authority and not empower subordinates.

Leader development is a continuous process and leaders should be developed into lifelong learners. For leaders to practice the principals of mission command they need to be educated and trained. My class just finished a study of Mission Command.


Cadets discussing Mission Command in class
I had the cadets write about their main takeaways to demonstrate their understanding. Here are a few:

-“My main takeaways from mission command involve the connection between mutual trust and providing clear intent. I think the ability to be as transparent as possible in leadership and to communicate clear intent to subordinates builds that mutual trust in a relationship. Additionally, exercising disciplined initiative shows understanding and ability and adds to mutual trust between a leader and subordinate. I think i learned that clear intent/communication and disciplined initiative/confidence are the main building blocks in mutual trust which is absolutely essential for maximum effectiveness in a relationship as well as a unit.”

-“My takeaways from the mission command block can all fall into the personal relationship between commanders and subordinates. Every principle of mission command provides a different aspect of accomplishing a mission that requires the commander and subordinate to understand each other. At the bottom line, if a commander can understand how the subordinate thinks and generally agrees with the thought process, mission command will succeed. For example, the commander will trust the leader to execute orders while taking prudent risks. Vice versa, if the subordinate leader can understand the commander's perspective, the leader will fulfill the commanders intent with disciplined initiative in a confident manner that will allow full follow through and mission completion. If a subordinate and a commander cannot see the others point of view or has no understanding of how the other thinks, the relationship will quickly degrade and instead of commanders intent being handed down, an exact list of details to complete will be handed down causing more work for the commander and leaving little opportunity for the subordinate leader to accomplish anything of great worth. The relationship is very personal and every action leads to or breaks trust that is the basis of success and failure in a mission command environment.”


-“Main takeaways from mission command:At the outset of this block I truthfully had no understanding of mission command. To try to tease out its meaning, I broke the phrase down into its two, separate parts; mission and command. Looking at this now, I made a grave error. Mission command cannot be broken apart. They are bound and move together.

So what, then, is mission command?  At the surface level mission command is leadership. In order to be an effective mission commander you have to be a leader. In being a good leader you build an environment which nourishes the quantities of mission  command: unit cohesion through trust, shared understanding, clear intent, exercise developed initiative, use of mission orders, and accepting prudent risk.  While these concepts may seem abstract at first, they are things we naturally acknowledge. The mission command paradigm simply redirects our focus to the qualities which are most important.

The development of my understanding mission command over the past few weeks has made me more aware of the expectations of the Army. Thankfully many of her demands are being fostered here at the Academy. Despite the attention the Academy dedicates to these areas, we as future officers can always improve. Dedicating myself to these principles (in reality just outlining good leadership qualities) will allow me to improve unit effectiveness and ability regardless of level. This enables a more efficient method accomplishing the mission -- the overall goal of mission command.”


I don't know what types of leaders these cadets will become, but hopefully I've been able to provide them with an understanding that the most important building block in any relationship is the cornerstone of trust.


Leadership Counts!!




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 Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development andOrganizational 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.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Inspired to Lead-Inspired to Learn



“Who comes into a person’s life may be the single greatest factor of influence to what that life becomes.”   ~ Robert Kegan

Teachers/Academic Instructors are in leadership roles in the classroom and have a responsibility to help students explore various identities (Leadership roles, Science, Technology, Arts, Math, etc....) and "see" themselves doing something they are excited and passionate about in their respective futures.

We know identity is key to Learning. If students visualize and identify with something  they will learn and develop. In other words learning is learning to be something.  Focused reflection is one way students can learn to be something. When my cadets graduate they will assume leadership positions and lead teams of various sizes. So as their Instructor I have  a duty to help them identify and "see"  themselves as leaders of teams after they graduate.

Friday in class we conducted the "Great-Team Exercise".  Similar to the Leadership in Action exercise this exercise focuses on great teams the cadets have been part of. As we move through the semester the cadets will be learning more about the Mission Command leadership philosophy and how to apply it when they are leading teams of their own sometime in the near future.

The exercise started off with the cadets sitting at tables in small groups of three to four conducting a reflective journaling exercise on the greatest team they had been part of. They wrote for five minutes about the team  (West Point, Church, High School, Sports, Clubs, etc..) and what about it made it great. To focus them I prompted them with "what was the team doing that made it great?

They wrote for five minutes and after the time was up they each had one minute to share that story with their fellow cadets at the table. Once they had shared the story with everyone in the group, they rotated (one cadet stayed at the table) to a new table with all new participants (did not rotate as a group). After three rounds of storytelling every cadet in the class had heard every other cadets story about the great team they had been part of.



I then instructed them to go to the person whose story impacted them the most and put their hand on that persons shoulder. This got a little chaotic with the cadets moving all over the room but it turned out OK.  The two cadets with the most hands on their shoulders then repeated their stories and the class then identified they key themes from each story.  These stories will be used later in the course as they visualize themselves leading teams and what that team will look like.  The stories were very positive, inspiring and ENERGIZING. 

Leadership Counts!!!

Read more about Great Teams in this blog post by my former boss Tony Burgess: http://www.tonypburgess.com/2011/06/great-team-exercise.html






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 Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development andOrganizational 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.