Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recruiting and Retaining Talent

In our media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming, busy all the time world, every one knows that having the right people on your team can make a world of difference. Furthermore, the best leaders and companies know that having a steady pipeline of talent positions the organization well for current operational challenges and future strategic opportunities. Still, the supply for qualified top talent is limited, especially if they are experienced managers. And this shortage does not appear to be going away any time soon.

It is with this in mind that I was delighted to receive my most recent issue of the October 2011 Harvard Business Review with the banner title, “The Talent Issue.” As always, I found some good articles in and amongst the many pages.

First, Rosabeth Moss Kanter nails it in her article called “The Cure for Horrible Bosses” on page 42. This is a topic that I have explored in the From Vision to Action Leadership Training since 1998 and I am always looking for new insights. I like how she explains the following about horrible bosses: “It’s not insults that cause the greatest harm, but rather callousness about people’s time. Horrible bosses want control. They expect subordinates to be on call 24/7 and to hit unrealistic deadlines with limited resources.” Given this perspective, I think she offers some sound ways to neutralize horrible bosses through the building of alternative mission based relationships and improved collaboration. This article is a good first step in retaining talented people. Here is a link to the on-line version:

Next, I enjoyed reading A.G. Lafley’s article called “The Art and Science of Finding The Right CEO.” With a great forward by Noel M. Tichy, the article points out that planning for leadership succession is one of the most important jobs that a company’s board of directors have. Nevertheless, many boards and CEOs often neglect this key responsibility because of other more pressing business matters. The article gives a nice road map to the continuous and ever evolving process of leadership succession and includes a marvelous framework by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis for selecting a CEO based on past leadership decisions. This framework alone is worth the price of the entire magazine. Here is a link to the on-line version:

When it comes to the subject of talent management, someone is going to explain how knowing what the core competencies of successful leaders are is the foundation for success. While in the past, I have tended to steer clear of these discussions because I have read enough research that states core competencies are the key to success, and research that has stated this is not correct. However, I was pleased to discover in the October 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review an article by John Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger called “Making Yourself Indispensable.” Here the authors explain that if you want to get to the top, one must develop skills that complement what you already do best. Instead of merely developing just a few of their strengths to the highest level, these authors note that good leaders who become exceptional leaders engage in cross-training. In essence, they “enhance complementary skills that will enable them to make fuller use of their strengths.” Based on their research, there are 16 leadership competencies that “correlate strongly with positive business outcomes.” Furthermore, each of the competencies have up “to a dozen competency companions whose development will strengthen the core skill.” If you are wanting to help your talented people get better and you believe in building core competencies in your key people, then please read this article to help craft how you are going to go out and do this. Here is a link to the on-line version:

As always, if you find any good books or articles, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am always up for some good reading and learning. Whether you are people of the book or people of the screen, the key for me is to keep reading and keep learning. By constantly exploring new ideas and perspectives, we all position ourselves to become better people and better leaders.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall 2012 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report

Right now, there is a global economic crisis, a prolonged recession, a sluggish recovery, and a Congress that loves to debate everything to the last minute before making any real decisions. And we as leaders find ourselves navigating through this previously unknown and prolonged period of strategic uncertainty with more and more people, customers, suppliers and companies struggling. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove calls times like this a “strategic inflection point,” namely a period when significant change in the competitive environment requires a company to make major adaptations to new circumstances, or risk extinction, i.e. change or die.

On Thursday and Friday of last week, those who gathered for the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable explored in-depth the challenges and choices of this current environment. While some executives are focusing on control, compliance and compensation, those who came to the Fall Roundtable explored the important areas of strategy, talent and execution. In particular, we examined how to align culture and strategy, improve middle management effectiveness, develop role clarity, teach new behaviors, and pursue personal excellence.

As always, the depth of sharing during the Fall Roundtable was impressive and the amount of attention, reflection, and generation of creative thinking was superb. It was an honor to host the event and to witness the collective commitment to realistic progress, purpose-based clarity, and practical choices and solutions to today’s challenges.

Given what happened last week, my hope today is that all of you can make it to the Spring 2012 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable on April 12-13, 2012 at the Courtyard by Marriott, in Des Moines, Iowa. I know it will be exception. If you want to reserve space for you and your team, please e-mail me today. Until then, good learning to all!

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Next Jim Collin’s Book is Coming Out Soon!

For those of us who like to read good books, please note that Jim Collin’s has another book due to be published soon. I have already pre-ordered my copy of Great by Choice: Uncertainity, Chaos, and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. Coauthored with Morten T. Hansen, this new book will be available on October 11, 2011.

Here is what they are currently saying about the book on Jim Collin’s web site: “In Great By Choice: Uncertainty Chaos and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All we ask: why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Jim and coauthor Morten Hansen enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times. This book is classic Collins: contrarian, data-driven, and uplifting.”

I am sure it will be very good given the above summary, and his past track record in the publishing world. During the next 3-6 months, many executives and their senior teams will be reading it. It would not surprise me if this was the recommended reading for the Spring 2012 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

So, I encourage all of you to order a copy. Once you have read it, I would love to know what you think. I will review it during the coming weeks once I have plowed through my copy.

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Aligning Culture and Strategy - Part #1

Regularly, I listen to senior executives stand up before their company and share their thoughts. With a huge power point presentation behind them, they attempt to create clarity, focus and commitment. Nine times out of ten, the presentation is poorly built, extremely wordy, and generally confusing.

“Every day as leaders, we have three boxes on our desk...” writes Howard Morgan, Phil Harkins, and Marshall Goldsmith, editors of The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching: 50 Top Executive Coaches Reveal Their Secrets, John Wiley & Sons, 2005. As they explain, box # 1 equals managing the present. Box # 2 focuses on selectively abandoning the past, and Box # 3 centers on creating the future. As they explain, most organizations spend time in box #1 and call it strategy. However, strategy is really about box # 2 and box # 3.

Before we start exploring alignment, let’s first reexamine strategy. In the beginning, we need to remember that the day strategy is introduced into the organization is the day it starts to die; the only question is how fast. This is sometimes called the strategic decay rate.

Second, most company’s strategies are almost entirely transparent to competitors and potential competitors. The ease with which strategy can be imitated and commoditized makes it nearly impossible to stay ahead of the game.

Third, Edson De Castro, CEO of Data General, 1978, wrote about a very key concept related to strategy, namely “ Few corporations are able to participate in the next wave of change, because they are blinded by the business at hand.” We forget some days that all leaders are both producers of strategy and consumers of strategy.

Fourth, strategy impacts communication. It can confuse and overwhelm people or it can give people at all levels the tools to redefine the ideas that shape the choices and actions. The key for us as leaders is to remember that strategy creates language for people to solve problems and improve decision making up and down the organization. Finally, strategy must provide meaning as well as guidance to the work of the organization.

When we reflect on the word strategy and the above key points, we could replace the word “strategy” with the word “culture.” Then the following statements could be written:

- all leaders are both producers of culture and consumers of culture.

- culture impacts communication.

- culture creates language for people to solve problems and improve decision making up and down the organization.

- culture provides meaning as well as guidance to the work of the organization.

For us here today, we always need to remember the following quote by Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Jason Jennings in his book, Less is More: How Great Companies Use Productivity as a Competitive Tool in Business, Penguin Putnam, 2002, writes “In productive companies, the culture is the strategy.... Unlike other companies, productive companies know the difference between tactics and strategy. The difference is the foundation that allows them to stay focused and build remarkable companies. They have institutionalized their strategy.” From my experience, I have realized that productive companies institutionalize their strategy, in part, by institutionalizing their culture.

Yet this summer during a breakout session at a major regional conference, I was impressed by a young executive who had the courage to share with the group the following, “I am not sure I know what strategy is, and I am not sure how to communicate it to others.” This is a common problem and one I am seeing more and more often this year. The same goes with the concept of culture.

This week I encourage all of you to sit down with your team and discuss what is strategy and what is culture. Then, explore how they are interconnected. If you need help doing this, feel free to call.

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

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Rut and The Grave

There is an old joke in the world of stress management and it goes like so.

Do you know the difference between a rut and a grave?

No, what?


Right now I am meeting more and more people in leadership positions who are falling into ruts that are extremely deep. Some of them could even end up being graves.

Stephen Covey in his book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (Free Press, 2004) reminds us that a Habit = Knowledge + Attitude + Skill. As he writes, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.” Our challenge as leaders is to know when we are in getting into a rut, and to be more conscious when we encounter the space between stimulus and response.

Marshall Goldsmith in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Hyperion, 2007, writes that cognitive dissonance is “the disconnect between what we believe in our minds and what we experience or see in reality.... 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.”

One way to prevent ruts from becoming graves and cognitive dissonance from becoming the new normal is to do the following. First, build and maintain a cohesive leadership team. Patrick Lencioni was 100% on the mark when he noted this in his book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Jossey-Bass, 2000. Such a team can engage in spirited and robust dialogues, generating new perspectives, ideas and insights.

Second, work with an experienced executive coach who can ask in-depth questions and share meaningful perspective. This will cause one to reflect and reconsider rather then simply to move forward at a blinding pace.

Third, read quality resources and participate in exceptional on-going learning opportunities. When we connect with these kinds of resources and people, we continue to build new perspectives and understanding. This continues to pull us out of our ruts and to explore new territory.

As Joel Barker reminds us, “... when something is impossible to achieve with one world view, it can be surprisingly easy to accomplish with a new one.” I hope this fall you explore and consider many new world views. It will help you to stay out of ruts that could end up becoming graves.

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Build on Strengths

Many years ago, I had an important conversation with Joe Batten, author of 18 books, 38 films, and one of the first professional speakers voted into the Speakers Hall of Fame. Joe, the man who coined the phrase “Be all you can be” for the Army, shared with me that the key to leadership is “to build on strengths.”

Tom Rath and and Barry Conchie in their recent book, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, Gallup, 2008, note that based on Gallup research there are four domains of leadership strength. They are as follows:

- Executing: knowing how to make things happen.

- Influencing: helping their team reach a broader audience.... and selling the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization.

- Relationship Building: the essential glue that holds a team together.

- Strategic Thinking - keeping us focused on what we could be.

Our challenge this fall is that we must build on the strengths of our key people, particularly those in leadership positions. Given the current economy, the changing needs and expectations of clients and customers, the amount of competitive pressure, plus the importance that the four domains mentioned above have on culture and brand identity, we need leaders and leadership teams to be strong and getting stronger.

The first step in this process is to ask ourselves “do we have the right people on the right seats on the bus?” If so, then how can we groom this talent to become better? If not, do we have strong internal candidates who can fill these positions?

Research by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in the book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, HarperBusiness, 1994, shows that home-grown management is vital to being a visionary company. When there is a track record of continuity in top management, there is a continuity of leadership excellence within the company. As they write, “Simply put, our research leads us to conclude that it is extraordinarily difficult to become and remain a highly visionary company by hiring top management from outside the organization. Equally important, there is absolutely no inconsistency between promoting from within and stimulating significant change.... The key is to develop and promote insiders who are capable of stimulating healthy change and progress, while preserving the core.”

One way to develop homegrown talent is to enroll them in the 2012 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. This year long course is designed to help people become better in the areas of leadership, strategic planning and execution, and organizational change. Through a challenging, interactive curriculum which blends lectures, small and large group discussions, and how to skill-building exercises, participants gain knowledge and skills through an immersion into research, current issues and real time solutions.

For more information on the dates, location, price and how to enroll in the 2012 From Vision to Action Leadership Training please click on the following link:

For over a decade, this in-depth training program has helped participants become effective leaders, capable of building on personal and organizational strengths. Great leaders and great teams are the foundation of visionary companies. Now is the time to start building for the future.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I hope you can join us in 2012.

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Paradigm Shifts

“In late 1991,” writes Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. in their book, The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time (Currency Doubleday, 1993), “the telegraph industry's life was taken suddenly and brutally, by the facsimile machine. For more than 150 years, the telegram stood for immediacy and importance. It was an icon for urgency. But now, Western Union has closed down its telegraph service around the world. The fax was a new technology the telegram could not survive. The shift from teletype and telegram to facsimile represents one aspect of what business consultants term a "paradigm shift" - a discontinuity in the otherwise steady march of business progress.” Be it the end of the telegraph, the mimeograph or the rotary dial telephone, paradigm shifts happen on a regular basis. Even today, the fax machine has been replaced by e-mail, and many landlines are now being replaced by cell phones. The digital age will continue to be full of paradigm shifts.

When I am teaching the From Vision to Action Leadership Training (, I point out to students that there are typically two different kinds leadership paradigms. Based on an article by Warren Bennis many years ago in Executive Excellence magazine, he notes that there are COP leaders and ACE leaders. The former kind of leaders focus on control, order and predictability. They want to find everything that is wrong and fix it. The later kind of leader focuses on alignment, creativity and empowerment. These leaders capitalize on matching talent and strengths with opportunity and challenges. They build ownership while the former can at times build fear and apprehension.

In my own experience over the years, I think the “A” in the ACE paradigm should also stand for adaptability to change. This is on the personal level, the strategic level and the organizational level. With the early signs of fall weather all around, we need more ACE leaders who have the capacity to handle the current and future paradigm shifts that are taking place in our world. Be they in the technological, environmental or political aspects of our lives, we all know that there will continue to be transformative and significant change in the coming months and years ahead.

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Time for Learning, Reflection and Networking

Task, task, task.

Do, do, do.

Meeting, meeting, meeting.

More coffee, a bathroom break, and a quick check of e-mail.

Then, back to task, task, task, and do, do, do.

No time to review or reflect.

If this is the normal rhythm of your day, then the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable is the perfect place for you. Here you will find a highly committed group of executives who come to learn, network and explore better questions, new ideas and unique perspectives at a deeper and more holistic level. With uninterrupted time and space, they have found this event to be valuable, yielding new insights to their current and emerging challenges.

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 but not required reading: Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, HarperBusiness, 1994.

Here is a link to the registration form:

When our lives are driven by tasks, meetings and more to do than can ever get done, we are in danger of loosing ourself and the focus on what is most important in our lives and our work. This fall break the cycle and create time for learning, reflection and networking.

There is still time to sign-up for the Fall 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. I know you will find it helpful in the short and long term growth of yourself as a leader and for your organization.

I look forward to your participation.

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Interplay Between Leadership And Strategy

Effective leaders are able to comprehend and work on multiple levels at the same time.

This seems like another blinding flash of the obvious or words straight from the mouth of the Oracle of the Obvious. Yet, so many people don’t really grasp it. In the beginning, many leaders approach their work with three key perspectives in mind, namely where are we now?, where do we need to prepare for the future?, and where do we need to innovate? These questions become more and more important as pace and complexity pick up.

Yet, there are days when I like to step aside from these pressing questions and instead focus on a key relationship between two elements within a company. In their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness, 1994), Jim Collins and Jerry Porras note that visionary companies do two things very well, namely they preserve their core ideology and at the exact same time have a fundamental drive for progress. The former provides continuity and stability during change and the later urges continual change. The former limits possibilities and directions for the company to only those consistent with the content of the ideology while the later expands the number and variety of possibilities that the company can consider. Finally the former, i.e. having a core ideology, is by its very nature a conservative act while the later, i.e. a drive for progress, can lead to dramatic, radical and even revolutionary change. As they explain, “The interplay between core and progress is one of the most important findings in our work [a six year research project]..... a visionary company does not seek mere balance between core and progress; it seeks to be both highly ideological and highly progressive at the same time, all the time. Indeed, core ideology and the drive for progress exist together in a visionary company like yin and yang of Chinese dualistic philosophy; each element enables, complements, and reinforces the other...”

When it comes to leadership and strategy, F. Scott Fitzgerald got it completely right when he wrote: “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Our goal this fall is to not only become visionary leaders building visionary companies, but to also be able to work on multiple levels at the same time. If you need assistance in this process, please do not hesitate to call me. I would look forward to hearing from you.

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