Monday, June 24, 2013

Finding & Creating Personal Clarity - part #2

So here is my question for you today: What makes you happy? Whole? Healthy? Not satisfied. Not less busy. But truly happy, if not filled with joy.

There is an assumption by many that we have to find happiness. I, on the other hand, believe that we already have it. After years and years of visiting with many different people, I have come to the conclusion that most, if not all of us, have personal clarity, which is the foundation for happiness, about many different issues. This clarity is greater than being busy. The key is to focus on and not to loose touch with this level of inner clarity.

Sure, there will be challenges. There will be difficulties. There will be complexity. There also can be great moments of depth, great moments of selflessness, even great moments of joy, love and health.

Currently, too many of us are living a fragmented life at a furious pace. Though we do not want to admit it, many of us each day are rapidly moving from meeting to meeting, cognitively moving from problem to problem, continually coping with greater degrees of ambiguity and unlimited variables, and constantly giving habitual answers with little thought or consideration.

The first step in this journey to personal clarity is to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and to have a healthy contemplative life. As the Buddha pointed out, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Now is the time to sit back and reflect. Now is the time to rethink how we are living and working.

At the Fall 2012 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, I reviewed the following key ideas to living a healthy active life that I have learned from others in leadership positions and my own journey:

- know your personal core values, and only work for organizations that align with your personal values.

- your sacrifices should reflect your priorities; therefore know your priorities.

- allocate your resources, i.e. personal time, money, energy and talent, to the things and people that in your life connect you to a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

- proactively seek out mentors who can help you maintain perspective.

With the above in mind, it is time for each of us to choose a life of collaboration over control. All of us are just one person, and every moment we can choose to do something or not choose to do something from a place of control or collaboration. If we begin from the premise that our thoughts and our actions mean something, and that we can impact others around us in a significant way, then we can change the world around us. The first step is to choose to do something from a place of collaboration and kindness instead of control. When we do this, we cast our vote about what is most important by our actions and our thoughts. A vote for collaboration generates possibilities rather than contradictions.

Yet, some will not feel like they can do this. Their work place does not feel safe or trusting. Here are two lessons I have learned about this challenge. First, don’t take things personally. As Ron Heifitz explained in the article “The Leader of the Future” by William C. Taylor, Fast Company magazine - June 1999: “Remember: It's not you they're after. It may look like a personal attack, it may sound like a personal attack -- but it's the issues that you represent that they're after. Distinguishing role from self helps you maintain a diagnostic mind-set during trying times.”

Next, as he continues in the same article, “There's a second point: Because we get so swept up in our professional roles, it's hard to distinguish role from self on our own. That's why we need partners who can help us stay analytical. And we need two different kinds of partners. We need allies inside the organization -- people who share our agenda. And we need confidants inside or outside the organization -- people who can keep us from getting lost in our role.” To find and create personal clarity, we must build relationships with people who can become our allies and confidants . Remember: Allies are people inside the organization who share our agenda and confidants are people who keep us from getting stuck in our role.

This week, remember to build a healthy inner and outer life. The best place to start is to answer this simple question: What is the one thing you are not doing now that if you did on a regular basis would change your life for the better? Once you figure this out, you will be on the right pathway to discovering or rediscovering personal clarity.

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Finding & Creating Personal Clarity

I was tired that spring evening many years ago when I drove into the driveway. It had been a long day of meetings and then many hours of driving. I was coming home from a multiple day trip to northeast Iowa and very happy to finally get home. 

As I pulled into the driveway, our 5 year old son came running up to the car with a piece of wood in his little hands.

“Look,” he exclaimed. “Isn’t it amazing?”

Holding a walnut limb my father-in-law had trimmed earlier in the day, he turned the piece of wood on end and showed me the purple core. 

“Look Daddy. It’s heartwood.”

Excitement in the miracle of this discovery poured out of him. His unspoken questions were profound. “Do you see it too, Daddy? Do you believe that this is special?”

The dictionary defines heartwood as “the older, central portion of the wood that is darker, denser, less permeable and more durable than the surroundings” 

I believe we have lost touch with the heartwood in our lives. I believe we have lost touch with our hearts. I believe we have lost touch with the miracle of being fully present to the moment.

Anne Lamott in her most recent book says there are three essential prayers, namely Help, Thanks, and Wow. I believe we have lost touch with the miracle of now because we have lost touch with the miracle of Wow. This is the miracle that takes place when we live fully into each and every day, the miracle of feeling whole rather than scattered, the miracle of taking risks to care about what we are doing each and every day.

After working with numerous groups and individuals this year, I have observed following.

First, more and more people are living their lives at the speed of software and believing that there is an app for everything. However, this does not generate more time or more space for clarity or for the important things in their lives.

Second, we are a society clearly driven by the undisciplined pursuit of more, using a term of Jim Collin’s in his book, How The Mighty Fall. We desire more time, more intensity, more possessions, more of everything. Yet, I find in this world of faster broad band, phones, iPads, and lap tops that people are not more happy, more clear or more balanced. They are just moving faster and feel more busy. Weekends are just as packed as week days. There is no day of rest unless we get sick, and most people don’t rest even when they are sick.

Third, people are obsessively and compulsively packing more into each day and expecting more joy, more delight and more overwhelmingly good times. Yet privately they tell me in executive coaching sessions that they are exhausted, bone tired and worn to the core. There is no free time, down time or just off time. We are not managing time any more. Instead, we are managing the expectations of others or of ourselves, and then feeling most of the time like we are not measuring up to those expectations. We are always on task and hoping to keep up with the calendar, the list and the expectations.

Fourth, I believe we have loss touch with what it means to live a life that it is balanced, clear, happy, and healthy. In particular, we have lost the body memory of what this feels like to be rested, what athletes call it “the muscle memory.” We have loss touch with ourselves and with role models of people who live a clear, balanced and healthy life. I believe we have loss touch with what makes us happy.

The result of this way of living is that two great diseases are destroying our families, our companies, and our communities. The first is time sickness, a term coined by American doctor Larry Dossey, and the later is general indifference. The former causes us to constantly ask “What time is it?”, and the later results in the response “Whatever.”

The above are challenging observations, but it is time for each of us to rediscover the miracle of wow that happens in each day of our lives. Then, we will reconnect with our heartwood, and this will make a major difference in our lives and our world.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Managing Clarity & Performance

During a recent in-depth workshop on coaching, I asked everyone to bring me a copy of the form they used to record their coaching notes. During the break, I reviewed all the forms and found that everyone was using a different sheet. Furthermore, there was no coaching framework to improve performance. Mostly these forms were a way to record that an individual did something at work.

Over a dinner meeting that night, the CEO and I looked over all the different forms and discussed what was happening. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up and realized there were no goals on any of the sheets! I remembered the wonderful line form Alice and Wonderland where the books states, “if you don’t know where you are going, then you can get any where.”

I think our challenge as leaders this summer is to recognize that when people are managing performance, we should not consider goal setting as a known skill. Next, we should not consider working with goals as a known skill. Furthermore, we should not consider holding people accountable as a known skill. 

In the aforementioned organization, the whole focus of performance management was to just get stuff done and then get more stuff done. There were no individual goals connected to department goals connected to annual company goals etc. No wonder coaching was not working!

Upon reflection, I learned that when there is no framework for making sure there is on-going clarity, there will be no reason for coaching other than to acknowledge that people have gotten things done. 

Now when it comes to managing clarity and performance, every one these days just loves creating competencies models, implementing 360 degree feedback models, and having people fill out numerous strengths finder surveys. But my question is where do they cultivate an inside outside approach rather than an outside inside approach?

Now as a side bar, I have observed that 360 evaluations often create defensive reactions and result in little personal growth or change in behavior that lasts. Furthermore, they encourage people to simply deliver desired behaviors without giving them the personal insight and innovation to grow. In short, I agree with Kevin Cashman in his book, Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Berrett-Koehler, 2008, that 360 degree valuations create a formula destined to limit authentic influence by creating actors vs. leaders.

First, when successfully managing clarity and performance, let us remember that all change will depend on the willingness of the follower to do the work, and the ability of the follower to do the work. Regardless of what the leader does, the productivity and results depends on the actions and attitudes of the followers. Therefore, great leaders do not create followers. They create partners and colleagues.

Second, this whole process begins when we institute regular, quarterly performance management reviews. Here, we ask the following questions:
- How did you do on this quarter’s goals?
- Where can you improve your performance next quarter?
- What did you learn this quarter?
- What are your goals for next quarter?
- How did you role model our vision, mission and core values?

Next, we activate a talent development process. As Bill Conaty and Ram Charan point out in their book,  The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers, Crown Business, 2010, “The first thing to understand about talent masters is that they can identify a person’s talent more precisely than most people because they excel at observing and listening.”

The goal of this work, from my vantage point, is to increase cognitive bandwidth. This begins by always having key people reading something because this expands their perspective and understanding of “world-class performance,” and gives them new language. People who are “talent masters” discuss this reading with them, ask how they are applying this reading, help them discover or improve their talents, and help them to figure out how to measure their progress

As the same time, the above authors share an important insight. “Making talent development a goal that is measured and rewarded helps, but much of the work is done through role modeling. Leaders establish the code of conduct through their own actions, questions, and openness to differing opinions in the struggle to pin down each leader’s unique blend of traits, skills, judgement, relationships, and experience.”  

In sum, I agree with Kevin Cashman when he noted that “all significant change begins with self-change.” This week become the leader you need to be so others can become the people they hope to be.

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