Monday, December 17, 2018

Look at the Bigger Picture

In January through early April of this year, I shared with all of you on a weekly basis about working thought the trough of chaos during interesting times. Then throughout the rest of the spring, I covered the many topics that we explored at the Spring 2018 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. For example, I shared about the connection between organizational history, culture and meaningful work within successful organizations, how to improve thinking within an organization, and how leaders can be both brave and bold during difficult times. In July, August and early September, I wrote weekly about the lessons I’ve learned from the countless hours of visiting with great leaders. And finally this fall, I shared with all of you what we explored during the Fall 2018 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. The focus this year was on building, maintaining, and improving teams during the digital era. And now, we come to the last full week before Christmas, Kwanzaa and then New Year’s Eve. 

In a world filled with challenges, complexities and problems, we, as leaders, can become overwhelmed, worried, numb, and burned out. We also can become cynical about the future and our ability to adapt to the new and emerging challenges and problems around the world. We could just give up and choose not to lead. But I strongly discourage us from falling into this mindset.

Instead, I encourage each of us to remember four things. First, organizational change is the sum of individual change. Therefore, we must commit to on-going personal and professional development. As Gandhi said so many years ago, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Second, we must create “islands of sanity”, referencing a term from the work of Margaret Wheatley. We must create safe and empowering spaces at home and at work where people can do the deep personal and professional work of becoming better people and better partners with colleagues throughout the company, and the world.

Third, this is the season when we must come together and rediscover what unites us rather than what divides us. We must focus on finding and rekindling inside ourselves and others a sense of higher purpose to our lives and to our work. We must build the bonds which will hold and support us through our challenges. We can not let others stand alone to face the difficulties of this time.

And finally, we must give the gift of love, support and respect this season to all we meet. By this act alone, we will transform the big picture and create a place were people will feel like their life is meaningful and special.

May this holiday season be the beginning of many special moments of connection and joy for you and yours. Thanks for including me in this important work, and I look forward to being back in touch with all of you on Monday, January 7, 2019.

Warm wishes and happy holidays to each of you!

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Importance of Experience

Recently, a friend shared that he had learned that you can not teach people experience. The minute I heard this line it was a “blinding flash of the obvious,” quoting an old Tom Peters’ phrase. 

So many times when coaching executives, I have have listened to someone complain  that a particular person just does not “get it.” When I step back from the actual problem we are discussing and think about the person in question, I realize that they can not “get it” because they have never experienced “it” before. As Margaret Wheatley wrote so many years ago, when confronted with an unknown, we default to a known. Our challenges as leaders is to realize that the defaults that most people have are completely based on their experiences, positive and negative. Furthermore, most people are doing the best they can given the experiences they’ve had.

So, what can we as leaders do?

Recognizing the truth that we can not teach experience, we, as leaders, can tell stories and lessons learned from our own experiences. By offering perspective, we open up the possibility for all involved to gain some new perspectives or some fresh insights into the challenges before them.

Next, we can create a safe and supportive learning environment around an individual as they go through a first time experience. By surrounding them with the right tools, support and information, they can step forward with confidence, knowing that we will be there on the other side to unpack the experience and help them find meaning and greater understanding from the experience.

Finally, we can be the kind of leaders who role model smart thinking and smart choices as we go through our own first time experiences. While we can not teach experience, we can be the kind of person who embraces them and learns from them every step of the way.

As you move through the rest of this year and into 2019, I encourage you to share your stories and lessons learned, to create safe and supportive learning and working environments, and to role model the value of continued learning from new experiences.

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

What are the keys to being a successful team leader? - part #2

Successful leaders seek out feedback on a routine basis and listen carefully to it. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen in their book, Thanks For The Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Penguin Books, 2014), ask the question, “Is it possible that feedback is like a gift and like a colonoscopy?” They note that we often think about feedback within the framework of “Who is giving me feedback?”, “Why are they giving me feedback?”, “Where is it coming from?”, and finally “Where is it going?”. As they explain, in order to understand feedback, we must know where it coming from, i.e. their data and/or interpretations, and where it is going to, i.e. their advice, consequences, or expectations.

Marshall Goldsmith in his book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts - Becoming the Person You Want to Be, (Crown Business, 2015) reminds us that “anybody can change, but they have to want to change. Feedback tells us what to change, not how to do it. But when you know what to change, you’re ready to start changing yourself…”

Successful leaders understand the above and keep asking for feedback on a regular basis. They want it because they will learn from it and they do it because they want to role model this action so others will engage in this practice as well.

In short, great team leaders and great teams believe that doing something with a group of people you trust and respect makes a  profound difference. They also understand that doing something that you look forward to doing each day also makes a big difference.

This week be a leader who role models the importance of receiving feedback and changing yourself because of it. 

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Living Into the Moment of Now

Recently, I was washing dishes and looking out the kitchen window as the sun broke over the eastern horizon. My mind was full of everything that I needed to get done. E-mails, deadlines, and prep work for upcoming events were consuming me. I felt burdened by the pressures of the coming day.

However, with the arrival of the dawn’s light on this particular cold winter morning, I paused and surveyed the land. And there before my eyes in the walnut tree on the edge of our field was a mature bald eagle. Illuminated by the morning sun, it’s white head shined bright. Bold in size and stature, I was captivated. It was a miracle of nature and so magnificently beautiful.

Later, upon reflection, I realized that in that precise moment when I first saw the bald eagle all my worries had vanished. There was nothing but an overwhelming sense of awe, joy, gratitude and connection. It was a moment that changed me and changed my day.

I remember a similar feeling when I was younger and in the early stages of falling in love. Just seeing her come through a crowded room made my heart skip a beat. She was my complete focus and her presence filled me with joy. All that was before me was beauty and love. College, homework, papers and tests all fell by the wayside and there was nothing but this moment of heart felt connection.

I have had similar experiences with each of our children. The joy of seeing them after a business trip, the delight of seeing them figure out how to ride a bike for the first time, the pride of seeing them graduate to a new level of learning. In these special moments, there is nothing but an undivided and complete attention to now.

Yet, at our jobs and often at home many of us are consumed by endless amounts of work. We suffer from obsessive compulsive productivity disorder. Our lives have become binary in nature, i.e. all work and then an exhausted night with poor sleep. We push and push hoping to make some dent or progress in the piles or with the endless e-mails. And as we are consumed by all of this busy-ness and business, we miss the many miracles of now that surround us. 

The eagle in the tree at dawn was just experiencing the moment of the sunrise. It was not trying to be some place else or rush off to its morning meeting. It was not distracted by the beeping or buzzing of a cell phone. Instead, the eagle was deep into the moment of now.

We forget that we have the opportunity to make a similar choice ourselves. We can choose to be more present to the moment of now or we can choose to be consumed by endless details that are swirling around us. 

This commitment to living into the fullness of now is a commitment to wholeness over fragmentation. It is the choice to see our children as the living miracles they are. It is the choice to see our husbands, wives and partners as the wonderful people there are and have always been. It is a choice to build and maintain this connection to the now on a daily basis. 

And when we do this, we are often gifted with the miracle of seeing a bald eagle at dawn. Then, in this moment of complete attention to now, we feel whole, at peace and one with the entire world around us.

My hope is that each of you can live into more moments of now this holiday season. It will transform you, your family and this special time of year into one of countless blessings and miracle connections.

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

Monday, December 3, 2018

What are the keys to being a successful team leader? - part #1

We were talking over the phone about his team and why it was not changing quickly when he said:. “I’ve been telling them what they need to do for six weeks and they still have not changed. What am I doing wrong? They should have changed by now.”

I replied, “People and teams do not change as fast as software. They have a different level of work to do. At this point, remember the old Bible phrase: ‘Be ye steadfast.’ It will happen, but not as quickly as you think it should happen.”

Our challenge as leaders is to realize that “the supervisor’s role has moved away from just managing individuals and toward the much more complicated task of promoting productive, healthy team dynamics, people need help with that…”, write Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis in their article called “HR Goes Agile” in the March-April 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

When I coach leaders on how to be an effective and successful team leader, I routinely tell them to be prepared for the messiness of group process and team dynamics. This means that they as leaders need to have the energy to do this work, not just time or effort to do the work. They need to recognize that they will not always be able to control their time but they can make choices to support having the energy to do the work. This means knowing their limits, seeking out help when needed, and to value structure outside of work. As we all know in the world of leadership, there will always be an unexpected crisis which demands your attention, time and clear thinking. We must be better prepared for these moments and not be working so close to the burn out stage of living.
Next, most leaders believe they shouldn’t need outside help or structure. Marshall Goldsmith in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Hyperion, 2007) reminds us that our flaws at work and our challenges at work do not vanish when we walk through the front door at home. That is why we as leaders need better support systems at work and at home.

This week, check to make sure you are prepared at work and at home to handle the current challenges surfacing at the end of this year and the new ones that will inevitably come in the new year. If you do not feel well prepared, seek outside help and support to gain perspective and focus. It will make a world of difference over time.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

How do leaders improve team performance? - part #2

There is an interesting thing about the best teams, they just keep getting better. When I am with them, I am constantly trying to figure what it is that makes the difference. For awhile I thought it was something to do with who was in the leadership positions. While I think this clearly does make a difference, I have also noticed something else, namely the whole team holds people accountable, not just the person in the leadership position.

The subject of accountability continues to be a popular topic. Everyone is talking about it and few are clear about what it means and how to do it. Most people focus this subject on the supervisor and direct report relationship, as in holding a person accountable for getting something done. However, few recognize that holding people accountable is supervisor to direct report, but even more so on successful teams it happens at the peer to peer level. It is interesting to note we often do the former and skip the later.

When it comes to accountability, we also don’t differentiate between results based accountability and behavioral based accountability. As Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012), wrote: “Even well-intentioned members of a team need to be held accountable if a team is going to stick to its decisions and accomplish its goals…. The reason that behavioral accountability is more important than the quantitative, results-related kind has nothing to do with the fact that it is harder. It is due to the fact that behavioral problems almost always precede - and cause - a downturn in performance and results.” As he continues, “The ultimate point of building greater trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results.”

In order to successfully hold people accountable, and to get them to hold each other accountable, i.e. peer-to-peer, all involved have to know their personal SMART goals, and their team’s SMART goals. You would be surprised with how many do not know the later and only focus on the former. Furthermore, people have to know what is expected of them at the individual level and at the team level. Finally, leaders need to create an environment where people feel safe enough to be coached, to receive feedback and to give it.

When it comes to continual improvement and effective accountability on all levels, I believe the leaders and the teams need to understand the individual and group “why”. As Simon Sinek writes, “What I’m interested in is what gets people up every single day to do something, maybe pay a premium, maybe suffer inconvenience, maybe sacrifice because they’re driven by something else. What is that thing? What I’ve learned is it’s that question, why. It has a biological imperative, it drives us, it inspires us.”

This week, think about and discuss with others the difference between results based accountability and behavioral based accountability. Then check to make sure you know the team’s why and the individuals on the team’s why. This will make a difference in how you move forward and prepare for the new year.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

Giving Thanks

This is the week that many people are focused on food preparation, travel plans and being together for Thanksgiving. And while I am a big fan of pumpkin pie, family sitting around the table, and cooking up a great meal, I am an even bigger fan of giving thanks for all the blessings that have come our way.

I am thankful for the blessing of good food, a safe place to live, and clean water. I have been to places in my life journey where this was not present.

I am thankful for meaningful work and great people to do it with. I have been to places in my life journey where everyone really wanted to be some place other than work because it was not safe, meaningful, or supportive.

I am thankful for good healthcare because I have been to places in my life journey where there were no doctors, dentists or nurses who cared.

I am thankful for family, the ones I choose and the ones I have. I have been to places in my life journey where people did not feel safe or supported within their family circle.

I am thankful for the work people are doing in regards to justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. All of us have work to do in these areas.

I am thankful for love, forgiveness and grace because they are the foundation of so much in life.

And finally, I am thankful for you. I have been to places in my life journey where loneliness is not a momentary experience but a constant. Knowing that I am part of a larger circle of people who are trying to do good and make a difference in a world that is challenging and difficult is heartwarming and up-lifting.

This week count your blessings, share about them with others around your table, and give thanks.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Why Invest In Leadership Training in 2019? - Part #3

People in leadership positions during the next 3 - 5 years must be able to do the following in order for them and their organizations to be successful over time.

First, they must be able to create and communicate strategy in a manner that creates focus instead of panic.

Second, they must be able to define a problem, technical or adaptive, and then be able to solve the problem.

Third, they must be able to build and maintain teams, analog or digital, and then get them to deliver results in a timely manner.

Finally, they must be able to coach individuals and teams so they improve their performance.

The challenge that I see this fall is that few people in leadership positions are good at coaching and even fewer are good at delegation. While on one hand these seem pretty basic skills for people in leadership positions, the reality is that to do them well, a person needs a greater depth of understanding and clarity to be effective. 

For example, in order to be an excellent coach, one should receive excellent coaching. Many report to me that this is not taking place on a regular basis within their company. Next, to be an excellent coach, one needs to understand that coaching is a structured dialogue and development process to improve professional competence to execute a particular goal while supervision is to observe, direct and oversee the execution of a task, project or activity. Many people confuse the two different activities.

When it comes to the subject of delegation, most people in leadership positions have also experienced very poor delegation. They are not sure if they have complete control to do whatever needs to get done or if they need to first run all decisions before action past the person who delegated something to them. Finally, many people feel like they got delegated the work but not the clarity or authority to do it well.

These are problems during the next 3-5 years that we can not let continue to take place. We need individuals and teams to receive solid and effective coaching. We also need people to delegate well given the expectations of customers and strategic partners.

And here is where the 2019 From Vision to Action Leadership Training can help. Through a challenging and 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 not only create and communicate strategy, define and solve problems, build and maintain teams, but also coach people and teams better plus learn how to delegate effectively. 

For more information about this unique training experience, please click on the following link:

For more information about the dates, location, price and how to register for the 2019 training, please click on the following link:

Now is the time to create better leaders in your organization. If we are to be successful in the next 3 - 5 years, we need to be well prepared. 

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

How do leaders improve team performance? - part #1

During our extended meeting, the three of us discussed the issues related to why their two teams were not getting better over time. Each leader reported that their team was defaulting to silo based team behaviors rather than collaboration based behaviors. Give one team was in sales, i.e. mission delivery, and the other was in operations, i.e. mission support, this was a major problem. Each needed the the other team to be successful in order for them both to be successful.

As I listened, I kept thinking of a quote by Gordon Livingston, MD who said “People mistake thoughts, wishes and intentions for change.” The problem was that each team wanted the other team to change first. At the end of our meeting, those gathered realized that their team needed to embrace a continuous improvement mentality rather than a blaming mentality to make both teams to improve. 

Richard Hackman in his book, Leading Teams: Setting The Stage For Great Performances (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) notes there are three common problems on teams who struggle, First, there is the problem of social loafing by team members. Next, there is the problem of mindless reliance on habitual routines. And finally, there is the problem of inappropriate weighting of member contributions. I have seen all three of these problems over the course of my career. I suspect I will see them over the coming years, too. 

However, I have also seen exceptional teams and team leaders get past these problems. The best teams and team leaders I have met build and embrace a continuous improvement mindset. Now, at this point, it is important to reference the work of Patrick Lencioni in his recent book, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize And Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues (Jossey-Bass, 2016). This author says that the ideal team players are humble, hungry and people smart. While I agree, I always encourage people to dive deeper into what Lencioni wrote. As he explained, “Hungry people are always looking for more.… hunger can be directed in a selfish way that is not for the good of the team but for the individual.” As he continues, the healthy kind of hunger is one that is a “sustainable commitment to doing a job well and going above and beyond when it is truly required.” 

From my experience, these individuals on the team who role model the healthy kind of hunger are the people who want to get better. They understand the purpose of the work, and understand how the needs of the customer are changing.

From my experience, this individual level of work is complemented at the team level by leaders doing what Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen wrote about in their very good article called “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” (Harvard Business Review, June 2016). As they explain, the key is to develop “a shared mindset among team members - something team leaders can do by fostering a common identity and common understanding.” When I see common identity and understanding, I also see one other critical factor, namely common language. I have come to believe that this is the foundation to a shared mindset.

This week, ask yourself how are you building shared language and a shared mindset. Once you are clear about this, then commit to doing it even more. It will pay off in the short term and the long term.

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

Monday, November 5, 2018

How do leaders maintain successful teams? - part #2

One of the things I have learned from meeting with leaders of successful teams is that they role model and empower healthy behaviors. Jeffery D. Ford and Laurie W. Ford in their very good article called “Decoding Resistance to Change” (Harvard Business Review, April 2009) write that “People expect history to repeat itself - and they resist going through it all over again.” Leaders who overcome resistance focus on understanding why people are showing resistance or lack of clarity. They do not suppress dialogue but instead encourage it. They also assume they and the team will spend time in the trough of chaos and plan accordingly. They get that it is normal for things to get messy. Therefore, they role model healthy personal choices and behaviors when it does.

Second, these same leader continually try to improve their capacity to coach others. They understand, as Patrick Lencioni points out in his book,  The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012), that behavioral problems almost always precede quantitative results. They also recognize that behavioral problems “occur long before any decrease in measurable results is apparent.”

What we as leaders need to remember is that once a person “experiences good coaching, one becomes a better coach.” Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis say this is very important in their article called “HR Goes Agile” in the March-April 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Richard Hackman in his book, Leading Teams: Setting The Stage For Great Performances (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) explains that coaches focus on the following three areas: the amount of effort members of the team apply to the work, the appropriateness of the performance strategies to carry out the work, and the knowledge and skill they apply to the work. Therefore, coaching can be motivational, consultative, or educational.

But as I reflect on his writing I am reminded of what Marshall Goldsmith wrote in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Hyperion, 2007). Goldsmith challenges us to “stop trying to coach people who shouldn’t be coached.” As he notes, “stop trying to change people who don’t think they have a problem” and “stop trying to change people who are pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization.” He continues by pointing out that we should “stop trying to change people who should not be in their job” and “stop trying to help people who think everyone else is the problem.” I think we must embrace his perspective and harken back to Jim Collin’s early work where he said “who before what”. From my experience, the best coaches know who should be coached and who will not change no matter how much we try and coach them. Instead, we need to coach these individuals out of the organization rather than try to coach them into the organization.

Along this same line of thought, the big thing about hiring people to join a team is to remember Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player (Jossey-Bass, 2016), about the three virtues of a team player. Lencioni says that the best team players are humble, hungry and people smart. While I agree with Lencioni and have seen this in my own experiences as a consultant and executive coach, I think there is a missing element.

Last May, I read a quote by Pastor A.R. Bernard that stopped me in my tracks: “Without character, talent will only take you so far.” Upon much reflection, I realized that we, as leaders, need to talk more about character and focus more on character rather than just talent development. We need to discuss the importance of integrity, compassion, and courage during our coaching and our team meetings. We need to talk about what is commitment, faithfulness, and truthfulness. As Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” 

This week, reflect on the following questions: Who are the people of “character” that I have known in my life? What separates them from others? How do they engage with people in group settings that is unique? How do they role model? It is time that we follow in their foot steps.

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

How do leaders maintain successful teams? - part #1

It was an early morning breakfast meeting when she explained to me about all the changes that were taking place within her organization. In her words, “there are a 1,000 details related to change, multiple moving parts with some planned small short term wins.” Given recent successes, senior leaders in her organization were wanting to aggressively scale everything up and engage the whole organization. “What do you think about scaling everything up so fast, Geery?”, she asked me.

I responded that within her small team people were still building foundational trust and still building a set of common language.

“So,” she asked, “how fast can we go?”

“Only as fast as you can maintain what you have already built.”

One of the things I have learned during the last two years of visiting with leaders and teams from all over the country, is that once a team is launched and people want to expand it’s influence, most leaders underestimate the increasing percentage of time, resources, and staff that are required to maintain action over time within the initial pilot group.

Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao in their exceptional book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less (Crown Business, 2014) write that “scaling requires leaders to find and develop pockets of excellence, connect people and teams, and ensure that excellence continues to flow through those ties.” Right now, many people in senior leadership positions are wanting good teamwork to expand to other areas. They want a “successful team” to role model “the right way” to other teams. Therefore, they try to deploy the successful team’s leader to help the other dysfunctional teams. When this happens, it rarely works well.

First, people have to realize that within a pocket of excellence, the team leader has made an emotional connection with people who are creating the pocket of excellence more than just the intellectual connection. It’s just as much about the feel of the process as the facts. Theses same leaders also assist others in making connections with others inside and outside the team so people can maintain perspective.

Second, these successful team leaders understand the difference between technical problems and adaptive problems. They make sure we are not trying to find technical solutions to adaptive problems. They also understand that adaptive problems can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits and loyalties. In essence, this requires all involved to generate new ways of thinking about problem solving and decision-making. And leaders who maintain their teams over time are very clear about the new way of thinking.

This week, ask yourself the following two questions: What is the new mindset that I are wanting my team to embrace? Have I clarified this with them? The answers will help you maintain a successful team over time and prepare you and the team for the scaling process.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

How do leaders build successful teams? - part #2

Picking up where I left off last week, leaders often make two other mistakes when building their teams.

First, they forget to focus on the factors that create high-performance behaviors. We already know that effective leaders clarify purpose and direction with the team. To get everyone aligned and moving in the right direction, the team must agree on the answers to the following four questions:

- What are we suppose to accomplish?
- Why should we do it?
- How will we do it?
- Who will do what?

By clarifying these performance expectations, we, as leaders, need to be very thoughtful in our choice of who is on the team. I recognize the importance of performance focus and expectations, but, when most leaders tell me their expectations in reality all they have done is to define specific steps to achieving a goal. The problem is that by defining specific steps we as leaders think we have control of the team. The reality is that we as leaders have less control than the people who report to us. 

Furthermore, the people who create high-performance behaviors know the difference between what are required steps, e.g. ones related to health, safety or accuracy, and the optional steps, i.e. different ways to achieve the desired outcome. The problem is that most leaders think they are the one who is accountable for the team’s performance. They believe that if they retain control and focus people on performance then everyone will behave and get things done. The reality is that people are messy and all of them do not think or behave the same.

Therefore, the best leaders define results and outcomes during the expectations discussion. This means figuring out what is the right result and the right outcome. They do this by discussing the following questions:

- If the SMART goal is achieved, what is the result? The outcome?
- What difference will achieving the goal make?
By clarifying the results and the outcomes, we are letting people take responsibility for the route they take to the outcome. Please note that this requires of us as leaders to trust people.

One interesting I have noted about successful teams during the last 2 years is that they have a very defined schedule for team meetings. They fall into the categories of strategic, operational, and learning. And these subjects are not all covered in the same meeting.

Furthermore, during these different meetings all involved are clear about the decision architecture, i.e. how to make a decision, and the decision rights, i.e. who actually gets to make the decision.  Richard Hackman in his book, Leading Teams: Setting The Stage For Great Performances (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) says that this degree of clarity “prevents the danger of the team overstepping the actual bounds of their authority.”

The second big problem in building teams is that many leaders do not focus on continually creating clarity. Many think of it as a one and done, and that clarity created at the launch meeting is suppose to sustain people through out the entire time of team execution. 

To help avoid this being the problem, I often ask leaders to tell me their on-going message to the team.  In essence, what are they focusing on with their team. Most give me a generic answer, but I have observed that the best are constantly on-message and share it in the written and spoken forms of communication. Plus they are very specific in their role modeling.

This week, do not underestimate the importance of face to face meetings and analog based communication. Focus more on forming and norming stages than on performing and improving stages in your team building. And remember Robyn Benincas’ Four P’s of Commitment from her book, How Winning Works: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons From The Toughest Teams On Earth (Harlequin, 2012): preparation, planning, purpose and perseverance.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Why Invest In Leadership Training in 2019? - Part #2

There are two factors right now that are impacting the world of leadership and the ability of organizations to meet the needs of it’s customers. The first is called the “Silver Tsunami.” This refers to the fact that the enormous Baby Boomer generation is aging. By 2020, 25% of the United States workforces will be comprised of workers age 55 and older. Worldwide, those age 60 and over are expected to double by 2050, and triple by 2100. 

With this aging of the workforce will come a major exodus, i.e. retirement, of people in key leadership positions. While some companies are focused on a talent acquisition strategy to solve this problem, others are trying to figure out how to keep Baby Boomers working and how to prepare Gen Xers and Millenials to step up to the next level of leadership. 

The second factor is not so noticeable as the Silver Tsunami. It is under the radar screen and yet it is definitely impacting strategic and operational execution. People who work on teams right now are struggling because the idea of what is a team is shifting. For decades, teams have been analog based. Everyone worked in the same office. Everyone saw each other every day. And people who lead these teams could build relationships and role model effective communications on a daily basis.

However, as teams have shifted from an analog model to a digital model given the movement to a digital economy, and as companies became more focused on centralization and standardization, then team members have became digitally connected, geographically dispersed and more project driven. Now team leaders have to lead people who they do not see face to face on a regular base, communicate with them via e-mail, and manage outcomes via dashboards and project management software. In short, leaders are struggling to meet expectations and deadlines. Many are not clear about their role.

So, why invest in a four part in-depth leadership training in 2019?

First, we need more people who have the capacity to step up and fill the positions that will come open during the next five years. We need bench strength, capacity and clarity before we need to execute rather than as we execute.

Second, we need leaders who have the mindset and the skill set to build effective teams, analog or digital.  Given the technical and adaptive problems that are surfacing at this time period, particularly the complex adaptive problems, we need leaders who can create and maintain a group of people so they can work well together, stay focused and solve these problems. This will require team leaders who can work with multiple generations of people, e.g. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, and keep them focused on collective outcomes rather than individual outcomes.

This kind of leadership can not be taught in a day long seminar. It takes time, in-depth learning, reflection, practice, reading and then more learning. The 2019 From Vision to Action Leadership Training is designed to create this depth of capacity and clarity. It gives participants the tools, the resources and a holistic understanding of how to solve problems, lead people and create effective change in the midst of such problems as the Silver Tsunami and the movement and subsequent struggle between analog team models and digital team models. If you are wanting to be prepared for the future, then now is the time to sign up your key people for the 2019 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. 

For more information about this unique training experience, please click on the following link:

For more information about the dates, location and price of this 2019 training, please click on the following link:

I look forward to helping you and your company prepare for the future.

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

How do leaders build successful teams? - part #1

We were sitting down over a good cup of coffee when he shared that he had been hired years ago by the Board to transform the organization. “I was tasked to change the structure, quality, focus and culture.” Years later, we were discussing recent successes and I pointed out that many of them reflected back to the commitment by the Board to four transformational strategies. I noted that these recent successes also reflected that he had brought in people of high quality and experience who became the team to lead the entire organization through the process. As he continued to share about how current projects would build on recent successes, I was reminded of the following phrase: “Better people make better All Blacks.” James Kerr in his book, Legacy: What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business Of Life (Constable, 2013) wrote about the transformation of the All Blacks, the New Zealand national ruby union team, into a champion level team. The leaders of the All Black during this transformation noted that better people create a better team.

Upon reflection, I also remembered a conversation I had years ago with an insightful leader.  He asked me the question, “What comes before you build an effective team?”

I responded, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. What does?”

He explained, “I think it is having a healthy community at work. A healthy community is the foundation upon which teams are built. And once a team is done doing what it needs to do, the members will return and strengthen the community. I wonder if we need to be focusing on community building as much as we are focusing on team building?”

I have pondered this insight for years. It reminds me of John Maxwell’s insight in his book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001) when he wrote “The Law of the Bench: Great teams have great depth.” As Maxwell explains, today's bench players may be tomorrow's stars. Furthermore, the success of a supporting player can multiply the success of a starter. Therefore, there are more bench players than starters and a bench player placed correctly will at times be more valuable than a starter, In short, a strong bench gives the leader more options

With the above in mind, I think leaders make a big mistakes when they compose a team. First, they assume “the more the better” and therefore put too many people on the team. As Patrick Lencioni writes in his excellent book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012), “Becoming a real team requires an intentional decision on the part of its members…. teamwork is not a virtue. It is a choice - and a strategic one.” As he continues, “A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization…. anything over eight or nine is usually problematic.” As he points out, “a large numbers of people cause communication problems.” On a team, Lencioni notes there are two forms of communication. The first is advocacy communication, i.e. the stating your case or making your point, and the second is inquiry communication, i.e. the asking of questions to seek clarity about another person’s statement of advocacy. As he explains, the main problem when teams are larger than 8-9 people, they tend to do advocacy communication more than inquiry communication.

This week, sit back and think about your team. Are you seeing more advocacy communication or inquiry communication? And are you building your bench strength? These questions are important and worth the time you invest in finding the answers.

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