Monday, August 24, 2015

Making Sure They Come Back In The Morning

With the national unemployment rate continuing to drop and many company leaders sharing with me about their challenges around recruitment and retention of staff, I am continually reminded of this quote that I read many years ago: "Our intellectual capital walks out the door every night, so the key is make sure they come back." - Aart de Geus, CEO of Synopsys Inc. 

Right now we need everyone to come back in the morning, ready, willing and able to embrace today’s problems and tomorrow’s challenges. We want them to bring their depth of commitment, clarity and connections so that they can generate effective new solutions.

However, David Dell, research director of The Conference Board's Capabilities Management and Human Resources Strategies area, offers a unique perspective to this situation: "The challenge to employers is to not only make potential employees aware of the company as a good place to work and bring the best applicants successfully through the recruitment and hiring process, but also to retain them and ensure their understanding of the company's goals and commitment to them." 

The moment of commitment that I discussed last week in this blog begins by creating clarity about the company’s strategic nexus, i.e. the sum of the mission, vision and core values plus the company’s goals. Yet, from my experience, there is a subtle but important difference in the best companies I have seen handle this current situation. These companies understand that their strategic nexus has to become cultural, namely it needs to translate into a specific way of working. When the nexus is no longer just ideas but also a distinct set of behaviors of how we work together, solve problems together and deliver services together, then the company becomes a magnet for recruitment and retention.

This week transform your strategic nexus into a culture that permeates the whole company. Then, when people go home at the end of the day, we know they will be back in the morning.

FYI: Due to the complications of my schedule, I am not going to post anything on this blog for the next two Mondays. I will be back on Monday, 9/14/15.  Feel free to read past blog posts in the meantime.

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Power of Good Feedback

In the late 80’s, I started teaching people about feedback. It was an important skill in learning how to be a good leader. Given the response and interest, this subject became a routine part of my work for many years.

Recently, when reading another book, I became aware of the following book: Stone, Douglas. and Sheila Heen. Thanks For The Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, Penguin Books, 2014. I was intrigued if this new book was going to be helpful in educating leaders. After the first chapter of Thanks for the Feedback, I realized that I had stumbled upon a master class in communication and feedback. Very well written and extremely practical, the book outlined many key concepts that I found most helpful in my work as a consultant and an executive coach.

As the authors explain in the introduction, “When we give feedback, we notice that the receiver isn’t good at receiving it. When we receive feedback, we notice that the giver isn’t good at giving it.” The key player from the authors’ perspective is the receiver, not the giver. As they continue, “Receiving feedback sits at the intersection of these two needs - our drive to learn and our longing for acceptance…. Receiving feedback well doesn’t mean you always have to take the feedback.” 

Stone and Heen point out there are three different kinds of feedback, each with a different purpose. They are as follows:

- Appreciation which motivates and encourages.

- Coaching which helps increase knowledge, skill, capability, growth, or raises feelings in the relationship.

- Evaluation which tells you where you stand, aligns expectations, and informs decision making

As they note, we need all three, but often talk at cross-purposes because we are not sure which kind of feedback we are giving and which kind we are receiving. Overall, I was impressed with this book because it not only helped me in understanding how to receive feedback but also how to give it. 

Given all of the reading I have been doing this summer, I have found this to be an excellent resource for people in leadership positions. It will help you in your work and it will help you when you are coaching others. So, when you have the time, add this one to your reading list and enjoy participating in a master class on communication and feedback.

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Moment of Commitment

Right now, many people have been pushed outside their comfort zone. There is no more ease, familiarity, or predictability in their world. Change is not the constant now. Transformation is the constant. And as a result, more and more people are experiencing massive amounts of uncomfortable chaos.

When we go to the dictionary and look up the definition of the word “chaos,” we discover a great answer. Chaos is defined as “the unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct forms.” But as one reads further, there is another definition, namely “the state of utter confusion.” This is the challenge right now for so many leaders. There is a high degree of ambiguity plus a phenomenal lack of clarity. It feels like everything is confusing and unorganized on too many levels.

So, the first step in situations of this nature is to create clarity. This starts when we as leaders define what is and is not over. We need to show that there is a line of continuity through the unorganized state of primordial matter. Effective leaders turn to the mission, vision and core values of their organization to find this line of clarity through the current and emerging challenges.

Second, we as leaders need to build commitment. This happens when we explain what are the internal and external drivers of change and transformation in our industry and our organization. Creating this depth of understanding takes time and consistent communication but the return of this investment is solid and helpful.

Third, we as leaders have to commit to moving forward in spite of all that is happening. As the German writer and statesmen Goethe wrote: “Until one is committed there is always hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way.  

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. “

This week I hope you can rediscover the moment of commitment and then move forward with clarity and confidence.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Expanding Your Network

Many people, who have never been to a From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, ask me the following question: “When I am so busy, why should I take time to participate in the Fall Roundtable?”

My answer recently has been the following: “Because you will expand your network.”

All of us have a network at work, and all of us routinely network with people outside of work. But the real question is: What kind of network do we have?  When I look at it from this perspective, I always think back to something Herminia Ibarra wrote in her book, Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader. Harvard Business Review Press, 2015. As she notes, there are three different networks one has a leader, namely operations, personal and strategic. “The first helps you manage current internal responsibilities, the second boosts personal development, and the third focuses on new business directions and the stakeholders you must get on board to pursue these directions.”

The key from my perspective is that participants in our twice a year From Vision to Action Executive Roundtables expand all three networks by expanding their perspective and thinking on a variety of different topics. But the one I continually hear executives share with me during coaching sessions is how a Roundtable expands their strategic network. By routine participation, they develop relationships with other leaders which helps them envision a better future, explore new ideas, and get access to new information and resources to further utilize these ideas.  As Ibarra writes, “A good strategic network gives you connective advantage: the ability to marshal information, support, or other resources from one of your networks to obtain results in another.”

Therefore, I invite you to join me and others at the Fall 2015 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.  Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

8:30 am - Registration
9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders get all the different parts of an organization to work together as one unified whole rather than a collection of fragmented silos and turf battles?
10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
10:30 am - 12:00 pm - What is the role of the leader when everything is constantly changing?
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders improve their decision-making?
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders help others improve their performance?
4:30 pm- Adjourn

Thursday, September 24, 2015
9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders keep operating successfully when their time is constantly being interrupted by everyone else?
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

Here is the link to the registration form:


I hope you can come and continue to expand and further develop your operational, personal and strategic networks.

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

Building A Foundation of Connections

Some days we go fast and then we go faster. Other days, it is just full warp speed through meeting after meeting with everything just being a blur. Whether you are in the fast lane or the warp speed lane, most days we as leaders struggle to keep up with the pace.

At times like this, we must focus on maintaining our clarity and holding on to our confidence. But, we also have to build and maintain healthy connections with others. These connections, be there personal, operational or strategic, are critical to surviving as a leader.

Hermania Ibarra in her book, Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader. Harvard Business Review Press, 2015, writes about the important of creating healthy networks. As she explains, leaders use networks as an essential leadership tool for sensing trends and seeing opportunities, building ties to opinion leaders and talent in diverse areas, working collaboratively across boundaries to create more value, avoiding groupthink, generating breakthrough ideas, and obtaining career opportunities.

This week, ask yourself the following question: “Am I building a healthy network of connections?” If yes, keep doing it. If not, then it is time to begin. The world will not get any slower if you live and work in the land of leadership.

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

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finding Confidence In Chaos

Being overwhelmed by all that needs to get done is not a fun place to be. Furthermore when everything and everyone wants your time and attention, you begin to wonder if you will ever get anything actually done. Interruptions start to feel like the foundation of all you do.  

When this happens to people in leadership positions, their confidence in themselves and their ability to make change happen successfully plummets. They burn out quickly and struggle professionally and personally. 

Yet, some leaders in situations of this nature seem to pull themselves up by their boot straps and move forward again. They regain their confidence and work themselves out of their struggles.

How do they do this?

I think the best answer can be found in the following book: Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . . and Others Don't. HarperBusiness, 2001.  Here, the author introduces the concept called “Level 5 Leadership.” As he writes, “Level 5" refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top. Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.” 

As he continues about this in-depth research study on organizational transformation, “Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility. The comparison CEOs often did just the opposite - they looked in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results.”

The key for me, when reading the above, is to cultivate people who help me look out the window to better understand what caused success. And to have people in my life who can help me when I look in the mirror to better understand what needs to change about me. Whether these are colleagues, allies or confidants, the key is to have a strong circle of people, a kitchen table cabinet, who will support, educate and assist me in becoming a better leader. Having these individuals in my circle helps me to build and maintain my confidence during challenging times.

This week, review your core circle of support and make sure you have people who can assist you whether you are looking out the window or into the mirror.

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Leadership & The Four C’s

More and more this summer, leaders are reporting to me that they are outside their comfort zone. Whether it is the warp speed of change that is happening right now, the digital economy, or that everything now is connected to the internet, they are just not feeling very comfortable and ready for the short and long term challenges before them. They tell me that there is little balance in their days, very little sense of order, and very few moments of predictability. In short, their world is more chaotic than they like. 

At times like this, leaders need to focus on the Four C’s, namely building clarity, confidence, connections, and commitment. 

The first step is to define clarity. Whenever this topic surfaces, I always turn to the first book that focused on this subject, namely Patrick Lencioni’s The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Jossey-Bass, 2000. Here, he explains that a healthy organization minimizes the potential for confusion by clarifying the following:

- why does the organization exist?
- which behavioral values are fundamental?
- what specific business are we in?
- who are our competitors?
- how are we unique?
- what are our plans for the future?
- who is responsible for what?

For leaders this summer, the above list of questions is a great place to start when seeking a new level of clarity. Reflect deeply on each question, and write out your answers. Then, sit down with your leadership team and share your thinking. The subsequent strategic level dialogue will generate a strong foundation for the future and help when things feel chaotic outside your comfort zone.

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