Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Challenging World

We live in a complex and complicated world right now. Polarization abounds. Anger, frustration, and finger pointing are becoming the new normal. People are feeling like every day is nothing but another and continuous walk through the trough of chaos.

In the midst of these endless challenges, we as leaders are suppose to on-board new ideas and new people so they stay focused and positive. We are called to solve all the current operational problems. We are suppose to make sure all the systems are standardized, if not centralized to assure quality.

The result is that operational management is trumping strategic execution. Introducing change or a new strategic plan has become an event rather than a process. Any level of team problems is compounded by internal pressures and external unknowns. 

Meanwhile. front line supervisors and mid-level managers are trying to make sure the trains run on time, i.e. shifts are filled and people are focused on the right things, too. In short, leaders are feeling defeated by all of the challenges before them and not enough time to think through what to do.

This is where the Fall 2017 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable fits into the picture. It is a place where leaders gather to step back for a day and a half from the mad rush to get things all done and all fixed. It is a time to catch one’s breath, regain some internal perspective, strength and courage to keep moving forward.

We come because we need to find an “island of sanity,” a new Margaret Wheatley term, in a sea of ups and downs. We come because we want to listen, to share, and to regain perspective. We know we can not change everything, but at the same time, we know we can gain some insights and perspectives at the Fall Roundtable which will make the journey easier to handle to easier to effect change.

This fall the Roundtable will be held on September 20 - 21, 2017 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa.  

Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
- 8:30 am - Arrival & Visiting Time
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders on-board the next generation of high-growth opportunities while managing daily operations?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders work through endings and new beginnings at the same time?
- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders help their organization become more resilient?
- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders help others think and act strategically?
- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 21, 2017
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders recover from burnout?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break 
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application
- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

Here is the link to the registration form:


I hope you will join myself and many other leaders on September 20 - 21 for the Fall 2017 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

Given all the challenges before us, it will be good to gather around the table and to explore these complex and complicated issues together. Hopefully, we will gain some new insights and perspectives as well as some strength to continue moving forward.

I look forward to seeing at the Fall Roundtable.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Three Definitions of Strategy

After the morning strategic update by the CEO, I was sitting at a table over lunch with a mix of senior executives and middle managers when she turned to me in between bites and asked the following question: “So, how do I think strategically on a daily basis?”

It was a good question. I responded by saying: “It all depends on how you define the word “strategy.”

When I teach the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I continually point out to all involved that the word strategy is a big word. Often used and rarely understood, most executive choose only one definition of it and instantly cause themselves and others many problems.

So, let’s dive into the first definition. Strategy is an extensively premeditated, carefully built, long term plan designed to achieve a particular goal. People like this definition because it is precise, focused and will generate an outcome. At the end of the day, we can say “we did it” and have a party.

However, the best leaders know that there is more to strategy. Every strategic commitment has a decay rate. This is the recognition that from the time it took to create the initial ideas for the plan to the moment the strategic plan is ready for sharing, all of our best thinking and analysis goes into the document. But, once the document is printed, everyone wants to “get it done.”  What they miss in their understanding of strategy is that it has to be adaptable by nature due to unforeseen variables not considered during the planning stage rather than a rigid set of instructions or tactics. Without the recognition of the strategic decay rate, strategy has the potential to create organizational vulnerability.

The third definition of strategy recognizes that to create strategy can be as simple as one to three people sitting around a table writing stuff down. “So, what do you want to get done during the next 1-3 years?” asks one person to another. “Here is my list,” says the first to the second. And the third person is madly writing it all down on a flip chart or typing it up. In the end, strategy is created, but not owned and understood by those who have to execute the plan.  What most leaders fail to recognize is that successful strategy serves an important function in promoting ongoing evolutionary success. Strategy is not a one time affair but an on-going and in-depth process of creating clarity, ownership, and focus over time.  

In short, strategy is a an extensively premeditated, carefully built, long term plan designed to achieve a particular goal. But for successful leaders, it is much more than a document created on an annual basis. It is a commitment to thinking deeply and more holistically. And this is what separates the great strategy from the good strategy.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

One of My Favorite Words

If I were asked to pick my favorite leadership word, it would not be purpose or mission although I do love these two words. It would have to be the word capacity. To me, it is a word with tremendous depth and complexity. I use it often and I am around many different leaders from many different industries who use it regularly.

When I teach the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I point out that the dictionary definition of the word capacity has two different meanings. The first states that capacity is “the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating” something. The other definition for the word is “the facility or power to produce, perform, or deploy.” And, for me, each definition holds a clue to understanding this very interesting word.

In the first definition of the word capacity, there is a recognition that leaders who have capacity can hold, store and accommodate key information as they go about their daily or strategic work. They have the ability to zoom out to see the bigger picture and zoom in to focus on elements within a system or process to make sure it is functioning properly. In essence, capacity is a mindset of working through the intricate levels of strategic and operational thinking.

The second definition of the word capacity, for me, is all about execution. It focuses on making things happen on either a strategic or operational basis. It generates the desired outcomes, results or short term wins that have been planned out in advance.

Now, as leaders, our challenge is to help people to become better in their ability to think through technical or adaptive problems. We are to assist people in the creation of a mental framework by which all involved know what can and can not be changed or improved as they move forward through their days. Then, we are to assist them in choosing the right actions so they can be successful on an on-going basis.

This week, focus on building the capacity to plan better and to execute better. Help people think more clearly and work more clearly and you will have created a powerful flywheel at the core of your business.

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

There is More to Integrity than Meets the Eye

A long time ago in a not so distant land, there was a company called Enron, a natural gas pipeline company, which had the following core values: Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence. These key words were to be the cultural DNA of the company and were to guide all employees in how they worked with each other and their customers. And as the history books point out, having these core values is not the same as understanding and living those core values.

As leaders, the concept of integrity is very important. We want to be people who adhere to a code of moral values and to work for a company where ethics and morals are more than words on a page or a section in an employee handbook. We want to be people who do things right and who do the right things.

Yet, as an executive coach, I often have to point out that while every company wants to put integrity in their core values, few spend ample time exploring and teaching what it means. Because within a successful company and with successful leaders, integrity is a mindset, i.e. a mental framework, and a core set of behaviors that is utilized daily and lived daily. It is an inside the person thing rather than an outside the person thing.

This week, sit down with your team and begin the conversation about what is the definition of integrity. Explore with them what is an ethical mindset and what are the ethical behaviors that come from this mindset. You will find it a helpful and in-depth learning process for all involved.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Early Bird Special Reminder!

Before more of July flies by, I just wanted to post a friendly reminder that the “Early Bird Special” for the Fall 2017 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable is set to expire on Friday, July 28.

If you sign up between now and 7/28/17, the price will be $ 275.00 for the two days and $ 175.00 for a single day. Here is the link to the registration form:


Please write “early bird special” on it when you send it to me by mail or fax (# 319 - 643 - 2185).

After 7/28/17, the registration price will be $ 295.00 for the two days and $ 195.00 for a single day.

Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
- 8:30 am - Arrival & Visiting Time
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders on-board the next generation of high-growth opportunities while managing daily operations?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders work through endings and new beginnings at the same time?
- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders help their organization become more resilient?
- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders help others think and act strategically?
- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 21, 2017
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders recover from burnout?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break 
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application
- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

Location: Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa.

Hope you can come!

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

At the Heart of It All

When you have done something for a long time, it is interesting to watch the evolution of how we talk and share about what is happening. For example, in the late 80’s, Tom Peter’s wrote a book called In Search of Excellence. Instantaneously, everyone began talking about excellence. It was on the lips of every leader in the country. Then in the early 90’s, Stephen Covey wrote a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people. The next day, excellence was old school, and we all started talking about effectiveness. Shortly thereafter, we had the rise of TQM, i.e. total quality management, and CQI, i.e. continuous quality improvement. After that, the list just starts to become endless. Buzz words followed by buzz words and an endless stream of something being the hot-off-the-press new solution. 

In the midst of this whirlwind of “new” and “improved” terminology, a pattern started to appear. Starting before Tom Peters wrote his book, I have observed that all of the leaders and companies who were successful all had one thing in common, clarity of mission and/or purpose. In the beginning, mission was the word that leaders used. It was not the military definition of mission, as in an action that need to get done to achieve a particular goal, as much as an overall sense of clarity of purpose and focus.

Over time and from years of visiting with struggling and successful executives, managers and supervisors, I have come to the conclusion that clarity of mission/purpose is foundational to both short and long term success. In the language of leaders, the two words, mission and purpose, have become interchangeable. Whether it is an action in the course of execution, or a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity, knowing what we do and how we do it is critical to all involved. Because, in the end, if we are clear about what is at the heart of all we do, then we can stay focused, overcome our challenges, and deliver the outcomes that are desired.

During the coming week, whether you are using the word mission or purpose, make sure that every one involved understands the scope, the direction and the reason why being mission-driven or purposed-centered is so important. People want to work at a place where making a difference is possible. We as leaders have to continually educate and reeducate all involved about what is at the heart of all we do on a daily basis.


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

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Unorganized State Of Primordial Matter

I love a good speech that brings the crowd to their feet, energized, engaged and committed to moving forward to the next level. Over the decades, I have witnessed many a senior leader stand and deliver. Routinely, I hear leaders quote Winston Churchill and state that “every change is a challenge to become who we are.” And what many leaders forget is that one person's challenge may be another person’s total chaos.

In particular, leaders often forget that something is a challenge only when those who have to face it have clarity about why, how, what, and when. Regularly, leaders skip these details in their rush to begin. They have been thinking about this situation for quite a long time. Meanwhile, the listener has been quietly focused on doing the day to day operations of the company. The follower is focused on the now while the leader is focused on the future. 

This all reminds me of that famous quote by Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace.” The challenge that most leaders are talking about is not a someplace thing. It is a specific thing with a specific outcome or result. However, the new place, i.e. the place on the other side of the challenge, is not an every day thought for most people in non-leadership positions. They just want to do what has got to be done.

Furthermore, leaders forget that what they are calling a challenge for most non-leaders feels like total chaos. A challenge by definition is a stimulating task or problem that needs to be solved. Chaos, on the other hand, feels like utter confusion. The dictionary defines chaos as “the confused unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct forms.” For the follower who is doing their daily job, a challenge means there is a high probability for things and people to be unpredictable, problematic, and difficult. And frankly, most non-leaders are not seeking out experiences where utter confusion might take place. 

Therefore, I routinely coach leaders that before they start talking about challenges, they need to get their ducks in a row and figure out the whys, the whats, the hows and the when. Starting from a firm foundation of clarity, I encourage them to sell the problem before they starting quoting Winston Churchill. Then, they and their people can avoid getting lost in the unorganized state of primordial matter, i.e. chaos. They instead can start from a common ground of clarity and commitment.

This week, do your homework as a leader before you starting speaking about challenges. It will make a world of difference for all involved.

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