It’s been an incredibly busy time for my team and I recently as several clients are at some phase of their strategic planning efforts. Either they are gearing up for their planning retreats, they are working to implement their new plans, or they are identifying areas of their current plans that need modification. No matter which phase they are operating in, there is excitement, anxiousness, and yes, confusion. And, most of the excitement, anxiousness, and confusion are caused by the leaders.
Share your statements as facts not pleas for support.
Yesterday, I had two conversations with two organization presidents, both with the same basic question: “How do I tell the board/leadership team, we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing and stay relevant and viable?” My response to both presidents was, “Tell them what you just told me. However, say it as if you’re not afraid of this challenge yourself. You have to convey your message with confidence. Share your statement as a fact and not as a plea for support. How you say it impacts how they’ll respond.”
Pick your non-negotiable strategic priority.
A fundamental mistake many leaders make when creating or implementing a strategic plan is not being clear on at least one strategic area from which they are not going to budge. Too often, leaders will hold tight to every strategic initiative s/he and the team have identified, or the leader holds tight to none in an attempt to be flexible. Either behavior dooms a strategic plan and its implementation. As I shared with both clients yesterday: “Identify at least one of the strategic priorities you and your team have identified that you know (in your gut) is essential for moving your organization forward. If none of the other initiatives get off the ground, action in at least this area will help move your organization in the direction it needs to go.” If your strategic plan has been created well, there’s at least one strategic priority that will cause an organizational culture shift and change. Identify that priority and personally commit to it. Then, tell your board and leadership team that that strategic priority is “A Must Do”. Backing away from it is non-negotiable. This sends a clear message to others as to where you will push for funding, resources, time, and people to ensure success. It also points to where you expect to see results, and where you’re willing to risk your credibility to assure it. It’s a risky step to take, but it’s powerful, effective, and causes action.
Pace yourself and your team’s work for maximum impact.
Once your team has created its plan, and you’ve also identified your non-negotiable strategic priority, it’s time to put the plan into play. However, here again, leaders can often cause the most anxiousness and confusion. “How do I ensure they don’t fall behind schedule? How do I ensure they’re not doing things that are not on the new plan but are instead what they used to do?...” The answer is: You can’t. Not every person is going to do exactly what is needed in exactly the correct way at exactly the correct time. That’s reality. We know that as managers and leaders. Instead, focus on ensuring the timelines in the plan are challenging but realistic given everything else you and your team have to do as part of daily operations. Be aggressive with only those key actions that truly need to get started, and give yourself and your team a break on the others that need to occur as the other pieces start to fall into place. Your ability to control the pacing for maximum impact is crucial.
Perform yourself for maximum impact.
Finally, your ability to do what you need to do as the leader and your focus on the key strategic priority(ies), will tilt you towards a successful implementation or away from it. The board, the leadership team, and your entire team are watching you to assess how serious you are about needed change, planned change, and well-implemented change. If they don’t see you performing well to deliver on what you believe is important, why should they? A leader’s performance in implementing planned change should cause excitement, minimize anxiousness, and eliminate confusion. Does yours?