Monday, October 26, 2015

The Role of the Leader - part #3

Along with being a Scout, I believe we as leaders need to get better at being a Translator, namely one who can explain something in a way that is easy to understand. While an Architect of Meaning focuses on building clarity about the strategic nexus and why the work we are doing within an organization is important, the Translator focuses on building clarity about the outside context. 

When acting as a Translator, we need to remember that experiences create beliefs and that beliefs can create experiences. In the end, however, I have learned that beliefs, nine times out of ten, impact actions, personally and collectively. This is so important because a big part of leadership is about driving results through others. This means we as leaders need to use systematic and symbol communication. Sometimes we have to systematically communicate what is happening outside the organization to the inside of the organization, other times we have to do it symbolically.

Yet, in order to be effective in our communication, we must teach whole -> parts -> whole thinking. By teaching others to zoom out before zooming in as a disciplined approach to thinking, communicating or problem solving, we create a framework for people to process all that the leader is translating for them. Over time and when done well, this leadership act of translation will play a critical role in shaping values and standard by which people focus, work and collaborate well with others.

This week make sure you are building clarity about the strategic nexus and  clarity about the external context for change. This combination will be a powerful force multiplier.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Role of the Leader - part #2

While many leaders need to be better Architects of Meaning within their organization, I think there are two new roles that they need to embrace at this time, too. The first I will explore this Monday and the other I will explore next Monday.

I believe the leader needs to be a Scout, i.e. one who explores an area or idea to obtain key information or perspectives. During the Spring 2015 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, I noted that the higher you go in an organization, the more you need to do the thinking rather than simply doing the doing. Thus the concept of being a Scout is not to focus on the physical act of scouting as much as the cognitive act of scouting, namely guiding a process whereby the company "explores" a strategic idea or concept in order to learn key information about how people are thinking and perceiving what is going on currently, or possibly in the near future. 

One way to do this was written about by Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman, and John W. Payne in their May 2015 Harvard Business Review article called “Outsmart Your Own Biases.” As they note, there are premortems and postmortems. In a postmortem, or after action report, the goal is to understand the cause of a past failure or success and to discover the lessons learned. “In a premortem, you imagine a future failure and then explain the cause.” This technique, also called prospective hindsight, helps you identify potential problems that ordinary foresight won’t bring to mind.” I have also heard this called scenario based planning

Here are two examples. 

- Let’s assume it 2018, and our midwest banking branch offices have lost money every year since 2015. Why has that happened?

- Let’s assume it is 2018 and our current retention rate in 2015, i.e. 1 out of 3 newly hired people stay past 90 days, has continued. Why has this happened?

As the aforementioned authors note, a premortem tempers optimism, encourages a more realistic assessment of risk, helps prepare back-up plans and exit strategies, and highlight factors that influence success or failure which may increase your ability to control the results.

When I think of the leader as a Scout, I feel it acknowledges what Marshall Goldsmith and Kelly Goldsmith wrote about in their article called “Helping People Achieve Their Goals,” Leader to Leader, No. 391, Winter 2006. As they wrote, “real change requires real effort…. we tend to over-estimate the benefits and under-estimate the effort needed.”

This week spend more time scouting out the future, and conduct more premortems. It is time to be better prepared.

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Interesting Things About the Best Leaders

I spend a great deal of time each week visiting with people in leadership positions. I listen to their challenges, explore their concerns and help them figure out their choices. There are moments of intensity and periods of great brilliance. There are times of silent reflection and other points of deep sharing. Some of these visits reflect fifteen to twenty years of working together, and others only have thirty days of history. In the end, all of these visits are based on the common understanding that through dialogue and exploration new, better and more effective solutions can be discovered.

After nearly 30 years of doing this level of work, I have discovered some interesting things about the best leaders. First, they understand that to be a great leader they need to be an excellent follower. Positional power alone does not increase effectiveness.

Second, they recognize that leaders get what they role model and what they tolerate. Therefore, they are constantly working on improving their personal performance as a leader. Making continual progress is cellular with these people.

Third, they realize that the future is not some distant place down the road. The future begins now and is influenced by the choices we make today.

Fourth, they understand that sustainable and successful change happens at the speed of people rather than at the speed of software. Thus, organizational change is the sum of individual change.

Finally, they invest in people with potential to become better people. They agree with Kevin Cashman when he wrote that “in order to become a better leader, you have to become a better person. Therefore, they mentor, coach, teach and invest in people so they can achieve their full potential.

And here is where the 2016 From Vision to Action Leadership Training enters into the life and work of leaders. The best ones I have met are always evaluating who has great potential and whether or not with a touch more training and coaching they could be better positioned for today and for what the future holds.

Now is the time to register yourself and your key people for the 2016 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. Through a challenging, interactive curriculum which blends lectures, selected readings, small and large group discussions, and how to skill-building exercises, participants in this four part leadership training gain critical knowledge and skills which improve their ability to lead people and their organization through current and future challenges.

 For more information on how to register for the 2016 From Vision to Action Leadership Training, please click on the following link: 

If you are seeking to become a better leader and you have people you work with who have great depth and potential, then now is the time to invest in the future. I invite you to join me in 2016 as we all continue to learn how to better deal with the current and future problems and challenges of leadership and organizational change.

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

The Role of the Leader - part #1

It was a busy meeting and there was a lot to cover in the allotted time. I was meeting with the CEO, and two SVPs. The CEO was constantly working two cell phones and the SVPs were equally distracted. I asked the Core Four Questions to discern what was going on, and why they were having problems with organizational change. Those questions were the following:

1. Who will lead?
2. Where is the vision and who has it? 
3. At what pace do you want to go?
4. What should not be lost during the journey?

My analysis to the CEO close to the end of our time was that they suffered from a weak vision, a lack of a clear strategic direction, and not much sense of what is operational excellence. In particular, they had many operational silos, and not a very clear understanding of the difference between operational leadership and strategic leadership. This led us into an important discussion revolving around the following question: What is it that only a leader can do?

When I teach this subject in the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I focus on the following elements. First, leaders need to be people who care, believe, and are faithful. This is a disciplined act, not just a random action taken to fill time between important meetings. This is a genuine act and is part of the work of leadership that revolves around continuous relationship building and relationship maintaining. This is not an interruption to work, but, in reality, it is the work. 

Second, leaders need to be architects of meaning. Given they routinely confront paradoxes and wrestle with deep questions about organizational direction, they need to build an understanding of the macro and the micro so all involved know where they fit into the process and the plan. As Simon Sinek wrote in his book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. Portfolio, 2009, it begins with clarity of WHY: “You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do.” Second, it requires the discipline of HOW: “Once you know WHY you do what you do, the question is HOW will you do it? …. HOW we do things manifests in the systems and process within an organization and the culture.” Third, it continues with the consistency of WHAT: “Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those action…”

This week work on being a better architect of meaning, and make sure you and your team are all clear about WHY, HOW, and WHAT. It will make a world of difference as you move forward through these complex times.

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Building a Unified Whole - part #2

Whenever I interact with a struggling organization, I will inevitably discover a struggling senior leadership team. The two go hand in hand.  And while it sounds simplistic, the first key to success is to build a cohesive leadership team.

Yet we have to realize that there are three kinds of leadership teams. The first is the Command & Control Leadership Team. This is the traditional, top down structure where all of the connections that matter are the ones between workers and their managers.

The second form is the Command of Teams model. Here, everything is structured for small teams, and all of the small teams operate within a rigid super structure, reporting up to the senior leadership team.

Finally, there is the Team of Teams model. Here, the relationships among teams resembles the closeness among individuals on those teams. It is dynamic and highly interactive. It also is quickly able to deal with technical and adaptive problems.

Yet, whenever we talk about teams, I think back to what Patrick Lencioni, wrote in his book, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying The Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors (Jossey-Bass 2006). As he explains, “I strongly believe that building a cohesive leadership team is the first critical step that an organization must take if it is to have the best chance at success.” However, Lencioni points out the following about problems that occur: “Silos are nothing more than the barriers that exist between departments within an organization, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against one another…. In most situations, silos rise up not because of what executives are doing purposefully but rather because of what they are failing to do: provide themselves and their employees with a compelling context for working together.” 

My challenge to you this Monday morning is twofold:

First, what is the “compelling context’ for working together in your organization at this time period?

Second, how well do you think this is getting cascaded down clearly into the organization?

The answers are worth pursuing if you want to succeed moving forward.

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