Monday, September 29, 2014

Winning Hearts and Minds

Last week, I wrote about the importance of communicating purpose on a daily basis. The goal of which is to win the hearts and minds of all employees. The first step to achieving this outcome is to treat others with respect. By treating others with genuine respect, you, as the leader, create a relationship with people where they are more likely to listen carefully and sympathetically to your message. But the key is to realize that treating people with respect needs to happens before you start speaking not just when you start speaking.

Second, it is important to keep your messages short and concise so they can be cascaded. Corruption of your message is a given as it cascades into the organization. Remember: simplicity of the message + action + alignment = clarity. So, what is the action that the follower is suppose to take upon hearing and understanding your message?

Third. be self-confident and yet humble. John  Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead in their book, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea From Getting Shot Down, Harvard Business Review Press, 2010, remind us not to try to wing it, even if you know all the facts thoroughly, even if the idea seems bulletproof, and even if you expect a friendly audience. Instead, constantly monitor the people whose hearts and minds you need: the broad audience, not the few who may attack your message. 

Fourth, to win peoples’ hearts and minds, constantly ask yourself this question: What can I teach here today? The key is to remember that purpose is best learned through stories. Therefore, choose stories which teach.

If you want to be a better leader this fall, then now is the time tell more and new stories. It is time to weave more people into the stories we tell, and it is time we build or rebuild a sense of pride, progress and perspective through the stories we tell.

In short, my challenge to you this week is a simple: What are the new and old stories you can tell that will illustrate the purpose of your company’s work?

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Communicate Purpose Daily

We were sitting in a small conference room when I asked the senior team what their core message related to the strategic plan was for the coming quarter. The first person gave me her to do list, and second person talked for four minutes but her message was lost in the color commentary. The next person talked about other peoples’ messages, and one person could not come up with a message. The last person stated that his message was “get it done.” I listened and thought to myself that the results of these messages will be confusion and complacency.

The world of leadership is complex and the problems we face are complex. However, the solutions do not have to be complex. The more complex the solution, then the more complex it is to communicate them.

James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their book, A Leader’s Legacy. Jossey-Bass, 2006, remind us that “The purpose of leaders is to mobilize others to serve a purpose.” As they note, purpose is passed on through the stories we share with others.

I know today that companies all over the globe want to achieve buy-in. They want to capture peoples’ attention and to create urgency, not fear. Then, with people paying attention, these same companies want to win over the minds and the hearts of those who work at that company.

But, it all begins with a clear message.  So, what is your message this quarter? And how does it connect with the core purpose or mission of your organization plus the strategic plan?

Finding the answer is the first step in becoming a better leader.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where Is The Next Generation of Leaders?

Highly effective people in the right positions within a company can make a profound difference. They can generate focus, momentum and commitment. They can be the determining factor that makes people want to improve and to innovate when challenges arise. However, identifying and developing these current and future leaders has itself become the new challenge for everyone these days.  

Claudio Fernandez-Araoz in his June 2014 Harvard Business Review article called “21st Century Talent Spotting: Why potential now trumps brains, experience, and competencies” writes that “the sweet spot for rising senior executives is the 35-to-44-year-old age bracket, but the percentage of people in that range is shrinking dramatically. In our 2006 study, we calculated that a projected 30% decline in the ranks of young leaders combined with anticipated business growth, would cut in half the pool of senior leader candidates in that critical age group. Whereas a decade ago this demographic shift was affecting mostly the United States and Europe, by 2020 many other countries, including Russia, Canada, South Korea, and China, will have more people at retirement age than entering the workforce.”  

With the impact of the above demographics and the continued rise of globalization within the work force, it is imperative that companies, who seek to be successful on an ongoing basis, have a well developed and effect pipeline of future leaders. Yet as reported in the above article, the author notes the following: “In PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 2014 survey of CEOs in 68 countries, 63% of respondents said they were concerned about the future availability of key skills at all levels. The Boston Consulting Group cites proprietary research showing that 56% of executives see critical gaps in their ability to fill senior managerial roles in the coming years.” Clearly, the need for leadership is great but the ability to meet this need is struggling. With the pace of change accelerating, we also can not predict the key skill sets needed just a few years out.

Within Fernandez-Araoz’s research reported in the above mentioned article, he points out the following “five markers of potential” for people who could be 21st century leaders: “a strong motivation to excel in the pursuit of challenging goals combined with the humility to put the group ahead of individual needs; an insatiable curiosity to explore new ideas and avenues; keen insight into connections that others don’t see; a strong engagement with work and people; and the determination to overcome obstacles.” Once we have hired the right people and identified them as people with potential, then we need to retain them and develop them for the future. They need to grow in the depth and scope of their understanding of leadership, strategy and organizational change.

Here is where the 2015 From Vision to Action Leadership Training fits into this picture. Through a challenging, interactive curriculum which blends lectures, selected readings, small and large group discussions, and how to skill-building exercises, participants in this four part leadership training gain critical knowledge and skills which improve their ability to lead people to generate short and long term success. For more information on how to register for the 2015 From Vision to Action Leadership Training, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html 

Finding and developing the next generation of leaders is a top priority during the coming months and years. One solution is the 2015 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. I look forward to you participation!

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

No Longer Living a One Dimensional Life

It was after a long meeting when he paused and shared, “All I do is work or sleep. Between the e-mail, the phone calls, meetings and travel, I have realized that I live a one dimensional life. Work is my life. I am obsessed, and compulsive about keeping up. And you know what, I never seem to get caught up, especially with the e-mail. I am constantly about 250-300 e-mails behind. It is draining and deeply frustrating.”

The best strategic leaders I have met do not have just a work life. They spend considerable time and energy building and maintaining a very satisfying personal and home life. In reality, they focus on maintaining clear boundaries with work and having realistic expectations about what can get done. They recognize the importance of having de-acceleration zones in their life where they can unplug from work and connect back in with themselves and their loved ones.

This kind of multi-dimensional life requires great discipline. It is not the big choices but all of the little choices that make the major difference. For example, it would be easy to answer texts, e-mails and phone calls during a family dinner. But it sends the message to their family that they come second, and this can back fire over time, especially when raising teenagers. It would be easy to skip an hour of sleep and to start answering e-mail late at night while the family is all asleep. The challenge is that once the e-mails have been sent the mind can not slow down and sleep. It instead focuses on all of the other issues and problems in the company. What ends up being an extra hour turns into two-three hours of tossing and turning in bed as the mind slowly attempts to unwind. Short on sleep the next day, it does not get any better. It becomes a long unbroken cycle of less sleep and diminished capacity to cope, a downward spiral.  

This week, pause and review your life. Is it the one you want to be living? If not, rethink your expectations and set clear boundaries between work and home. One dimensional living does not have to be the new normal in the world of leadership.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Journey of Decision-Making

A major part of strategic leadership is decision-making. Most leaders think it is a simple act of saying “yes” or “no.” But the best leaders understand it as a complex process.  

In the article “Making Judgment Calls: The Ultimate Act of Leadership” by Noel M. Tichy and Warren Bennis in the October 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review, the authors point out that there are three stages to effective decision-making. 

Stage # 1 is the “Preparation Phase” where leaders sense what is happening in the internal and external environments and identify the problems. Next they  frame the issue that will demand a judgment call. Finally, in stage #1, they align their team members so that everyone can understand why the call is important.

Stage #2 is the “Call Phase”. Here the moment of decision takes place. Most people think of this as the single moment of rational analysis based on knowable and quantifiable variables. In reality, it is a dynamic process influenced by multiple variables which are often outside of a leader’s direct circle of control or influence. The best leaders make decisions that influence what is happening now but also set up a framework for others to make successful decisions in the future.

Stage #3 is the “Execution Phase.” Once a decision has been made, a leader needs to mobilize resources, e.g. people, information, financial resources, and technology to support it. Furthermore, they need to make it happen while learning and adjusting along the way.

I always add a Stage #4 to this process which is “Evaluation.” By routinely evaluating our strategic choices and decisions as well as our tactical decisions in 1/1 coaching sessions, we strengthen the level of understanding through the organization. 

Decision-making is complex and it is important. Our goal as leaders is to teach people how to do it so they are getting better at it each and every week.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Important Choice

Every day we as leaders come to a fork in the road about how to lead people and our companies through change. Each path is a viable one and each path needs to be considered carefully because it has strategic and operational impact. The key is to make the right choice at such a moment.

One choice highly effective, strategic leaders make is to determine whether or not to utilize executive leadership or legislative leadership. This concept was first explored by Jim Collins in Good To Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograpgh to Accompany Good to Great, 2005. As he wrote, “In executive leadership, the individual leader has enough concentrated power to simply make the right decisions. In legislative leadership, on the other hand, no individual leader - not even the nominal chief executive - has enough structural power to make the most important decisions by himself or herself. Legislative leadership relies more upon persuasion, political currency, and shared interests to create the conditions for the right decisions to happen.”

At this time period, there will be many decision points which require executive leadership and others that will demand legislative leadership. The key is to know which is the right choice and why. 

This week, pause and figure out where you are going. Then, figure out which form of leadership to use. The choice is important to the short and long term health of the organization.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Extremely Busy?

Right now for many people in leadership and management positions, the weeks are flying by and projects are piling up like planes trying to land in Chicago before a storm. Incoming requests for one’s time and attention are overwhelming even the best of us.  We are working hard and faster than ever before and we are barely keeping up with the day to day challenges let alone the strategic level work that needs to be done. In short, we are running at full capacity and there is no more bandwidth to expand into.

When this becomes the norm for weeks and months on end, we are called to a new way of working and leading. The “stop doing list”  put forth by Jim Collins needs to be created, but we rarely have time or the energy to do this level of work.  However, there is a solution, namely to participate in the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

Over the years, I have visited with many of the participants at the Roundtable in small groups and on a one to one level. Routinely, they share with me that they consider the Spring and the Fall Roundtables to be their once or twice a year personal retreat. It is for them a time to stop, think and reflect. It is a place where they catch their breath and regroup before diving back in.

If you are seeking a time this fall to rethink all that is taking place at work and at home, then I encourage you to come and join us at the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable on September 17 - 18, 2014.  Here is a link to more details:


This fall is going to be a fast paced and busy season for all of us. Rather than being overwhelmed, I hope you can join us for a day and half of good learning, great networking, and in-depth sharing.

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