Thursday, August 28, 2014

Extremely Busy?

Right now for many people in leadership and management positions, the weeks are flying by and projects are piling up like planes trying to land in Chicago before a storm. Incoming requests for one’s time and attention are overwhelming even the best of us.  We are working hard and faster than ever before and we are barely keeping up with the day to day challenges let alone the strategic level work that needs to be done. In short, we are running at full capacity and there is no more bandwidth to expand into.

When this becomes the norm for weeks and months on end, we are called to a new way of working and leading. The “stop doing list”  put forth by Jim Collins needs to be created, but we rarely have time or the energy to do this level of work.  However, there is a solution, namely to participate in the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

Over the years, I have visited with many of the participants at the Roundtable in small groups and on a one to one level. Routinely, they share with me that they consider the Spring and the Fall Roundtables to be their once or twice a year personal retreat. It is for them a time to stop, think and reflect. It is a place where they catch their breath and regroup before diving back in.

If you are seeking a time this fall to rethink all that is taking place at work and at home, then I encourage you to come and join us at the Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable on September 17 - 18, 2014.  Here is a link to more details:

This fall is going to be a fast paced and busy season for all of us. Rather than being overwhelmed, I hope you can join us for a day and half of good learning, great networking, and in-depth sharing.

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Strategic Nexus

Strategic leadership begins and ends with comprehending, utilizing and committing to a fully functional and completely aligned strategic nexus.

The strategic nexus is made up of two parts. One part of the nexus is the mission, vision and core values. The other part is the strategic plan. The former does not change and preserves the core of the organization. It is the source of stability and perspective during organizational change, especially when moving through the trough of chaos. The later is designed to prevent stagnation and, in essence, pushes the organization into the future. This part creates a sense of urgency and focus to the choices that are being made.

Strategic leaders understand the purpose of the strategic nexus and recognize how mission, vision and core values are interconnected. They also know that this interconnection and the clarity around it is the foundation of the organization’s day to day culture. 

At the exact same time, they recognize that strategy is a choice and needs to support the on-going evolution of the business given the continual changes in the needs, wants and desires of those it serves. Furthermore, when the culture is clear and rooted in the mission, vision and core values, then it will also become a strategic asset in the design and implementation of the strategic plan.

Full alignment within the strategic nexus is mission critical to strategic leaders. They know that once they have it and once people comprehend it, that they have a powerful force for forward momentum.

This week, take more time to understand your organization’s strategic nexus. You will then be able to leverage it toward a more positive and effective future for you and your organization.

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Addiction to Reading

Every week, I visit with people in senior leadership positions. Sometimes we do this over the phone and some days we meet in their office. When ever I am in the office of a strategic leader, I can guarantee you that there will be a shelf filled with an excellent collection of books. Some are new and others are classics. All are well worn and continually referenced. This is because strategic leaders are addicted to learning and in particular reading. 

Many years ago when preparing to teach the first From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I started asking very good senior leaders what they were reading and what had helped them over the course of their career to become an effective senior leader. Time and time again, the same books kept showing up on the list. These titles became the foundation for the first set of selected readings for the From Vision to Action Leadership Training.

Since then, I have continued to explore with senior leaders what they are reading. And as before, the same books and the same authors keep showing up on the list. Over the years, I have modified the readings for the From Vision to Action Leadership Training based on this on-going conservation. 

But before, you rush out to purchase all of the latest best selling books so you can become a better leader, the key here today is to realize that highly effective leaders want to read. They are genuinely interested in learning more and reading is one critical way they do it.

This week, commit to reading a new book each month. By the end of 2014, you will be a better and wiser leader. 

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Wonderful Discovery

Last week, I was visiting with a client and she mentioned that she had discovered a wonderful new book. I hear this often and am always curious to learn more. But what intrigued me the most was that she had downloaded it first on to her Kindle and then once she had read it, she went out and purchased a hard copy so she could reread it. And to top it off, she had even gotten a copy for someone who she coaches so they could read it.  

When a highly competent and effective senior executive, reads the same book twice and then shares it with a direct report plus discusses it with me, then I know that I need to check it out. Therefore, I immediately went out and got a copy for myself.

Last Friday, I had an open block of time in my schedule so I stepped away from the computer, opened up the recommended book and read. An hour and a half latter, I realized I was captivated by the content and that my yellow highlighter was all over the pages that I had just finished. Given how much I read each week, only the good stuff gets the yellow marker treatment. It means I am discovering solid and well thought out concepts.

I was particularly impressed by the way the author blended in high quality research and others’ perspectives into their material. As I worked through the pages, I often remarked to myself, “Oh, this author read Patrick Lencioni’s work on clarity, Buckingham and Coffman’s First, Break All The Rules, Kotter’s Leading Change, Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and they have read a ton of Jim Collin’s research from From Good to Great to How the Mighty Fall.” The more I read the more I liked the book and the depth of integration of key concepts. It was both practical and very well researched.

This wonderful new book by Greg McKeown is called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Crown Business, 2014. It came out this past April and I completely missed it on my constantly scanning radar for good books. Still, I am delighted to have read it now and strongly encourage all of you to get a copy. You will find it very helpful as a person in a leadership position and it can be a very helpful resource when coaching others.

McKeown’s book revolves around the notion of how to get the right things done rather than trying to get more things done. As he explains, “Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.” 

As Peter Drucker wrote in his article “What is Our Business? in the June 2001 issue of Executive Excellence magazine, “The executive’s time tends to belong to everybody else.” And all of us know that everybody and anybody can move in on our time and eventually does. He also points out, “Executives are forced to keeping “operating” unless they take positive action to change the reality in which they live.”  As some of us have learned, we can not let the flow of events determine the priorities we hold. We must define what is important in spite of the flow.

Greg McKeown explains that these days all of us have too many choices and are experiencing the complete disappearance of boundaries. We live in a world where “technology has completely blurred the lines between work and family. These days there don’t seem to be any boundaries at all regarding when people expect us to be available to work.” As a result, “our connectedness has increased the strength of social pressure... It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.” With everyone wanting our attention, people are “trying to cram yet more activities into their already overscheduled lives.” Furthermore, we have too many choices to make and it has “overwhelmed our ability to manage it. Psychologists call this “decision fatigue”: the more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.”

This is where the author advocates rediscovering what is essential in our lives. He advocates we embrace the core mind-set of an essentialist which focuses on doing “less but better.” He encourages us to ask the question: “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” He reminds the reader that “once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, [you] can make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

With helpful sections on how to explore and evaluate your life, how to eliminate the obstacles, and how to improve your capacity to execute, it is both practical and thought-provoking. I particularly enjoyed the section on how to say “no” gracefully.  

I finished the book this past weekend, purchased a copy for home, and took eight pages of notes from it on Monday morning. I plan on rereading parts of it during the coming weeks, and am seriously considering it to be part of the required readings for the 2015 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. It’s that good.

Meanwhile, run, don’t walk to your nearest local book store or library, and pick-up a copy of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. You will find it a very helpful resource as you seek to be a better leader and a better person.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stories & Questions

When teaching leadership and organizational change, I often tell students that stories are the language of leaders and questions are the language of coaches. It is common when meeting a former student of mine to have them continue to discuss with me one of their favorite stories from class, e.g. the one about me herding sheep or the one where I canoe around the light house point in the midst of a hurricane. The story is the anchor for a key concept. While I could have lectured on the concept, it is the story that makes the difference in their learning.

At the same time, it is questions that make the difference in coaching people. Many times I will have someone who I am coaching circle back to a question I asked them months before, and share with me that they have continued to reflect on the question. Days, weeks and even years later, they have lived with the question and continued to explore it. The result is a deeper understanding of the question and the subject being explored.

The upcoming Fall 2014 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable on September 17 - 18, 2014 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Coralville, Iowa will be a time to explore good questions and to listen to new stories. As you can see by the following agenda, I have built the entire Roundtable around five distinct and unique questions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

8:30 am - Registration
9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders think and act strategically?
10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break
10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders communicate in a purposeful manner?
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch and Networking 
1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders change systems?
2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders grow capacity?
4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 18, 2014

9:00 am - 10:15 am - How do leaders maintain balance in an unbalanced world?
10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break 
10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application
12:00 pm - Adjourn

If you are seeking a more in-depth time for reflection, learning and exploration, then please come and bring your team to the Fall ’14 Roundtable. Here is the link to the registration form:

I look forward to sharing, listening, and learning with all of you this coming September!

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back-to-School Booklet Sale!

In the midwest, children and families are preparing to go back to school. New clothes, notebooks and school supplies are all being purchased. School registrations and locker nights are not far behind. It is all very exciting.

After an extremely busy summer of teaching, I have decided this morning to hold a back-to-school booklet sale to support further in-depth learning. From today until Friday, August 22, 2014, here are the sale prices:

- Planning For Change = $ 8.75

- Developing a New Organizational Culture = $ 8.75

- Turning Challenges into Achievement = $ 5.60

- Working Through the Trough of Chaos =  $ 8.75

- Any complete set of the above booklets = $ 25.85

To access this sale, print off the order form:  < >  

Then, write “ Back-to-School Booklet Sale” across the top and insert the above prices. 

Next, fill out the form, and either fax it over to me (# 319 - 643 - 2185) or mail it to me. Then, send payment before 8/22/14, and all is set.

If you have any questions about which booklets are the right ones for you and your team, please do not hesitate to contact me, and we can discuss this.

Happy back-to-school days to all of you!

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

The Importance of Listening

As part of the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I ask participants to read an article called “The Leader of the Future” from the June 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine. In it, William Taylor interviews Ron Heifetz, director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

During the interview, Heifetz shares the following about listening. “Most leaders die with their mouths open. Leaders must know how to listen -- and the art of listening is more subtle than most people think it is. But first, and just as important, leaders must want to listen. Good listening is fueled by curiosity and empathy: What's really happening here? Can I put myself in someone else's shoes? It's hard to be a great listener if you're not interested in other people.”

From my vantage point, I have noticed that strategic leaders listen holistically, synthesize continually and reflect deeply. First, this level of holistic listening starts with the above mentioned genuine interest in other people but just as important it is the recognition on their part that there is always more to the story. And as they listen, strategic leaders ask questions more than make statements. They seek greater depth and understanding. They want to know the whole story, rather than just a particular perspective.

Second, they synthesize a great deal of information and reflect deeply about it.  This process begins by gathering as much information as possible. Reading reports, listening to people, reviewing metrics and doing the old Tom Peter’s management by wandering around approach, strategic leaders discover fresh insights and new understandings. They comprehend the concept that awareness is not understanding.

Third, they also reflect deeply. Strategic leaders are thinkers. They pause often and engage in serious consideration of all the elements related to a specific situation. The result is that they engage in a comprehensive analysis of what is taking place.

This week, be more curious and more empathetic. Listen more carefully and reflect more deeply. It will make a huge difference when leading others through organizational change.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Inner Game of Strategic Leadership

Before we go any further on the subject of strategic leadership, we must realize that the best leaders who think and act strategically do something that can, at times, appear to be very simple, but in reality is challenging and very unique.

Strategic leaders are authentic, approachable and compassionate.

Being authentic may not seem difficult but it is. So many leaders try to “do” authenticity. They believe it is all about the way they talk or listen. But the best leaders do not try to be something other than be who they truly are. These leaders are genuinely interested in people, purpose and service. Their authenticity is based on being respectful, grounded and kind.

Truly gifted strategic leaders are also approachable. Every one is instantly comfortable with them. Given their genuine nature, they love to stop and visit with people about their work. These leaders have never met a stranger and are always open to visiting with people to learn what they are doing.

Finally, the best are always compassionate. They know people are doing the best they can with what they have. They understand that people want to do a good job and want to make a difference in their work. Therefore, these exceptional strategic leaders show real empathy, sympathy and concern for others.

In short, the inner game of strategic leadership is about having heart not just head for the work of leading others. When we are authentic, approachable and compassionate, then others around us respond differently and thoughtfully to the challenges before the organization and each other.

This week, look into the mirror and reflect on whether or not you are improving your inner game as a leader. As Kevin Cashman wrote years ago, if you want to be a better leader, then become a better person. This is a good time to begin walking that pathway.

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