Monday, February 25, 2019

Real Support Can Be Transformational

I can remember the day just like it was yesterday. My wife, a very dear and trusted friend and myself were sitting around the kitchen table after dinner. The kids were in bed and we were sipping tea.

The discussion for the evening was me. I was struggling big time. The difficulties of my past childhood experiences in combination with the challenges of being a parent and starting a business were overwhelming me. All of my coping strategies were not working very well. I just did not know what to do.

So, one evening a dear older friend came over and sat down with us. I poured out all that was bottled up inside me. Feelings, fears, facts and more feelings came out. I told her what I was doing and what I was feeling. I told her how I was coping. And I took the risk to tell her how I was not really coping well with the pace, the pressure and the expectations.

Finally, I turned to our friend and said, “I don’t know where to go from here. What do you think I should do with all of this?”

She paused and replied, “You need to visit with someone on a regular basis who you trust and who you know gets it on more than one level. There is a time and a place in each person’s life where an ally and a confidante can be very helpful.”

Given she was an experienced counselor, she gave me the name and the phone number of someone who she thought would be a good match for me. I called them and began a powerful journey of better understanding myself and my life journey. The person who I am today reflects the work we have done together over the years.

I share this here to remind all people in leadership positions that having allies and confidantes in your life is essential to being able to survive the pressures of your position. There are times when we will realize truth of the old Zen phrase, “the fish will never discover the ocean”. We need people in our lives at work and at home who can help us discover the bigger picture and who can help us to navigate the changes once we do.

This week never forget that real support in combination with loving and truthful advice can be a transformative experience. Having a network of allies and confidantes is foundational to being a successful leader.

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Importance of Presence

Raising two active and engaged children plus running my own business meant that our lives were busy all the time. Weekends were always full, especially if I had traveled most of the week before for work. As a result, there came a time period in my younger years when I just did not go to church regularly on Sunday morning. 

After skipping out for quite a long period, I decided one Sunday morning to go. When the service was over, one of the older members came up to me and said “I missed you.”

I was stunned by the comment and I guess my face showed it.

As he continued, “Your presence matters to me and to others. We not only come to worship but we also come to be support each other during worship. Your presence makes a difference. When you are not here, I notice. The circle is not complete. Please come. We need you to be a part of the whole.”

My eyes filled up with tears. I was deeply moved by his words. 

“I will come regularly on Sunday morning,” I responded. “I didn’t know that I made a difference to you and others.”

The first step of being engaged is to simply show up, to be present. The second step is being committed to the whole process and to others involved in the process. But in the end, always remember that your presence matters. You matter to more than just yourself.

This older member of our congregation has passed away now and he is missed by all of us. He was a stable and powerful presence in a word of turbulent change.

This week, I challenge you to show up and to be a steady and clear presence in your work and at home. You matter more than you will ever know to many different people in your life. You will be missed if you are not present.

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

Speak Less and Listen More

It was during my first year of teaching high school history and I was deeply frustrated. Overwhelmed by the combination of classroom management and trying to figure out how to get tenth grade students interested in learning history, I stopped by the Academic Dean’s office for advice and counsel.

“Why can’t I get this, Jim?”, I inquired. “Every day I am putting my all into this class and I feel like I trying to push a rope up a hill. It’s just not working for all of us in the classroom.”

He sat quietly for a moment and then said, “Teaching is hard work. It is not a you speak and they learn equation. Instead, you have to frame it up as an on-going conversation, a dialogue. Think of it as a give and take between you and the students. You need to give and you need to receive. My advice: speak less and listen more. Then, they will respond.”

I nodded my head and thought to myself, “What have I got to lose? It can’t get much worse than this.”

The following day I taught a bit of new material and then I asked an open ended question. Next, I waited. Sure enough, students started to answer the question and then they shared even more. I had to be patient but during the coming days  when I asked more open ended questions, more and more people spoke up in class and shared. We did cover all of the material and my students were more engaged in their learning.

Now, many decades later, I often recommend to struggling leaders to “speak less and listen more.” Most report to me that it makes a major difference in the depth of engagement they witness throughout their organization.

This week, practice speaking less and listening more. I believe you will find over time that it is a powerful way to role model authentic leadership.

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Key to Empowering Culture

Routinely now, people in leadership positions want to talk with me about the importance culture and strategy. Most want to empower their culture and leverage it strategically. While I believe this is an important point and can make a world of difference, I often point out to them that 80% or more of their staff report to a front line supervisor and work side by side with a small group of co-workers. For them, this circle of relationships is the sum total of their experience with “the company culture”. For them, the company culture is always a day to day operational experience.

Furthermore, we as leaders need to recognize that if these relationships are healthy and effective then there is the potential for operational excellence, company culture and the strategic plan to become real and inter-connected. Our challenge as leaders is that we are not helping supervisors make these connections. We also are not building cultural clarity and alignment on a routine basis.

On April 10 - 11, 2019, we will be exploring in-depth the interaction between operational excellence, culture and strategy during the Spring 2019 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. 

Here is the agenda for your review:

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

- 8:30 am - Arrival & Visiting Time

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am - What is the connection between excellence, culture and strategy?

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

- 10:30 am - 12:00 pm - How do leaders build cultural clarity and alignment?

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

- 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm - How do leaders empower their culture?

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

- 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm - How do leaders deal effectively with too many initiatives at the same time?

- 4:30 pm - Adjourn

Thursday, April 11, 2019

- 9:00 am - 10:15 am -What do successful cultural leaders actually do?
- 10:15 am - 10:30 am - Break 

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

- 12:00 pm - Adjourn

Location: Courtyard by Marriott in Ankeny, Iowa

Price: $ 295.00 for the two days and $ 195.00 for a single day.

Here is the link to the registration form:

Hope you will join me at the Spring 2019 Roundtable as we explore and seek a deeper understanding about the keys to empowering organizational culture.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Invest In Learning

When I first came to Iowa, I had the most unique job possible. I was a high school history teacher and taught one period of Western Civilization history to tenth graders every day. I also was one of two boys dorm sponsors at the boarding school where I worked. And finally, I was head of the entire physical plant. I worked with two people and numerous student crews to get things done each day. 

Some days, I fixed a broken toilet, worked with a contractor or made sure all of the grass got mowed. Other days, I was trouble shooting a broken furnace, plowing the school out on a snowy morning or attempting to keep up with all of the burned out light bulbs across the entire campus. Whatever day it was, there was always way more to get done than hours in the day. And, of course, there were numerous emergencies that took place. It was a high school and teenagers can be hard on doors, windows, bathrooms and just about everything else.

One day, my boss, the head of the entire school, came up to me and said, “Geery, you are doing a good job of staying on top of things here at the school. The physical plant shows it.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

“I want you to consider taking some in-depth one day seminars at Iowa State University this year. In particular, I want you to consider taking classes in energy efficient construction. There is a lot of new research in this area and I think it would be good for you to know more about it. I will take the first class with you but then I want you to take the rest of them.”

I was stunned by the offer. Our budgets were tight that year and he was offering to send me back to school. Before I could question his offer, he continued, “I believe in learning and in particular I believe in your learning.” 

I accepted his offer and regularly traveled to Ames, Iowa to participate in some fascinating, one day classes on energy efficiency taught by top professors and researchers at Iowa State. While I knew very little about construction and was not a builder, I did learn a tremendous amount of great information on this  subject.

But most important was that I learned something about leadership. The simple statement of “I believe in your learning” transformed my problems into challenges and empowered me to want to do even better. This act of support meant the world to me and helped me through many difficult and complex problems.

This week, I challenge you to find someone on your team and to invest in their learning. And if you are a team of one, then I challenge you to give yourself permission to invest in your own learning. Over time, it will give you the ability to transform your challenges into achievements, too.

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