Planning your business strategy? Here are 4 tips for success

 strategy planning
A good strategy for your business is nothing without the people to put it into action. From yourself as a leader through your direct reports and onto the rest of an organisation, everyone contributes to the execution of strategy.

Often, recruitment and human resources demands will inform an integral part of a company’s strategy, so it’s important for leaders to understand where their talent gaps may be and how they can remain attractive for future employees.

  1. Understand your recruiting demands in advance

Ideally, you’ll be able to look at the strategy that’s guiding your business and know which positions you’ll need to start lining up candidates for. You need consider how your business might look in one, two and three years time and compare it with your current staff. Especially consider who has the potential to grow.

Building a succession plan to fill prospective gaps doesn’t just mean focusing on who you’ll have to hire. Take a look at which employees in your current staff can be developed to fill future roles as well. This will give you a better idea of which talent will come from internal sources and which you’ll need to recruit.

  1. Build a bench of possible candidates

Just like sports teams have a bench of substitutes ready to enter the fray if someone drops out, businesses can also benefit from having a list of possible candidates or other people in the industry they can tap on the shoulder when a vacancy opens up.

You can create a list yourself. Remember to also pick the brains of your team. But this is where a recruitment company can also be valuable, helping you to tap into a network of passive candidates and nurture them before you’re even exactly sure when you might have space for them. You will probably go broke if you use a recruiter to fill every position in your company, but recruiters see people you don’t and have good industry connections and candidate networks.

  1. Make your business attractive to candidates

Every part of your business has to be attractive to the talent you’re trying to appeal to. If you’re searching for people in areas with known skills shortages, any weak links will have an even greater impact.

It’s especially important to boost your digital presence, as the growth in online job advertisements means that people will be Googling you whilst applying for jobs. If your site looks out-of-date or is hard to navigate, it will send a strong message – and not a positive one.

You can also be active on social media to give a stronger impression of your role in the market. Many of the larger tech companies are masters of this. For example, a quick scroll through SAP’s Twitter feed makes it clear they’re an industry leader. This doesn’t mean you have to post about job opportunities all the time, simply communicating about your actions and achievements in your chosen industry can have a significant effect on how you’re perceived.

  1. Find out what current and future staff think about the business

You need varied and honest feedback to truly understand how other people – whether they’re former, current or potential employees – perceive your business. When people leave your business, it’s essential to use an “exit interview” to understand why. However, to get a more truthful answer, you may need to follow up a few months after they’ve departed, as this is generally when they’re more honest and open about their real motivations.

I also suggest that you get feedback on your current recruitment efforts. Ask people what they think about your website, your social media presence and anything else that could impact the way people think about your organisation.


Graham JenkinsBy: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Graham Jenkins

 

The first steps you need to take for change management

Change management tips
Strategic planning objectives have to be about much more than the financial impacts and considerations. Often they depend as much on an organisation’s culture and leader as the amount of money they can put forward, an issue that becomes clear when we look at success rates for strategic initiatives.

According to The Katzenbach Center, just 54 per cent of change management initiatives are successful, a significant warning to those who approach the process with any degree of complacency. This is why I always reinforce to leaders that strategic initiatives are actually part of a much wider change management process.

  1. Prioritise the real issues

The top reason that these strategic initiatives fail can simply be put down to change fatigue. There are too many issues – all of which are considered important – and no obvious level of prioritisation for people to follow.

This is not just an issue for the CEO to keep on top of either, as simply dictating orders isn’t going to be enough to overcome the fatigue some people feel when they’re forced to continually evolve in the workplace.

  1. Communication doesn’t guarantee engagement

The value of communication to strategic initiatives can’t be overstated. Most people know that leaders communicate plans and objectives to foster engagement, but not all realise how far they’ve actually got to go to ensure their employees have a genuine connection to these messages.

It’s not enough to just think of communication initiatives and related rewards as the keys to engagement – it’s the culture that’s the most important. If leaders are embedded in the organisation’s culture and understand what it means to employees, they can make messages much stronger, and much more relatable. It’s a connection that’s essential to ensure everyone throughout an organisation buys into what a leader wants to achieve.

  1. Consider a change management team

For major projects, it might even be worth employing a change management team. That’s something that needs to happen at multiple levels of an organisation, and before anything actually begins to happen. Again, they have to be much more than just talk to ensure they actually make a difference for other members of the organisation.

Senior people, especially those in the change management team, need to very visibly act out the sort of change they want to see in an organisation. That has to flow down through an organisation too. While it can start with a CEO, middle managers also have to exhibit the same enthusiasm for these new initiatives. This links to the idea above of going a step further to ensure people are engaged. It’s not what leaders tell employees that makes a difference, but what they show them through their actions and behaviours.

  1. Don’t forget about human beings

It’s easy to get too caught up in the structural elements and implications of a strategic initiative and forget how important people and their emotional connection to the organisation are. It’s something I’ve seen in an organisation I work with that relies on the services of around 3,000 volunteers.

Volunteers show up because of their emotional connection to an organisation’s cause, so leaders need to buy into that to connect with the workforce and enact change. It’s a lesson that applies to paid staff as well, as their emotional connection to their role is just as important when leaders are trying to make major changes.


BRichard-Applebyy: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Richard Appleby

4 ways to communicate your strategy more effectively

communicating strategy
Bringing people, strategy and finances together creates maximum value and momentum for any enterprise. However, it’s easy to get caught up in ‘business as usual’- fighting todays battles and focusing too much on the now, and not enough on the future. So what to do different and make that difference in trajectory?

  1. Business as usual- the quicksand of change

What I often find when a CEO presents a new strategy is that there are always new activities that staff have to undertake. Whether that’s new product updates or different ways to engage with clients, the result of a strategic planning exercise usually leads to people needing to do more work to take the business forward in a deeper or different direction – many of which fail as organisations do not have extra people, and nobody has extra time to dedicate to additional causes or tasks.

Avoiding falling into this hole is very difficult. The best way I know is to set up a limited number of initiatives with short deliverable times (like 90 days) and really break them down into chewable chunks which are then part of the ongoing weekly review

  1. Put it on the agenda- and follow up rigorously

You have to really hone your ability to bring all parts of an organisation and its workforce together. This might mean explicitly putting it on your agenda for weekly or monthly catch-ups with your team. Or, it could mean giving people tasks that will help them work towards these uniting goals. Get them to report back regularly so they can’t get lost under the excuses of ‘business as usual’.

This ongoing loop of meetings and feedback is the only way to actually get people and strategy to come to life and engage with each other. Once they’re engaged and invested in the process, it’s more likely to happen and harder for people to ignore.

  1. Be aware of the financial implications

A strategic initiative, no matter how much buy-in it has from other people in the business, isn’t effective without an understanding of the financial implications surrounding it. What will it cost? What are the budgets? What kind of return on investment can you expect from it?

Ultimately, everything we do within our businesses will be measured financially. In that respect, creating a strategic initiative that isn’t backed up by numbers or directed at a financial goal is all a bit meaningless.

  1. Work out how your strategy will cascade from employee to employee

Getting buy-in from a senior leadership team isn’t the difficult part of communicating a strategy; it’s ensuring you can get it to trickle down through the rest of the organisation that can be the real challenge.

Everyone involved in the creation of the strategy has to go back to their department and ensure their team is just as engaged and enthusiastic as they are about the plan and what they have to do. It’s about them replicating the same steps you put in place, such as scheduling updates and creating that feedback loop that keeps people accountable and reinforces just how important it is to work towards strategic goals.

Emotional intelligence and its role in strategic planning

Emotional intelligence
Strategic planning is planning to succeed. If you want to make success a reality for your business, it’s all down to how you implement the strategic initiatives. The true measure of a strategic plan’s strength is in how people engage with it and put it into practice.  Herein lies the biggest challenge of all and where I have seen so many leaders struggle.  It’s fact that’s led me to a certain maxim I live by in these cases: ‘the task is easy, it’s people who complicate things’.

You can never underestimate the ways people will complicate even the best laid plans, whether they mean to or not, which is why emotional intelligence (or EQ) is so important during the time of year when leaders are forming and implementing their strategies.

  1. You ignore the human factor at your absolute peril

As a coach, one of the queries I most get from other leaders is ‘how has my perfect plan gone so wrong?’. It’s often a case of simply not realising just how the human factors in an organisation can shape and evolve what people expected to happen in theory.

My favourite book on leadership explores this subject. The second chapter of Leadership on the Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky notes that people – whether consciously or subconsciously – often resist change initiatives, which is why conversations around the importance of getting buy-in are so common.

  1. Understand how people resist change

The ways people can resist change within an organisation manifest in four different ways, so understanding what they are and how to detect them is essential when implementing a new strategy. The first three are:

  • Marginalisation
  • Diversion
  • Attacking

However, the one I feel is the most dangerous is referred to by Heifetz and Linksy as ‘the seduction of leadership’, where people give the appearance they’ve bought into the initiative and are happy to contribute but really couldn’t be more disconnected. Again, this can be subconscious behaviour, but unless you are sure you’ve got complete buy-in, your team could intentionally or unintentionally lead you down a blind alley and undermine what you’re trying to achieve.

  1. Don’t get stuck in one leadership style

Every leader has a particular style that most suits them, a default mode of operation that’s effective most of the time. Despite this, getting stuck in one style and not being able to adapt can reduce your ability to connect with all members in an organisation.

The leadership style that’s most effective during strategic planning is the one that best fits the team member you’re trying to influence. This is where emotional intelligence makes a difference, because if you’re trying to influence someone who’s an important gatekeeper, you have to understand their personality, their motivations and their context surrounding your goal.

Again, the most important element of all this is what they aren’t telling you. What’s beneath the surface that’s going to affect their motivations and potentially change the way they act with regard to upcoming changes?

  1. EQ tool for influencing change

Broadly speaking, the types of people you’ll be looking to influence will be split across four main groups. These aren’t hard and fast rules as such, but a quick and useful toolkit nonetheless that can help you decide how best to influence those on whom success of the strategic plan depends They are:

  • Results oriented – Their mantra will be ‘when do we start and get this done?’ – they’re the fast-paced, action-oriented doer in the organisation
  • Detail-focused – These people care about the ‘how‘ and want to make sure everything is covered and accounted for before moving forward
  • The big-picture strategist – They’re all about the ’why‘, and often think more about the higher level rather than getting stuck in the details.
  • The people-oriented person – Finally, these professionals are all about the “who”. They want to know how decisions might make them and the team feel.

It’s this level of awareness that can help you better apply emotional intelligence traits to your strategic planning process. Knowing your leadership style, and how that will resonate with those around you, is essential to keeping on top of the (very) human elements of this process.


BHelen-Wisemany: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Helen Wiseman

 

10 tips on goal setting to make you a better leader

Top 10 tips on goal setting

We recently interviewed some of our business mentors and coaches for their best approach to goal setting, staying motivated and striking the right balance between your personal and business life.

If you are ready to step straight into action, then these top tips will give you a head start on goal setting.

1. Clarify your purpose

One integral question we need to start off with when setting goals and achievement is why. This could be answered by your organisation’s mission statement or by clarifying your own role.

An important motivator for goals and achievement is to define your purpose. Capturing the entrepreneurial spirit in:

‘Reasons come first, results come second.’ – Peter Voogd

Some of the questions to ask yourself include:

  • Why is this goal important to me to achieve?
  • Why am I willing to make the necessary sacrifices?
  • Why am I able to keep going in the face of adversity?

Answering these questions will begin to craft your why, which becomes your purpose, and helps to give you clarity.

Tip from Trent Bartlett, you can read his full list here

2. Be organised

The first step to ensure you’re able to remain accountable is to be organised. This means being well aware of what you want to achieve, and creating a method to list and track your progress towards the eventual goal.

This is the perfect opportunity to investigate the many technological solutions that can make tracking goals easier. Many of the people I mentor use an app called Trello which tracks all the various “projects” they have on at any point in time. You can tick them off as you complete them and set target dates for completion to ensure you’re on track.

Tip from Graham Jenkins, you can read his full list here.

3. Know your business cycle

Your business cycle will offer a logical window for the best time to set your goals.  Find the most suitable time for yourself, your team and your customers to set goals.

Drawing up the goals and visions for your business is an activity based on passion, rather than process.  Think about your objectives in the context of upcoming opportunities, current market conditions or the changing circumstances of your business. This can bring breakthrough moments of setting goals in context.

Tip from Allyn Wasley, you can read his full list here.

4. Be resilient

Like everything in life, meeting goals involves sticking it out and dealing with the challenges that will inevitably arise along the way. Ideally, to stay resilient you’ll want to try and keep your emotions in check and avoid getting flustered if things don’t go exactly to plan.

How flexible you are able to be with your goals will also affect how easy it is to stay resilient. Be prepared to put some goals aside, add new steps or refocus altogether, as long as they continue to align with a key purpose or vision, you will keep heading in the right direction.

Tip from Richard Appleyby, you can read his full list here.

5. Don’t forget to set your personal goals for effective goal setting

The goals you have for your business aren’t the only directives that should shape the months ahead. All too often, senior executives make a plan for the new year that doesn’t account for their own personal goals.

Most leaders spend the majority of their time working tirelessly on the company, to ensure it achieves greater value for shareholders or competes better in its particular market. It’s easy to neglect your personal investment in these goals, the impact on your life as well as that of the company. Answering the question of why, will help you to find a balance.

Tip from Ian Neal, you can read his full list here.

6. Ensure your bank understands you

It always surprised me when businesses, small or medium-sized, don’t have a relationship with their bank that involves regular meetings and strong understanding about their current status, and expectations for the future.

Everyone needs a bank for a loan from time to time. Either things are going very well and businesses have consumed a bit of their cash with rapid growth or there’s been a hiccup and they need a safety net. If there’s a relationship in place, the bank is much more likely to come through.

If the people at the bank understand a business and its goals and trust the leader, they’re a valuable ally if you need extra financial help. The key is for leaders to have built this relationship far before they need assistance – and that means keeping in touch even when everything is just ticking over as per normal.

Tip from Jerry Kleeman, you can read his full list here.

7. Find someone to hold you accountable

Depending on the type of goal you’re focusing on, there are a number of people who can hold you to account and ask you for regular updates. A board of directors will have one set of expectations to meet, which may differ from those of your financial controller.

You may be looking for someone more impartial like a business coach or mentor who is aware of what you are trying to achieve but doesn’t have the same attachment to your business. They can hold you to account in a non-judgmental way while still ensuring you’re being pushed in the right direction.

Alternatively, get your family involved, as this is a way to have a positive balance of personal and professional goals, while focusing on objectives that won’t harm your relationships. Again, they offer a valuable perspective on your goals that’s separate from people based within the business.

Tip from Graham Jenkins, you can read his full list here.

8. Find opportunities for disruption

Keeping an eye on the future of innovation and disruption is imperative. This is a key business trend at the moment for good reason.

Be sure that someone in the company has time to look at the future with disruption in mind. Either within the leadership team or appoint someone to focus on the future.

Not only do they need to keep an eye out for what may disrupt them, but also ask “What could I disrupt?”. There’s always a chance, no matter how well a business is doing, for an incumbent company to wipe the rule book clear and set new standards for an industry. Then, it doesn’t matter how good a business is compared to its traditional competitors because the goalposts have moved.

Tip from Jerry Kleeman, you can read his full list here.

9. Give the year a theme

For me, every year is based around a theme that my various goals and objectives are nested under. This mean that when I write goals out, I already have a prompt and direction.

Theming also frames this process but it also does something I find just as powerful: As the year goes along and we all get busy, sometimes we lose track of our specific goals, so I find having an overarching theme in mind provides a constant level of focus.

It could be one word, phrase or sentence.

I normally stick to one or two words. For example, my most recent theme for last year was simply ‘business’, as I had been doing a lot of leadership and not-for-profit work and wanted to reorient more towards the business side of my career.

Tip from Helen Wiseman, you can read his full list here.

10. Find motivation

A bit of extra pressure is good for keeping you on track, that’s part of the reason why it’s so important to enlist other people who are invested in your progress. I found there’s a way to take this motivation to the next step with an app called Crew Mojo, which enables other people to follow your various goals and tasks with regards to upcoming deadlines.

Knowing other people are keeping an eye on your promised deadlines helps you take the process a bit more seriously while also creating a channel where you can update invested parties ahead of time if you think a certain timeframe is going to be particularly tough to meet.

Using traditional goal setting along with apps to keep track of your progress is an excellent way to keep momentum in your business and personal life. With the right balance, you can stay accountable and achieve your goals.

Tip from Graham Jenkins, you can read his full list here.

Coming up to the next fork in your career road

Coming up to the next fork in your career road
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