Monday, July 25, 2011

Trust Your Gut and Seek Feedback Regularly

It is common during an executive coaching session for me to ask the person that I am working with a simple but powerful question, namely “What does your gut tell you to do?” I some times follow this up with another equally powerful question, namely “Do you trust it?” The busier we get and the fuller our lives are we at times miss the subtle but important signals that we or our team may be out of alignment with the strategic nexus, the sum of the organization’s mission, vision and core values plus the strategic plan. I regularly advise executives to check their gut. This source always leads to profound insights.

I also advise them to ask a large variety of people for feedback about how they, their team and their company are doing. This may not be easy but it does yield tremendous perspective.

A long time ago, I decided I would ask our two young sons how I was doing as their Dad. Given both were very little, I did not think this was going to be so hard. Still, I wimped out and waited until my wife was away one night for dinner. Then, I made our children their favorite meal from scratch, mac and cheese plus peas. Once seated over a great dinner I asked, “So, how am I doing at being your Dad?”

As you might guess, I got an ear full. They gave me feedback about everything from putting them in time-out too often to not allowing them to watch more TV. Once they started, it was a solid 20 minutes. I should have taken notes but all of it was good and all of it was important. I learned a lot and made changes accordingly.

They key is to ask the questions. This summer trust your gut and seek feedback regularly from a variety of sources. It will make a world of difference over time.

P.S. Here is some excellent summer reading.

First, I loved reading William C. Taylor’s (co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine) article in the summer 2011 issue of Leader to Leader called “Are you “Humbitious” enough to lead?” Covering a diversity of topics from leadership to innovation, it a wonderful read during the hot days of summer. Here is the link:

Second, I discovered a delightfully short but wonderfully interesting blog entry by Tony Schwartz on the Harvard Business Review web site. Called “Ten Principles to Live by in Fiercely Complex Times,” Schwartz answers the question, “What enduring principles can you rely on to make choices that reflect, openness, integrity and authenticity?”. I know you will enjoy this one. Here is the link:

Happy summer reading!

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Transformation of Education

Being a former high school history teacher, I remember when the only computer was in the school office, and chalk and black boards (*) were the standard tools of every teacher. I even remember when the mimeograph machine was the teacher’s best friend. Now, it is amazing to see the transformations taking place in education this coming school year.

In particular, this fall there will be a new kind of student coming to school. They will be technologically savvy from kindergartner on (Remember that they are the class 2023!) and only know a world where the internet and computers are the norm. They will expect a broadband solution in every classroom along with live, constantly upgraded multi-media educational experiences accessible at any time and in their own way.

Furthermore, we also will encounter a new kind of parent. The last of the baby boomer parents are now replaced by the Gen X parents and those even younger who are all actively engaged with high expectations even if they do not always communicate them to those who are educating. They also expect a broadband solution to education and they expect to be constantly updated on what is happening during the day. They assume that there is 24/7 accessibility to those who are teaching.

Finally, we are encountering a new kind of teacher. This came clear to me when Apple introduced the new iPad2 with a $ 39.00 HDMI cable that can be plugged into any flat screen TV in the classroom so the teacher can project what they are working on to all students. These pedagogically advanced new teachers are entering the classroom and also expecting a broadband solution to their educational challenges. They want live and constantly upgraded accessible resources and data at any time and in their own way. For these new teachers, the text book and the black board are being replaced by iBooks and YouTube videos.

The implications for us as leaders is to recognize that we will need to respect the teacher - student - parent relationship, and help them identify the impediments to college and workplace readiness and success. We also must help those involved define the “academic individuality” of each student, i.e. individual patterns of academic strengths and weakness while focusing on the whole K-12 experience.

This fall as school districts and states struggle to meet these changes I will reflect on my first year as a teacher, and marvel at all that is taking place.

* FYI: the black board in my first classroom was an actual sheet of plywood painted black. Chalk did not work on it very well and tended to fade quite quickly. I remember helping to install a real black board and being delighted with this technological upgrade. My how times have changed!

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Create Leaders Before You Need Them

Summer is a time to ponder the future.

It is a time to think beyond today’s challenges and to reflect on what the world will be like over the next two to three years. It is a time to ask such questions as “What will our customers expect of us in the future that they are not getting right now?” Or “How will the world be different and what impact will it have on our company?” Finally, “What new products or technology could potentially surface in the next 24 months that would significantly threaten the way we do business?”

Rest assured the world will change.

Customers will have new needs and new expectations. Generational differences will continue to emerge. The way we do business today will not be the way we do business in the future. The critical issue for us this summer is to determine whether or not we will be prepared and have the capacity to execute effectively given all of these possibilities.

Summer also is a time to think about leadership.

We all know we will need the right people on the right seats on the bus, referencing Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . . and Others Don't. HarperBusiness, 2001. We also know we will need to occasionally help the right people change to a new seat on the bus that better meets the needs of the company and the individual. Sometimes we may even need to stop the bus so the wrong people can get off. But from my perspective, this summer we must begin thinking about how to develop the right people so we can have better capacity on the bus.

This summer we need to create more leaders before we need them.

These individuals need to have a strategic mindset and understand the importance of mission, vision and core values. They need to know how successful companies work on the operational and strategic levels. They need to value alignment, understand strategic change, and effectively coach people and groom talent.

We also need to be better leaders ourselves.

Kevin Cashman in his book, Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Berrett-Koehler, 2008, shares research on poor interpersonal skills done by the Saratoga Institute who interviewed 19,700 exiting employees and their bosses. They discovered that 85% of bosses said that former employees left for more compensation and opportunity. However, 80% of the exiting employees said they left because of poor relationships, poor development and poor coaching from their boss. Making the time to build healthier work relationships plus improve development and coaching will have a major impact on the recruitment and retention of key people, today and in the future.

So, starting today, we need to plan ahead and think who should be groomed for the future.

One way to do this is to map out who will be participating in the 2012 From Vision to Action Leadership Training ( ) and the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable ( When you are ready, e-mail me today and reserve a spot for yourself and your key people.

It is never too early to plan for the future. As we all know, it will be different than today.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, July 11, 2011

Exploring The Emerging Trends

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” - William Blake

At times, we get so busy that we forget everything was created twice, first in the mind and second with the help of others. Those who imagine and then created something that is new or different first started by looking at the proverbial “big picture.” They explored the emerging trends and blended it with their own ideas, creativity and perspective.

When I look at the big picture this morning, I find some interesting bits of information to ponder. For example in the 5/9/11 issue of Time magazine, they reported that 6.6 million was the approximate number of Latinos who voted in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. This was a record, and up from 5.6 million in the 2006 midterms.

Furthermore, in the 5/16/11 issue of Time magazine, they reported that 1 in 4 was the proportion of kids in single-parent households in the U.S., the highest of 27 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s new report.

Here is an interesting piece of information from the July 4, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Monitor: “Although the recession may be causing a temporary dip in telecommuting, according to a recent WorldatWork survey, the number of firms offering the option has jumped. Some 63 percent of organizations now offer some kind of telecommuting, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). That’s up eight percentage points in a year. Moreover, 20 percent of organizations now allow full-time telecommunting, up from 17 percent last year.”

From the same issue, there is an article on how libraries are restocking for a digital age. Of note is the following: “A majority of states have reported library closures in the past 12 months according to the American Library Association. While most of those states estimated that one or two branches shut down, some reported five to 10 closing their doors, which ALA says is part of a trend.”

Next, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported that more than one-quarter of all adults in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

In the post PC market, I find it interesting to note that 15 million iPads were sold in the first 9 months and they generated 9.5 billion in rev. in that same time period. This slate based computer now captures 90% of the market share. I also found it interesting that Apple has 200+ million accounts with credit cards and one click purchasing. At the same time, 100 million iBooks were downloaded in less than a year with the first iPad, and they have already shipped their 100 millionth iPhone. Clearly, fewer lap tops are being sold and the cell phone is fast becoming the new PC and the new wallet.

In the world of medicine, the classic Doctor/Patient relationship is changing. The historical meeting of the people who know, i.e. the MD, with those who do not know, i.e. the patient, for diagnosis and treatment is fast evolving into a Doctor/Patient relationship with both as co-learners. Given patients can access everything the Doctor can access via technology plus tap into a vast social network of different support groups, many patients are approaching the medical world as partners and less as customers or consumers.

Finally, in this post Japanese earthquake time period, more and more countries and people are asking questions about the price and source of our vastly increasing diet for energy consumption. The question is no longer which fuel is best to use but which combination of fuels are the best to use. Gas, coal and “green” technologies in combination with proactive energy conservation are all being explored.

When I look at the big picture and see some of the above trends, I am reminded of a quote that I read in Fast Company Magazine back in April 2000. “If you want to build an outstanding company, then you have to be ready to handle the consequences of standing out. Too many companies want the benefits of seeming different - without the risks that come with being different.” The risk for us as leaders this summer is to not only stand out but to explore more deeply the bigger picture with the hopes of being able to effectively imagine new possibilities.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011 Fall Roundtable - Early Bird Special!

Now that the July 4th weekend has passed, it is time for us to turn our sights on the 2011 Fall Roundtable!

On September 22 - 23, 2011, we will gather at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa for the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

Here is the agenda for your review:

Thursday: September 22, 2011

- 8:30 am - Registration

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - Aligning Culture and Strategy

- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break

- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Improving Middle Management Effectiveness

- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking

- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - Developing Role Clarity

- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break

- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm -Teaching New Behaviors

- 4:30 pm -Adjourn

Friday: September 23, 2011

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - Pursuing Personal Excellence

- 10:15 am - 10:45 am - Break and Hotel Check-out

- 10:45 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application

- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

Recommended reading: Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, HarperBusiness, 1994.

Starting today through Friday, July 29, I am offering an “early bird” registration price for the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

If you sign up during this time period, and submit payment before 7/29/11, the price will be $ 275.00 for the two days and $ 175.00 for a single day. Here is the link to the registration form: Please write “early bird special” on it when you send it to me.

After 7/29/11, the registration price will be $ 295.00 for the two days and $ 195.00 for a single day.

I hope you will reserve September 22-23 on your calendar, and e-mail me today about whether or not you and your team are coming. Then, in September when the fall colors and cooler weather have returned to the heartland all we need to do is meet at the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable in Coralville.

Thinking ahead and looking forward to seeing you in September.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Doing a Strategic Analysis

In the beginning of big organizational changes, analysis is critical. For many, this involves people gathering as a group during an off-site retreat, slapping random thoughts down on flip chart paper and then posting them up on the wall. After talking about these ideas for numerous hours and looking at all of the dead tree material on the walls, some one says “OK; let’s do it.” And then supposedly, successful change begins.

Wiser leaders take more time and do a complete analysis which begins by separating the whole into its component parts. Here, they approach their work on multiple levels. First, they recognize that the analysis needs to focus on what is happening within the organization and at the exact same time on what is happening outside the organization. Understanding the internal and external environment is vital to short and long term success.

When beginning to asses the external macro environment, i.e. the context for change, I suggest a process called a PESTEL analysis. Here, people review the trends that are happening in the following areas which might influence the company, it’s customers and it’s products and services, namely political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal. This in-depth review helps us make sure we are not missing some future adaptive problem or element which might disrupt the strategy being developed.

Second, there needs to be an assessment of the internal company environment. Two areas that need close attention are an analysis of the company’s competitive advantage and an assessment of it’s current performance in regards to it’s current strategy. I have witnessed organizations do this level of analysis in many different ways so I am not going to recommend one specific way other than to say it needs to be done.

Finally, when the above work is done, a classic SWOT analysis can be helpful. Here, identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then we examine strengths to pursue external opportunities, while countering weaknesses and threats (internal and external factors that undermine successful strategic execution).

For those of you who want to explore this subject in greater detail, I suggest you read the following article: “Mastering the Management System” by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, Harvard Business Review, January 2008. Here is a link:

As I stated before, analysis is critical to short and long term success. Spend more time doing this in the beginning of organizational change and you will spend less time correcting problems as you move through the process of change.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257