Monday, March 26, 2018

Leverage the Power of the Strategic Nexus

We were eating lunch at the most delightful coffee shop. There were papers and reports spread out across the table. There were graphs and charts poking out from a file folder, and there was a line of sugar packets reflecting a possible new way of organizing the division so it could be more nimble and agile.

She looked up at me from the line of sugar packets as I pulled out a paper with their mission, vision and core values on it. “I think we need to review this document,” I said. “We have to be sure that what we are discussing is in alignment with this page.”

She nodded and said “Yes. It always comes back to the strategic nexus.”

I smiled. She was right.

In the trough of chaos, it is easy to forget the strategic nexus. We are often focused on dealing with resistance, endless problems and making sure everything is still on track given the strategic plan. With our heads down and pushing forward, we rarely pause for reflection.

However, the best leaders routinely pull out the strategic nexus and review it. First, they make sure they are not compromising the mission, vision and core values. They understand that this is the foundation of all that gets done. It is the non-negotiable elements of the organization.

Second, they review the strategic plan. Tactical action can at times be so consuming that we forget where we are going and why. The strategic plan offers direction and metrics to measure progress. These are vital to overall success of the company.

During these interesting times, make sure you are routinely checking your company’s strategic nexus. It will provide on-going clarity and focus. 

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Support Creates Resilience

At the bottom of the trough of chaos, people struggle. They are working hard, trying to stay focused and hoping that they are making progress. Day after day old problems come back and new problems present themselves. People can be come pretty burned out by all of it, and start to wonder if trying so hard is really worth it. They question the goals, the strategy, the company and, sometimes, even themselves. The trough of chaos can have a high price.

But when I visit with leaders and their teams, veterans of living through multiple troughs of chaos, I learn one simple and powerful lesson. They have worked hard to support each other through thick and thin. This is not a one time thing, but something that has gradually been built over time. Common language and a common understanding about mission help. Being trustworthy with each other, and building team level trust has taken place because they have defined acceptable group norms and behaviors in alignment with organizational core values. They also have developed a shared mindset, knowledge, experiences, and common identity amongst themselves. 

And they haven’t done the above once and moved on to other things, they have done it over and over. They do it whether they are in the trough of chaos or not in the trough of chaos. They have done it when old team members have left and they have done it when new people have joined their team. By supporting each other in this manner, they have created resilience and perspective, which is a powerful combination when working through the trough of chaos in interesting times.

This week, reflect first on whether or not your team role models a healthy level of support for each other. Next, figure out if you can define the team’s shared mindset. If you can not do this, then it is time to build it. And finally, reflect on whether or not your team celebrates the achievement of short term wins at a collective level or an individual level. With this information in mind, sit down with your team and discuss your findings. It could be the turning point for a whole new level of focus and outcomes in your organization.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Making Progress is Powerful

We were seated in the Board room when she looked up from her notes and said, “Now that is an interesting perspective. You’ve got me thinking. So, planned short term wins really make a difference?”

“Yes, they do,” I replied. “When people know they are making progress on a daily basis and can measure it within a reasonable time frame, this creates forward momentum. When they achieve a planned short term win, e.g. hitting a number on a predetermined date, this deepens their commitment and creates confidence in the team and in the goal.”

“I have seen this with kids in school,” she continued. “When a students sets a stretch goal and can achieve a particular score or mastery along the way, they have more commitment to keep learning the new material.”

“Exactly. And employees need the same thing. The critics will say some thing can not be done, but those who are achieving consistent short term wins can point to the progress they are making. They can connect effort with desired outcomes.”

“So why are people in leadership positions not developing more planned short term wins every day?”

“I don’t think that it has occurred to them,” I responded. “In the eyes of many leaders, a goal is binary, namely done or not done. There is nothing but the two extremes. However exceptional leaders, particularly ones who are living and working in interesting times and working through an extended trough of chaos, recognize that working on a goal in the midst of difficult times often is an exercise in frustration and constant interruptions. But by setting smaller goals or short term wins, referencing the work of John Kotter, people realize that step by step they are moving forward, and making a difference. It takes time to create planned short term wins, but it is worth the effort.”

This, week map out the short term wins you want to achieve in 2018. Share them with others and then collectively start working on making them happen. Over time and with patience, you will emerge from the trough of chaos with a better team and a better organization.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Delegation is Not Dumping

When things get crazy busy in the trough of chaos, some leaders just dump and run. They race into a meeting, late from their last meeting, and listen for a few minutes before deciding what to do. Then, they speak quickly and dump all of the work onto those in the meeting before running off to their next meeting. It’s a classic dump and run form of leadership. It’s not even command and control which, for the most part outside a strict military hierarchy, is mostly control and command. No, this form of leadership is mostly listen, freak out, react, dump, and run. It never works even if you’ve been doing it for eons.

First, dumping work onto people is not delegation. It’s just plan disrespectful to those who receive it, and who more likely are already busy themselves. Second, it reflects internal chaos rather than just external chaos. Third, it never builds ownership and quality outcomes. It’s just plain sloppy leadership.

When you meet excellent leaders who work for very good companies, they recognize that delegation is the transferring of clarity, focus and the authority to complete a task or project in a timely and accurate manner. They start by building ownership and clarity. This happens before the act of delegation takes place. When an excellent leader builds a day to day work environment where people are respected, trusted and treated with dignity, this same leader also role models these characteristics. Then effective delegation is a successful by product of their initial work.

Next, when an exceptional leader does delegate, they first make sure people understand the problem they are trying to solve and understand the decision architecture around the problem, i.e. who can and who can not be involved and how to make the important decisions related to the issues that are being delegated.

Finally, exceptional leaders recognize that the day to day experiences of employees impact not just the day to day life of the company, but also impacts the company’s ability to execute it’s strategy. I keep reminding leaders at this time period that the ways they lead and delegate in 2018 have a direct impact on what kind of company they will be in 2023, a mere five years away from this winter.

This week, do not choose to dump and run. Coach everyone within your circle of influence to not do it either. When we no longer tolerate poor delegation, we are making a long term commitment to doing the right things for the right reasons.

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