Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Invest In Leadership Training Now?

Right now, non-profit organizations are significantly worried about the status of their funding for the future, and whether or not they will be able to find qualified people to hire into front line staff and supervisory positions. Simultaneously, for-profit organizations are worried about building a sustainable sales force, continually generating innovative products and/or services plus the erosion of the customer base to on-line providers. And everyone is worried about the continued retirement of the baby boomer generation (1943 - 1960) and the arrival of a very different workforce, namely the combination of millennials (1981 - 1997) with generation Z (1998 - 2010). 

So why spend money now on training people to become betters leaders?

The Boy Scouts have a motto, “Be prepared.” Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts in 1908, defined “being prepared” as being “always in a state of readiness in mind and body.” While most leadership training does not involve physical education, it does involve increasing mental understanding and perspective, i.e. helping people in key positions to be better prepared for current technical problems and future adaptive problems.

But, the more in-depth answer is that well trained individuals in leadership positions have a greater capacity to plan and execute both operational and strategic plans in an ever-changing work place and service environment. The result of which is that the company as a whole has greater bench strength.

The term “bench strength” comes from the world of baseball and refers to having a lineup of highly skilled players who can step in when another player is hurt or replaced.  In particular, bench strength is another way of saying that a team has a “deep bench” which is a large number of talented players who are sitting “on the bench” waiting to play.

In the world of non-profits and for-profits where volatility and complexity is the norm, having a large number of people who can step forward into management and leadership positions means that the company will always be prepared for known and unknown problems that might arise. This depth of readiness positions the organization above the competition and strengthens it ability to respond well no matter what is the situation.  

For those of you who are thinking beyond today and hoping to position your organization for the future, then now is the time to sign people up for the 2018 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 2018 From Vision to Action Leadership Training, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html 

The future is happening all around us. Being prepared and having a deep bench are no longer optional. Now is the best time to invest in leadership training. 

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Understanding Quality

Every week, I sit in meetings listening to people talk about the future of their company. And every week, someone will share with me that the key to success is that “we must improve quality.” Nine times out of ten, they are right on one level. The difficulty is that most of the people around the table hold a different definition and metric for defining what is quality.

Now for me, every time I hear the word “quality” I think of the following quote: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This happens because what I may consider as the driver that results in quality is often seen as the problem by someone else.

Therefore, I always engage with those who are talking about improving quality by referencing the work of Margaret Wheatley. As she explains “When confronted with an unknown, we default to a known.” It is this default that is getting in the way when improving quality. In essence, what I have learned over the decades of doing this work and dealing with the subject of improving quality is that it begins in the eye of the beholder. My personal definition, experiences, and understanding of quality supersedes all other definitions of quality.

With this in mind, we as leaders must understand that organizational quality is a reflection of and the sum of personal choices. In short, it is individual clarity about quality that generates organizational outcomes related to quality.

This week, when you check in with your key people, begin an in-depth exploration into their personal definition of quality. It will be well worth the time and effort as you plan for the future.

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Linking Expectations & Outcomes

In successful companies, I have learned that people know what is expected of them. And the employees within these companies meet these expectations on a routine basis.

So, when leaders visit with me about “taking their company to the next level,” they often want to discuss how to set clear expectations. But, when most leaders tell me their expectations in reality all they have done is to define specific steps to achieving a goal. Sometimes, leaders forget that good employees know the difference between what are the required steps, e.g. ones related to health, safety or accuracy, and the optional steps, i.e. different ways to achieve the desired outcome.

What interests me is that the best leaders define outcomes during the expectations discussion. This begins by the leader figuring out what is the right outcome. They do this by thinking through the following two questions:

- If the desired goal is achieved, what is the outcome?

- And what difference will achieving the goal make?
By clarifying the outcomes, we are letting people take responsibility for the route they take to the outcome. Then, expectations are more like guard rails to action, rather than a description of the required steps. 

This week, reflect on the above two questions as you begin to link expectations and outcomes.

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Return of Excellence

Back in the mid to late 80’s, the word “excellence” was on the lips of every manager and leader in the country. We were searching for it, wanting it and figuring out how to get more of it. With Tom Peters and Robert Waterman’s book, In Search of Excellence, selling three million copies in  first four years, every one in management and leadership positions was eager to understand the art and the science of creating more excellence.

In the early 90’s, excellence started to fade as the word “effectiveness” started to rise in the lexicon of management and leadership. Driven by the arrival of the late Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, leaders became focused on being effective and shortly there after more efficient.

What interests me today is that more and more people are now starting to talk about operational excellence. There is a significant amount of interest in creating a company culture which delivers the right thing to the right people at the right time. If this can be done in an efficient manner too, then they are a very happy group of leaders.

The challenge is that when asked what is the definition of operational excellence, many leaders struggle. Having lived through the initial wave of excellence, I explain to those interested that operational excellence is, at its core, a workplace philosophy where problem solving, teamwork and leadership result in on-going improvements within the company. In particular, it is built around meeting the ever changing needs of the customer. The keys to success within operational excellence, from my vantage point, is that the company has defined its own unique way of problem solving, working as a team, and planning for the future.


This week, start talking about operational excellence and what it means to you. The conversation has the potential to be very interesting and educational 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, August 28, 2017

What Is A Team?

When I teach young leaders about the relationship between leaders and successful teams, I routinely start with the following three questions:

- What is a team? 

- What is a working group?

- What is the difference between the two?

Our challenges, according to Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen in their excellent article called “The Secrets of Great Teamwork”, Harvard Business Review, June 2016, is that “Today’s teams are different from the teams of the past: They’re far more diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic (with frequent changes in membership).”

From my own experiences and observations, I know that a team is different than a working group. I also know that it’s a common mistake to try to turn a working group into a team. For example, within a working group, the members interact primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives. Within a working group they make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility. There is no reason for either a team approach or mutual accountability. To members of a working group, team building activities are pointless and take time that could better be spent “doing real work.”

Jon R. Katsenbach and Jason A. Santamaria in their very good article called “Firing Up the Front Line” by, May-June 1999, Harvard Business Review, explains this difference as follows: “Managers tend to label every working group in an organization a “team,” whether it’s a roomful of customer service operators or a string of assemblers on a manufacturing line. But employees quickly lose motivation and commitment when they’re assigned to a team that turns out to be a single-leader work group. If executives want to spark energy and commitment on the front lines, they must know how a team differs from a single-leader work group, and when to create one or the other.”

This week, I encourage all of us to read the above two articles. It is time we build healthy teams and healthy single leader work groups.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

We Need Leaders & Managers In Order To Be Successful

In the lexicon of leadership, words matter. Right now, people use the word “leader” and “manager” interchangeably. I don’t think many people think much about these two words when they use them. The difficulty is that they are actually two different words with very different focuses and skill sets.

When ever I am asked to define the difference between a manager and a leader, I often reference the work of Joel Kurtzman in his excellent book, Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve The Extraordinary, Jossey-Bass 2010. He defines leaders as “strategic leaders” and managers as “operational leaders” which, by the way, is becoming a very common phrase in certain industries. As he explains:

“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…. The role of operational leaders is quite different from those of strategic leaders. Operational leaders make certain the trains run on time, the manufacturing processes 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.”

I like the precise nature of Kurtzman’s definition, i.e. plotting the course vs. making sure the trains run on time.

However, I think Marcus Buckingham in his very good book, The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Free Press, 2005, explains the different fundamental skill sets required of a manager vs. leader. As he writes: 

“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.”

When one understands the big picture perspective as defined by Kurtzman and blends in the skill set perspective by Buckingham, then we have a very good explanation of the differences between leaders and managers.

This week, share the above with your team and make sure they are using the right definitions for these two key words and helping others become better leaders and managers along the way. Clearly, we need both in order to be successful.

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

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