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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Between The Words

When I started this work in the 80’s, Tom Peter’s management-by-wandering-around was a hot topic. Every senior leader was getting out of his or her office to spend some time “wandering.” They all wanted to “search for excellence.”

Staff, of course, were freaking out because from their perspective this was “weird” behavior. They were convinced that managers were trying to catch people doing something wrong so they could fire people on the spot. There was no trust anywhere. It was not a good experience for all involved.

Yet, over time, and with some assistance, trust was developed in certain companies. Managers learned to focus less on command and control, and more on listening. Teams learned to function in a healthy manner. Purpose and core values were discussed and defined. Slowly, clarity grew and became the new normal.

Still, during busy, complex and challenging times, I remember the wisdom shared by D. Michael Abrashoff, retired U.S. Navy: “The most important thing a captain can do is to see the ship from the eyes of the crew.” 

Originally, the goal of MBWA was for managers to get out of the office and to see what was happening. In short, they were suppose to see the real people rather than countless papers and forms that measured productivity. The difficulty was that the relationships were so unhealthy that there was no depth of dialogue. As I learned years ago, fear can move people, but not in the same direction as trust.

Now, certain leaders and managers are realizing that they need to get out of their office again and “see the ship from the eyes of the crew.” Many are not certain they know how to do this. In reality, it sounds easy but it actually is hard work. The best leaders have learned that they need to suspend their line of judgement and thinking, and instead be open to receiving rather than giving. 

When they do this well, they role model that listening is a powerful action. And they role model the core values. These small actions are very powerful when done in an authentic manner.

This week, remember that leadership happens between the words. 

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

Building Connections Instead of Connectivity

It was many years ago when they called me to stop by and see their state of the art computer lab. As I walked in, the room was filled with computers in rows and a huge screen up front. My host that morning explained to me that the company had invested in all these machines and a new software program so everyone in the room could explore a strategic level question at the same time. Then, once people started typing, they could also read all the other comments people were writing plus add their own comments. A massive level of sharing was going to take place and it would all be recorded on the big screen so people could see it happening live.

I smiled as she listed all the benefits of this new strategic level computer lab. Then I asked a simple question, “Why don’t people just talk directly to each other and skip the computer?

A long time ago, I remember my young son calling up his best friend on the phone and checking to see if he was home. Then, he said the following: “Great! Hang up and let’s instant message.” And they did.

While I like novel approaches, there is something very powerful that happens when people listen and share face to face. They make a deeper connection than just the words. Clarity is more than just a head and ear experience. When it is real, one feels it, not just thinks it.

As Margaret Wheatley wrote years ago, "It is time to become passionate about what is best in us, and to create organizations that welcome our creativity, contribution, and compassion. We do this by using processes that bring us together to talk to one another, listen to one another's stories, reflect together on what we're learning as we do our work. We do this by developing relationships of trust, where we do what we say, where we speak truthfully, where we refuse to act from petty self-interest."

My hope is that this week you will commit to developing relationships of trust where our connections are based on meaningful sharing and listening.

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