“The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy.” — Harvard Professor Michael Porter
Your value as a leader stems largely from your role as team visionary, the person who defines the priorities for your group.
In the modern workplace, you do this best not by executing decisions, but by engaging your team members’ energies. Your ultimate goal should be to channel their efforts, abilities, and dedication in such a way that they align as closely as possible with the strategic priorities of your organization.
So easy to say — but so hard to do.
Focus like a laser
Once you’ve formulated your strategy, be prepared to focus like a laser and direct every bit of energy you can spare toward implementation. That doesn’t mean you have to run yourself into the ground to accomplish this, but you do have to buckle down and make every effort count.
Suppose you’ve outlined what you think is the perfect strategy for your group, but your team just can’t nail it. Clearly something’s wrong, but what?
This is one of those times when you need to pull the caravan over at the nearest rest stop and start checking under the hood.
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Four steps to keep your team engaged
Take a look at these process components and make sure they’re properly engaged:
- Communication — You may think you’ve fully communicated your strategy to your team, but have you really? Repeatedly, surveys of corporate workers reveal that most of them have no clue about the company’s overall strategy. When they first started work, someone pointed them in a certain direction, told them to get moving, and they’ve been going that way ever since. Mostly they don’t know why; nor do they care, as long as the paychecks keep coming. Rather than allow this to continue, sit down with your employees, outline exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, and show them how you’ve designed their duties to get them there.
- Motivation — To care or not to care: that’s the question guiding the lives of most employees. Most want to get their pile of work done so they can go home. If you expect the team to fire on all strategy cylinders, give them reasons to do so. Decent salaries, bonuses, regular raises, extra days off for good work, promises of a dream vacation for the year’s most productive employee…all can encourage your people to start aiming for the bull’s-eye. Bribery? Maybe, but incentives work.
- Means — Speaking of the bull’s-eye, do you really expect your teammates to nail it with a rubber band shooter? At the very least, give them a blowgun…or better yet, a longbow … or better yet, a high-powered rifle. In other words (lest we take this shooting analogy too far given today’s climate), give them the tools they need to accomplish your goals. Those may include the right wrenches and screwdrivers, PCs, special software apps, training, or other enablers they require to get from here to there.
- Strategy — If nothing else seems to work, examine your strategy inch-by-inch. You may discover flaws at some fundamental level, possibly because you’ve lost sight of the market, your team’s capabilities given the new realities, or the willingness of others to work with you. Whatever the cause, if the strategy just won’t work, you have no choice but to retool it.
Productivity in perspective
Let’s call a spade a spade: if your team members try hard and still can’t nail your strategy, then it’s your fault, not theirs.
Your strategy may be wrong, or you don’t have the right people in place to implement it. Try the tactics I’ve outlined above, and hopefully it won’t be long before your people start nailing those strategic targets to the wall.
This was originally published on Laura Stack’s The Productivity Pro blog.