Monday, May 21, 2018

What is the importance of caring within successful organizations? - part #1

Since the events of September 2008, we have been living in very difficult and for many “traumatic” times. These last 10 years have been filled with uncertainty, chaos, and anxiety.

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in their very good book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, say that “… post-traumatic growth could take five different forms: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities.”

As leaders of an organization, I believe we can not always deliver all of the above but I do believe we can do one very important thing. We can create a culture of welcome and belonging in every organization. After visiting so many different organizations over the last two years, I have come to the conclusion that the successful ones are in part successful because they have done this. In these organizations, we feel we belong. We feel like our voice matters. We feel like our efforts matter. We feel supported. And finally we feel like we are part of a community, a tribe, a team, or a family, which ever term best captures this feeling for you.

At the Fall 2017 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable during a discussion on resilience, one of the participants shared that from their observations people who feel like they belong or do belong to a church don’t burn out as much, are able to be more resilient, and don’t feel stuck in life.

While I don’t think there is one singular thing a leader can do to create a culture of welcome and belonging, I think there are three things a leader can do. First, they need to role model respect in all they do. Second, they need to never tolerate disrespectful actions by others. Third, they need to speak publicly about how respect and integrity are part of the company’s culture and the company’s core mission. These three small actions add up to a big impact when embraced by all people in leadership positions within a company.

This week, evaluate how well you are doing the above three things. If needed, make some changes so you are doing them extremely well on a day to day basis. More adversity is coming but the importance of caring is always fundamental to success.

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

How do leaders help themselves and others to learn better? - Part #2

As leaders, according to Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World (Grand Central Publishing, 2016), we suffer from two major problems. They are as follows:

The Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.

Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.

From my experience, I think Newport is spot on. We as leader do tend toward the path of easiest behaviors and seeing busy as the definition of success. Therefore, our challenge as leaders is to role model something different.

First, to overcome the path of least resistance and busyness as proxy for productivity, we need to get a coach, inside or outside the organization, and/or a mentor. These individuals, who we respect, will provide us with feedback and perspective. They will help us to role model learning rather than just talk about learning.

When I reflect on the best mentors I’ve encountered in my life, they all focused on a couple of small but important things. For example, be more conscious of how you choose to spend your energy and time. Choice is an action, and we always have control over how we choose. Greg McKeown in his excellent book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Crown Business, 2014) builds on this concept and asks us to think deeply about our choices.

I think about this because of a recent experience. I was participating in a graduation dinner for an extended leadership training that I had just completed. The young fellow sitting next to me asked a great question: “I really like this job and I want to stay here for the rest of my career. I have 20+ more years until I retire. How do I not burn out from all of the work?”

The older woman executive on his other side replied, “Keep learning, and recognize that the job will change over time. And that you will change over time in the job too.”

When he was done pondering this insight, I responded. “Be curious in a positive way. Seek to understand more than to be understood. Say to people ‘Tell me more.’ This is a powerful act as a leader. And finally, keep reading.”

He finished his beer and said “I can do this. I thought it would be big stuff but I have realized now that these little things are big things.”

I smiled and nodded. Constant learning is all about doing the little things that have a big impact.

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

How do leaders help themselves and others to learn better? - Part #1

When we zoom out and look at the big picture right now, we are confronted with some uncomfortable information. First, work today is more about reacting and responding to e-mail than actually doing professional activities which create new value. According to Cal Newport in his thought-provoking book, Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World (Grand Central Publishing, 2016), a 2012 McKinsey study found that the average knowledge worker now spends more than 60 percent of the work week engaged in electronic communication and Internet searching, with close to 30 percent of their time dedicated to reading and answering e-mail alone.

Second, in the normal, day to day, highly distracted work place, we expect everyone to continually get better at their jobs. However, we rarely give people feedback or tools which can help them do this. We also rarely give them regular time or space to learn or improve.

Third, we expect employees to move through the normal group development stages rapidly, namely forming, storming, norming and performing. However, from my perspective, we want improving which takes place after the performing stage, but we do not understand fully how it actually happens.

In short, given the above, we know that leaders can shape understanding or destroy it through their actions. Leaders can create clarity or confusion, especially if they are giving mixed messages. And finally, leaders can create work environments which are based on learning and respect or on distrust and silo protectionism.

The first step to helping people learn is to a build learning ecosystem within the organization. My definition of an ecosystem at work revolves around the notion of a group of people interacting and functioning well as a community. This happens when all involved create and execute their quarterly personal development plans. Recognizing that every 3 year strategic plan needs to be broken down into a 1 year organizational plan, and that all 1 year organizational plans need to be broken down into 1 year division/department plans, the goal each year is to have a 1 year personal plan which is made up of 4, 90 day plans. If this happens, then most 90 day plans are in alignment with the company’s strategic goals. These 90 day plans are focused on performance based goals.

But the big question for us here today is the following: What are the learning goals to help someone improve their performance? Most organizations have performance based goals but rarely set learning goals to improve performance. If they do set performance and learning based goals, then it is vitally important that they get the time and support to execute these goals.

This week, check out whether or not your key people have performance goals and performance improvement based goals. Next, make sure they are getting the time, support, and space to do this level of learning. Our overall goal from this action is to build a shared mindset around continually wanting to get better.

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