Monday, June 30, 2014

Small Acts of Loving Kindness

Some days we get so busy being the leader that we forget that small acts of loving kindness have a dramatic and long lasting impact.

In early January, my mother passed away. During and after the memorial service, many people shared about the impact of her actions in their lives. For example, a retired woman lawyer shared how my Mom taught her how to sew and cook as a young woman. Another person told me that my Mom was his first Sunday School teacher and then shared how important my Mom was in his life journey. Person after person had similar experiences to share. And when I listened to all of them, I realized that they were just a series of small acts done with loving kindness. When they are all added up, they had a dramatic impact and long lasting impact on the lives of so many others.

In our busy lives as leaders, we need to give ourself permission to have this level of interaction with others. We need to be more present to the moment rather than completely focused on the future. We need to protect the things that are of value from the things that really do not matter so much. As Goethe reminds us: “Never let the things that matter most be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” 

This week and for the entire rest of the summer, I challenge you to offer more small acts of loving kindness. It will have a huge impact in the lives of others and in your own life.

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Staying Centered in the Midst of Constant Interruptions

We were sitting together over lunch when he shared that he was exhausted, and that he had lost his passion for the work. He was overwhelmed by new endless projects plus doing his regular job. From my perspective, he had reached the end of his rope, and it was a sad, frustrating and difficult situation.

As I reflected on what he was saying, I remembered the following quote by Carl Jung: “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Looking inside is hard work and important work. Listening to one’s heart is complex and yet important.

Norman Vincent Peale and Ken Blanchard noted that we have two selves, namely our external task-oriented self and our internal reflective self. Most people are only living with their external focused, task-oriented self. They do not take time or give themselves permission to take time for the internal reflective self, mostly because it is a longer and more deliberate process 

In a world of hyper action and constant interruptions, Ken and Margie Blanchard in the book, The Best of Personal Excellence - Volume 1, Executive Excellence Publishing, 1998, noted we need to “gain a balance between success and fulfillment.” Fulfillment is about “connecting your life and work, connecting spirituality, and balancing time at work with your family and friends.” Rabbi Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People contends that there are two acts in life. Act 1 is “Achieve” and Act 2 is “Connect.” Achieve is about setting goals and completing them. For many this is all that matters. Connect is about fulfillment in relationships, health and spirituality

I think one major challenge this summer for leaders is to rediscover what it means to stay centered, i.e. how to find calmness in the midst of chaos. I have learned from others and from my own experience as an executive coach that when there is chaos on the outside it often reflects chaos on the inside. Linda Rosh and Lynn Offermann in their article, “Be Yourself, But Carefully.” Harvard Business Review, October 2013, note that “Authenticity begins with self-awareness: Knowing who you are - your values, emotions and competencies - and how you are perceived by others.” This helps tremendously when seeking to stay centered.

Another element of staying centered happens when we are willing to co-evolve. I find too many people today who are living as a community of me. They are widely connected and completely isolated. While this may help in coping with change, we need to evolve in a collective, rather than individual manner because the support from co-evolution is vital to process all of the difficulties associated with change. This can take place when we build shared purpose rather than individual purpose into our lives. Start this process in your life by asking the following questions:

- Why do we come together to do this work?
- Who are we?
- What matters to us?

It is time this summer to reteach people about how to live and work in a community, not just on teams. When people have valued roles in the community, then we take care of each other with compassion and respect.

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Building Clarity and Ownership

Clarity without ownership is non-action. Ownership without clarity is fruitless action. Clarity with ownership is effective action.

The challenge for many leaders this coming summer is to increase the level of effective action. And the first step in that process is to remember a key concept written by James Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer in their book, Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring To Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead, Time Warner, 1994.  In it, Belasco and Stayer write that it is critical to “transfer ownership for work to those who execute the work.” From my perspective, we start this process by creating role clarity which includes role responsibility. For example, by clarifying who should make certain decisions and how they will be held accountable for them, we are creating a fresh perspective. When we explain how effective action will be measured, we give people the tools to act like owners. As Belasco and Stayer wrote many years, “Am I creating owners or dependents?... If you want them to act like it’s their business, make it their business.”

Second, the same authors note that we need to “create the environment for ownership where each person wants to be responsible for his/her own performance.” Having a strategic nexus, i.e. a clear mission, vision and core values that are used and referenced daily plus an effective strategic plan that actually guides the organization, transforms ownership from being a concept into being a cultural foundation for action.

Next, the authors remind us to “focus individuals on the few factors that create great performance.” This happens, from my perspective, when we clarify the difference between goals and priorities, and explain as leaders how our actions impact the whole organization.

Building clarity and ownership is a daily process. It takes time and consistent action. However, when it becomes part of one’s daily discipline, it can be transformative for all. This week, focus on creating more clarity and ownership. It is an investment with a fantastic return.

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Navigating the World of Excellence

In the midst of all their meetings and work, the best leaders routinely coach people. These are not Q&A hallway conversations. Instead, they are sit down visits where in-depth and important work takes place. The big challenge for many is that they do not differentiate between coaching and supervision.

Supervision is based on the observation and oversight related to the execution of a particular task, project or activity. Coaching, on the other hand, is a development process by which an individual is supported while achieving a specific goal. 

One challenge for many this late spring moving toward summer is that they are confusing the two activities of supervision and coaching. I think this is in part because they feel overwhelmed by the current context. We live in a world of hyper speed, connectivity, and vigilance which creates endless interruptions and distractions. Some leaders are even experiencing an addiction to these distractions, resulting in ADHD patterns of coping and leading others. As a result, their direct reports are suffering; they are overwhelmed by their boss’s ADHD behaviors.

Therefore, we need to enter into a discipline of staying focused on the right things while being mindful of our surroundings. We must proactively engage in relationship building which is the precursor to team building.

During the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I remind people that coaching is a structured dialogue about purpose, strategy, relationships. It involves questions, analysis, action planning and follow through. In coaching, we may not always be able, as coaches, to solve the problem. Instead we have to emphasize the choices. 

While there can be many goals of coaching, this week I challenge you to assist those who you coach to figure out where they fit in best within the organization, to share with them information and perspective so they can make the right and the better choices in all situations, and to help them build healthy work relationships. When you do this level of work together, then you will be navigating in the world of excellence at a whole new level.

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