Monday, July 25, 2016

Early Bird Special Reminder!

Before more of July passes by, I just wanted to post a friendly reminder that the “Early Bird Special” for the Fall 2016 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable is set to expire on Friday, July 29.

If you sign up between now and 7/29/16, 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 7/29/16, 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 21, 2016
- 8:30 am - Arrival & Visiting Time
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders transform day to day operations?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders know if they have the “right people on the right seats of the bus”?
- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch & Networking 
- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders create an understanding of a problem and buy-in for the solution?
- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders create a team during times of high turnover?
- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 22, 2016
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders cope with prolonged uncertainty and having too much to do?
- 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

Figure out Ripeness

Once you have been on the balcony, referencing the metaphor from last week’s blog post, then it is time to start figuring out how to create an effective course of action. Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009) recommends we determine the “ripeness” of problem within the organization. As they explain, “an issue is ripe when the urgency to deal with it has become generalized across the system. If only a subgroup or faction cares passionately, but most other groups in the system have other priorities on their mind, then the issue is not yet ripe. Determining ripeness is critical because a strategy of intervention to ripen an issue that is only localized is different from a strategy to deal with a ripe issue that is already generalized.”

Their writing on this subject reminds me of John Kotter’s research in the book Leading Change where he talks about the importance of creating urgency before creating action. The late William Bridges in his book, Managing Transitions also talks about this concept and the importance of selling the problem before implementing the solution. The key is to realize that complacency and status quo are real and will fight back against change or transformation unless there are enough people who understand that doing business as usual is more dangerous than doing business in a whole new way.

Therefore, Heiftz, Grashow and Linsky asks us to answer three questions in order to figure out the depth of ripeness related to change. They are as follows:

- “Is the urgency localized in one subgroup and not yet widespread across the larger system?”

- “Or, on the other hand, are people avoiding the hard work of dealing with the adaptive challenge at hand because the pain of doing so has reach too-high levels of disequilibrium?”

- “Is the prevailing momentum to treat the situation as a technical problem or as an adaptive challenge?”

This week, ponder the above three question and come up with some answers. Your answers will help you determine how to move forward in developing your strategy 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, July 18, 2016

Understanding Status Quo

Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009) write that status quo is elegant and tenacious. As they explain, “Yesterday’s adaptive pressures, problems, and opportunities generated creative and successful responses in the organization that evolved through trial and error into new and refined structures, cultural norms and default processes and mind-sets…. Yesterday’s adaptive challenges are today’s technical problems.”

What we have to recognize as adaptive leaders is that “over time, the structures, culture, defaults that make up an organizational system become deeply ingrained, self-reinforcing, and very difficult to reshape.” Thus, many leaders and organizations “get trapped by their current ways of doing things, simply because these ways worked in the past.”

When taking the first step to solving adaptive problems, the authors recommend you “get on the balcony” so you can see how your organizational system is responding to adaptive challenges and problems. This popular metaphor of getting on the balcony is based on the understanding that there is a “dance floor” or “practice field,” where you work on a day to day basis, and then there is a “balcony”, where you can see the bigger picture. This concept is very familiar to this who have read the book, Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen where these two authors talk about how leaders zoom out before zooming in to deal with a problem. From the balcony, adaptive leaders are able to gain a better understanding of their company’s structures, culture and defaults, i.e. “its habitual ways of responding to problems.”

This week, give yourself permission to spend more time on the balcony than the dance floor. Then, spend more time understanding how status quo is working and what are the defaults within your organization. This depth of work will help when it comes to designing effective new solutions. 

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

In the Beginning

When we are dealing more each day with adaptive problems rather than just technical problems, we enter into a whole new world of leadership, namely the practice of adaptive leadership. Ron Heiftz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press, 2009) have three specific recommendations when this happens.

First, they recommend we not do it alone. They suggest we “find partners who will share the dangers and the exposure. Together, you’ll stand a far better chance of avoiding attacks from opponents and keep your initiative alive.” Realize that adaptive leadership involves being experimental and exploring new ideas. It will surface issues that people may not want to deal with or discuss. Having a strong leadership team will make a profound difference.

Second, they recommend that we “resist the leap to action.” As they note, “adaptive challenges are hard to define and typically require people to reinterpret and question their own priorities, as well as their habits of thinking and behavior.” Remember that once you engage in practicing adaptive leadership, “you will be courting resistance by stirring the pot, upsetting the status quo, and creating disequilibrium.”

Third, they recommend that we “discover the joy of making hard choices.” As they explain, “what makes adaptation complicated is that it involves deciding what is so essential that it must be preserved going forward and what of all that you value can be left behind. Those are hard choices because they involve both protecting what is most important to you and bidding adieu to something you previously held dear: a relationship, a value, an idea, and image of yourself.” 

A large part of adaptive leadership is making new and different choices from those you have made in the past. Having partners and resisting the leap to action until in-depth reflection and thought has taken place means you have created a better beginning. 

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2016 Fall Roundtable - Early Bird Special!

With all the July Fourth celebrations in the history books, now is the time for us to turn our attention to the Fall 2016 Roundtable! 

On September 21 - 22, 2016, we will gather at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa for the Fall 2016 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
- 8:30 am - Arrival & Visiting Time
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders transform day to day operations?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders know if they have the “right people on the right seats of the bus”?
- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch & Networking 
- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders create an understanding of a problem and buy-in for the solution?
- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders create a team during times of high turnover?
- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 23, 2016
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders cope with prolonged uncertainty and having too much to do?
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application
- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

Starting today through Friday, July 29, I am offering an “early bird” registration price for the Fall 2016 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

If you sign up during this time period, and submit payment before 7/29/16, 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 7/29/16, the registration price will be $ 295.00 for the two days and $ 195.00 for a single day.

I hope you will reserve September 21 - 22 on your calendar, and e-mail me today about whether or not you and your team are coming. Then, in the Fall when the first leaves are just starting to turn, all we will need to do is meet at the Fall 2016 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

The Speed of Transformation

After a spring of visiting with many executives in different industries, one thing has become abundantly clear, the speed of transformation has picked up significantly since the beginning of the year. What was expected to take five to seven years is now trying to be done in two to three years. And what in the past took three years is now trying to be done in twelve to eighteen months. In fact, no sooner has something been completed then senior leaders are rethinking the whole thing once more. Whether it is structural change, systems redesign or the entire business model, more and more leaders and managers are wanting to implement change faster than ever.

The impact of this action is the dramatic rise of two things. The first is accelerated convergence where all the change initiatives are trying to get done at the same time with the same level of urgency. The staff involved in implementing all of this change is totally overwhelmed and stretched to their limits. 

Now pause for a moment and realize that the word “change” at times like this has become quite tricky because we are using it frequently but not defining it clearly. In reality, the word “change” has two different meanings now in the world of leadership. One definition relates to doing things better. The other definition relates to doing things differently. The key for all involved is to define which definition are we referencing when we talk about change. Nine times out of ten, a consultant is brought in to solve this problem when in reality, all that needs to happen is that people in leadership positions need to clarify what they are meaning.

Second, the more we transform our organizations to meet the ever changing needs of our customers and clients the more problems will surface. Whether the changes are slow or fast, the best leaders know that defining our problems are as important as solving them. The first step to successful problem solving starts with understanding the differences between technical problems and adaptive problems.

In simple terms, a technical problem has a solution that already exists. The problem is clearly defined and the role of the problem solver is to implement a known solution. Using existing skills, resources and process, the right person with the right tool is deployed to fix the problem.

On the other hand, an adaptive problem requires new thinking and new solutions lest the organization enter a period of significant decline. Here, the defining of the problem may require learning and call into question fundamental assumptions and beliefs. Those involved may have to make major changes to solve the problem, and this will require all new ways of thinking.

Because I am seeing the rapid rise of adaptive problems due to accelerated organizational transformations, I am going to spend most of the summer writing about this subject, and sharing it here in my weekly blog. I will be drawing heavily on the research presented in the following book: Heifetz, Ronald, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, Harvard Business Press, 2009. 

When I first read this book, I struggled mightily with it. It was dense, academic level reading which required me to completely understand one chapter before preceding to the next. Often, I had to reread a chapter two to three times before I was ready to go to the next chapter. Still, the quality of the research and concepts were exceptional. It was just complicated reading. When I got done, I was delighted, and thought I might not have to do that all over again. However, since 2009, I have often turned back to this book so that I could better figure out what was going on within a certain situation. I also realized that while it was complicated and in-depth, there were very practical and helpful tools and concepts within the book that I now reference on a weekly basis.

While I wish all of you could stop what you are doing and run out and devote two plus weeks to reading this book, I am realistic enough to know that most of you are just too busy and worn out to have the time or energy to do this. Therefore, I will be spending most of the summer into the early fall sharing key concepts with you so you have a greater understanding as you move forward through all of the change and transformation that is taking place in your world.

So, for starts, I challenge you this week to spend more time diagnosing your problems before you attempt to solve them. It will make a world of difference over time.

P.S.  For those of you who would like to read a good, new book this summer, I recommend the following: Lencioni, Patrick. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize And Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues, Jossey-Bass, 2016.

As Lencioni notes: “I think the problem is that we’ve failed to define what being a team player requires.” His new model focus on three virtues of an ideal team player, namely humble, hungry, and smart. He notes that humble team players “lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own.” He defines hungry as “a manageable and sustainable commitment to doing a job well and going above and beyond when it is truly required.” Finally, he explains that smart people are people smart, namely they “have good judgement and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.”

For those of you who have read The Five Dsyfunctions of A Team, you will find this new book focuses “on an individual team member and the virtues that make him or her more likely to overcome that dysfunctional that derail teams.” As the author continues, “… the ideal team player is all about the makeup of individual team members, while the five dysfunctional are the dynamics of teams getting things done.”

Furthermore the author notes “There are four primary applications of the ideal team player model within an organization: (1) hiring, (2) assessing current employees, (3) developing employees who are lacking in one or more of the virtues, and (4) embedding the model into the organization’s culture.”

For any of you who are working on teamwork this summer or coming fall, or one or all the above four areas, this is a good book and worth the time to read it. As Patrick Lencioni notes in the introduction to the book, “Leaders who can identify, hire, and cultivate employees who are humble, hungry, and smart will have a serious advantage over those who can not.” Given current challenges in the areas of recruitment and retention, we all could use an advantage. Here is a good place to start.

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, June 13, 2016

How Do Leaders Prioritize? Part #2

Prioritizing work at the operational level or the strategic level can be very complex and involve balancing lots of factors. The best leaders start this process in a unique way. They understand that every day we can work from our circle of concern, our circle of influence, or our circle of focus, referencing the work of the late Stephen Covey. Working from our circle of focus helps us prioritize.

At the same time, we also need to “distinguish between determinations and concentrations.” As Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill point out in their book, First Things First (Simon & Schuster, 1994), determinations are “things you’re determined to do, no matter what.” As they explain, “When you set a determination, you put your integrity on the line…. This is when it’s vital to follow through, to keep your commitment, to do what you said you were going to do…. The only valid reason for not sticking to a determination would be if you became thoroughly convinced - through conscience and deep self-awareness - that the “best” goal you set had for some reason become only “good. Then, and only then, could you change with integrity.”

Concentrations, on the other hand, are “areas of pursuit you focus your efforts around.” As they note, “When you set a concentration, you identify an area where you desire to focus time and energy…. you don’t risk your integrity…. If you don’t do it, you lose the benefit of the time and energy invested…”

With the above in mind, how does one execute priorities?

First, drawing on the work of Scott Eblin in his book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2011), some days you are the “keeper of what,” and other days you are the “master of how.” I agree with Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan who explained that “execution is a discipline.” The key for us is to recognize that clarity is the foundation of execution and it begins with a combination of what to focus on and when it needs to get done plus how to do it so it is in alignment with the strategic nexus

Second, the best leaders pay attention to their peers, not just who they report to or who reports to them. As we all are realizing, collaboration is more and more mission critical given the emerging adaptive problems. In essence, my success is really based on our success.

Third, effective execution includes regular, in-depth reflection. Constantly going faster and faster does not equal effectiveness. The best leaders understand that action does not equal effectiveness. Regular and in-depth reflection, notes Greg McKeown in his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Crown Business, 2014), makes sure we not just getting things done but instead getting the right things done. 

With this in mind, I am going to take two weeks off from blog writing so I can do my own in-depth reflection work. I will be back in touch with all of you on July 5, 2016.

Enjoy the coming weeks!

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