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: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html

For more information about the dates, location, price and how to register for the 2019 training, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Training-Details.html#Train2019

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: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html

For more information about the dates, location and price of this 2019 training, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Training-Details.html#Train2019

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

What is the foundation for long term, successful teamwork? - part #3

In the world of team building and team work, nearly every leader I visited with during the last two years, tells me that there are four stages to the process, namely, forming, storming, norming, and performing. Our challenge is that this original research was created by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. From my perspective, I do not think this analog model works well within the digital era. Instead a new model needs to be created.

What follows is a high level description of what I see are the new stages of team development in the digital era. The first stage is Forming. Here, the team meets and learns about the opportunity or challenge. People behave independently. The goal or goals are defined. Urgency is created. Discussions around the scope of the work and role clarity begin. The keys to success are to find the right people with capacity for the work of a team, build urgency, create SMART goals and avoid the default of becoming a single leader work group.

The next stage is Norming. Here, people take responsibility for their work and focus on getting things done. Team performance improves until fear of conflict, personality differences, and artificial harmony surfaces. Remember 4-D teams are prone to the problems of “us vs. them” thinking, breaking into several sub-groups, and working with incomplete information. Therefore, the keys to success are to unpack the strategic nexus and create alignment with it, promote “structured unstructured time” to build common perspective and shared experiences, continue the development of clarity about the context for team action, and make sure individuals, subgroups and the team as a whole feel valued for their contributions toward the team’s overall goals.

The third stage is Transforming. Here, team issues related to trust, pace, conflict, and inconsistency in work arise. The team has to learn how to evaluate ideas, give feedback, and avoid group conformity and groupthink. The team also has to learn how to support people individually and the group collectively. The keys to success are to institute routine coaching or check-in sessions, deal with spatial, relationship, or strategic blindnesses, deal with individual or organizational resistance related to the execution of team based goals, and prevent coordination neglect related to staff time, training & resource management. 

The fourth stage is Performing. Here the team re-establishes group norms, creates realistic timelines and re-defines role clarity and expectations. Team members commit to team decisions and plans of action, hold one another accountable, and focus on the achievement of collective results. At this point, the keys to success are to implement routine pre-mortems to temper optimism, define and track lead performance indicators, and integrate data based decision making into team meetings & actions.

The fifth stage is Improving. Here, using key performance indicators, the team improves their performance and refines their ability to work collectively. They also collaborate better with internal partners and external stakeholders. Now leaders must utilize a balanced scorecard approach to performance management, and implement routine strategic reviews to build personal and team accountability. 

The final stage is Adjourning/Mourning. The goal or goals are accomplished and all tasks are completed. The team dissolves until a new team is needed. Now, all involved must implement in-depth after-action reports in order to improve future team action and organizational resilience. 

With the above in mind, I believe we have evolved from forming -storming - norming - performing into a more realistic model for the digital era called forming - norming - transforming - performing - improving - adjourning/mourning. This week think about your best teams and reflect on the stages they went through to get to this point. I believe you will find some common ground with the above model.

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

Monday, October 1, 2018

What is the foundation for long term, successful teamwork? - part #2

In a world where the digital economy is having a big impact, we as leaders need to understand the 4-D team development journey if we are going to be successful. However, the first in this process is to step back from focusing on 4-D teams and understand somethings about “analog” teams.

Analog teams were created and became successful because of the following factors. First, there was daily face to face communication. This happened because everyone worked in the same office. Second, leaders role modeled key behaviors before, during and after teamwork. Some of those behaviors were social and others involved more technical skills. For the most part, task focused behaviors often trumped relationship oriented behaviors on analog teams. Third, heritage relationships, i.e. ones built over a long period of time, often impacted success. Furthermore, there were limited opportunities for networking outside the office location. Finally, qualitative measures were valued as much as quantitive measures of progress. The “feel” of success was valued as much as the facts around getting it all done. In short, analog teams generated success through mutual trust, shared values, and a clearly defined mission/purpose, all of which resulted in collective pride. What we do not recognize is that the above required lots of self-discipline plus a degree of self and group awareness

On the other hand, 4-D teams are more “global, virtual and project-driven.” 4-D teams struggle because they have limited face time and are dependent on digital communication which often prevents the ability to understand nonverbal and contextual clues which often provide insight into what is going on.

Next, 4-D teams rarely hold in-person meetings which removes the ability for an understanding of individual and collective moods of the group. This, in combination with a limited number of heritage relationships, means that leaders have a limited level of role modeling due to distance between team members.

Furthermore, 4-D teams are routinely multi-office based and they involve people who are highly networked through out multiple circles of individuals, inside and outside the company e.g. Face Book & Linked-In. Therefore, people are more consultation or coordination focused rather than typical teamwork focused. They also have more social network connections rather than technical, and analytical connections. There is more data-based decision-making involved and they use a series of dash board measurements to make these decision. Many have multi-level definitions of success.

Over time, it has become clear to me that 4-D teams generate success through transparent performance measures, where everyone is able to see the “dash board results.” These transparent performance standards with their clear tracking of results by everyone assumes that all team members know what is expected of them, know how performance is measured and know why it matters. 

However, there is a rising problem in the 4-D team model, namely that communication about “why the team needs to work as a team” is rarely done and often is the main cause for why most 4-D teams fail. Furthermore, this in combination with not knowing how to “read” the data and transform it into useful information is causing many teams to struggle quite deeply in problem solving and execution.

This week, reflect on the differences between 4-D teams and analog teams. Are you equipping your people and your teams to be successful in the 4-D team model?

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

What is the foundation for long term, successful teamwork? - part #1

Every day leaders recognize that there are two moments of truth. A. G. Lafley, and Ram Charan in their book, The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth With Innovation (Crown Business, 2008) explain this concept by calling the first moment of truth when a customer, client or consumer chooses to buy a product or service. The second moment of truth is when they actually use it. If we are going to put the consumer at the center of everything we do, then we need highly functional teams.

After two years of discussing teams and team work with leaders of companies all over the country, I am going to share with you what I have learned, unlearned and relearned this fall into winter via this blog. First, there is a general consensus that “Today’s teams are different from the teams of the past. They’re far more diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic (with frequent changes in membership).” Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen in their excellent article, “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” (Harvard Business Review, June 2016), call these new teams, “4-D teams”.

From my discussions and observations, it is clear that 4-D teams are more project based, rather than day to day operations focused. These teams are organizing the work as a series of projects. And as a result, the 4-D team is expected to rapidly adapt and make course corrections as the problem, the team and the environment change.

Furthermore, within the 4-D team world, Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis in their article called “HR Goes Agile” (Harvard Business Review, March-April 2018 issue) find the following five unique problems are surfacing. First, in order for teams to be successful, they require multidirectional feedback, i.e. upward feedback from employees to leaders, downward feedback from leaders to employees, and sideways feedback from peer to peer. Second, many people on these teams often work in isolation. Third, there routinely are technological barriers to work. Fourth, there are often a lack of clear communication norms. And finally, there is a lack of clarity about frontline decision rights. As they write, “Organizations are pushing them [decision rights] down to the front lines, equipping, and empowering employees to operate more independently. But that’s a huge behavioral change, and people need support to pull it off.”

Based on the current research and my own experience of observing teams and talking with leaders, it is clear that the following needs to be in place for great teamwork to happen.

- A Compelling Direction. People have to care about achieving the goal at the department level and the organizational level.

-  A Strong Structure. As Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen note in the above article, “Every individual doesn’t have to possess superlative technical and social skills, but the team overall needs a healthy dose of both.”

- A Supportive Context where the entire team has access to the resources, information and training in order to be successful.

- A Shared Mindset. Again, as Haas and Mortensen write, “Distance and diversity, as well as digital communication and changing membership, make them [4-D teams] especially prone to the problems of “us versus them” thinking and incomplete information…. The solution to both is developing a shared mindset among team members - something team leaders can do by fostering a common identity and common understanding.”

This week reflect on the concept of 4-D teams and whether the above four components are in place for your team to be successful.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Why Invest In Leadership Training in 2019? - Part #1

I routinely get asked by people in leadership positions about why they should invest in more leadership training given how busy every one is at work. When every day is a mad rush to get everything done, sending some one to a four part, in-depth leadership training like the 2019 From Vision to Action Leadership Training seems to be a recipe for getting further behind and overwhelmed.  My answer is a simple: Being prepared for the future is never a waste of time and resources.

First, having taught this class for the past 20 years, I have noticed that alumni of the From Vision to Action Leadership Training have two things that differentiate them from others, namely a common language to explain what is happening in their organization when it comes organizational change and a powerful set of tools to work through the complicated and normal problems that come with change.

So many times when I get called in to an organization that is struggling and can not meet it’s goals or reach it’s full potential strategically or operationally, I discover that there is no shared, strategic mindset and no common language. While this may be stating the obvious, the lack of these two elements means that many senior teams can not effectively solve problems or make the right decisions. Most focus on control over command and many focus on order over alignment. Both of which cause short and long term problems in the areas of strategic execution or operational improvement.

Second, current and past students of the From Vision to Action Leadership Training have the tools and the language to explain what is normal as organizations create and execute their strategy or improve their day to day operations. For example, graduates of the From Vision to Action Leadership Training understand that denial and resistance are normal responses to change. Having participated in this in-depth training, these leaders have the ability to work through these normal behaviors. They recognize that denial is often about loss of clarity, competence and control, and that resistance is a form of feedback about these same issues. In short, because they are better trained, they then can make better choices.

In a time period when we need more people to be great leaders, we have to provide them with the tools, the understanding and the support to make that a reality. Now is the time to sign people up for the 2019 From Vision to Action Leadership. For more information about the 2019 class, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Training-Details.html#Train2019

I look forward to helping you and your organization be better prepared 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, September 17, 2018

Seek Wholeness Over Fragmentation

In 1997, I was asked by a group of long term clients to create and deliver an in-depth leadership training program which could become the training ground for future senior leaders for their organizations. In 1998, after much work, reflection and visiting with numerous leaders around the country, I designed and taught the first From Vision to Action Leadership Training. This year long leadership development course encompassed four quarterly sessions. Through its challenging, interactive curriculum, participants gained core skills and knowledge through immersion in research, issues and solutions related to leadership, strategic planning and execution, and implementing organizational change. This fall the 24th class will graduate from this in-depth training and people are already signing up for the 2019 class.

During the first class back in 1998, I asked my students to tell me what are the characteristics of a leader worth following during organizational change. I still ask this same question twenty years later. The reason being is that leaders are involved in making things run better and changing things to make them work differently given how the customers have changed.

Over the decades, the answers have been interesting and thoughtful. There has been some change in the description of these characteristics and those reflect the changes in our society. For example, successful digital communication was not a part of our discussions back in ’98. But over all, most students share about how leaders think and how they interact with others.

I like these answers and I encourage the students to zoom out rather than just zoom in to answer the question. The reason being is because a long time ago I read a book by Kevin Cashman where he stated that “if you want to become a better leader, you first have to become a better person.” I still think about this quote on a regular basis.

If we truly want to become better leaders, especially during times of organizational change, then we must become better people. If that is the goal, then a leader is not just what they do with their mind and how they interact with others. From my experience of working with great leaders, I have learned that a leader worth following in the midst of organizational changes does think well and interact well with others but they also do a few other things exceptionally well.

First, they role model good self-care. They take care of their body through exercise, eating well and utilizing healthy stress management techniques.

Second, they have a healthy social and emotional life. This means they take care of their family, maintain relationships with a close circle of friends, and have mentors and older friends who help keep things in perspective.

Third, they have a spiritual life. They are involved in a faith community, and routinely take time for faith related activities on a daily and seasonal basis, recognizing that some questions about work and life can only be answered from a faith perspective.

This week, reflect on the question, What are the characteristics of a leader worth following during organizational change? And then write down your answers. It is time to seek wholeness over fragmentation. Becoming a better person is a fabulous life goal.

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

Play The Long Game

We were sitting together over dinner and the primary topic of discussion was how to write a three to five year strategic plan in the midst of turbulent times and the rise of complex adaptive problems over which the organization had no control. In particular, we were exploring how a leader can cope with the stress of uncertainty and the overwhelming number of operational details that keep surfacing.

After an hour and a half of exploring different scenarios and possibilities, I turned to the senior executive and shared the following:

“Remember during the 2018 Spring From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable when I talked about leaders being brave and bold in spite of all that is happening around them?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Good. At the end of my presentation on this subject, I quoted Charles Swindoll who wrote ‘Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody's looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you're misunderstood.’

When I reflect on this quote, I realize that this is a time period when we are going to have to be faithful to the mission of the organization. It is a time period when we are going to have to have courage to move forward. And when we may have to endure pain, but not be defined by it.

In my journey, I have learned that playing the long game is a powerful choice. While I may not be able to control all that is happening around me, I can stay centered and realize that everything will work out in the end. I’ve learned this by doing something that many do not consider to be a normal business practice, namely I choose to go and visit with the elders in my life.

Routinely, I like to sit down with people in their 80’s and 90’s and visit with them over a cup of coffee or a meal. I enjoy listening to their stories, reflections and insights. These are the people who were born in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They personally knew people who were born in the 1800’s and fought in World War I. Many of them also fought in World War II, the Korean War, or supported the troops from home. They lived through the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. 

What they share are not memories or stories found in a book. These are the people who actually lived through some of the most difficult and challenging times in the history of our country. And as a result, they can share wisdom and valuable lessons learned from it all.

And do you know what I have learned from my times with these elders? One simple but powerful insight: Don’t worry so much. It will all work out in the end. Some day someone is going to look back on this time period and call it the ‘good old times.’ It all comes down to perspective, patience and faith.”

This week, play the long game and visit with the elders in your life. They always have some pearls of wisdom to share.

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