Monday, June 12, 2017

How do leaders prevent burnout? - part #2

The starting place to prevent burnout begins when one rediscovers their “Thinking Space”. As John Maxwell wrote in his book, How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, Center Street, 2009, “I’ve mastered the art of making myself unavailable when necessary and going off to my “thinking place” so that I can work without interruptions.”

I have come to the conclusion that I agree with John Maxwell. I can’t know everyone. I can’t do everything. I can’t go everywhere. I can’t be well-rounded. But, I can do a great deal of thinking and reflecting which can expand my perspective and generate new insights.

So, the first big question today is the following: Where is your thinking space? As Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, wrote in her book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution, Spiegel & Grau, 2015, “We can’t be brave in the big world without at least one small safe space to work through our fears and falls.”

The second solution to preventing burnout is to invest in meaningful connections. People who do this can handle a lot of stress because they feel connected to those who they work with plus their own friends and families. They also can handle a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty because they believe they belong to something important that is larger them themselves. Finally, they can still bring their authentic and imperfect selves to work and life do so, because they have people in their life who make it a safe and trustworthy place.

When I first started teaching back in the 80’s, I created and taught a workshop on stress management. In it, I told people the only way to cope effectively with a high degree of stress and burnout, is to have three people outside your family who you could call for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The reason why they need to be outside your family is because your family may be the problem or your family may have heard it all already and can not offer you any fresh perspective. This network of “friends” offers perspective. They love you for your strengths and your struggles. Brene' Brown, in her book, Daring Greatly, called these people “stretch-mark friends”. As she explains, “our connection has been stretched and pulled so much that it’s become part of who we are, a second skin, and there are a few scars to prove it. We’re totally uncool with each other.”

The second big question for today is the following: Who are the three people on your list that you can call 24 hour/7day a week?

The third solution to preventing burn-out is to be more grateful for the ordinary moments. Right now, many of us are so “busy” trying to fix everything. We also are busy trying to control everything and everyone. We even get so busy trying to get it or keep it all under control that in the end, we just end up numb to it all. In short, we have lost our gratefulness for the ordinary moments 

From personal and professional experience, I have learned that on the days that our lives are spinning out of control, e.g. sickness, pain, divorce, loss, etc., we pray for miracles. We pray for it all to go back to “normal”. We pray for the ordinary, i.e. the chance to get up, eat breakfast and go to work. We want to just be without pain, without sorrow, or without fear or confusion.

Our challenge is not perfection as much as the intersection between happiness and meaning. As Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and Dr. Kelly Goldsmith wrote: “In determining a personal mission, you need to make sure that you take into account both happiness and meaning. By happiness we are referring to your personal enjoyment of the process itself, not just the results. In other words, at the high end of the scale, you love what you are doing. By meaning we are referring to the value that you attribute to the results of your work. At the high end of the scale, you deeply believe that the outcome of what you are doing is important.” As they continue, “Maximize the amount of time that you are experiencing simultaneous happiness and meaning.” 

The third big question for the day is the following: What are the activities in your life where happiness and meaning intersect?

During the next two weeks, I will be taking some time to reflect on these big questions and to just ponder life in general. I will be back here in touch with all of you on the morning of July 3.  Meanwhile, I encourage you to do the following:

- Be kind to one another. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have.

- Don’t throw any one under the bus. It hurts everyone.

- Pay attention to the daily miracles in your life. Wake up and realize they are all around us.

Thanks for reading. See you all again in early July!

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

How do leaders prevent burnout? - part #1

It started during a lunch meeting when she shared with me that she was bored and starting to burn out from the endless stream of details in her job. As she explained it all to me, I realized she was suffering from decision fatigue. The result of which was that she was becoming anxious, worried and frustrated. “If this is it,” she explained, “then it sucks to be a leader.”

She then asked me, “Should I apply for a new job?”

My response was simple and direct, “Will a new job make you a better mother, daughter, sister, wife?”

She looked out the window of the restaurant and was silent for a bit.

I continued, “Once you have the “new” job, what will your whole life be like?”

Her description was scattered.

Many decades ago, I was a speaker at a large, multi-day conference. As I result, I got to attend all the other workshops for free. So, in the morning before I was to speak, I participated in a workshop about preparing for the future. Once seated, the presenter looked over those gathered and asked the following question: “What will your life be like when you turn 40? 50? 60?”

And in the blink of an eye, I realized that I couldn’t answer the question. The categories were work, family, and personal. In short, I needed a picture, an anchor in the future by which I could pull myself through years to come. 

I realized that day that I did not have a clear sense of purpose, picture, plan or clarity about my role in it all. I was just doing the doing and following the advice of Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, you can get anywhere.” The challenge was that I did not want to get anywhere; I wanted to get somewhere.

As Jim collins pointed out in his writing: “Indeed, the great paradox of change is that the organizations that best adapt to a changing world first and foremost know what should not change; they have a fixed anchor of guiding principles around which they can more easily change everything else.” 

Since that eventful workshop, I have done this level of thinking for every major ten year period in my life. I cross another decade this year and I am beginning a period of deep introspection. What kind of life do I want ten years from now? It is such a big question for me. I have learned that my intent and focus play a big part of my dealing with burnout.

This week, I challenge you to envision your life ten years in the future. What is the picture you hold in your mind’s eye, the purpose you hold in your heart, and the plan to get there? Now is a good time to figure it out.

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How do leaders get coaching and employee development to become routine and systematic? - part #2

The obvious answer to the above question is to set up regular coaching sessions with all of your direct reports. During these coaching or routine check in sessions, help all involved recognize that coaching is a structured dialogue about purpose, strategy, relationships. It involves questions, analysis, action planning and follow through. In essence, coaching happens with you, not to you.

What we some times forget in the process of routine coaching and development time is that one goal of this process is to create improved role clarity, job clarity, and priorities clarity. However, there is something else I have noticed when people receive regular coaching. The more they are coached, the better the coaching becomes. In short, the experience of coaching and being coached has a cumulative impact. 

Along with routine coaching, another element to successful coaching takes place when we help people set goals and teach them how to prioritize. One element of this process is to check to make sure those who are receiving coaching can differentiate between a check list and a goal. In simple terms, a checklist is binary and focuses on done or not done. A goal on the other hand has a clearly defined WHY element to it, and generates clearly defined results or desired outcomes.

Having coached people for over thirty years, I have learned that people want to be heard, and they want to be respected. People are always doing their best with the tools they have. And when possible, they always want better tools and better understanding if it allows them to deliver better outcomes. Therefore, we as leaders need to remember that operational and financial results happen when we have the right people in the right jobs, creating and executing the right business strategy, and with the right kind of routine coaching and development. 

This week, put that combination of elements together and you will always have a winning season.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

How do leaders get coaching and employee development to become routine and systematic? - part #1

“A coach or mentor is anyone who, in the eyes of the employee, ensures she successfully navigates the course,” writes Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter in their book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing Gallup Press, 2006. As they continue, “The important aspect is not which of many terms this protector goes by - friend, coach, advisor, sponsor, counselor, support - but whether the employee feels she is not abandoned inside the business.”

With the above in mind, if we want people in leadership and management positions to coach and develop their employees on a routine and systematic basis, then they need to get coaching and development on a routine and systematic basis. As the aforementioned authors wrote, “A great manager needs a great manager in order to be a great manager…. Before a person can deliver what he should as a manager, he must first receive what he needs as an employee.”

So, how does one become a better manager? The quick answer is to get routine coaching yourself and to never let ego get in the way of making decisions. When we role model thoughtful decision-making and being open to feedback, particularly in the stage of preparing to make a decision, we send a signal to all involved that people are willing to do their best if they can have the “tools” they need to think through their challenges and solve their problems. If you or someone you know is struggling at work and in life, always check the “tools” they have.

This week, seek out more coaching from inside and outside the company, and continue to improve your decision-making abilities.

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

How do leaders help people keep moving along the collaboration continuum? - part #2

Another key to moving people along the collaboration continuum is for people to have confidence in themselves, their team and ultimately their company.

According to an interview with Rosabeth Moss Kanter called “How Leaders Gain (and Lose) Confidence” in the winter 2005 issue of Leader to Leader magazine, there are three corner stones to confidence, namely accountability, collaboration, and initiative. 

Kanter defines accountability as follows: “I mean taking personal responsibility: seeing where one's responsibility lies, facing it squarely, facing facts honestly, being able to admit mistakes quickly and do something about them.” 

She defines collaboration in this manner: “Confidence builds when you feel you can count on the people around you and when they feel they count on you. It is as simple as that.” 

And finally she explains Initiative as follows: “Unless there is permission and encouragement for people to take initiative and feel that their actions can make a difference there is no confidence in the system, in each other, in leaders.” 

As she continues, “So in sum, people need to be supported on a foundation of accountability, which means, full and open disclosure of honest information. They need to be supported on a foundation of collaboration, which means people around them whose skills they respect and who they know will operate in the best interest of the whole team, not just for their own selfish purposes. And people need to be supported by initiative, which means the encouragement, the permission, the resources, and the tools they need to take steps that make a difference. When these cornerstones are in place people have full confidence.”

For us here today, we need to remember that with every change comes an ending. As the late William Bridges pointed out, “Every new beginning starts with an ending.” As a result, during the endings and the new beginnings, people need and often lack control, understanding, support, and a clear sense of priorities.

My challenge to you this week is to continually build healthy teams, make sure we all understand the bigger picture, and make sure there is psychological safety to share. Collaboration is essential to success at this time period.

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

How do leaders help people keep moving along the collaboration continuum? - part #1

We were sitting around the table trying to figure out how to get a new data management system to work. One person shared that initially it was going to be more work for those using it, but the net result of the new system would result in better decision-making and better allocation of resources. As I listened to the group work through the challenges of implementation, those gathered kept using the words “team work” and “collaboration”. 

When asked what I thought of their plan, I reminded them that I believe teamwork is an intra-group activity and that collaboration is an inter-group activity. As I explained, “I think there are stages to collaboration that are just like team building and your plan is not working through the different stages.”

During the summer 2015, everyone started using the word “collaboration”. In the fall of 2015, I started watching, listening and visiting with leaders about it. In the winter 2016, I tried to capture the pattern of collaboration as I saw it. And finally at the Spring 2016 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, I shared my thoughts about how to increase effective collaboration.

Upon further reflection, I am noticing three words are surfacing around the discussion of team work and collaboration. Here are the three words and their dictionary definitions:

- Cooperation: the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for.

- Teamwork: the work done by people who work together as a team to do some thing, and the work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.

- Collaboration: to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.

People use these three words interchangeably in conversation even though they each have different meanings.

What intrigues me this morning is what these words have in common and yet are different. The key is that each produces a different level of outcomes. For example, cooperation is interpersonal in nature, i.e. one to one at the personal level and thus creates interpersonal synergy, e.g. 1+1 has the potential to be greater than 2. On the other hand, teamwork is intra-team, i.e. my part + all of our parts has the potential to be greater than the team. This is collective synergy and yields collective results. Finally, collaboration is inter-teams, i.e. your group + my group and results in holistic synergy. Here we experience the moment when we become part of a single system, and a single culture. In essence, when we collaborate we become part of a single entity, the company as a whole. What follows collaboration is a specific purpose that is greater than the individual, the team, and the multiple parts/groups of the company

In simple terms, the collaboration continuum is as follows:

1. Isolation - there is no need to communicate with others and we only share with others as needed.

2. Consultation - we seek perspective from others. Then, we take the parts that we like, and the parts that cause the least amount of disruption to the organization or ourself. In the end, we do what we want to do.

3. Coordination - we work together to get something done. It begins with an “I plan; you plan” mentality and moves into coordinated action.

4. Collaboration - this starts with joint analysis which includes the agreement about what is the problem, and then moves into planning and execution. The stages are the following:
- a. there is a compelling reason to collaborate
- b. there are agreed to guidelines to the process
- c. trial and adaptation
- d. reliance on each other
- e. integration

5. Co-creation - the highest level of collaboration where the sharing of resources is based on a high degree of personal, strategic and organizational trust and clarity.

The first key to moving people along the collaboration continuum begins with trust. I keep watching teams who do collaboration well and they appear to just trust each other. I know this seems simplistic but over time it is very noticeable.

But, let’s go deeper into the definition of trust. Charles Feltman in his book, The Thin Book of Trust describes trust and distrust as follows:

- Trust: “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.”

- Distrust: “what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).”

The clarity around building trust starts first with knowing what is important and what people value. I have observed this on highly collaborative teams. They understand what is important to the organization and what is important to those who are involved.

This week, I challenge you to develop a one minute speech about why change is necessary, and a one minute speech about what the change is. These two actions will generate clarity and is a trust building action all it’s own.

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

How do leaders move from being a functional leader to an enterprise level leader? - part #2

Having the right skill set as an enterprise level leader is very important.  The first skill is having the ability to sell the problems within an organization. However, before you can sell the problem, you have to understand risk. There are basically four kinds of risk in the world of business as outlined by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen in their book, Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (HarperCollins, 2011):

- Death Line Risk which will kill or severely damage the enterprise.

- Asymmetric Risk in which the downside dwarfs the upside.

- Uncontrollable Risk, namely a choice that exposes the enterprise to forces or events that it has little ability to manage or control.

- Time-based risk when the degree of risk is tied to the pace of events, and the speed of decision and action

The critical question a leader has to regularly ask is: How much time before our risk profile changes? Understanding risk helps a leader formulate how to sell a problem.

Furthermore, selling the problem helps you manage nonstop change successfully. “Selling the problem is more than just a practical tactic to encourage people to let go of the way things have been”, writes William Bridges in his book,  Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, (Da Capo Press, 2003). As he explains, “… selling problems is the only way to get beyond having to sell every change piecemeal….People who understand the organization’s real problems … don’t have to be “informed” or “educated” after the fact.” 

As he continues, “If you understand the problem and the people you work with don’t, a polarity is immediately set up. If, on the other hand, everyone recognizes the importance of the same problem, it the manager and the people on one side and the problem on the other.”

From my experience, the opposite of selling the problem will result in a control and command form of leadership where one will have to spend time solving each problem and overcome each pocket of self-interest. This will just take too much time, especially if the risk profile has changed. Selling the problem solves problems before they become problems.

The second skill set is learning how to create an environment for ownership. When I see great leaders do this, they always start by asking questions. Here are a few to get you started:

- why must it be done this way?
- what is the root problem?
- what are the underlying issues?
- who has a different perspective on this?
- what happens if we don’t do it at all?

This reminds me of what John Maxwell wrote in his book, How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life (Center Street, 2009). As he explains, “Realistic thinking gives you credibility…. Realistic thinking helps people to buy into the leader and his or her vision. Leaders continually surprised by the unexpected soon lose credibility with their followers. On the other hand, leader who think realistically and plan accordingly position their organizations to win. That gives their people confidence in them.”  From my experience, an environment of ownership comes when leaders ask good questions and show realistic thinking.

The third skill set to being an enterprise level leader is to role model better and better each day. To do this, you, as a leader, need to learn how to deal with disjointed incrementalism, i.e. this is when you know where you want to go, but not always how to get there. The solution is to learn how to convey strategic intent. This means making the objectives clean, but avoid micromanaging those who will execute on them.

It also means recognizing that you are more visible with every level you move up in the organization. All of your actions are constantly sending a message. Therefore, be more present when you are with people, quit multi-tasking, and quit thinking e-mail is a solution! The key to role modeling well begins with spending more time shaping the values and standards within the organization, spending more time defining what is and what is not meaningful outside the organization, and spending more time helping people focus on the right things, rather than just doing things right.

This week, practice bringing everything back to the core mission or purpose of the organization, support those who role model the mission, and always stay focused on mission.

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