Monday, May 18, 2015

Holding People Accountable - part #1

Accountability is the new buzz word. Just like excellence in the late 80’s and empowerment in the 90’s, everyone is talking about it and few comprehend how to actually do it.

First, we need to recognize that most people’s definition of accountability is typically a reaction to something happening or not happening rather than a proactive choice. The former happens when something or someone upsets status quo. The later happens when we as leaders are willing to take responsibility for our actions, to do what we said we were going to do, and to ask for support before we need it. In short, accountability from a leadership perspective is the willingness of a person to call their peers or direct reports on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team or the company. 

Even though it is a buzz word, accountability is still important. Without it, we can not achieve our strategic goals. Our change process will break down without it. Accountability plays a role in building ownership and it creates enhanced teamwork and trust 

After listening to many leaders talk about accountability this year, and discussing it with them, it has come clear to me that accountability in the realm of leadership is all about results. In particular, it is about driving for results through others. It starts with setting clear expectations, having well defined goals and giving feedback routinely.

Proactive accountability helps the organization reach it’s collective goals. The success of accountability reflects the depth of ownership and understanding about what are our individual and collective results. Thus, line of sight and ownership are connected. In short, the purpose of holding someone accountable is to improve their performance, to help them become a better employee, and to achieve our collective results.

The main problem with accountability right now is ambiguity. Poorly defined goals, low or unclear expectations, and irregular progress reviews or coaching sessions cause many problems. Most people being held accountable end up feeling defensive, loose their self-confidence, become more confused than clear and feel wounded rather than competent.

To successfully be held accountable and to accept it in a positive manner, people have to know their SMART goals before accountability works. But more important, they need to be clear about the results or desired outcomes we are seeking. In short, they have to know what is expected of them.

This week, gather your team together and discuss what is the difference between reactive vs. proactive accountability. It will make a world of difference.

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Teams vs. Single-Leader Work Groups - part #2

After reflecting on the important questions I posed last week on this blog, I want to continue exploring teams vs. single-leader work groups. 

This spring I believe most leaders build single leader work groups because they suffer from context blindness, a result of being held hostage to daily demands for time and attention, rather than routinely stepping back to think and act strategically. Context blindness prohibits most leaders from making the right choice on whether or not to build a team or a single leader work group.

As a review for us here today, context blindness happens when we can not comprehend the environment around us or around the organization in a holistic manner, and thus are unable to discern which trends or key information we need to pay attention to in order to make better decisions or to take more effective action. As a result with context blindness, there is a lack of strategic level urgency and instead just operational reactivity.

This week, prevent context blindness by building a clear understanding of why there needs to be strategic level urgency rather than just operational reactivity.

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

Teams vs. Single-Leader Work Groups - part #1

First, after many months of reflection, I have come to the conclusion that most “teams” are really single leader work groups. As speed, constant change and complexity become the new normal, more and more leaders are quickly defaulting to task oriented leadership instead of task and relationship-oriented leadership. This is especially true when solving problems quickly ends up trumping everything else. 

Second, I think most leaders fear “shared leadership” that happens on a true team. They also don’t know what it means and do not know how to role model it. Most leaders, when pushing to get things done, see shared leadership as a loss of positional power and status. They also see it as a loss of control which is not something they want to do right now in the midst of constant change.

Third, I have come to the conclusion most “team” leaders are unclear on their role and thus can not figure out how to role model the right mind set and skill set for being a member of a team. 

This week, pause and reflect on the above observations. Then, answer the following questions: 

What does shared leadership mean to you? 

What is the role of the team leader in your organization? 

What behaviors do they need to role model in order to be effective? 

Seeking out these answers is worth the time and effort. 

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Creating A Mission Driven, Core Value Led Culture

 To create a mission driven, core value led culture, leaders at all levels of the organization must prepare everyone to lead. This starts by making sure we have the “right people” in place to create the culture. They must be people who have a high degree of integrity and respect so others are willing to follow. They must be people who can lead change, and who can communicate a new vision. They also must be people who can create a sense of urgency, not panic for the changes to take place. Finally, they must be people who have the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal interactions at the team level.

Leaders also must win peoples’ hearts and minds in this process. They do this by connecting all we do back to the mission and the core values. This will require persistent instruction about what is most important, and continual reminders about how current success connects back to the mission, the core values, and the chosen strategy. 

We must also develop within people in leadership positions the capacity to correct all misalignments. This means teaching people how to recognize a misalignment and to know what options they have to correct it. As we know, leaders get what they exhibit and what they tolerate. Too many leaders right now are tolerating misalignments and sending consciously or unconsciously the wrong message about how to deal with them.

I hope this week you will make sure you have the right people with capacity on your team and that they are willing to help others co-create with you a mission driven, core values led culture.

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dealing With Continuous Change - part #2

In a world of constant change and now continual transformation, many leadership teams are stuck in analysis paralysis. Often quoting to me the phrase, “we must inspect what we expect,” one major problem is that they inspect too much, and hold unrealistic or unclear expectations. For these leaders, short term wins are not planned but called short term wins only after something has happened. The win is an after thought because people in multiple positions in the organization can not measure their progress. It is just work, work, and more work this spring. 

At the exact same time, many leaders and leadership teams are not building horizontal collaboration across their organization. People do not recognize that collaboration is the sum of a multitude of behaviors from working together on a one to one basis to managing teamwork during project implementation. One key to success from my vantage people is that collaboration takes place best after strategic level dialogue.

To help your team not get stuck, I first encourage you to clarify your collective and individual areas of focus. Line of sight is critical. 

Second, make sure all bi-directional communication is timely and accurate. This means working less from a place of command and control, and more from a place of clarity, commitment and connection.

Third, recognize that project management must result in system integration and systematic execution. As Ron Adner wrote in his book,  The Wide Lens: A New Strategy For Innovation, Portfolio/Penguin, 2012, “The real question is not if it can be done, but when. Not just when will we be able to complete the project, but when will we be able to align the necessary ecosystem for the complete value proposition to become a reality. The question of if speaks to success in the abstract. The question of when speaks to return, to attractiveness, to viability in the concrete.”

This week engage in more strategic level dialogues and focus more on why and when rather than if and maybe.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dealing With Continuous Change - part #1

In this economy, recruiting and retaining the right people, creating the right organizational structure, and building the right culture has become mission critical to implementing strategy throughout the organization. However many are struggling with the above because they have to do it in the midst of constant change.

Here are a few observations of why this is happening. First, many leaders are not managing the intensity of change. Right now, employees feel overwhelmed. Change just keeps coming and coming. And before one thing is finished we have to start all over again due to a variety of factors, like an upgrade in software or a change in regulations. At the same time, we also may need to start some new project given pressing demands by senior management, customers or employees. As I noted at the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, change has shifted from being episodic to continuous even though we have continued to frame it up as episodic. While many frame change as a “one and done,” most recognize that organizational change is now dynamic and continuous now. It truly is the trough of chaos within a sideways cyclone.

Next, employees are emotionally exhausted by the amount of unknowns. The outcome of there being too many variables to process and too few people to share their feelings and thoughts with about them is a singular focus on operational compliance. Routinely now, I am seeing more and more leaders who just need time to think. Some have told me the structured unstructured time during executive coaching sessions where they can share, reflect and think is essential to their success right now.

At the same time, employees are afraid of change and even more afraid of transformation. While change is about doing things better, and transformation is about doing things new and different, many people are afraid of all of it, because it is messy and often involves loosing control. 

Furthermore, many leaders have lost their ability to inspire others. This is happening because employees have been offered false optimism with little realism in the past. They have been pushed without support. And they have seen their leaders act with little, if any, authenticity or genuine respect. 

This week reflect on these observations and make sure your natural impulses for control, order and predictability don’t shut people down who are dealing with continual change or transformation.

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

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring Is Here!

The signs of spring are every where this week. The Dutch crocus are flowering and the daffodils are opening. The honey bees are out rolling around in the pollen. 

The tulips are pushing up through the warming ground. The bird songs are changing, the warblers are back, and the trees are flowering. The earth is awakening to sounds, shapes and colors. Winter is slowly becoming a memory.

As I marvel at these spring miracles, I remember the following quote by Peter Senge: “Every gardener knows you don’t cause a plant to grow. You deal with all the limiting conditions that would otherwise keep it from growing.”

Many leaders, managers and supervisors need to realize that they do not cause people to grow or improve their performance. What they can do is create the positive or negative conditions for engagement. When the work place is based on authenticity, respect and trust plus clarity, commitment and connections, then people blossom and grow.

My hope this week is that the miracle of spring awakens in you a greater awareness of the importance of building positive working conditions for all.

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