‘Tis the season of reflection. All the leadership and military blogs are awash with articles from Majors completing their key developmental jobs, capturing fresh insight and prime takeaways from what has likely proven the most demanding 18-24 months of their military careers to date. Every unit is different. Every commander is different. Therefore, every experience is a bit different. The number of articles and essays and the breadth of their focus demonstrate the complexity and challenge of key-developmental assignments. This article deviates from those highlighting the incredibly important processes, roles, and systems that make or break S3s and XOs. Here, the focus is on a matter that is often overlooked or overcome by competing demands: the planning process for post-KD assignments.
The summer PCS season is upon us, bringing with it a large number of outstanding articles written by former Iron Majors who are moving to other assignments. Our goal with this article is to present an area not commonly discussed but was a significant challenge we faced for our entire KD time.
What follows focuses on readiness – the Chief of Staff of the Army’s (CSA) top priority. For the field grade officers, it is a broad term that encompasses a number of systems and data input streams that ultimately empower commanders to determine who is ready to fight today, who will be ready tomorrow and who needs more work. As a battalion or brigade level field grade officer, especially an S3 or XO, you are the readiness data custodian. You will plan and run training for units and staffs, manage numerous systems of record and enforce maintenance and accountability processes, all of which turn numbers and percentages into a picture of unit readiness.
Leading others is a challenging yet rewarding aspect of our profession. Some leaders have an ability to inspire individuals and create organizations that train hard to accomplish many great measures. How does this happen? What can one emulate from these leaders and inculcate into our own organizations? The answer lies within the mindset of the leader. In her 2009 book Mindset The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck, a PhD Psychologist at Colombia University, describes two types of people – those with a “Fixed” mindset and those with a “Growth” mindset. She applies twenty years of research at Colombia University to demonstrate how the view you adopt for your life profoundly impacts how we approach and solve problems. Leaders must provide purpose, direction, and motivation; a growth mindset enables you to create a positive environment, prepare yourself, and develop others to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.
With an Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) scholarship, the Army sends officers to civilian graduate schools. Last Thursday, I completed a Master’s of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Coming off a demanding staff assignment, I thought graduate school would be easy. However, balancing school, with its classes, homework, and extracurricular opportunities, with family and social engagements was tough. Below are my seven recommendations for things to consider if you’re starting graduate school this fall, are in graduate school, or are planning to attend in the future.
A common explanation of mission command is that it is telling people what to do, instead of how to achieve the end state. There is normally a desire not to use detailed command and specify precisely how the mission will be executed as some associate this with the negative term, “micromanagement.” However, the successful execution of mission command demands leaders to start with why, the purpose of the action. Simon Sinek explains in his 2011 book, “Start With Why” that the failure to express why will lead to an increase in stress and disorder within an organization. Applying some of the principles found in his book can increase our understanding of mission command, our role in supporting the commander and subordinates, and how to yield more successful organizations.
The past year has been a great one for me. After years in the salt mines (KD time), I had the opportunity to attend the School of Advanced Military Studies, or SAMS, as a field select.
“The XO is a systems guy.” After spending the entirety of my key developmental time as an XO at the battalion and brigade level, I can say, with a good degree of certainty, that this statement is true. Systems are everything. The deftness at which you can develop and refine these systems will be a measure of your success in this position. But before you begin to wade into the never-ending minutiae of regulations, doctrine, emails, meeting notes and random statistics, you need your own routine to manage information and sustain your professional development. Balancing all this is both a challenge and a true test. The purpose of this article is to share some techniques and resources I learned to utilize as an XO to sustain my sanity while “managing up.” Hopefully, it will mitigate the initial shell shock you receive when your inbox hits the 100(+) emails a day mark.
In the last installment, we talked very broadly about being an OPT Leader and the basic skills required to survive in this capacity. In this article, we’ll talk with more fidelity about your team and provide masterful tools for success on a big staff.
Now that we have a better understand of what emotional intelligence is, here are four leader live hacks to improve your capacity – apply one today!
- Solicit feedback from subordinates – use the Army’s 360 Assessment or create iterative Survey Monkey feedback mechanisms
- Focus on others and optimizing their input to the team
- Foster diversity of thought
- Don’t suppress your emotions – manage them
- Refocus negative energy on gaining a better understanding of the problem, alternate perspectives, and creative solutions
- Take ten minutes each day to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses – make it part of your personal battle rhythm
- Incorporate subordinate feedback into your personal goals
Still looking for more? Check out these resources focused on leading the staff!