Monday, February 25, 2013

Delegate Outcomes, Not Just Steps

Recently, I have seen an epidemic of poor delegation which is resulting in many strategic and operational problems. I have come to the conclusion that many leaders and managers in their developing years did not experience good delegation and thus they can not role model good delegation. Since it is clear that you can not teach what you have not already learned, the same goes with delegation. While I wish there was a blue light special on aisle two where leaders could get three packets of delegation experience for the price of one, I have come to the conclusion that we need to simply reeducate the entire management structure of many companies about what is delegation.  

First, the standard dictionary definition of delegation revolves around the transferring of authority and responsibility from one person to another in order to carry out a specific activity. While this sounds straight forward, I always point out to leaders and managers that in order to do this transferring of authority and responsibility well, we need to actually redefine delegation into three levels of delegation.

In Level-One Delegation, we, as leaders and managers, give direct control to someone or a group to do whatever needs to be done as long as it is full alignment with the strategic nexus, i.e. the sum of the company’s mission, vision and core values plus their strategic plan.

In Level-Two Delegation, we, as leaders and managers, give direct control to someone or a group to do whatever needs to be done but first ask that all choices are discussed at the time of delegation and that there are defined parameters to the possible actions that can be taken. In short, Level-Two Delegation is delegation with an expectation of results but also with limited choices.

Finally, in Level-Three Delegation, the person or team being delegated to is given the opportunity to generate ideas about how to achieve the desired results but no control over how the work gets done. While this can result in action without commitment, it is often used when very tight parameters for action are needed.

Once we are clear about what kind of delegation is taking place, I often like to ask all involved a couple of questions. First, do they understand the problem that is trying to be solved through delegation? Remember that awareness is not understanding. 

Second, do they believe they have the authority to do it successfully? Commitment without understanding is a problem, and so is responsibility without choice a problem. 

Third, do they know how to do it? Having the right knowledge and skills makes a huge difference when it comes to successful delegation. 

Finally, do they know how to measure progress and/or success? This one factor alone can make or break successful delegation.

While delegation is not easy, it is a mission critical skill set for being a successful leader and manager. Starting today be more mindful when you do it, and take more time in the beginning. It will pay off in the long run.

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

Alignment Is Everything

After many years of being an executive coach to top leaders and managers around the country, I always stress to people who are new to middle management two key concepts, namely role modeling and collaboration. Both of these elements will impact the future of their entire career. Done well and they will succeed beyond their dreams. Done poorly and they will feel trapped in a position headed to no where but a downward spiral.

When assisting an individual to become a great manager, I always start out with the following quote by Kevin Cashman: “Leaders get what they exhibit and tolerate.” Too many times, I witness leaders who are not aware of how they are role modeling before a group. The mixed signals they send, particularly in what they say and what they actually do, cause significant problems through out the entire organization.  

Furthermore, too many poor managers also tolerate completely in appropriate behaviors and then wonder why their performance as an organization is not improving. As an employee in Missouri once shared with me, “fish stink from the head on down.” If we are clear at the head of an organization about role modeling, then many other problems go by the way side.

However, role modeling is not easy because we have to interact with others to get things done successfully. Here is where collaboration enters into the picture. If we as leaders and managers personally role model and collaborate well, we also have to make sure that others in our organization role model and collaborate well. The first step in this process is to make sure that everyone is clear about the strategic direction of the company and the operational expectations to make us all successful. This will involve helping people understand the priorities and goals of the company.  

At the same time, we need to practice holding people accountable to these priorities and goals. The difficulty for many managers and leaders is that they would rather be popular as a leader than to hold people accountable.  I like how Patrick Lencioni explained this in his delightful book called  The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable, Jossey-Bass, 1998. As he writes, “work for the long term respect of your direct reports, not their affection. Don't view them as a support group, but as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results. And remember, your people aren't going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail.” While this may not be easy, it is clearly very important.

Finally, we must understand that in order to improve as a leader and as a manager, we need to create highly functional teams. The depth of collaboration that can take place within a highly functioning team is remarkable. Again, referencing the work of Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Jossey-Bass, 2002, he writes: “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” The key is to build a foundation of trust amongst all members of the team in order that they are will to take the risks to improve performance.

Our challenge this winter is to personally role model strategic and operational clarity, to practice collaboration in all we do, and to continually seek to build highly successful teams. When we do this, we will not only dominate the industry but transform it too.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Need For Clarity And Alignment

Right now, many people in leadership positions are still trying to discern what are the best choices to make in 2013, especially given all the challenges happening at the federal and state levels of government. Most read the tea leaves about what it all means for the future and come up confused and frustrated. To say we live in a time period of strategic ambiguity is an understatement. In many companies, executives share with me that they believe we live in a time period of strategic avoidance and strategic ambivalence.

However, when I step back from the pressing issues that cross my path and listen deeply into what is being shared with me about strategy and strategic choices, I believe we are heading into another round of significant challenges. Former CEO of Intel, Andy Grove called these points a “strategic inflection point”, i.e a time when change in the competitive environment requires a company to make a major adaptation to new circumstances, or risk extinction. In short, he is saying we are approaching a change or die scenario. 

Yet, the response in some executive suites is to act like turtles with their heads and limbs pulled inside their corporate shells. They have chosen a path of taking less and less risks, and instead focused on control, compliance and compensation rather than strategy, talent and execution.

But the best companies I know are not falling into this trap and are instead focusing on two key concepts, namely alignment and clarity. Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012) writes “Within the context of making an organization healthy, alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is as little room as possible for confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in. Of course, the responsibility for creating that clarity lies squarely with the leadership team.”

However, many senior leadership teams struggle with creating alignment and clarity. Therefore, I have chosen creating organizational clarity to be the central theme of the Spring 2013 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable on April 11-12, 2013.  Here is the agenda for your review:

Thursday: April 11, 2013

- 8:30 am - Registration
- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - The Prerequisites For Organizational Clarity
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Creating, Communicating & Cascading Clarity
- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - Reinforcing Clarity Through Systems
- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - Managing Clarity & Performance
- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Friday: April 12, 2013

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - Finding & Creating Personal Clarity
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break 
- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application
- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

We will be meeting at the Courtyard by Marriott in West Des Moines - Clive, Iowa. Here is a link to this location:

If you and members of your team want to attend, then here is a link to the registration form:

In a year where we need to be achieving focus and alignment throughout the entire organization, now is the time to sign up and participate in the Spring 2013 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. It will help you and your organization to be well prepared for the future.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

Real Support and Real Solutions

Every Sunday evening, many front line employees and even some managers experience the blues, an awful feeling of dread and depression as they consider going back to work. Patrick Lencioni acknowledges this common experience in his book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and their employees), Jossey-Bass 2007. He explains that our jobs are often miserable because we don’t understand how our work makes a difference and we can not measure our own progress. Furthermore, we often feel like no one cares about our work. The result is that many employees feel anonymous and irrelevant.

Great managers understand this reality and work hard to not let it happen within their circle of influence. They strive to point out how the work their people are doing matters. They want employees to know that they are not seen as mere workers but as individuals with unique gifts and talents. They remind others that their presence in the work place is important and does make a difference.

The key to this whole process is to answer three questions that Lencioni puts forth in the aforementioned book:

- Do I really know my people?

- Do they know who their work impacts and how?

- Do they know how to assess their own progress or success?

When we create this depth of clarity and alignment within all that we do as leaders and as managers, then we create a powerful and focused culture through out the organization, one where the blues on a Sunday evening rarely happen.

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Goal of Coaching

Every week I listen to senior executives telling me that their mid-level managers need to become better coaches. “If they would just spend more time coaching front line supervisors and front line employees better, then we would not have the current problems that we have.” While this line of thinking is interesting, it makes some basic assumptions that are wrong. First, it assumes that mid-level managers have experienced good coaching themselves, which is rarely the case. Second, it assumes that they have the capacity to do good coaching which also is rarely the case. To expect middle managers to coach better means we need to help them become better coaches, not just expect them to be better coaches.

The first step in this process is to help middle managers understand the difference between transactive coaching and transformational coaching. The former focuses on the transferring of competencies, skills and/or techniques from one person to another. As a fine leader told me years ago, “they don’t know what they don’t know.” The later, transformational coaching, focuses on shifting people's view about themselves, their work, their values and their sense of purpose plus their view of the world around them. The combination of both methods of coaching and being conscious when you are doing each one and why transforms coaching from a random act of problem solving into a focus and structured exercise.

However, the major problem I often discover when brought in to solve a coaching problem is that few people are actually working with SMART Goals, i.e. ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. While this may seem like such a minor point, it is nevertheless a critical one because the goal of coaching is to help someone to achieve continual outstanding performance.

K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely in their wonderful article called “The Making of an Expert” in the July-August 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review note that expert coaches “accelerate your learning in an organized manner,” “give constructive feedback that challenges them to excel to the next level of their expertise,” and “help you become more and more independent so you are able to set your own development plans.” In essence, “good coaches help their students learn how to rely on an ‘inner coach’.”

The goal of coaching is always improved performance. The key is to figure out where to begin. Is it mind set or skill set? Answer the question and you have begun the journey in the right direction.  

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