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

Monday, April 24, 2017

How do leaders move from being a functional leader to an enterprise level leader? - part #1

It was at the end of a large group meeting when he stood up to share: “Here is what I have learned, unlearned and relearned…” And he began to speak. I turned from watching him to watching those gathered. The audience was engaged and focused. His comments were clear and to the point. In reality, I didn’t know if I was going to cry or smile. 

Finally, after years of coaching and endless hours of discussion about strategic level topics, he had found his voice. He claimed his knowledge and artfully blended in his experience. He spoke his truth. He displayed executive presence, that rare combination of being confident and calm, being present and attentive.

In his book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, the late Stephen Covey notes there are four roles of leadership, not leadership as a position but instead “as a proactive intention to affirm the worth and potential of those around us and to unite them as a complementary team in an effort to increase the influence and impact of the organization and important causes we are part of.” For Covey, these four roles of leadership are:

- modeling (conscience): set a good example.

- pathfinding (vision): jointly determine the course.

- aligning (discipline): set up and manage systems to stay on course.

- empowering (passion): focus talent on results, not methods, then get out of people’s way and give help as requested.

The big problem right now is that we are moving functional leaders into enterprise level leadership positions and they are doing very poorly. Technically they can do some things, yet they are failing in other areas. In particular, they are not thinking and acting strategically.

Individuals with an enterprise level mindset can do five things very well. First, they can live with the discomfort of uncertainty and ambiguity. Second, they can make connections and realize that it is all about making connections, i.e. connecting people to purpose, connecting people to people, and connecting people to outcomes. This level of connecting gives purpose and meaning to the work we all are doing. Third, they can be a map maker and a traveler at the same time. Fourth, they can be vulnerable and learn to live with vulnerability plus handle the risks that come with the choices being made. Fifth, they are willing to show up and participate even if they know they might fail. 

This week, remember Covey’s four roles of leadership and keep coaching people to have an enterprise level mindset. 

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

How do leaders position an organization successfully for the future? - part #2

Positioning an organization successfully for the future comes down to three solutions.

First, one needs to remember Packard’s Law. Recognizing that big does not equal great, Packard’s Law states that “no company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth with excellence.” I first found this in Jim Collins’ book, How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In, HarperCollins, 2009. 

What we as leaders need to recognize is that we need different networks of people to be successful with different kinds of work. Herminia Ibarra in her book, Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader, Harvard Business Review Press, 2015, recommends we build three kinds of networks for different kinds of perspectives. The first is an operational network which helps us manage our current internal responsibilities. The second is a personal network which boosts our personal development. The last is a strategic network which focuses on new business directions and the stakeholders you must get on board to pursue these directions. As she explains, “… your strategic network is made up of relationships that help you to envision the future, sell your ideas, and get the information and resources you need to exploit these ideas…. 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.”

With the right people in place and leaders with the right networks, I am reminded of the research by Nitin Nohria, William Joyce and Bruce Robertson in their July 2003 Harvard Business Review article called “What Really Works”. This group published a five year study that they called “The Evergreen Project”, which “examined more than 200 well-established management practices as they were employed over a ten-year period by 160 companies.” This research enabled the authors to distill which management practices truly produced superior results. Their conclusion is that without exception, companies that outperformed their industry peers excelled at four primary management practices:

- strategy: devise and maintain a clearly stated, focused strategy.

- execution: develop and maintain flawless operation execution.

- culture: develop and maintain a performance-oriented culture.

- structure: build and maintain a fast, flexible, flat organization.

The Evergreen Project concluded that these companies also embraced two of four secondary practices: talent development, innovation, leadership, and mergers and acquisitions.

The second solution is to create clarity around the five most important questions. First captured by Peter Drucker, they are the following:

- What is our mission?
- Who is our customer?
- What does the customer value?
- What are our results?
- What is our plan?

Too many times during the last year, I have encountered leaders and organizations that do not have a clarity when it comes to answering the above questions.

The third solution is to achieve consistent, forward progress. As we all know, consistent forward progress, i.e. growth, makes a profound difference. Typically, the performance markers or KPIs signal this is or is not happening. However, the first step is a commitment to the proposed strategy that will create the consistent progress. In order to check whether or not this is in place, ask your management team if they can successfully answer the following question: What are we committed to achieving during the next 10-15 years whether or not the world is turbulent or not turbulent? Clarity and commitment are interrelated.

This week, remember Packard’s Law, answer the five most important questions and check to see if you have strategic commitment and clarity within your core team. 

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

How do leaders position an organization successfully for the future? - part #1

It had been a good day of training when I walked up to the second floor to sit down with the CEO in his office to share my thoughts. As I explained to him, first, you need to unpack the organization’s mission statement as the majority of people who are currently in leadership positions were not around when it was first created back in the mid-90’s. I know this because they do not reference it in their language when describing what is most important. If they do not use the language of the mission statement, then they are not using the mission statement in their work as a leader.

Second, you need to make sure you are cascading clarity in order to increase focus rather than fear about making mistakes. When I asked those in training what was the definition of success, they replied “making the CEO happy”. Quality customer service was a distant third in the group discussion.

Third, you need to connect coaching with goals and professional development rather than coaching as punishment. Currently, coaching is infrequent and mostly a complaining session.

Fourth, you need to define your brand better. If today’s leaders can not articulate a concise message about what they want the organization to be known for within the communities where they offer services, then today’s problems are just going to get bigger.  As a wise leader once told me, “the past is the prologue.”

He thanked me for my comments and we explored the key words within the mission statement that needed to be leveraged more. Then, he shared an observation and a question with me.

His observation was that “Our culture is not as constant as it should be. Our key leaders are not as strong at building that culture as they should be.” And his question was “How do I change this? Because what I am doing currently is not work very well.”

As we discussed his observation, the following line from Jim Collin’s Good to Great came to mind: “Confront the brutal facts but never lose the faith.”

There are three problems within the business world currently, namely cognitive dissonance, hubris born of success, and chronic inconsistency. Cognitive dissonance is the disconnect between what we believe in our minds and what we experience or see in reality. As Marshall Goldsmith in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Hyperion, 2007, explains: “the more we are committed to believing that something is true, the less likely we are to believe that the opposite is true, even in the face of clear evidence that shows we are wrong.”

The second problem is hubris born of success. Hubris is historically defined as the excessive pride that brings down a hero. “Great enterprises,” notes Jim Collins in his book, How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In, HarperCollins, 2009, “can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline.” Problems can occur “when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they loose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.” I agree with Collins that “many organizations are loosing sight of the true facts that created their success in the first place.”

The third problem right now is chronic inconsistency. Again referencing the work of Jim Collins in his book, Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, HarperCollins, 2011, the big question is the following: “Does your primary flywheel face an editable demise within the next five to ten years due to forces outside your control - will it become impossible for it to remain best in the world with a robust economic engine?” As he explains, “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

When we zoom out and look at the bigger picture this spring, we continue to operate in a VUCA environment, which is a term borrowed from the US military. It stands for a work environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. As Jim Collins and Morten Hansen pointed out in the aforementioned book: “… instability is chronic, uncertainty is permanent, change is accelerating, disruption is common, and we can neither predict nor govern events. We believe there will be no “new normal.” There will only be a continuous series of “not normal” times.”

At the same time, we continue to struggle balancing continuity and change at the day to day level and at the strategic levels. The challenge for many leaders this spring is to balance continuity and change, plus innovation and transformation.

The upshot of this big picture is that we must continue to execute on our strengths. “Success for our company is not going to take a new strategy or an entirely new business model”, notes Blake Nordstrom. “Instead it’s taking what we already do well and continuing to execute those strengths.”

This week, I encourage you to watch out for cognitive dissonance, hubris born of success, and chronic inconsistency. Now is the time to execute on our strengths. It will make a world of difference in a world that feels chaotic.

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