Monday, July 30, 2018

Find Your Sanctuary and Go There Often

There is a phrase from an article that has stayed with me for nearly twenty years. Back in the June 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine, William Taylor interviewed Harvard’s Ronald Heifetz in an article called “The Leader of the Future. In it, Taylor asked Heifetz the following question: 

“How do leaders maintain the stamina, the energy, and the passion that they need to keep pushing ahead?” 

Heifetz gave a brilliant answer when he shared the following: 

“Leaders … need a sanctuary, a place where they can go to get back in touch with the worth of their life and the worth of their work. I'm not necessarily talking about a physical place or an extended sabbatical. I'm talking about practical sanctuaries -- daily moments that function as sanctuaries…. I'm not peddling any particular kind of sanctuary; we all have to find our own structures. Unfortunately, though, people who get swept up in fast-moving companies often treat their partners and their sanctuaries as expendable luxuries rather than as necessities…. But countless people think that they can exercise leadership without partners or without a sanctuary. To stay alive as leaders -- to tend the wounds that we inevitably receive when we raise tough questions -- requires maintaining these structures in our lives.”

I have pondered this insight for years and it is, in part, why I ask all my students who participate in the From Vision to Action Leadership Training to read this article.

After thinking about this insight for nearly two decades, I am more convinced than ever that great leaders have “daily moments that function as sanctuaries.” For example, over the years, I have listened to people share with me about the importance and value of their daily devotional readings. Some have talked to me about their weekly family dinners on Sunday evening. Others have shared with me the joy of their daily run. Some have even talked about the importance of getting out of the house at the end of the day and walking their dog.

Over time, I have come to the understanding that it is not as much what is the sanctuary, but that we have them and utilize them on a daily or at least regular basis.

In a world where instability is chronic, uncertainty is permanent, change is accelerating, and disruptions are common, having a daily sanctuary time or place is crucial. Our challenge this day and every day is to give ourselves permission to go there for rest and rejuvenation. 

This week, find your sanctuary and then go there often.

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

Monday, July 23, 2018

Celebrate Achieving Personal Goals

Being a leader is hard work. Some days you have to deal with issues that no one else wants to deal with because they are complex or complicated. Other days everything about the future seems like a series of frustrating choices. And finally, there are days where you have to keep pushing forward through the endless meetings and paperwork, hoping that something good will come from all of the details. In short, being a leader can involve long days, short nights and lots of worrying, time, and energy.

Every week, I visit in person and over the phone with people in leadership positions. They share with me about their challenges and at times about their successes. During these conversations, we often talk about the importance of planned short term wins. Dan S. Cohen in his book, The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for Leading Change in Your Organization (Harvard Business School Press, 2005) notes that an effective short-term win has the following characteristics. First, they are measurable, visible, and timely. They also are relevant to all stakeholders, relevant to the objectives in the strategic plan, and relevant to the external strategic landscape. Finally, they are relevant to the people who need to deal with organizational change resistors. In essence, short term wins builds confidence and momentum to keep moving through the long days and short nights.

But, upon reflection, I have noticed something else about great leaders that I have not seen in the literature. While they are planning and working to successfully achieve a series of short term wins, they also are working on their own personal goals outside of work. The achievement of these personal goals become milestones which help them have the energy and commitment to push through the work challenges before them. When these leaders share with me about achieving a personal goal, they are reenergized and eager again to deal with the complicated and the complex problems before them at work. 

Over the years, I have listened to people share about running their first 5K race, a half marathon, or even a full marathon. I have listened to people talk about remodeling a kitchen, landscaping their back yard, or building a deck. I have listened to them share about exercising every day or participating in a choir. What I have figured out over time is that it is not about the size of the goal as much as how meaningful it is to the person who is achieving it. It is the pride, joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from the achievement of that goal that makes the differences and gives the individual the capacity to handle what ever surfaces at work.

This week, plan short term wins at work and work hard to achieve them. But, also this week, set some personal goals which make your life more meaningful and special. It is the combination of the two that separates the good leaders from the great ones.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Expand Your Circle

We were sitting together over lunch, exploring why the senior team was not working well as a team, when I asked him the following question: “So, when I am not visiting from out of town, who do you turn to for perspective on these issues?”

He stopped eating and turned to me, saying “What do you mean?”

“Well,” I responded, “who are the people you turn to for assistance when you struggle?”

“Mostly myself,” he replied.

“That works to a point,” I explained, “but sometimes we do not always see things clearly. Remember the old adage, ‘the fish will never discover the ocean.’ You need a circle of people who will help you ‘discover the ocean’, for lack of a better metaphor.”

“Interesting. Do you have people who do this for you?”

“Definitely. I call them my Kitchen Table Cabinet. They are a collection of people from different backgrounds with whom I have breakfast, coffee, lunch, or dinner with on a regular basis. They help me see the bigger picture. They ask me questions that I am not asking myself. They ask me questions about things I am not even thinking about at this time period. They share insights and lessons learned. They share. I share. We explore, and as a result, I am able to do this work better. So, who should be a part of your Kitchen Table Cabinet?”

What followed was a 30 minute exploration into who are the key people in his life who he could turn to for insights and perspectives. I encouraged him to schedule time with these people on a regular basis.

Six months later, when I was back in town, to facilitate a strategic review, he gathered this small group of people around a table at the same restaurant where I had asked him the question. He shared what he needed from the group and how often he would like us to gather. Everyone listened respectfully and agreed to support him through his current challenges.

While driving me back to the hotel where I was staying overnight, he paused at a red light and said, “That was a good beginning. I am glad I gathered everyone together. Now my challenge is two fold. First, I need to stay in touch with all of you on a regular basis. Second, I need to expand that circle. They are like a corporate board where one is constantly recruiting new members given the changes in the external strategic landscape.”

As the light turned green, I smiled and said, “Yes. You got it.”

We drove in silence for about a mile and then he said, “Thanks. That was a good question six months ago.”

“My pleasure,” I responded. “It’s why I am part of your Kitchen Table Cabinet.”

This week, figure out who should be a part of your Kitchen Table Cabinet. And then, visit with each of them on a regular. Building and maintaining perspective is very important in the world of leadership given all that is happening in the big world at this time period.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fall 2018 Roundtable - Early Bird Special!

Now that the July 4th celebrations have passed and everyone is back at work, it is the time for us to turn our attention to the Fall 2018 Roundtable! 

On September 19 - 20, 2018, we will gather at the Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, Iowa for the Fall 2018 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. 

Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

- 8:30 am - Arrival & Visiting Time

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - What is the foundation for long term, successful teamwork?

- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break

- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders build successful teams?

- 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm - Lunch & Networking 

- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders maintain successful teams?

- 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm - Break

- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders improve team performance?

- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, September 20, 2018

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am -What are the keys to being a successful team leader?

- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - Integration and Application

- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

Starting today through Friday, July 27, I am offering an “early bird” registration price for the Fall 2018 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

If you sign up during this time period, and submit payment before 7/27/18, the price will be $ 275.00 for the two days and $ 175.00 for a single day. Here is the link to the registration form:

 Please write “early bird special” on it when you send it to me by mail or fax (# 319 - 643 - 2185).

After 7/27/18, the registration price will be $ 295.00 for the two days and $ 195.00 for a single day.

I hope you will reserve September 19 - 20 on your calendar, and e-mail me today about whether or not you and your team are coming. Then, when the first leaves are just starting to turn, all we will need to do is meet at the Fall 2018 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable.

Thinking ahead, and looking forward to seeing you in September!

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Embrace Your Challenges

Last week, I shared that great leaders accept their path in the world of leadership, and keep moving forward. In essence, they own it. They recognize that “this is mine to do.” 

Upon further reflection, I think that great leaders not only own the path and keep moving forward but they also embrace their challenges. As Marcus Aurelius wrote so very long ago, “Our actions may be impeded . . . but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

As leaders, we recognize that our work involves, people, structure, systems and culture. We explore mission, vision and values. We spend hours working on strategy, brand identity, and understanding the strategic landscape. 

And yet, the result of all this work is that we will continue to experience obstacles and challenges. They do not go away. They just keep coming. People, including ourselves if we are honest, feel frustrated, overwhelmed, anger and even confusion by this. But in the end, we, who sit in the leadership chair, have to make decisions and keep moving forward.

Here is where the great leaders do something unique. They understand what Andy Grove, former CEO of INTEL, meant when he wrote, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.”

Ryan Holiday in his wonderful book, The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, Penguin, 2014, writes “It’s a huge step forward to realize that the worst thing to happen is never the event, but the event and losing your head.” Great leaders embrace the difficult challenges before them and do not loose their head. As Holiday continues, “See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must.”

As the Haitian proverb states, “Behind mountains are more mountains.” There will be more problems in the future. This is normal in the world of leadership. However, our choice to persevere through them is what separates the great leaders from the good leaders.

This week, embrace the challenges you have. Work with others to solve them. Then, learn from them. But, in the end, always keep moving forward with commitment, clarity and integrity. This is the path to being a great leader.

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Lessons Learned From Countless Hours of Visiting With Great Leaders

During the last 30+ years, I have visited with thousands of people in executive, management and supervisory positions. Over a meal, a cup of hot coffee, in the midst of a training, or via the phone, together we have explored a diversity of subjects, problems and issues, both large and small. Upon reflection, I have gleaned some unique insights about what separates the good leaders from the great ones. These lessons learned are not about big things such as the importance of good public speaking skills or the ability to explore things strategically as much as small personal choices which create the capacity to handle large or small things.

Recently, I was concluding a very good breakfast meeting when I realized something interesting. This particular leader was walking his path and owning his journey. This sounds simplistic on one level, but it is actually rare,

So many times, I meet leaders who want everything to go smoothly and without problems. They want everything to be perfect and without a single interruption or point of contention. They expect the world of leadership and organizational change to be hassle free. And they complain vigorously when it is not.

On this particular morning, I realized that this individual was not expecting any of that to take place. He had come to the conclusion that there will be problems and challenges, and that he was at peace with this. He was not trying to be someone else in some other place, or trying to mimic something that he had read in a book or article. Instead, he was at peace to walk his path in the world of leadership and to own it.

When I got back to the office, I realized that this was what set him apart from others. It was his choice to be at peace with the complicated and the complex. He was not afraid of the difficulties or the problems. He was not going to run away from them. He was simply going to keep moving forward.

Walking one’s path and owning it is not an easy choice, but it is a powerful one. To grasp the notion, that “on my watch and while I am in this leadership position, these are my challenges; this is my path.” And then to own it, in the sense of not shying away from the difficulties, the challenges and the work. This is what separated him from the rest that I regularly meet.

This week, be a leader who understands that life can at times be difficult and challenging. And then, keep moving forward in spite of the difficulties and the challenges. Walk the path. Own the path. Be at peace with the journey.

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