Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Coping In The Midst of A Pandemic

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 

- J.R.R. Tolkien

As social distancing continues for another month, shelter in place orders are given across the country, and the number of people dying from COVID-19 rises, our worries and fears increase. We struggle to keep perspective and we wonder when this all shall pass. Some days, in the midst of our anger, grief and hopelessness, it is hard to decide what to do with the time that is given us.

First, we must acknowledge that stress exhaustion is real. It takes a lot of energy and effort to not panic or to not become horribly depressed. We just want things to get back to normal even if we are not sure what normal will be like on the other side of this all. 

Furthermore, we must recognize that doing activities that are depleting is not the same as being depleted. The former is the cause while the later is the result. If we are drained, we need to be aware that pushing the “power through button”, quoting Brene Brown, every time has a price. We need to rediscover what gives us hope, and renews our spirits and our energy in the midst of this current, never ending journey.

One challenge as I mentioned last week is to understand that our normal systems for coping with high levels of stress and for rebuilding our energy have been significantly disrupted. Before this time, some of us would have gone to the gym to work out. A good sweat can make a world of difference during a difficult day. Others of us would have gone out with friends for drinks and a great meal. And finally, there are many of us who would have gone to our local church, synagogue, or temple for spiritual renewal and for fellowship time with others. 

However all of these helpful systems for regeneration have been shut down. Now, we find ourselves alone and disconnected. We struggle and the struggle is painful and challenging. Still, there are ways to move forward through this wildly unpredictable time. What follows are a variety of different ways to cope in the midst of a pandemic.

With everyone working out of their “new” home offices, it is important to talk about how to do this in a successful and minimally low stress way. Recently, quite a few people have asked me how to work out of a home office, because I have been doing this since 1986. I had to pause and really think about it. For the most part, it is an unconscious habit. Upon reflection, I do have a couple of tips for people who are new to home office life.

First, stick to regular office hours. This is important for you, your family and your colleagues. It defines when you are available and when you are not available. As part of your regular office hours, I also recommend you have a regular lunch hour where you can step away from the office work, check in at home, and help where you are needed.

Second, define what is and what is not an acceptable interruption by family during home office work time. This was a big challenge in our family during my first years of working from home, but over time we all learned and it made a major difference on stress levels. I would include with this definition that a closed door to the office means do not interrupt unless something quite serious has taken place, and then knock before entering. Both of these first two tips will require significant self discipline but I assure you that they will make a major difference, especially if this is to continue for another 60+ days.

Finally, when it comes to having a home office, there is one more tip I want to share with you. The distance from my home office to the kitchen is fifteen steps. The transition from work to home is too short. 

So, at the end of every work day, I create a transition time period. I call it my “daily commute”. Some days I go for a fifteen to twenty minute walk just to get out of my office mental work space and arrive home ready for what ever has taken place there over the course of the day. Other times, I go out and do a small bit of yard work such as pulling some weeds, enjoying some spring flowers or doing a touch of raking. The key is to unwind from the pressures of the home office and to enter our home life ready to be fully present.

Once I am home, I know I will need to pitch in and help out. Our challenge is to recognize that the entire family is going through this time of social distancing, not just myself. We all have been disrupted by COVID-19 and we all are figuring out how to cope with it.

In particular, I get the concept of social distancing. However, I want to remind us that it is really physical distancing, not social disconnecting. We need to stay in touch with family and friends. We need them and they need us. Therefore, I suggest we call or FaceTime with a different friend or family member each day. By reaching out to them, we are helping them and helping ourselves remember that we are all in this together. 

Next, we need to have fun. I suggest more families create a special event like Movie Monday and then choose a fun and uplifting film to watch together. Of course, popcorn is mandatory! Or cook an unusual meal such as breakfast for supper. How about a candle light dinner? Whatever works make sure you are having fun times together. Creating new experiences is a great, rejuvenating exercise.

Finally, step away from the TV or your electronic device of choice, and read something each day which restores your spirit and soul. Daily devotional time is healing and helpful. It puts it all back into perspective.

As Brene Brown recently wrote on her Instagram account:

“This pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s choose each other.”

At the end of every day, I am most grateful for my friends, my family and for you. This week, stay healthy, stay safe, and keep in touch. I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

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

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Return to the Rosetta Stone of Change

Right now, we are spending so much time in planning mode to create an organization that will be nimble, flexible and agile in the midst of COVID-19. We want continued quality in products and services. We want our staff to be empowered, and we want all leaders to act in a principle-centered manner.

However, we rarely ask the questions, “What if it all works?” I know we ask the question regularly about “What if this all does not work?”. We explore worst case scenarios but we rarely think about best case scenarios right now. When we answer the question, “What if it all works?”, we need to remember the old Haitian adage, “After mountains will be more mountains.” Successful implementation of a plan does not lead to the absence of problems. It merely leads to new problems. 

I continually stress to leaders that the “Rosetta Stone” of successful implementation of a plan is not about events, but about people, acting and living with integrity, confidence, and commitment. It is about partnership and courage. It is about clarity and action being in alignment. 

The “Rosetta Stone” also reminds us that effective change is never the return to a former condition, but the drawing of a larger and more inclusive circle where all involved feel respected. Then all involved understand and want to be a part of what is happening. 

Finally, the “Rosetta Stone” of change reminds us that quality, empowerment, and principle-centered leadership are all a part of people making a difference in our communities, our society, and our world. And given current events, we need everyone to make a difference in their own way at work and at home.

This week, ask yourself and your team, “What if it all works?” Then, focus on progress over perfection, recognizing that new problems will arise and this will always be part of the on-going journey.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Observations From A Home Office In The Midst Of A Pandemic

Given how rapidly current events have been unfolding, it is hard to step back and look at the bigger picture. Right now, many of us have been sucked into a state of hyper-vigilance and reactive paranoia. Every bit of new information indicates another possible worst case scenario. And leaders at all levels are desperately focused on reducing these uncontrollable risks to a manageable level of chaos.  

Nevertheless, there will come a time period in the future when all of this will be a story told to children and grandchildren. As in the past, some generations talk about where they were when JFK was assassinated or when Nixon resigned. Other generations talk about where they were on 9/11. For those living at this time period, COVID-19 will be a similar defining event and experience. 

Still, for those of us who are in the midst of it on a day to day basis, there are significant short and long term impacts. As one who is visiting regularly with a large and diverse collection of people in leadership positions, I would like to share five observations about what is happening. 

First, with every one moving out of the corporate office and working from home, we have now entered into a world where all sorts of new problems are starting to surface. I recognize that not all homes and not all families are set up for a home office. One of the big problems happening right now is that our homes are our homes, our home office and now our local school, given that schools, colleges and universities have all closed for an indefinite time period. 

Traditionally, these three things are not all happening in the same space. Now we are employees, teachers, and parents all in the same physical place. The impact of this is a pressure cooker for all involved. Add to this mix, someone being in a leadership position, who has to coordinate and communicate with others in multiple home offices, and everyone’s stress levels is rising to unprecedented heights. In short, there is the potential for multiple nuclear melt downs each day.

At the same time, there are no boundaries between work, family life and school’s expectations about learning, especially given current technology and limited physical space in many homes. While this is not new on one level, now that everyone is crammed into the same space for an indefinite time period, and, if they are actually practicing social distancing, then there are limited resources to help cope with the pressures. 

For me, I struggle with the term social distancing because in reality what is needed is physical distancing not social distancing. While many are practicing social distancing, what has happened is that they have inadvertently limited their social support and they have not been able to utilize their normal stress management systems, e.g. the gym, seeing friends, church, etc.. The result is short tempered people crammed into spaces not designed for what is expected to happen within them. 

Therefore, quoting an old Gibran saying, there needs to be “space in our togetherness”. For starts, we need to maintain boundaries between when we are working at home and when we are a family at home. We need to practice not talking about work during family time so we can relax together and just be a family. We also need to go outside for a walk, when possible, so we can unwind from the pressure cooker of being in the same space at the same time. This may require us to be creative, but it is doable if we plan accordingly.

Second, when we all worked in an office on a day to day basis, some days things went well and other days we struggled. Still, most people could make progress and could connect with their boss and co-workers to solve problems. When we shifted to everyone working from home, many are struggling with how exactly to do teamwork.

Most offices utilize an analog form of teamwork. With daily face to face communications, leaders role modeled key behaviors before, during and after teamwork. These leadership behaviors were a mix of social and technical skills. These analog teams generated success through mutual trust, shared values, and a clearly defined sense of mission or purpose. To make this happen, leaders and the team had to show a lot of self-discipline and a high degree of self and group awareness.

However, with everyone working from home, we now enter into a different model of teamwork, i.e. a 4-D team. A 4-D team is defined as a group of people who are primarily connected through a digital platform and are dispersed, diverse and dynamic, namely they routinely go through frequent membership changes. As a result, 4-D teams are more global, virtual and project-driven. They often struggle because they have limited face time and are dependent on digital communication, which prevents the ability to understand nonverbal and contextual clues that often provide insight into what is going on. Furthermore, the lack of in-person meetings also removes the ability for understanding individual and collective moods of the group.

With everyone working from home in order to reduce exposure or transmission of COVID-19, team members are tending to be more consultation or coordination focused rather than typical office based, teamwork focused. As leaders, we have to understand that 4-D teams generate success through transparent performance measures, i.e. everyone being able to see the dash board results. Finally, successful 4-D teams need to know what is expected of them, how performance is measured, and why it all matters.

From my vantage place, I completely understand why everyone has moved home, but I think the challenge is that we are not assisting people in leadership positions to switch from analog based leadership choices to 4-D leadership choices. For those of you who want to be better 4-D leaders at this time period, I encourage you to read the following article: Haas, Martine and Mark Mortensen. “The Secrets of Great Teamwork.” Harvard Business Review, June 2016. The long term impact of a more virtually connected workforce is going to require people to switch how they engage in teamwork. We can make this shift but it is going to challenge all involved.

Third, we need to talk about strategic planning and strategic plans. During a normal winter into spring time period, I routinely teach multiple groups about strategic planning. One of the things I point out is that every strategic plan has a strategic decay rate, i.e. all the information that influenced people who created the plan will, over time, become obsolete. Ultimately, a strategic plan will no longer be functional because the environment within which the plan is being executed has so fundamentally shifted from what people thought was going to take place due to unforeseen variables.

Having been involved in numerous strategic planning meetings in 2018 and 2019, and having read multiple SWOT documents and PESTAL analysis documents as part of these planning processes, I can assure all of you that no one had a pandemic or COVID-19 level event on their radar screen. For large and small companies, this a black swan event, namely something that is so far outside the norm of possibilities that they are completely overwhelmed strategically and operationally.

So, here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2020, and all of this year’s strategic plans are highly dysfunctional. The organization’s strategic intent, e.g. to grow into multiple markets with multiple products and services, may still be the desire, but how we are going to execute this will have to change during the next 12-18 months given the huge amount of day to day technical problems and rampant and unforeseeable adaptive challenges that keep surfacing.

Therefore, I believe two things will take place this summer. First, there will be a lot of strategic re-planning which will include some major SWOT analysis work. Some companies may choose to create 6-9 month strategic bridge plans instead of normal 3-5 year plans so that they can see how things settle out economically. 

Simultaneously, there are going to be some intense After Action Reports created to make sure the lessons learned from the first and second quarter of 2020 are not lost and not repeated during future challenges of this magnitude. If past is prologue, many senior leaders will be extremely focused and diligent in this level of work. In short, everyone is going to be way more prepared moving forward.

Fourth, we need to understand the importance of proactive re-recruitment and retention in the midst of this pandemic. If you entered this time period on a dysfunctional team, more likely it has become more dysfunctional. If you entered this time period on a highly functional team, it just got better because of the focus and the urgency of getting things done together.

Our challenge as leaders is to recognize that many key people are putting in a lot extra effort and attention to make sure things run smoothly. We need to notice these actions, praise them, and assure them that all they are doing is not going unnoticed. Good people respond well to this kind of support and ultimately they will want to stay with the company.

But if an A player is working on a poor team and the team has gotten worse, then they will start looking for a new job. The frustrating thing is that a solid A player who is not re-recruited and encouraged to stay will be long gone before certain leaders even knew there was a problem. Therefore, I am encouraging all leaders to reach out to their people on a one to one basis. Now is the time to talk to them, to listen to them, and to reassure them that they are an important member of the team. During the next 6-9 months, we can not afford to loose key people who are making a major difference, operationally and strategically.

Finally, we need to understand that before COVID19 showed up many companies and their employees were working very hard to meet their goals and the needs of their customers. Folks reported to me at the beginning of this new year that they were busy, focused and feeling the pressure to serve their customers better and better.

When COVID-19 showed up, people were already feeling pushed. Now they just feel overwhelmed. What was once a future focused level of busyness has now shifted into a period of instability, reactivity, and general frustration and confusion. Everyone is on edge about what will happen next. In short, people are doing more work and wondering if any of it is actually making a difference.

While this is normal in a crisis of this magnitude, one thing is lost, namely deep work. Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World (Grand Central Publishing, 2016) defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” With so much incoming information and reactive problem solving, more and more leaders are not able to practice deep work.

When leaders choose to make the time for deep work, it gives them and their organization the ability to quickly master complex situations, make better decisions, and solve problem more effectively. Therefore, I am encouraging more leaders to turn off the news, step away from constant inputs like e-mail and various digital meetings, and instead spend a set period of time on a regular basis concentrating on what needs to happen in the short term and the long term for their business to be successful. During these periods of reflection, they need to look for the patterns within all of the information and notice how key people and teams are doing, especially in the areas of teamwork, communication and problem solving. In simple terms, leaders need uninterrupted time to sift through all the data and find the useful information. 

As we know, crisis leadership has two distinct phases. The first is the emergency phase when your task as a leader is to stabilize the situation and buy time. The second is the adaptive phase, when you tackle the underlying causes of the crisis and build the capacity to thrive in a new reality. For those of you who want to understand these two phases better and to be well prepared for the second phase, I encourage you to read the following article during your next deep work session: Heifetz, Ronald, Alexander Glasgow, and Marty Linsky. “Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis”, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2009. In sum, deep work gives us the capacity to distinguish between what is essential in the short term and what it vital to long term success.

We are living through a time period this spring where more and more people feel a deep level of discouragement, loneliness, and frustration. All around us the world has become a messy place filled with confusion and contradictions. And we struggle to find a sense of hope and shared humanity. Trust, love and compassion seem in short supply.

Still as I sit here this morning, I know one thing. We must be the change we wish to see in the world, referencing the old Gandhi quote. I need to role model thoughtfulness, compassion and a loving heart. I need to not let fear, vulnerability, and hopelessness define my world view. I need to reach out to my family, friends, co-workers and the rest of humanity on a regular basis and let them know that I treasure their presence in my life, and that they are important to me in the midst of these challenging times. Finally, I must be kind to myself, and remember that each new day I have a choice of how I am going to act and how I will treat others. And in the end, that is all that matters.  

So, stay healthy, stay safe, keep in touch, and I look forward to seeing you on the other side of this most unique time period.

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

Monday, March 23, 2020

Exploring the Edges

I have sat in the same spot at church for a very long time. In particular, I like the view out a certain window where I have observed a group of trees on the eastern horizon grow year after a year.  These trees have become dear old friends to me.

Recently, I have been pondering a line from John Paul Lederach’s book called The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace (Oxford University Press, 2005) where he talked about “working at the edges of our known cartography.” It is such a powerful and beautiful phrase. I am captivated by the concept. Clearly, we are experiencing that right now with COVID 19.

One late fall day many years ago, I was walking home from church with our two, elementary-aged sons when the youngest stopped, looked east, and asked the question, “What’s it like past there?” He was pointing east where we had a clear view of the far horizon.

I could have given an in-depth explanation, describing all of the details but instead, I replied: “I don’t know. Let’s go find out.”

After lunch, we bundled up in hats, coats, mittens and scarfs. We got on mud boots and walked through our back field to the fence on the eastern edge of our land. I checked the next field and there were no sheep in the near pasture so we climbed the fence and kept walking east. 

Soon, we climbed another fence and headed to the northeast. We walked through a corn field and very near my dear old friends the trees that I have watched through the window at church for so many years. It was slow going but hand in hand we walked to the edge of the far field until we came to another fence. 

Standing at the edges of our known cartography, we looked east and together we discovered a pond, a couple of houses, another group of trees and many more corn fields. I didn’t say anything and neither did my youngest son. We just stood in silence together.

Finally, he said, “Huh. So that’s what it looks like. It just keeps going on.” 

“Yup,” I responded, “It just keeps going on.”

And, when he was ready, we turned around, and walked home. What was unknown was now known. What was pondered was now seen. What was a question was now an answer.

Given all that is happening in our society at this time period, we mostly walk in the same places at the same times. We rarely go to the edges of our known cartography. And when we do, we feel anxious, worried or alarmed. Rarely, do we just stand in silent reflection, take in the landscape and think “So that’s what it looks like. It just keeps going on.”

It takes courage, an open heart and deep faith to walk to the edges of our known cartography, and realize that it just keeps going on. And like the explorers and map makers before us, we must keep exploring the edges of our known cartography and learning more about the unknown cartography all around us.

For in this unknown land, there are people just like us. They are trying to do their best in spite of their challenges. They are working hard, raising families, and asking big questions. Some days, they even walk to the horizon, see us, and think, ““Huh. So that’s what it looks like. It just keeps going on.”

This week, I encourage you to ask the question, “What’s it like past there?”, and then with great curiosity, go and find out. You may be delightfully surprised by what you discover.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Leadership In the Midst of A Pandemic

Currently, we live in a world that is filled with challenges, fears and seemingly unsolvable problems. The unknowns about what to do, and what is happening are overwhelming. The implications are complex. 

In particular, we, as leaders, struggle with what is called the “CNN Effect”, a breathless, twenty-four hour media coverage making it harder and harder for people in leadership positions to do anything but be reactive.

Many leaders have shared with me that it is very difficult to think or act clearly when we are all drowning in information that is constantly changing. The outcome is that we often end up in analysis paralysis.

Two thousand years ago, Roman philosopher and statesman, Cicero wrote an essay called “The Six Mistakes of Man”. One of those mistakes was “The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed.” Right now we are surrounded by many things that are worrisome, and we can not influence or change them very much.

In times like this, I have three recommendations for people in leadership positions. 

First, referencing the work of Joe Tye in his book called Never Fear, Never Quit: A Story of Courage and Perseverance, “Give fear a name. Talk to it. Force it to be rational. Name your fear and it becomes just a problem. It is easier to solve problems than it is to conquer fear.” As he continues, “Courage is to stop worrying about all the possible tomorrows and the trouble they might bring, and to give your whole attention to the one today in which you always live.” 

So, name your fears and turn them into problems. Map out possible scenarios for the future and be prepared. Then, focus on making smart and healthy choices each day.

Second, remember the wisdom that Stephen Covey wrote years ago: “The daily task is to keep first things first while navigating through the unexpected opportunities and challenges of the day.” 

In the midst of all of this, remember what is most important. Compassion, kindness, love and support are critical at times like this. Living and role modeling these things along with maintaining a healthy team go a long way when one is far outside their comfort zone.

Third, “All humanity’s problems,” wrote Blaise Pascal in 1645, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” As Ryan Holiday wrote in his book, Stillness Is The Key (Portfolio/Penguin, 2019), “Stillness is the key to, well, just about everything.” As he continues,”We must cultivate mental stillness to succeed in life and to successfully navigate the many crises it throws our way.” The lesson here is about “the power of patience, alternating confidence and humility, foresight and presence, empathy and unbending conviction, restraint and toughness, and quiet solitude combined with wise counsel.” By slowing down and thinking deeply, we can regain perspective. 

Furthermore, “Always look for the helpers,” the late Mr. Rogers explained to his viewers who were scarred or disillusioned by the news. “There’s always someone who is trying to help…. The world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”

When I read Mr. Roger’s words, I am reminded of my late mother who would often share that “there was never a night or a problem that could defeat a sunrise and hope.”

During the coming weeks, find time to be still. 

Make time for what is most important in your life. 

Stay in touch with others. 

Be kind to them and to yourself.

Remember: we are all in this together.

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

Monday, March 16, 2020

Bring the “Lost Tribes” Home

There are four pillars to a successful organization, namely people, structure, systems and culture. They are supported by a strong foundation of mission, vision and core values.  

Most leaders like talking about people, systems, and culture. They also like talking about the alignment between these elements and the mission, vision and core values.

Few leaders like to talk about structure. Who reports to whom is not a hot topic. But, given all I have heard and seen this winter moving toward spring, it is time we think deeply about structure.

First, does your structure match your strategic intent? We work hard on clarifying our strategy through in-depth planning. Then we make the mistake of assuming that our current structure is the right structure to execute this strategy. 

Recently, I have discovered that the problems many organizations are having related to executing their strategy and integrating it into their day to day operations is not a culture or systems problem, but a structural problem. The wrong people and the wrong teams are reporting to the wrong person. We forget some days that there is a time and place to reorganize in order for the strategic intent and goals of the organization to be successfully executed.

Second, we have to ask another and more difficult question, namely do we have the right people in the right places within our organizational chart? When the structure is right, I have also seen that sometimes the problem is a classic “right person in the wrong seat on the bus”, using an old Jim Collins phrase. I also have discovered that we sometimes have the “wrong person in the right seat of the bus.” Both of these are connected. The result of either of these problems is that some teams and departments start to feel like they are the “lost tribes of Israel wandering in the dessert for 40 years.” 

I had never heard this phrase before until a CEO I had worked with for many years pointed out this problem. As he said to me that day, “We need to bring the lost tribes home.” And he was 100% correct. 

Effective integration of quality, empowerment and principle-centered leadership requires us as leaders to not let any people, teams or departments to feel like they are lost tribes wandering in the desert.

This week, sit down and reflect on whether or not your organization’s structure is in full alignment with your current strategy and on-going strategic intent. Second, check to make sure you have the right leaders in the right spots within the chart. And finally, make sure there are no lost tribes within your organization. This is not easy work, but is the important work that leaders need to do.

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

Avoid the Five Attitudes of Stagnation

With the goal of becoming more nimble, flexible and agile during the next two years and recognizing that this will not take place until quality, empowerment and principle-centered leadership are united, the tragic flaw to most efforts of this nature is the creation of too much change, operationally or strategically, within too short of a time period.  The outcome of this action will be the rise of the five attitudes of stagnation:

- “We’ve never done it this way.”

When wandering into uncharted territory such as being held accountable to productivity based key performance indicators (KPIs), people will be frightened and overwhelmed. They will want to run, duck and cover. This is a normal response.

As a leader, explain why this is taking place and help/teach people how to work with KPIs. Having a clear set of core values and/or guiding principles in place before we implement something like new KPIs makes sure there is continuity through the new changes.

- “We’re not ready yet for that much change.”

For most people, change is uncomfortable. Few people wake up on Monday morning and hope for a revolution or a transformation at work. Most just want to go to work, do their job, make some progress, be respected, and get paid an honest wage.

As a leader, we need to make sure we have given people the tools to be successful, not just the expectation that they should be successful. Change hardiness training such as conflict resolution, team management and coping techniques builds capacity. Understanding the national, regional and community trends that are driving organizational change gives people perspective and, over time, an understanding that status quo could be dangerous.

- “We’re doing just fine without all this change.”

No problem can be solved without a change in habits and perspective. However, few of us actively seek to change our habitual patterns. It’s just too much work to change and then maintain these changes. Instead, we just keep doing what we are doing because it is the easier path.

Most leaders under-communicate the why of change and instead focus on the what that needs to change. Furthermore, change that is not in alignment with the mission and core values of the organization causes people to question their leaders, themselves and their teams. Therefore, the best leaders make sure the changes that are being made are mission-driven and vision-led.

- “We tried it once. And it cost too much and didn’t work out.”

People are rarely successful the first time they implement a new process or system. There is such a thing as a learning curve. People also routinely place blame and routinely make excuses until they have achieved a degree of clarity and competence. 

People who are successful in leading change know that they need to create time, space and support as people become competent and confident. This happens at the one to one level through coaching and at the team level through thoughtful facilitation. 

- “It’s not in my job description” and “that’s not my responsibility.”

Fully participating partnerships are founded on respect, integrity and empathy. Effective teams are built on trust. True change is not an event, but an on-going process.

Therefore, the best leaders make sure that during organizational change we check to make sure that all involved are clear about their role, their responsibilities, the expectations being placed on them, their 90 day goals plus their KPIs. This in combination with effective coaching can help people not get caught in either of these two problematic attitudes.

This week, review the above five statements and make sure you are doing your side of the work in order to reduce the possibility of a high level of stagnation. 

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