These are uncertain times; staff in both the private and public sector are nervous about their prospects, and are looking to their managers to steer them through the difficult months ahead. So it probably won’t be enough to bombard them with PowerPoint slides explaining the financial argument behind your brilliant new strategy – you also need to find a way of enthusing them about the journey. This is where ‘emotional intelligence’ kicks in – the ability to relate to people in a way that appeals to their hearts, as well as their heads. It’s something that few great managers can live without. So we asked Richard Brown of Cognosis for his top ten tips on how to bring your strategy to life...
1. Start with active listening
Strategies are delivered by people and only when they matter to them personally, will they go the extra mile to make them happen. The best way to make people feel they have a personal stake in your strategy is to listen to what they have to say – and not simply pay lip-service to the points they make. Begin any strategy process by conducting a full audit across the management team to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
2. Create enthusiasm and reasons to engage
Make sure you communicate the purpose of the strategy and what its successful fulfilment will mean for both the company as a whole and also for individuals. Will it increase revenues and lead to bonuses, will it create lasting competitive advantage, or will it ensure the big accounts are won? Make the objectives achievable and practical to bring people on board.
3. Promote collaboration and creativity
All too often strategies are based on purely financial targets and driven by concerns about return on investment. Make sure that your strategy isn’t just another spreadsheet delivered from the top and disseminated down the ranks. Encourage different middle managers to participate in the development of the strategy. Ask the junior staffer on the shop floor as well as the CFO what they think, they might have helpful customer insights and some fresh, new ideas.
4. Involve more middle managers
Middle managers are often the ones who are tasked with bringing a strategy to life but are too often overlooked when it comes to creating it. This leads them to feel under-valued and under-involved. By involving them in the early stages of development you ensure they feel a greater sense of ownership and are more strongly motivated to drive its implementation.
5. Keep the data in its place
Great strategy is about so much more than the numbers on a spreadsheet; it’s creative, playful and full of surprises and insights. Of course, the facts and figures are important and should form the basis of any strategy but don’t expect to present a deck of data and end up with an inspired workforce.
6. Mobilise ‘challenge’
Organisations which encourage people to challenge during the strategy development process, achieve on average 30 per cent higher rates of satisfaction from the workforce. Encouraging people to critique a strategy in a productive and positive way, helps them feel more engaged in the end result. Don’t allow challenge to become personal or aggressive but don’t shy away from legitimate positive criticism – letting go slightly can deliver rewards in the long term.
7. Make team-building part of the process
An effective strategy has every member of the leadership team working towards a common shared objective. This means that the finance team, along with the marketing team and the IT team need to share ownership of, and responsibility for, the delivery of the strategy. Creating a team which is motivated to deliver not only their own department’s results, but those of their fellow colleagues is enormously energising for a business.
8. Convert your ‘strategy cynics’
Managers are generally enthusiastic about strategy with Enthusiasts outnumbering Cynics by about 2:1. However dissenting voices can have a powerful negative impact on colleagues and it is important to spend time with Cynics to address their concerns and educate them about the importance of the strategy being developed. The Cynic turned Enthusiast is often a strategy’s most powerful and effective advocate.
9. Make your team Whole-Minded
Whole-minded teams combine rational analysis with collaboration and creativity and on average they report a 47 per cent greater satisfaction with the process of making strategy than their left-brain counterparts. Spending time developing a whole-minded approach not only means teams are more likely to deliver top results, but they will also be more satisfied and happy in their role.
10. Continue to monitor the strategy
Most strategies fail at execution – make sure yours isn’t one of them. By holding regular ‘Stop-and-Think’ sessions, you can ensure modifications are made to the strategy on a continuous basis, keeping in line with the changing market. Unforeseen circumstances can mean changes are required and being flexible in the face of such changes means you will have a greater chance of delivering the overall objective - growth.