Monday, November 30, 2015

A Quick Reminder

Friday, December 4, is the registration deadline for the 2016 From Vision to Action Leadership Training.

We will meet for this unique learning opportunity at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Coralville, Iowa on the following dates:

- March 8 - 9- 10, 2016
- May 10 - 11 - 12, 2016
- September 13 - 14 - 15, 2016
- November 2-3, 2016

If you and/or members of your team are interested in more information about the 2016 training, then please click on the following link: 

I look forward to your participation in the 2016 From Vision to Action Leadership Training.

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

Dealing With Constant Interruptions - part #1

During recent executive coaching sessions, I have been asked the following question: How do leaders keep operating successfully when their time is constantly being interrupted by everyone else?

In the past, I have referenced the work of the late Stephen Covey on time management who noted that we need to define our roles and then manage our time. As often commented, “Always put the big rocks in first.”

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement tell us to “manage your energy, not your time.” And to make sure you have time to work and time to recover from work.

And I forget the name of the author who told us to never do e-mail first thing in the morning. I would add from experience to also never do it late at night before you go to bed. It will ramp some of us up, or end up distracting us from what is most important, namely the need for sleep.

While all of the above helps to a degree, I think we need to look at the bigger picture. Here are my latest observations about leaders who do well even though they are routinely interrupted:

First, these leaders have a sense of place. They feel like they belong with the company, and can put down roots. This changes the kind of connections they have with people. In short, this sense of place gives them a feeling that they are making a difference. 

Second, this sense of place is directly connected to their sense of community. Those who have a sense of place describe their work place as a “community” where all involved come to unity around a common focus and perspective rather than just a job. 

Third, no matter what their age, these leaders routinely spend time listening to young people talk about the leaders who are making a difference in their lives and their work. This listening helps them keep things in perspective.

With the above as a framework, leaders who handle interruptions well do something most unique. They don’t just focus on being better leaders. Instead, they focus on being better people. As the late Warren Bennis wrote: “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It’s precisely that simple, and it’s also that difficult.” The first step is to make sure you have allies and confidants in your life. Allies are those who work with you and support you. Confidants are those who can listen and provide perspective, insights and fresh thinking. They are rarely the same people.

The second step is to ponder the following quote by Dzigar Kongtrul, namely “Don’t believe everything you think.” As a leader, recognize that not everyone thinks like you. This is a big step in your development as a leader. And furthermore, recognize that you may not be thinking clearly about everything, too. The hardest part about dealing with leadership and time issues is that many leaders forget what they do not know.

This week, check to make sure you have the right number of allies and confidants in your life. Then, visit with them on a routine basis to make sure your thinking is not becoming misaligned with your desired results.

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Leaders and Performance Improvement - part #2

In a world where everything is moving at warp speed and feeling like nothing is ever going to slow down enough for us to catch our breath, we, as leaders, are suppose to make continual performance improvements. Some days we can barely keep up with what is happening today, let alone have time to improve what will be happening in the future. Other days, going to the next level seems like a pipe dream. Still, it is possible to achieve performance improvements but one needs to do two things to make this happen.

First, we need to plan for more short term wins. As John Kotter, noted in his book, Leading Change: “A good short-term win has at least three characteristics:

1. It’s visible; large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real or just hype.

2. It’s unambiguous; there can be little argument over the call.

3. It’s clearly related to the change effort.”

Our challenge as leaders is to produce a series of short term wins in order to energize the change helpers, enlighten the pessimists, defuse the cynics, and build momentum for the effort. As Kotter reminds us, this can not happen if we launch too many projects at once and provide the first win too slowly.

Second, we need to balance the planning around these short term wins with routine weekly check-ins with the people who are doing the actual work. The key is to realize that these check-ins are not an interruption to the work of the leader as much as foundational to the work of the leader. They tear down silos and give us as leaders an opportunity to address the contextual issues at the heart of departmental, team or individual challenges.

This week, sit down with your team and check on whether or not people have planned for a series of short term wins. Then, hold them accountable for these wins during your weekly check-ins.  We can improve performance if we choose to thoughtfully plan our work and then work our plans.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Leaders and Performance Improvement - part #1

It was an important lunch meeting with all of the major players sitting around the table. Over an excellent meal, we discussed the tremendous growth that was taking place within the company. While the numbers were spectacular and up-lifting, the challenge was to have it be smart growth, not just any kind of growth. What many leaders forget is that the organizations that grow too quickly often fail because their infrastructure can not support their operations.

For me, performance improvement begins with excellent goal setting. First, there needs to be ownership of the goals, clarity for why these are the goals, and alignment between goals and the strategic nexus. Once there is line of sight from the strategic plan to the 90 day plan, a good manager, who wants to see performance improve, asks the following three questions:

- “If you complete this 90 day plan, will it change the results?”

- “If yes, then I will hold you accountable to the changes.”

- “If not, then we need to change the 90 day plan.”

Next, all involved need to realize that there are many different kind of goals. For example, there are process goals to help improve getting to a destination. There are milestone goals along the pathway to a destination, and even destination goals

This week, ask the above three questions with the people on your team and check to make sure they are clear that operational excellence is based on continuous improvement.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Working At The Speed of People

Right now, many leaders are trying to change their organizations at the speed of software, and it is not working. They assume that more technology and faster technology is the solution to all their problems. They invest a lot of money and time with the hope that this singular act will transform everything. 

What many executives forget is that when moving an organization from one level of performance to a new and better level of performance, they need to change how people think and work, not just what people work with on a daily basis. The focus is on changing behavior and mindset, not simply hardware and software. 

John Kotter shared a very interesting observation about people in his book, The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, Harvard Business School Press, 2002. As he writes, “People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings….The flow of see-feel-change is more powerful than that of analysis-think-change.”

Our challenge as leaders is to help people have a sense of urgency and focus. We want them to not be caught in the trap of complacency. As I often point out during consultations, status quo can be dangerous.

Yet, the best leaders are gifted at making change take place. They understand how people move through the world of change and they understand their role in the process. Right now, we need fewer leaders working at the speed of software and more leaders who understand how to work at the speed of people.

To help you and your organization get better at this level of work, once a year I teach the 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 strategic and operational level changes.

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

Technology, be it hardware or software, is important and vital to the success of a company. But people are the back bone that makes the company successful over time. In 2016, we will need more leaders who can work at the speed of people, not just the speed of software.

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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Leaders and Decision-Making - part #2

Too many times leader struggle with decision-making because they think that once they have made a decision they are done with decision-making. This can not be further from the truth. Making a decision is only part of the journey. The real work is getting someone to execute the decision in a timely and accurate manner.

The best leaders know that in order to improve their decision-making, they need to improve the execution of the decision. Therefore, one of the first steps is making sure that the decision we make does not interrupt operational excellence. That means that we as leaders need to think about impact and precedent when making a decision. It also means being able to mobilize resources to support the decision. But the best leaders recognize that for the execution of a decision to take place, it must integrate with operational excellence.

However, few leaders realize that operational excellence is not just the maintaining of status quo. In reality, excellence is based on an understanding that in order to continually be excellent, then one must continually be excelling. In other words, one must continually improve. Furthermore we, as leaders, must communicate what the concept of excellence means, and then why it is important to do excellent work. Then, over time decision-making will improve. 

This week, spend more time helping others understand the importance of  operational excellence, and then focus on making sure all the right resources are deployed to make it happen.

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Leaders and Decision-Making - part #1

I was meeting with a young mid-level manager when he shared his desire to teach problem solving to his key supervisors. Over time, he had realized many of the phone calls he was getting were from front line supervisors about problems they were having. As he explained, “I realized we were really dealing with issues related to decision-making on a daily basis. While I have helped them to learn the difference between technical and adaptive problems, many of the callers have framed up the problem before them as neither technical nor adaptive. For them, this is a crisis. What do I do?”

One of the first things we need to remember is that people, strategy and crises are the three most important areas that leaders make decisions. And when we as leaders make the right decisions, they will yield good outcomes. However, the big question for many leaders right now is this: What are the good outcomes or results we are seeking?

First, a lack of clarity around the desired outcomes or results is part of the current challenges we are facing. When we expect leaders to be competent in driving results through others, we also expect them to be able to articulate the desired results, and why these are the desired results.

Second, we as leaders at times forget that effective decision-making includes a “redo loop.” This typically happens when we discover that we can not, or did not mobilize and align key stakeholders. If this happens, then we need to go back and reset the context, i.e. the why, for change.

Third, we need to remember that there are four stages to decision-making, namely preparation, the actual decision, execution and evaluation. Leaders who improve their decision-making and the decision-making of others do this by improving the preparation stage. Here, the best leaders help all involved focus on the salient factors. Kevin Cashman in his book, Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Berrett-Koehler, 2008 calls it the CIA Model of decision-making. He suggests we focus on the following three things:

- What can we control?
- What can we influence?
- What must we accept?

By having a framework to prepare to make a decision, we empower all involved to think through the decision rather than simply react to the situation before them This, in essence, gives them a decision architecture for today and in the future.

This week, review with your direct reports the decision architecture for your office or organization. This will be a powerful first step in helping people improve their decision making.

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