Monday, September 26, 2016

How do leaders transform day to day operations? - part #1

It started one day when I was coaching the CEO. This individual and their team had stepped back from day to day issues, and had looked at the bigger picture. From the various detailed pieces of information they had explored, the team decided that an organizational transformation was the necessary and right choice of action. Therefore, with great thought and reflection, they created a focused strategy, and a solid level of urgency throughout the middle management team.

However, over time while they could “execute” the plan well and roll out many initiatives, it was not resulting in a transformation of the day to day operations. Tactical issues at the local level kept trumping strategic changes and transformations. The senior team felt they were playing the whack a mole game. Overall, there was limited progress.

So, on the day I was coaching the CEO, this all came pouring out. After all the details had been shared, the CEO asked me the following question: How do leaders transform day to day operations?

While we all have worked hard in our thoughtful planning and careful roll-out of change initiatives, sometimes transformative strategic plans never really change  day to day observations. In specific, we forget something that Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky wrote in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, Harvard Business Press, 2009: “The reality is that any social system ... is the way it is because the people in that system (at least those individuals and factions with the most leverage) want it that way.”

First, the ground level truth is that most people do not want day to day operations to change. They like status quo just the way it is even if it is a dysfunctional status quo and not workable moving forward. As the old timers say, "the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know."

Second, we need to remember there is a difference between complicated changes, which requires a great effort and timely tracking and measuring but ultimately results in predictable outcomes, and complex change, which requires a great effort and timely tracking and measuring but ultimately results in unpredictable outcomes. The former is the typical approach by many leaders, but it often is the later that is actually happening.

Our goal as leaders during the next two to three years is to deal with complicated and complex change better, to develop personal and organizational resilience, to create the ability to continually and organically adapt, plus learn how to reconfigure our organizations in order to confront the unknown.

While transforming day to day operations is not easy, it still is important. The first step is to understand that most people do not want change or transformation to take place, and that some of the work is complicated and other elements are complex.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Creating Bench Strength for The Future

Right now, we live in a world which is complicated and complex. There are multiple variables to monitor and few point a clear pathway to the future. Furthermore, we as leaders are surrounded by strategic choices that potentially have dramatic short term and long term implications. 

The upshot of this kind of environment is that we need a high degree of collaboration and teamwork to be successful. However, some things are not working out like they used to. People and teams just don’t seem to be functioning very well. Struggle in the world of leadership and organizational change is the new normal.

Why?

First, “Today’s teams are different from the teams of the past”, notes Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen in their article “The Secrets of Great Teamwork”, Harvard Business Review, June 2016. As they explain, “They’re far more diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic (with frequent changes in membership).” They call these kinds of teams, “4-D teams”.

Second, we have been so busy pushing performance on a day to day basis that we have created a generation of operational focused leaders. These individuals can make sure the trains run on time, but they can not successfully understand where the future is going and how to get there. They zoom in to focus on details when they should zoom out to see the bigger picture.

Third, many managers and leader do not understand the difference between change and transformation. The former is about doing things better while the later is about doing things differently. Each require a person in a leadership position to engage with people in a different manner.

Whether we are leading 4-D teams or seeking to lead organizational transformation, having the right people in the right positions is becoming more critical to our success. Furthermore, having them trained and ready to go before problems arise is clearly an advantage. In short, every successful organization right now knows it needs to have great bench strength in order to be successful over the next three to five years.

One solution to these current difficulties is to sign up your key leaders for the 2017 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. Through a challenging, interactive curriculum which blends lectures, selected readings, small and large group discussions, and how to skill-building exercises, participants in this four part leadership training gain critical knowledge and skills which improve their ability to lead people to generate short and long term success.

For more information on this in-depth training and how to register for the 2017 From Vision to Action Leadership Training, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html 

Today’s problems are not going away. Future technical and adaptive problems will keep coming. However, having a strong bench of qualified and well-educated leaders will position the company for short and long term success. Sign up today and be prepared. The future is just around the corner.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, September 19, 2016

Listen to the Heart

Courage is at the heart of leadership. We know that people are not resisting change as much as resisting the loss of connections, control, clarity and competence that often happens when stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Still, we as leaders push forward and aim for continued improvement. We seek a greater level of excellence and want to create this vision at the day to day level. 

Along with courage, we need something else. As Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009) write: “To lead your organization through adaptive change, you need the ability to inspire. Adaptive challenges involve values, not simply facts or logic. And resolving them engages people’s beliefs and loyalties, which lie in their hearts, not their heads.”

John Kotter in his book, The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) writes: “The single most important message in this book is very simple. People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”

Heiftz, Grashow and Linsky acknowledge this understanding when they write: “You need to strengthen two skills to master the ability to inspire: listening from the heart and speaking from the heart. After all, you cannot connect deeply with people unless you know what is in their hearts and what is in yours.”

This week and every week, pause on a regular basis and listen to your heart, and listen with your heart. This combination has the potential to be transformative for you and many other people.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, September 12, 2016

It’s All About Purpose

At the start of a busy week, I am reminded of something that Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky wrote in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009): “Taking on adaptive challenges is difficult and dangerous work. The only reason we can imagine you would want to do this kind of work is to serve purposes that matter to you deeply.” 

However, busy days can be filled with endless hours of details and minutia that may or may not be very important. Between the e-mail and the voice mail plus the text messages, the thought of serving purposes that really matter may slip by and be forgotten. Therefore, I suggest we all stop in the midst of our busyness and refocus on purpose. 

- What are you doing with your time this week that connects you to what you value?  

- What are the top three issues which you feel are most important to you this week?

- How are you making sure these priorities are not lost in the day to day shuffle?

- What is one thing you can do on a daily basis to make sure you reconnect to purpose?

This week, do not let that which is most important to you get overwhelmed by that which is least important to you.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Power of Role Clarity

Some days, we forget that when we practice leadership, “you need to accept that you are in the business of generating chaos, confusion, and conflict, for yourself and others around you,” notes Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009). As they continue, “building up your tolerance for disorder, ambiguity, and tension are particularly important in leading adaptive change.” From my experience, this may mean that a leader needs to move outside their comfort zone which few people really like to do.

As we lead during adaptive changes and move outside our comfort zone, there is one thing we can do which is important and can make a difference, namely clarify your role within the organization. Typically, this means that you sit down with your supervisor and clarify your role, responsibilities, their expectations and your goals. But there is another element to this process which is more challenging, namely separating your role from yourself.

As the above authors explain, “Whatever role you are playing at any one time, that role does not represent all of who you are, even if it feels that way.” We need to remember that our role at work is only a part of us. We as a person are greater than our role.

This simple task of separating role from self will help you handle the work of adaptive leadership. As the above authors continue, “When you make a distinction between the roles you play and yourself, you gain the emotional strength to ignore personal attacks your opponents hope will stymie your initiative…. though an attack may feel personal (and be intended as personal), it is not a statement about your character or your worth as a human being. It is a strategy and an attempt to manipulate you.”

This week, remember that when chaos and ambiguity appear in your world, define your role, but do not loose touch with your worth as a human being.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dealing With Burnout

Right now, I am again seeing a massive wave of burn-out taking place in the work place. People are overwhelmed and struggling. They are starting to question everything and feeling like they will never get caught up. This is especially true with e-mail.

Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009) note that this is very common when dealing with adaptive problems because “a significant element of the burnout is from trying to carry other people’s water - other people’s hopes, needs, expectations, and fears - trying to do it for them.”

From the first day we are on the job until the last day we retire, people are constantly loading us up with expectations and challenges. Some we can handle more than others but everyone, in the end, can become more than a bit toasty from the amount of work. 

There are no simple solutions, but if you feel you are carrying too much of a specific person’s water or too much from multiple people, then it is time to stop and assess. What are the costs, risks, and long term damage that come from this action? Is there one thing today that you can start doing or stop doing which will help you with this situation, individual or group?

Right now, I believe more people need to stop and process what is happening in their life. They need to rethink how they are working and why they are working in this manner. Then, once they are clear about what is most important, it is time to develop strategies to give the work back to the people whose work it was suppose to be in the first place.

This week, carry your own water and help others to do the same. Burnout does not have to be inevitable.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, August 22, 2016

Clarify Your Priorities

Every day as leaders we get pulled in many directions. This is normal and, at times, very frustrating. Whether we like it or not, there are endless demands on our time and our attention. It comes with the job, and it rarely is the best part. Still, we can do one unique and challenging thing to handle it. We can proactively clarify our priorities.

Over the years, I have heard many people say that clarifying priorities is simple, but I have not found this to be the case at all. Every day people arrive with problems that need to be solved. Every day we do our best to manage and, at times, just cope.

Upon much reflection, I have come to the conclusion that to manage our priorities we first need to step back from the day to day issues and focus on the bigger picture, particularly the bigger picture at home. In this part of our life, I encourage people to define their priorities in the following areas: health, marriage, family, home and community/friends. Having these categories helps people name one to three things per category, and start to put many things back into perspective.

Second, at work, we also need to define the categories, e.g. people, team, strategic direction, operational excellence, etc.. Again, it is the categories that take the overwhelming task of prioritization and breaks it down into manageable areas of focus and clarification.

This week, define the categories that work best for you and then begin to define 1-3 priorities per category. This will take time but it is worth the investment when life just gets busier and busier with no end in sight.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257