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