Monday, July 21, 2014

Early Bird Special Reminder!

Before heat returns to the midwest today, I just wanted to post a friendly reminder that the “Early Bird Special” for the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable is set to expire on Friday, July 25.

If you sign up between now and 7/25/14, 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 7/25/14, 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 17, 2014

8:30 am - Registration
9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders think and act strategically?
10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders communicate in a purposeful manner?
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders change systems?
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders grow capacity?
4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 18, 2014

9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders maintain balance in an unbalanced world?
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, 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

How Do Strategic Leaders Think?

After years of reflection, I have decided that there are two key points to make about how strategic leaders think. The first was put forth by Joel Kurtzman, in his excellent book, Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve The Extraordinary, Jossey-Bass 2010. As he wrote, “Strategic leaders are people within organizations who plot the course... Strategic leaders generally can think far into the future...The best of these people understand where the future is going and how to get there.” 

On the other hand, Kurtzman points out, “The role of operational leaders is quite different from those of strategic leaders. Operational leaders make certain the trains run on time, the manufacturing process are adequate, the logistics systems work, the technicians are well trained, and the the trucks are where they are supposed to be.... like strategic leaders, operational leaders are vital to an organization’s success.”

Marcus Buckingham in his book, The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Free Press, 2005, also notes a key difference between strategic leaders and operational leaders. As he explains, “To excel as a manager you must never forget that each of your direct reports is unique and that your chief responsibility is not to eradicate this uniqueness, but rather to arrange roles, responsibilities, and expectations so that you can capitalize upon it. The more you perfect this skill, the more effectively you will turn talents into performance.

To excel as a leader requires the opposite skill. You must become adept at calling upon those needs we all share. Our common needs include the need for security, for community, for authority, and for respect, but for you, the leader, the most powerful universal need is our need for clarity. To transform our fear of the unknown into confidence in the future, you must discipline yourself to describe our joint future vividly and precisely. As your skill at this grows, so will our confidence in you.”

As both authors note, strategic leaders have the capacity to look over the horizon, recognize what is coming, plot a course of how to respond, and then communicate “vividly and precisely” about how we all need to move forward together.

This week, reflect on the above two quotes and how well you and your team are doing at thinking and communicating strategically.

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

Monday, July 14, 2014

What is a Strategic Mindset?

In every successful company, there are two operating systems working at the same time. One system is focused on the cash generating part of the business, making sure that day to day systems and people are focused on the delivery of goods and services in a timely, efficient and effective manner. The other system is focused on the on-going development and implementation of strategy, including the creation of strategic clarity and urgency. In particular, it is the second system which will create the strategic mindset by which all will commit to on-going operational and strategic success.

So what is a strategic mindset?

In the beginning, there are three elements to the strategic mindset. First, there is a clear understanding of context or environment in which the company is moving through over time. For example, a leader in the computer industry may need to understand what is happening in the development of new hardware and software but also recognize that more and more people are turning to their cell phones as the primary form of computing instead of their former lap tops. This in combination with the arrival of Cloud based storage for data makes the world of service delivery completely different than in the past. 

Second, a person with a strategic mindset must understand what is the organization’s strategy for the future and why this is the best choice. This means that they have to comprehend that strategy is an extensively premeditated, carefully built, long term plan designed to achieve a particular goal. However, it also has to be adaptable by nature due to unforeseen variables rather than presenting a rigid set of instructions or tactics which has the potential to create organizational vulnerability. Therefore, strategy serves an important function in promoting ongoing evolutionary success of the company.

The third element of a strategic mindset revolves around the concept of operational excellence. Here, I reference the work of Tom Peters who defined excellence as a workplace philosophy where problem solving, teamwork and leadership result in on-going improvements in the organization focused on meeting the current customer needs.

Once someone grasps that there are three elements to a strategic mindset, then one has to remember the “genius of the and,” referencing an old Jim Collins term.  Rather than one element, e.g. context, strategy or operational excellence, being more important than the others, people who have a strategic mindset develop an awareness and understanding of how each of the three elements dynamically interact.  It is context, strategy and operation excellence instead of context, strategy or operational excellence that makes synergy take place.

This week check your own depth of understanding about context, strategy and operational excellence. Then, check on how well others grasp these key concepts.  It will be the start of a new beginning.

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Three Good Articles

Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down and do some much needed reading.  As I plowed through the July - August 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I found two thought provoking articles. The first was called “Managing Change, One Day at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi. The author writes that leaders who are trying to transform the company culture can learn from studying addition treatment programs. Recognizing that cultural change is hard, the core of the article focuses on the following insights: “Organizations can’t change their culture unless individual employees change their behavior - and changing behavior is hard.” As he points out, “When it comes to modifying deeply ingrained behaviors, 12-step programs have a superior track record. They use incentives, celebrations, peer pressure, coaching to adopt new habits, negative reinforcement, and role models - things organizations can draw on.”  

While the author recognizes that the analogy is not perfect, the comparison is helpful. In the article, he makes a series of key insights. They are as follows:

- “Nothing happens without a readiness to change.”
- “It’s important to replace old habits with new ones.”
- “Peer support and pressure drive change.”
- “Sponsorship deepens commitment and sparks results.”
- “Community without hierarchy is a catalyst for change.”
- “You are the company you keep.”
- “Continuous introspection is key.”
- “Change in practice may represent breakthroughs.”
- “It pays to acknowledge small wins.”
- “The goal is progress, not perfection.”

This is a good article and well-worth the time to read. It will make you think. Here is the link for those who want to explore it in more depth: http://hbr.org/2014/07/managing-change-one-day-at-a-time/ar/1

The second article was also in the July - August 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review and was called “It’s Time to Split HR” by Ram Charan. This very short essay is going to shake things up in the HR world. As he writes, “My proposal is radical but grounded in practicality; Split HR into two strands.” One strand would primarily manage compensation and benefits and report to the CFO. The other strand would focus on improving the people capabilities of the business, e.g. leadership development, and should report to the CEO.  

The minute I read it I thought, this essay is going to get a lot of people thinking and talking. Some will love it and others will disagree vehemently.  As of today, there are over 125 comments on the HBR website about his idea. Here is the link: http://hbr.org/2014/07/its-time-to-split-hr/ar/1. I encourage you to read it so you are up-to-date with the dialogue around HR.

Finally, the third article I encourage you to read is called “Investing In Millennials For The Future of Your Organization” By Joan Snyder Kuhl. I haven’t read anything that was this good on the subject since I read the book, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the millennial generation is shaking up the workplace, Jossey-Bass, 2008, by Ron Alsop. With Gen Y or Millenials (born between 1979 and 1994) being the largest generation yet (80 million in the United States), they have different talents and needs than previous generations. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials will be roughly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020 and 75 percent of the global workforce by 2030. Well written and insightful, I encourage you to read it. Here is the link: http://media.wix.com/ugd/a7b5e7_a34837740149475aba90b0d36b0c8d9f.pdf

Happy summer reading!

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

2014 Fall Roundtable - Early Bird Special!

Now that the Fourth of July celebrations are over, it is time for us to turn our sights on the Fall Roundtable! 

On September 17 - 18, 2014, we will gather at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa for the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

8:30 am - Registration
9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders think and act strategically?
10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders communicate in a purposeful manner?
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders change systems?
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders grow capacity?
4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 18, 2014

9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders maintain balance in an unbalanced world?
10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break 
10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application
12:00 pm - Adjourn

Starting today through Friday, July 25, I am offering an “early bird” registration price for the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

If you sign up during this time period, and submit payment before 7/25/14, 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 7/25/14, the registration price will be $ 295.00 for the two days and $ 195.00 for a single day.

I hope you will reserve September 17 - 18 on your calendar, and e-mail me today about whether or not you and your team are coming. Then, in September when the leaves are just starting to turn color, all we will need to do is meet at the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

Thinking ahead and looking forward to seeing you in September!

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

From Operational Thinking to Strategic Thinking

Every day, we participate in meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Add a ton of e-mail and constant phone messages that need responding to, and you have the current life of most people in leadership positions. Surrounded by details begging for more time and attention, most leaders are constantly working just to keep up. 

So, why are so many leaders wanting to talk about how to think and act strategically?

The answer is simple. They have realized that completing the big “To Do List” does not mean that they or their organization will be successful in the next 3-5 years. Operational excellence without strategic clarity and direction does not create a sustainable business model.

When we explore the subject of strategic thinking in executive coaching sessions, I often refer people to the following quote by Dee Hock, Founder & CEO Emeritus of Visa International: “Change is not about understanding new things or having new eyes; it’s about seeing old things with new eyes - from different perspectives.” 

It reminds me of the old joke about the shoes salesman who travels to a third world country and reports back to the home office that sales are miserable because no one is wearing shoes. After being recalled due to poor performance, a new salesman is sent to the same area and has amazing success. When asked how this happened, he responded, “No one was wearing shoes. It was a wide open market.” Same place, same potential customers, and the same shoes to sell. Just a different perspective. 

In the beginning, moving from an operational leadership mindset to a strategic leadership mindset requires all of us to re-examine our assumptions and our expectations. As the late Stephen Covey pointed out, “The way we see (our paradigm) leads to what we do (our attitudes and behaviors); and what we do leads to the results we get in our lives. So if we want to create significant change in the results, we can’t just change attitudes and behaviors, methods or techniques; we have to change the basic paradigms out of which they grow.”

This week, reflect on your leadership paradigm. Is time to see “old things with new eyes - from different perspectives”?

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Small Acts of Loving Kindness

Some days we get so busy being the leader that we forget that small acts of loving kindness have a dramatic and long lasting impact.

In early January, my mother passed away. During and after the memorial service, many people shared about the impact of her actions in their lives. For example, a retired woman lawyer shared how my Mom taught her how to sew and cook as a young woman. Another person told me that my Mom was his first Sunday School teacher and then shared how important my Mom was in his life journey. Person after person had similar experiences to share. And when I listened to all of them, I realized that they were just a series of small acts done with loving kindness. When they are all added up, they had a dramatic impact and long lasting impact on the lives of so many others.

In our busy lives as leaders, we need to give ourself permission to have this level of interaction with others. We need to be more present to the moment rather than completely focused on the future. We need to protect the things that are of value from the things that really do not matter so much. As Goethe reminds us: “Never let the things that matter most be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” 

This week and for the entire rest of the summer, I challenge you to offer more small acts of loving kindness. It will have a huge impact in the lives of others and in your own life.

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