Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Future Shows Up Every Day

We were talking during a break in a leadership training when I realized that the young person I was visiting with thought that leadership was all about strategy and nothing else.

“Hold on,” I pointed out. “Strategic leaders are vital to the success of a company but so are operational leaders. It is the combination of the two, strategy and operations, that makes the company move forward through time successfully.”

“OK,” he responded, “but operational leaders can only do so much.”

“This is true. However, they are mission critical.”

“How so?”

“You and I can stand here and talk about the future all we want. We can speculate on all sorts of possibilities, but the moment of truth happens every morning when the staff and your customers or clients, which ever term you want to use, work together to create effective and meaningful solutions.”

I paused and he contemplated my perspective.

“The future shows up every day,” I continued. “We can talk about two years from now and completely forget that two years ago, today was the future.  In the end, the best strategic leaders realize that they need the best operational leaders to make it real. The trains need to run on time each day. The staff needs to be well trained. The systems need to work. It is not fancy, best-seller book level stuff, but it is necessary. It’s what differentiates between good and great companies.”

“So, what do I need to do to make this happen?”, he inquired.

“Go to the place where the mission statement is made real every day. Visit with the people. Listen to their concerns, their challenges, their victories. Validate their efforts.”

“Next, do an in-depth systems review to make sure it really works like it is suppose to work. And if you learn it is not working right, then help them change it. Remember the capacity to have a future starts now. Operational excellence is nothing more than delivering on the mission each day and continually improving it.”

“I guess there is more to this leadership stuff than just thinking about the future,” he responded. 

“Yes, and that is why it is so important.”

And then our break was up and we both headed into class. 

Remember: the future shows up every day.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

How do leaders help their organization become more resilient?part #2

Leaders who help their organization become more resilient focus on creating three different kinds of clarity, i.e. three different forms of knowledge. The three different kinds of knowledge are the following:

- Declarative knowledge is factual knowledge which helps them understand and explain how and why things work the way they do.

- Procedural knowledge is knowing how to perform certain activities plus details the steps and activities required to perform a task or job.

- Structural knowledge is information about how to organize one’s thoughts in order to solve a problem. This form of knowledge helps in problem solving plus the creation of plans and strategies.

At the same time, leaders, who help their organization become more resilient, respect the power of culture. Ken Blanchard in his book, Leading At a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations (Prentice Hall, 2006) writes that when people leading the change fail to respect the power of the current culture, the current culture will kill the change initiative.

From my perspective, most organizational systems and initiatives are focused on improving what already exists. They are not aligned with the “new” change, i.e. new transformational strategic change. Furthermore, the ways we measure progress are all operationally oriented rather than strategically focused. Therefore, it is hard to measure if the culture is changing.

However, highly resilient organizations, writes Karl Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe in their book, Managing The Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty (John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2007) are highly reliable organizations. Wick and Sutcliffe note that “No system is perfect.” I would agree and say that no person is perfect, too. But as they point out “The essence of resilience is therefore the intrinsic ability of an organization (system) to maintain or regain a dynamically stable state, which allows it to continue operations after a major mishap and/or in the presence of a continuous stress.” The hallmark of an HRO, a highly reliable organization, is not that it is error-free but that errors don’t disable it. As they continue, “Resilience is a combination of keeping errors small and of improving workarounds that allow the system to keep functioning.”

From experience, lots of reading, plus visiting with many leaders, I have learned that creating a resilient culture involves three actions:

First, they image worst-case conditions and practice their own equivalent of fire drills. This can involve thinking through a black swan event and planning accordingly. Or those involved can participate in a pre-mortem. As Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman, and John W. Payne in their article called “Outsmart Your Own Biases” from the May 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review wrote, “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.”

Second, they institute routine After Action Reports. See my Monday Thoughts Blog for October 6, 2017 for more details about After Action Reports.

Finally, they implement a “Churchill’s Audit” from the book, Managing The Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty which is based on personal reflection. Here is his audit:

- Why didn’t I know?
- Why didn’t my advisors[/direct reports] know?
- Why wasn’t I told?
- Why didn’t I ask?

This week, consider holding a black swan event with your team and/or a premortem.  I also encourage you to do a Churchill Audit on a recent event. All of the above will help you and your team become a more resilient.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wings & Roots

On the weekends, I go outside and listen to the earth.

During the work week, my days are very full. Some weeks I travel and teach. Other times, I am in meetings all day or visiting with people on an individual level. There are days when I am in the office, researching answers to problems, reflecting on lessons learned, or mapping out future presentations.

For the most part, I spend a lot of my time at work listening. I listen to strategic problems and operational challenges. I listen to issues about people, structure, systems, and culture. I listen to complex problems and complicated problems. I spend hours trying to figure out what happened and why. And then countless more hours, helping people figure out realistic solutions and effective strategies to move forward.

However, on the weekends, I step away from the computer, the e-mails, and the piles of paperwork. After my usual Saturday morning chores, I step outside and listen to the earth.

Here, in this world, time changes from minutes and hours to days, months and seasons. Here in this world, I listen to the wind. I listen to the plants. I listen to the calls of nature. 

In this world, I get to work with flowers and dirt, weeds and plants. In this world, birds and animals, the weather and the trees are all growing, moving, changing. The cycles and rhythms of life are all around me. 

And as this October quickly moves toward November, I rest in the knowledge that the five hundred plus tulips, daffodils, and crocus I planted over a week ago are settling into their new homes. They begin their journey to becoming spring miracles.

When I step outside and listen to the earth, everything comes into perspective. This morning I am reminded of the words of Hodding Carter who wrote, “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other, wings.”

All the spring bulbs I planted recently are focused on one important task, namely to put down roots. Roots to prepare for winter. Roots to prepare for spring. Roots to become what they are meant to become.

This past August during the later half of the month as I listened to the earth I realized that the seasons were changing faster than I thought. I was outside in the middle of the week rather than just on the weekend because nearly all of my clients were on vacation, in meetings, or helping their children transition back to school. A rare pause in the hustle and bustle of consulting and executive coaching. Everyone was busy doing something else, and I could step outside and shift out of work mode.

It was a sunny day. I was down on my hands and knees pulling out invasive weeds and some very persistent grass that was sure my flower bed was the better place to grow. I paused in all of the work to just enjoy the moment. It was then that I realized that the new green of spring and the brilliant green of full summer was changing into the dark green of fall. I could just feel the difference. With the last flush of flowers taking place all around me and some of the summer drought having passed due to recent rain, I could feel the plants putting down roots, reaching deep and growing stronger. They were preparing for the return of winter.

Right now, in a world filled with many challenges and complexities, we need roots. We need to feel connected to our families, friends, and community. We need to feel a part of meaningful work within the context of caring communities. We need to feel like our lives matter, and that we are making a difference.

At the same time, we need wings. We need to grow and continue learning. We need to rise to our challenges and integrate new ideas and perspectives. We need to see the bigger picture, to explore the far horizon, to comprehend the length and scope of our existence.

About three weeks ago, I was out back of our house cleaning flower beds and hauling the trimmings out to the field where our neighbor’s horses, two large Belgium breeding mares, live. With dinner plate sized hooves, I have to look up into their eyes when they come over to the fence, curious to see what I am up to and wondering if I will pick up fallen fruit from our apple tree and feed it to them. 

On this particular September day, I came to the gate and the horses where thirty feet away nibbling on some tender grass. I opened the gate and pulled in my little garden way cart. I often dump the flower bed trimmings under a nearby walnut tree where the horses like to stand in the afternoon shade before heading to the barn for the evening. They like to push the garden trimmings around with their hooves and eat the tender bits.  

I looked at the mares as they moved further away to the east and came on into the field. As I dumped the load under the walnut tree, I looked up just in time to see the younger mare trot out the gate, heading west. I dropped the cart and sprinted after her. I knew I had to get in front of her to stop her forward progress. She went around the north side of vegetable garden, heading toward the apple tree. I raced around the south side of the garden and we meet on the western edge. 

I stopped. She stopped. I raised my arms and said “No. Back into the field with you.” 

I slowly approached and she backed up a step. I stepped forward one more time and she turned tail and galloped toward the gate just before the other mare escaped. Then, the two of them then raced into the field at a full, big horse gallop, kicking their heels and throwing clods of dirt in all directions.

When they stopped in the middle of the field, the younger mare looked over her shoulder at me. I could have sworn she was smiling, and that the two of them were giggling. I paused and picked up my cart. I walked back and closed the gate. Then, I watched them as they meandered over to the new pile of greens under the walnut tree, looking for the tender bits. By then, all three of us were smiling.

In world where busy is the new definition of success, we actually have few adventures anymore. We instead have full days followed by full days followed by even fuller days. We are connected to our flat devices twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We get so wrapped up in trying to get so much done that we actually don’t experience the miracle of living. We actually don’t have many wing or root experiences anymore; we just have stuff to do.

So, on the weekends, and even some days after work, I go outside and listen to the earth. 

This fall, I watch the big V’s of Canadian geese migrating to the south. I notice that the blue jays have started to fly together in small groups from tree to tree. A dear friend of mine tells me the juncos have come down from the north to over winter in the more milder climate of Iowa. I notice that the hummingbirds have migrated south and the gold finches have gone that way too.  

And I slowly move out of living life by minutes and hours and back into the world of days, months and seasons, I keep thinking to myself we all need roots and wings. We all need big adventures where at the end we have a smile on our face, joy in our heart, and the blessing of being alive. We all need to find a place where life is meaningful and the community is caring.

It all begins with wings and roots… roots and wings.

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Problem With Solving Problems

Every day, a person in a management or leadership position is confronted with a problem. Instantaneously, they go into action mode. The goal of which is to solve the problem, and thus restore order and predictability within the company. The challenge is that every time a leader solves a problem they also create one. While this may not seem evident at the start, it is still a basic fact of the world of leadership and management.

First, in order to become a leader, one has to solve many problems. These problems usually take place at the front line position or front line supervisor level. The better you are at doing this the more people see you as having potential and capacity.  As a result, you get better and better at solving problems, because you are getting positive feedback about how well you are doing it.

Next, people in upper management notice that you are very good at problem solving so they move you up within the organization so you can solve more problems. Therefore, you move from being a front line supervisor to a middle manager. Upper managers are pleased and you are delighted to be solving more problems.

Now, in this new position the problems are bigger and more complicated. But, because of your early successes, you lean into them and give it your all. Slowly and then faster, you solve more and more problems. As a result, you get more and more positive feedback. Once the praise starts rolling in, you double down and lean in harder and faster. Now, you want to solve all the problems.

With this forward momentum, and when a position opens up within the senior management of the company, you are considered to be a “high potential candidate.” With your track record on problem solving, you ultimately get the job. And then things stop working out so well for you. 

First, there are operational problems, and strategic problems. They both need solving. The challenge is that by solving one you may actually create more problems in the other area. And the big question is which problem to solve first, the operational one or the strategic one.

Second, there are technical problems and adaptive problems. Technical problems have known solutions. All a leader needs to do is connect the right person with the current know-how to solve the problem. Adaptive problems, on the other hand, require a new perspective or expertise, and often challenge fundamental systems and/or beliefs. Solving these kinds of problems require learning about new ways of thinking otherwise the company as a whole may decline. The difficulty is that one person’s adaptive problem may be another’s technical problem or vice a versa. Sometimes, the problem is both technical and adaptive.

Third, what got you to the senior level, namely your ability to solve problems, is now a problem unto itself. Everyone has learned that you are the best problem solver. So, rather than solve them themselves, they just bring them all to you. Now, there are more problems to solve and no time to solve them. What at first was a good skill has now become a liability, because none of your direct reports think they can solve a problem. Your actions have taught them that only you can solve the problem. In short, solving a problem has created many more problems.

There is a solution to organizational problem solving. You need to learn how to be a better manager and leader. You have to unlearn that you are the center of all problem solving and instead learn how to create a team, a department, a division and then a whole company of problem solvers. In short, you have to become a leader of problem solvers rather than the chief problem solver of the company.

And this is where the 2018 From Vision to Action Leadership Training fits into the problem solving process. 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, to define problems, and better ways to solve operational and strategic level problems.

For more information on this in-depth training and how to register for the 2018 From Vision to Action Leadership Training, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html 

Solving problems happens every day in the world of management and leadership. It comes with the territory. The key is to make sure that those who have the problem own it and solve it themselves. Then, you as the leader and they as the employees of the company can move forward successfully together. 

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

How do leaders help their organization become more resilient? part #1

In the last six months, I have heard more people use the following two phrases than in the entire course of my 30+ years of doing this work: “I am stuck” and “We are stuck.” It is an acknowledgment of the depth of challenge and frustration that people are feeling at this time period. They deeply want to move forward and yet they can not overcome the problems before them. Acknowledging their “stuck-ness” is their first step in the right direction. Becoming resilient is essential to their long term success.

The technical definition for resilience is “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.”, e.g. the resilience of rubber. This technical definition does not work in the world of leadership. From my observations, being resilient is rarely, if ever, the return to a former condition or “original shape”, because the act of going through a change changes the “original form”, be that a person or an organization. 

The non-technical definitions of resilience are the following: “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”, and “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again when something bad happens.” The two key words for me are recover & adjust.

Having worked with many leaders and many different organizations, I have learned that resilient leaders create resilient organizations. The question before us today is the following: What makes a leader become a resilient leader?

Elena Lytkina, Botel Ho, Kim Rosenkoetter Powell, Stephen Kincaid, and Dina Wag in their Harvard Business Review, May-June 2017 article called “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart” states that successful, i.e. resilient, leaders show  “decisiveness even in the midst of ambiguity and incomplete information,” “the ability to engage stakeholders,” and “adaptability when dealing with situations that are not in the playbook.” They also are able to be reliable about producing results which is based on their ability to set realistic expectations, get the “right team in place” and upgrade talent.

Adi Ignatius in the same May-June 2017 Harvard Business Review issue wrote an article called “Above All Acknowledge The Pain: A Conversation about Resilience With Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.” Sandberg and Grant share that “Resilience is about the speed and strength of your response to adversity…. The best thing you can do is build routines that might be applicable in an unexpected situation.”

Given all the current challenges before business leaders, I have noticed the following about resilient leaders. First, they do very analog things and connect with people face to face instead of solely focusing on things. This includes visiting with people in person and respecting the daily efforts of people. These same leaders proactively listen and always conduct themselves with the utmost integrity.

At the same time, these leaders are continually focusing on the building, maintaining and execution of teams. They understand that recovery and adjustment happen outside the comfort zone and thus healthy teams are essential.

Next, these leaders are able to stay centered in the midst of all that that is happening. Being centered means drawing on adaptive expertise and not over thinking something. Instead these leaders focus on being present. As Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao wrote in their book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less (Crown Business, 2014), “We used our mindset as a guide, not as the answer to every question and problem.” In essence, they did not retreat to a pre-defined solution.

Finally, these leaders respected a diversity of opinions because they were an expression of different options. They focused on adherence to the goals of the organization over the agendas of others.

This week, reflect on how you can become a more resilient leader. It is the first step to creating a resilient organization. 

Quote For The Week: The Grateful Pledge

“I am grateful for today’s problems; they will be tomorrow’s successes. I am grateful for today’s successes; they will inspire me to see tomorrow’s challenges waiting to still be met. I am grateful for tomorrow’s challenges as they will bring next day’s problems. I am grateful for those future problems as they will become our future success. I am grateful.” - Jennifer Bauer

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

So, how’s the rest of your life going?

He had been referred to me for executive coaching by his senior executive, a person I had known and worked with for 15+ years. We were to discuss team building, communication, and goal setting.

When the appointed day and time arrived, he called me and we dived into the topics with great gusto. He was interested and asked good questions. He listened well and was genuinely intrigued by my perspective on these subjects. 

As we started to wrap up our one hour phone visit, I asked him the following question.

“So, how is the rest of your life going?”

He paused and replied, “This subject is not part of this coaching session. Furthermore, you would never ask my boss that kind of question.”

I replied, “OK. Let’s pause here. Do you know your boss’s cell phone number?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Please call him right now, and ask him if I ever ask him the question, ‘So, how is the rest of your life going?’. I will wait here while you call him.”

He hung up and I waited. 

A few minutes later, he called me back.

“I apologize for my response. This is unbelievable. You not only ask him how his life is going. You have met his wife, gone out to dinner with them, and discussed the subject of leadership and organizational change. You have even met his kids. He also said that every year you ask him if he has scheduled his annual physical. You tell him to do this for his family and for his team.”

There was a long pause and then he continued.

“The rest of my life is barely OK. I am burning the candle at both ends. I leave before the kids are up and often get home after they are in bed. My wife is upset with me about the pace of work. I sleep poorly and I am constantly worried. Do you think I should schedule a physical?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I haven’t had one since my high school football physical, and that was a very long time ago.”

“Becoming a leader,” I explained, “who can build and maintain a strong team is hard work. Communicating clearly with this team takes great thought and attention. Setting goals that are actually owned and understood by those who will have to execute them takes time and patience. Burning out is not a good choice personally or professionally. So, yes to the physical, and yes to reprioritizing your life so you do not win at work and lose at home.”

“I like that idea,” he replied. “Let’s schedule another time to visit and I will get things lined up on this end to be checked out by my doctor.”

Three weeks later, he called in for his executive coaching session. As always, I started by asking a question, “What’s going right?”

With great enthusiasm, he replied, “Lots! I went to my doctor and had a physical. I learned that my cholesterol was so high that I was in serious danger of a major heart attack. I am glad we caught that before it changed everything.”

He continued, “I sat down with my wife and we had a big conversation about my work habits and focus. We are rebuilding our family life. And I sat down with my team and we discussed the pace of change and what was realistic. This led into an important discussion about team work and goal setting.”

For the next 45 minutes, we explored leadership, team work, and goal setting at a greater depth than before. As we started to wrap up our one hour phone call, he paused and said, “You didn’t ask me how the rest of my life is going.”

“You are right,” I responded. “So, how is the rest of your life going?”

“Much better. Thanks for asking.”

As we hung up, I thought of a comment by Kevin Cashman from years ago who pointed out that if you want to become a better leader, you have to become a better person. Leadership is not just a work thing. It is a whole life thing and the journey to becoming a better leader is worth every step of the process.

So, how is the rest of your life going?

It is time to answer the question.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

How do leaders work through endings and new beginnings at the same time? part #2

After the first two stages of transition management which I wrote about last week, there are three more stages. The third stage is called “In the Neutral Zone.” While the endings are uncomfortable and difficult in stage two, the in-between time can just feel weird on one level. In simple terms, the old ways of doing things are gone, but the new way is not fully operational. In essence, people feel caught between what was and will be. As a result, anxiety rises.

The most common behaviors one will see in the neutral zone are people becoming self-protective, and focused on just coping day to day. Old problems resurface, and people can become polarized. This happens, I believe, because leaders send mixed signals about change and people are worried about what is coming next.

When meeting with leaders during this stage, I regularly explain that listening in a respectful manner is very important. In particular, listen to understand rather than to respond or defend. Furthermore, try and understand how they are seeing the process as a follower rather than how you are seeing it as a leader.

As for yourself, recognize that the role of the leader may change as well. Be prepared for this depth of work by asking yourself this question: What do I need to let go of? 

The fourth stage of transition management is called “During the New Beginning.” Here leaders and followers focus on the outcomes, not just the details. Key performance indicators become very important. Leaders need to reward new behaviors and attitudes and remember that people are trying out new behaviors and perspectives. Understand that followers may have different needs than leaders as they discover new identities and a new sense of purpose. They may even rediscover the original mission or purpose of the organization.

The fifth and final stage is called “After the Transition”. Most leaders do not pay attention to this stage because they are focused on getting on to the next change. The best leader recognize the importance of this stage and always do an after action report and/or lessons learned debriefing given all that has happened. Margaret Wheatley in her book, Who do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity (Berrett-Koehler, 2017), explains that the core elements of an after action report (AAR) are the following:

- Priority is given to the process. No matter what, time is made available to learn from the crisis or situation.

- Everyone who was part of the action or crisis is present and expected to contribute.

- Rank and hierarchy don’t matter: it is acknowledged that everyone has something of potential value to contribute.

-The process is disciplined. Specific questions are asked in order. Facilitation is needed to ensure that only one question is answered at a time and that each person speaks without being contradicted or challenged.

- Learnings are recorded in some form. They are available as lessons learned for the benefit of others.

- The value of learning is visible in consequent actions. People feel smarter and gain confidence that they can deal with the next crisis.

As she continues, the four questions of an AAR (to be asked in this order) are the following:
- What just happened?
- Why do you think it happened?
- What can we learn from this?
- How will we apply these learnings?

This week, review the final three stages of transition management. For more information about managing transitions, read the following book: Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, (Da Capo Press, 2003). I also encourage you to conduct an AAR so people learn from the past rather than repeat the same problems from previous major change cycles.

Quote For The Week: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

How do leaders work through endings and new beginnings at the same time? part #1

Right now, so many people are feeling overwhelmed by the pace of organizational change with all of the endings and beginnings happen at the same time. Our challenge as leaders is to differentiate between change management and transition management. Change management is situational and outcome focused, i.e. the destination. Transition management, on the other hand, is psychological, personal and emotional, i.e. the endings. As the late William Bridges wrote, “Transition is different. The starting point for transition is not the outcome but the ending that you will have to make to leave the old situation behind.” Transitions start with an ending and finishes with a new beginning. The hard part about this is that it starts with letting go of the old ways, the old identity, and dealing with losses.

There are five stages within transition management and the leader's role in each stage is important. The first stage is “Before the Transition.” Here, you as the leader know that change is in the works. When thinking about this stage, realize most employees do not know that change is coming and are mostly focused on making sure the day to day operations are working well.  So, the first step as a leader in this stage is to figure out how to sell the problems that lead you and others to feel that change is the best solution.

The challenge to doing this level of work is to remember that the problem is defining the problem. Some people will see the problem as technical and others as adaptive. Your goal as the leader is to define the problem in a clear and concise manner. To help you prepare your thoughts, put them in writing. In specific, write a one minute speech about what the problems are that lead you to deciding to make change happen. Next, put together a one minute speech about why it is necessary now given how busy every one is. Then, practice giving these two speeches and ask for feedback so clarity can be achieved.

While you work on your two speeches, I also encourage you to assess the level of trust in the organization's leaders. Remember that there are three levels of trust: personal, strategic and organizational. Once change has been initiated, trust will be stretched and challenged. Recognize that you can give everyone a voice but not a vote in what is taking place.

Another step in preparing yourself and the organization is to visit with key leaders on a one to one level. Start by checking about their clarity for why the organization must change. And then, why it must happen now. Check also on the leadership competencies of key positional leaders. Everyone who is mission critical to success should have the ability to communicate well and cascade information well. They need to be good transactional and transformational coaches and understand data based decision-making. If you are struggling with team work issues, review the material from the following book: Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Jossey-Bass, 2002. It has good diagnostic material inside of it.

The second stage of transition management is called “During the Ending.” Here, all involved have learned that change is taking place. Now we are seeing people let go of the old ways, let go of identity as defined by the old way of doing things and dealing with the losses. We as leaders need to remember that loss is a subjective, personal experience while leadership is objective.

During the ending stage, do not overreact to resistance and opposition. Instead, frame it up as a form of feedback. Recognize that it is normal for people to resist the loss of clarity, connections, confidence, control and their understanding of the definition of success. You will also see grieving behaviors, e.g. anger, bargaining, anxiety, sadness, disorientation, and depression.

As you and others move through this stage, continue to define what is and what is not over. Always treat the past with respect, and show how the endings ensure the continuity of what really matters.

This week, reflect on the first two stages of transition management and teach those around you about it. This will help with short term issues and long term results.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

How do leaders on-board the next generation of high-growth opportunities while managing daily operations?part #2

In meeting after meeting during the last six to nine months, I have heard the same phrase used over and over, namely “We need the right people in the right seats”, referencing the concept from Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great. In reality, we need the right people in the right seats, the right teams with the right focus, and everyone using the right tools connected to the right outcomes.

This morning, let’s talk about right people and right teams. First, people need individual competencies to be successful at a team level. Individual competencies refer to a person’s knowledge and skills required to fulfill specific role requirements.  Second, teams need team competencies which are the collective abilities of the team required to execute the business strategy. For example, being competent at working through conflict as a team is a basic and yet so few teams have discussed this or been trained on how to do this.

When we get so busy focusing on solving operational issues, we forget that having the right people in the right seats and having the right teams with the right focus will create a healthy living system. As Margaret Wheatley wrote: “A healthy living system is a good learner and can thrive even though its environment is moving toward increasing disorder. But to do so it must be actively engaged and aware.” Many leaders are not ready for this level of work because it means they will loose control of the people and/or the solution to certain problems. 

Therefore, I believe we need to build more professional learning communities, a term I learned from working with educators, where in-depth sharing and practice takes place. I have seen these communities work together at our From Vision to Action Executive Roundtables. As they sit around the table, they are building common knowledge, common language, and common perspective. They also are building and maintaining important relationships, sharing what is and what is not working which is in part a micro strategic and operational review, and building a foundation for handling beginnings and endings . One interesting element of these professional learning communities is that they become a way to build culture and institutionalize an organization’s culture.

Next, I believe we need senior teams to be true teams rather than simply single leader work groups. The two defining characteristics of excellent senior teams are that they can hold in-depth strategic debate and dialogue, and at the same time have respect for the other members of the team, especially their skills, their talents and their strengths. In order to build this depth of good strategic debate, dialogue and respect for others on the team, senior leaders need to do the following:

- Clarify identity. This process involves defining the core principles about how to deliver high quality, day to day service and how to move forward through difficult times. A clear sense of identity mobilizes people into purposeful action. It also helps build networks of relationship, which ultimately builds community

- Build community. What many leaders forget is that effective teams are born from healthy community. When the overall sense of community is grounded in clear ethics and core principles, we have social coherence and community resilience.

This week, sit down with your team and talk about identity and ethics. Discuss and clarify with them who we are, what we believe in, and how we work through the challenges that are happening around us. We as leaders must be and create an “island of sanity”, a new term by Margaret Wheatley, in an ocean of challenge and difficult choices.

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