Conducting effective communication around your organization’s strategy, roadmap and metrics is a process without an ending.
But rather than becoming exhausted by this, leaders need to get even better at communicating strategy if they are to benefit from the opportunities that good communication can surface for your organization.
We’ve worked with dozens of organizations to develop their strategic direction and underlying strategies and, along the way, we’ve also learned a few lessons on how to improve communication related to strategy and create a more transparent organization in the process.
The fact is that if everyone in your organization truly understands the strategy, each person will be able to provide more valuable feedback for moving forward, and you’re also going to see far greater success much sooner.
The best tools and techniques for communicating strategy will vary based on the size, type and scope of your organization, but there are a few practices that work well across all organizations. Try them out for yourself as you take our recommended action for this month.
ACTION FOR THE MONTH
Don’t rely on written communication alone when presenting strategy.
People have many different learning styles so you need to present your strategy in many different ways to ensure you’re not only reaching everyone, but also that everyone remembers and understands. So, be creative in how you present the plan because a unique and creative presentation that uses multiple formats (written, verbal, visual, experiential) is difficult to forget.
Make the message clear and relevant.
Prevent ambiguity by not using too many buzzwords or acronyms when defining the strategic terms in your plan. This is the time to use language that is crystal clear. It’s difficult for people to get on board and invested in a strategy if they are unclear about its intent or it’s left open to their own interpretation.
Ensure communication is a two-way street.
It’s important for leadership to communicate the strategy top-down to everyone in the organization. But it’s equally important that there are systems and forums for bottom-up communication. These should be available during the initial stages of strategy development and all the way through the metrics phase. Let your team know that you want their feedback and provide them with the forums to give it.
The lazy dog days of summer are here and in between trips to the pool, vacation and gearing up for the fall, I’ve been thinking about business hacks.
I realized that the business hacks I rely on most are a mix of habits and strategies that are more complex than a daily to-do list or yet another approach to better manage email, but less formalized and structured than activities like quarterly goal setting or meeting with my peer advisory group.
In fact, my best business hacks are really philosophies that help me operate at a higher level.
Even though they began as very deliberate, conscious thoughts, they have now become organic and natural – simply the way I do business.
Below are a few of the hacks that have become core to my success. I hope you’ll give them a try and I’d love to hear about your high-level business hacks as well – and how you’ve managed to integrate them into how you do business.
ACTION FOR THE MONTH
Try out one or all of my business hacks for operating at a higher-level and see if they don’t make a significant difference in your success:
Hack #1: Be Wrong
We spend so much time trying to avoid being wrong or making a blunder. This is a mistake and a real limit to growth. There’s nothing bad about being wrong unless you don’t learn from it. So, be wrong, make mistakes and learn from them. Know that every time you admit you’re wrong, you grow as a business person. I like to think that I make lots of mistakes, but I rarely make the same mistake twice.
Hack #2: Be Lazy, Find Your Multiplier
In order to grow your business exponentially (rather than incrementally), you have to find a multiplier. In other words, an opportunity, idea and/or trend that you can piggyback on and therefore expand your business more quickly. This frees up your mind from constantly trying to figure out what to do next – and you can put your focus on your longer term picture, thinking about options that are perhaps more difficult and less obvious. For example, in the organizations I work with most there’s been a tremendous amount of leadership transition as baby boomers retire. This trend provides a great opportunity for me to work with clients on strategy during transition. In the past year, I’ve developed significant expertise in this area and these engagements have been financially, professionally and personally rewarding – I really love the work. I can continue to piggyback on this trend, applying skills that are already well within my wheelhouse as I put my brainpower toward finding that next great idea.
Hack #3: Don’t Make More Time
You can always decide to make more money, but you literally can’t make more time. It’s finite – and it’s your most valuable asset. Instead of making more time, focus on making much more of the time you have. While this is a business hack I still haven’t perfected, I do set daily and quarterly goals to help me determine how best to spend my time and energy. When I keep my goals in mind, I find it’s much easier to spend my work time on those activities that represent my highest use and value. In short, I waste less time on activities that simply don’t have a high enough payoff. I’ve been in business long enough to know that if I spend my time on work that represents my highest use and value, the money will follow.
How do organizational leaders strike the right balance between consistency and agility when executing on strategy and leading their organizations?
While finding this balance can be tough, exceptional leaders are both consistent and agile as the situation requires.
Consistency is important in terms of financial performance, customer experience and service, and delivering quality offerings. Consistency also lends stability and confidence to the organization for employees, customers, investors and board members.
But if a leader is too consistent (especially within a changing environment or in the face of new data) they risk rigidity, and worse, being able to seize opportunity.
Agility is important as markets and conditions evolve and shift. In fact, the ability to be agile can be critical to success and sustainability. Just ask Blockbusters, Radio Shack or Sears. Agility requires organizational leaders to be intellectually curious, ready to learn from others and skilled at communication, collaboration and change management.
Of course, agility can quickly become lack of focus if there isn’t a balance.
So how do you as a leader determine the right balance and know when to make a shift?
ACTION FOR THE MONTH
The first step to striking the right balance is to understand your leadership style and approach:
Are you more consistent or more agile?
Armed with that insight, fill your team with leaders who have a complementary style and skill set.
If you tend to be very consistent, appoint a number two who will challenge you to be curious, ask questions, seek different viewpoints and data. Empower those around you to speak up and challenge you, too.
If you tend to be more agile, processes and systems will help you strike a better balance. So install strong operational structures that ensure consistency, including dashboards and metrics.
To retain agility within a structured environment, adopt an agile planning process for thinking about big strategic issues – one that is diverse and inclusive and, therefore, sets the stage for gaining a wider range of options and differing opinions.
Finally, make time to learn and grow as a leader. The more you learn and grow, the better you’ll be as a leader and the more you’ll walk that tightrope of consistency and agility with exceptional balance.