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