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?
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
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.
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.
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.
This is a great time of year for you to either come up with or review you professional objectives or personal goals and how they fit with some of the grander strategic goals for the business. It’s a chance for you work out which of your priorities are really critical for yourself and for the organisation.
Planning for an organisation’s future involves not just creating a strategy but also managing the human resources necessary to actually implement it. However, you also need to take responsibility for yourself.
Sit, reflect and be still
When asked what the first thing he will do when he leaves office, Barack Obama simply said he wanted to be still and reflect, and I think that’s something we need to do as well. From time to time, we should give ourselves the chance to reflect and think about priority goals for us and our businesses.
That includes – although it may sound cliched – thinking about things like what we need to do to stay innovative, what could disrupt us and how could we disrupt our own industry? Consider the steps you could take to prepare for these concerns and work out what you would have to do to start achieving them.
Coach your direct reports
It’s all well and good for you to be across your strategy, but communicating that to your direct reports so it can cascade throughout the rest of the organisation is an ongoing discussion, not a one-off meeting or presentation.
Each month, you should sit down with these people for a coaching session where you’re not just telling them what to do, but actually providing guidance, listening to their concerns and helping them meet their goals. It’s an approach that links personal and professional goals, helping your team understand the options open to them and which ones are worth focusing on moving forward.
Understand that there’s a deficit of trust in the world
Without getting too political, a few events over the past year heavily publicised an issue that’s affecting people at all levels: There’s a shortage of trust between people and their leaders.
I think the thing that’s really going to separate regular organisations from great ones over the next year or two will be the sense of trust they can cultivate. Employees and customers have lost trust in leaders on all fronts, from those in their place of work through to politicians and media leaders as well.
Each company will have to investigate its own unique concerns, but in general business leaders should be asking how they can ensure their employees trust them and what they need to do to grow and maintain that. The days of people listening to you purely because you are the boss are over, so you’ve really got to work to overcome that trust deficit that’s out in the world at the moment.
What did you overlook last year?
Creating, communicating and implementing a strategy demands a significant personal investment. Not only have you got to manage your own personal productivity, you need to be on top of how the rest of the organisation is engaging with your strategic plans.
Consequently, it’s easy to let thing fall by the wayside. One of the first things that’s often neglected is communication because it seems like it’s just easier to do everything yourself. That’s an unwinnable game, because you just can’t take on that amount of work, you have to delegate to people you know can dissipate the message throughout the organisation.
The more you overload yourself and forget to communicate, the quicker it all spirals down to impact the rest of the people you rely on, consequently eroding that trust that’s so difficult to create in the first place.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Jerry Kleeman
When it comes to goal setting, people are more likely to have business goals rather than personal ones.
My approach is to ensure leaders are able to recognise and manage the inevitable imbalance between achieving both work and life goals. People use popular frameworks such as SMART or Objective Key Results (OKR), often missing an important step, which is the why.
Whether your aim is business or personal goal setting, these tips are framed to help seek clarity and understanding the purpose behind goals.
It doesn’t matter which framework you use, as long as you know your reasons why your goals are important to you.
Clarity of vision
Goals are short term, visions are not. Goals are specific and quantifiable, while visions are broad, all-encompassing ideas of how you want your life or business. Visions capture how you want your goals to look, feel and even be.
Goals lack a deeper meaning if they are not paired with visions that provide purpose and significance. Setting goals without a vision is crazy.
Firstly, you should have a compelling vision that your goals are embedded within, which will drive more lasting and meaningful achievement and progress.
Inevitably, goals can become self-defeating if there is a myopic focus. Holding fast to a single vision enables adaptability and resilience to what is important in this fast changing and distracting world.
Clarity of purpose
One integral question we need to start off with when undertaking goal setting and goal achievement is why. This could be answered by your organisation’s mission statement or clarifying your own role.
There are two main reasons that setting a clear and compelling why is so powerful:
- The first is inspired and purposeful action. Which means getting clear on why you are doing what you are doing. When you have a powerful why attached to your goals, you know exactly what and whom you are doing it for.
- The other is sacrifice. When you have a powerful and compelling why, you will be much more likely to pay the price to achieve the goal.
The quote by Friedrich Nietzsche sums this point perfectly: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.’
If you have not defined your purpose then you are missing one of the most important motivators for goal achievement. As entrepreneur Peter Voogd said: ‘Reasons come first, results come second.’
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.
At all levels of organisations, role clarity is critical. Team members need to have a perfectly clear understanding of everyone’s role expectations of them and the reasons their roles exist in the organisation in the first place.
The responsibility to ensure the understanding of roles and create an effective team structure rests squarely with the leader.
Most importantly, however, especially for personal goals: Share them with family. A number of people use vision boards and all sorts of great tricks to direct their personal goals. Too many times when asked what their partner thinks, they’ve said ‘Oh no I haven’t shown them’.
These decisions and your goals affect their lives too. By having a joint purpose you gain an extra level of investment, and a new sounding board for further ideas and support.
Clarity of importance
The point of goals is not to successfully complete tasks we blindly set ourselves, nor is it to tick off goal checklists or bucket lists of trivialities. What truly counts is the ability to master the right kind of big goals, by embedding your goals within your business vision and purpose.
Angela Brown Oberer said ‘You’ll never leave where you are until you decide where you would rather be’. Without knowing the purpose behind your goals and what the end result should look like, you’re stuck with objectives that don’t mean anything in the long run.
The harsh reality is that your true goals, the ones that are most important to you, take the most effort, dedication and sacrifice to achieve.
Your compelling why will allow you to endure the challenges and obstacles that are sure to arise. When others quit and give up, you will develop the agility, resilience and fortitude to keep going.
You can only accomplish those kinds of goals when you’re willing to question assumptions regularly and re-evaluate as necessary, so you achieve what counts in a handful of major elements that really matter.
Clarity of how
Bringing together clarity of vision, purpose and importance to then determine how you will approach your goal setting and achievement is the final step.
There are lots of goal setting frameworks such as SMART and OKR that turn the exercise into a process that’s easy to follow. However, you can easily follow the mantra of Steve Covey: Begin with the end in mind.
This reminds you to begin each day, task or project with a clear line of sight of your desired ultimate direction and destination. You then have to be agile enough to constantly flex and be proactive, which means as long as you are making the right things happen, you’re getting close to achieving your goals.
A personal mantra (what I live by) or a personal legacy vision statement (what people would say about me at my funeral) is a simple but powerful way for keeping you in check.
Clarifying the vision, the purpose, importance and method, helps to turn your goals in to actions.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Trent Bartlett
George was having a terrible day at work. The deal he was sent to conclude had irrecoverably broken down, with key terms rejected and feelings hurt.
He had done everything by the book and followed best practice methods. However, he left without anything to show for his months of advanced negotiations. But unlike many business leaders, he did not take the red-eye home, reviewing the evident failures along the way. No, he in fact had months to muse over his unsuccessful negotiations as it was 1793, and George Macartney was returning home following the failure of the first British diplomatic mission to China.
Macartney faced a number of challenges that have strong similarities with the contemporary plight of marketers today. While he faced unique obstacles, such as showing the appropriate level of submission to Chinese emperor Qianlong, the British call for greater trade ultimately failed due to different perspectives of the world.
The two groups of people, the British on one side and the Chinese on the other, stemmed from very different cultures and started from fundamentally different points-of-view. As such, each had very different objectives and methods for achieving them. The scenario is very similar to the environment marketers find themselves in: Trying to understand customers and consumers, who may have very different perspectives of a brand.
Knowing the customer: Segmenting your markets
In today’s world, understanding customers is essential, from sales to customer service and everything in between.
How many executives simply say: “There are 30 million customers and all we need is 1 per cent market share”?
Rather than help, such an approach glosses over the nuances and differences in the consumer base, risking failure similar to that experienced by George.
So how to avoid similar issues?
Clever market segmentation is the answer.
Traditionally, segmentation occurred by creating homogeneous groups of customers based on demographic characteristics such as age, location and ethnicity.
While it’s a simple idea, market segmentation can throw a number of curve balls to even the most experienced business leaders. However, if they can segment their markets in a meaningful way, the organisation can create marketing messages that are relevant to real customers who have real needs.
I believe that today traditional methods of segmentation are not good enough to deliver satisfactory results. So the question remains: How should market segmentation be approached?
Looking deeper, getting involved
In today’s world, characterised by fragmented perspectives, novel needs and nuanced wants, market segmentation can offer organisations a number of benefits. From risk reduction to enhanced resource use, the technique can offer organisations a way into the diverse world of consumers – if done right. On line marketers talk about a segment of one given the emerging abilities online.
While market research has value, there are a number of limitations. Take a normal qualitative research project. From the offset there are problems to deal with: You have people who are paid to be in the focus group and who may not be representative of the consumer base. You will also need a facilitator who tend to have their own biases, which can influence the direction the group takes and thus the results at the end.
Rather than relying on market research data, I think business leaders need to sit down in one-on-one interviews with 20 to 50 customers. By doing this, researchers can find the common factors that link them and allow real information sharing with the marketing team.
Only by investing the time to sit down with customers can a truly deep and intimate understanding be fostered. However, this is not a task for some intern- it really needs to be conducted by an individual high-up the organisation, someone who is across the business from head to toe and really knows the big issues that the organisation is seeking to solve.
There is no doubt that attracting customers requires a very good and deep understanding who your customers are and finding clever ways to break them into manageable groups that will respond positively to what you have to offer is the goal of segmentation. Taking traditional methods step further and taking the time of senior leader to actually talk and observe real customers will deliver the gold.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Ian Neal
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