Lead with the best version of yourself.

Deliberate Communication: What We Can All Learn from Observing Senior Leaders

by Don Gomez

Have you ever found yourself in a meeting or gathering expecting to hear one thing from a senior leader but instead hearing something completely different? Something seemingly unrelated to what you thought was important?

“What the hell was that about?” someone might ask as the gathering breaks up. 

Or have you ever received an email from senior leader echelons above you addressing a topic with care and candor in an unexpected way? 

Was there an odd way that the email was structured? Was the font a different color? Were there variations on bold, italics, or underlined words? 

Did it just seem…different? Maybe overtly deliberate?

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself paying closer attention to the behavior, speech, and messaging of senior leaders. I’m not talking about the senior leaders we all see on television or social media – the “echelons above reality” senior leaders. Rather, I’m referencing the senior leaders in our actual organizations. The ones that are closer to us, but who we might not interact with every day.

Writer’s Block? Find a Coach

by Catherine Putz and Tobias Switzer

You finally decided to write. You’ve got something to say, and it’s burning you up. Maybe nobody is talking about it, or the national security establishment is just getting it all wrong. Tired of sitting on the sidelines as other people blather on uninformed, you’re ready to set the record straight. You know intimately what they’ve only read about in reports or saw once during a scripted dog-and-pony show through a conflict zone. Diplomacy and deterrence don’t work like that. Sanctions and special operations don’t work like that. That weapon system isn’t a trillion-dollar waste of money; it’s the cornerstone of US security.

Write for You

By Joe Byerly

Many view writing for publication in the military as an opportunity to help others with their leadership approaches, inform them on some academic topic they learned about in grad school, or to share lessons learned from a recent training exercise. While this motivation to publish is respectable, it represents a mindset that prevents a lot of people from getting their thoughts out there. 

When we approach writing with the impetus being we’re doing it to inform others, we open the door for self-doubt to creep in, followed by its friend: excuses. In the beginning, I didn’t write because I didn’t feel like I had enough experience or enough subject matter expertise to share my ideas, therefore I didn’t even attempt to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Why even bother writing an article until you get enough leadership experience or enough operational experience?

Over the years, I’ve learned that “enough” is always a moving target.

Are you Scared to Write?

By Joe Byerly

Every time I sit down to write a blog post or record an episode of the podcast, something happens inside my head. A voice asks me,  

“Who are you to write or talk about this?” 

It usually follows up with an equally damaging concern, 

 “Why would anyone want to listen to you?”

Are You Hallucinating or Communicating?

By Joe Byerly

Ten years ago, I received the best advice I’ve ever received on communication. My boss said, if no one else sees your vision, it’s just a hallucination. In other words, if you can’t communicate the thoughts in your head in such a way that others understand them, they’re useless to the rest of the organization. 

Since then, I’ve worked in numerous organizations and I’ve found his maxim still rings true. I’ve also learned that the best leaders are master communicators who understand how to turn their ideas into action.

Why Leaders Need to Learn the Skill of Writing

By Joe Byerly

Anyone who has worked directly for a battalion commander or above probably has experience writing “ghost notes.” These are emails a subordinate writes and addresses for their boss to send to other people. Ghost notes can be weekly or monthly sitreps, updates on an ongoing situation or emails asking for additional resources. No matter the type, they are the “easy button” for the commander because all they have to do is hit “send.”

Recently, I worked for a senior Army leader who encouraged his subordinate commanders to own their communications—meaning, write their own emails. As I reflected on his guidance, I realized there are benefits to communications ownership. I witnessed many of these benefits firsthand as I watched him communicate with senior military leaders, senior civilian leaders and his own commanders.

On Writing: Look Out! There be Sea Monsters!

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By Joe Byerly

A few years ago, I wrote a post encouraging military leaders to write for professional publications and online professional outlets.

I confidently argued, though only anecdotally, that there were no sea monsters and leaders could share their ideas freely without retribution. I was wrong.

There be sea monsters, and they be us.

In the five years since I wrote my original piece, the online community of military and national security professionals has grown exponentially. And with it, so have the dangers. Segments of this community mobilize when there is blood in the water and an author writes a piece that people don’t agree with. I’ve watched writers get devoured by the kraken, and it isn’t pretty.

Is it possible to navigate the seas of professional debate without attracting a sea monster or two? I suppose so. However, some of the greatest shifts in our military’s history were met with resistance. Admiral William Sims, General George Patton, and Colonel John Boyd all battled sea monsters along the way, but they survived, and our military is better for it. So if you are writing on topics that challenge conventional wisdom, sea monsters are unavoidable.

Advice on Writing and Editing

Advice on Writing and Editing

By Jason Criss Howk

Over the last decade, I was privileged to publish my ramblings in many different outlets from scholarly journals to slick mass media periodicals—large and small, paid and unpaid, known and unknown. On top of that, in the age of the internet many of my published articles have been shared and republished in other outlets, some even translated into other languages and reissued.

All that to say, I have learned a lot about publishing and writing everything from books to tweets, and I want to share what I have learned with you. My purpose is simple; many are intimidated by writing to publish and I want to help you get past that fear. You just need a process….and a topic.

Everyone has something they can share with other humans, you are a specialist in something or you have learned a valuable lesson in your life that is worth sharing. So, write about it. The world works best when diverse thoughts are examined publicly, civilly, and thoughtfully. We hear plenty from the same people…please join the discussion.

Step 1. Get inspired!

To write you need a topic.  I get topics when I read, when I listen to others speak about ideas, or when I watch TV, movies, etc.  But, maybe one of the best ways to get inspired is to find solitude and reflect on what’s important in your life or the world. For example, I was inspired to write my most recent article, Sir Solitude, after listening to Mike Erwin talk for the day about solitude and how it can make you a better leader as he explained his book Lead Yourself First.  Don’t worry about using someone else’s idea, but make sure you credit them in your writing.  

How to Write a Blog Post

How to Write a Blog Post

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By Joe Byerly

Since launching From the Green Notebook in 2013, I’ve had a lot of conversations with other military professionals who want to write, but feel they are unable to get words down on paper.  

A blank page is a tough obstacle for many writers to overcome. Several times, I’ve struggled to move past the endless cycle of writing the first line and then deleting it. Fortunately, more times than not, I did find the words to write. I’ve written more than 100 articles, blog posts, and even a chapter in a forthcoming book. However, it doesn’t come easy at first.

I’ve been able to write because of the strategies I adopted after I got tired of the “write a line, delete a line” method.

Speak to a Crowd

Before I write, I pretend that I’m going to give a talk on what I want to write about to a crowd. Sometimes I imagine I’m going to speak to young company-grade officers who are eager to learn about _________(I fill in the blank with that idea chewing on). Sometimes I imagine that I’m going to speak about ________(fill in the blank) to my peers and NCOs who not only feel like they don’t need to read what I’m writing, but look upon it with skepticism. 

This mental exercise does two things: First, it allows me to develop a clear message that I want to convey through writing. When I try to write without fully developing my message, my work is all over the place with no real thread running through it. Next, this exercise allows me to tailor the message. By knowing exactly who I’m speaking to (or writing for), I can work out what details I need to add or omit. I know if I need to be casual or serious, if I can write like I would speak or if I need something more polished.

The 7 Unwritten Rules of Email

The 7 Unwritten Rules of Email

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By: Dave Chace and Joe Byerly

In the military, we receive training or a manual on every piece of equipment and program we use except for one very important one: Email. Although it’s our least preferred method of communication, it’s one of the primary ways we communicate in garrison and combat. And many of us never learn to use this medium correctly.

Why does it matter? It matters because being able to effectively communicate through writing provides leaders and staff officers with understanding and the ability to act. And if we’re doing it efficiently, we give the person we’re communicating with time back to focus on other things besides reading emails.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Letters of Introduction

The Do’s and Don’ts of Letters of Introduction

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By Scott Shaw and Chad Foster

Writing letters of introduction to your future battalion or brigade commanders has been a staple of the basic and career course since we were lieutenants and captains (and before our time as well). This time-honored tradition has turned from one of envelope and stamp to a well-written email. Whatever the medium, the purpose is still the same – to say who you are and that you’re excited to be joining the unit.

So do they matter?

The short answer is yes. Both of us recently completed battalion command, and over the course of that period saw many emails come into our inbox from lieutenants in their basic courses and captains in their career courses. These emails typically reached us before their ORBs, so they were our first impressions of these new officers.

Below are some tips for writing a letter of introduction to your soon-to-be commander: