Have you experienced a new vision and strategy being unveiled with a flourish after a senior leadership team planning offsite? Maybe it was followed by a ‘change management’ program, designed to deliver key messages to win the hearts and minds of the broader workforce. More than likely there was no two-way dialogue with employees either before or after the event. Consequently the broader workforce had little ownership of the strategy and it is no surprise that a year or so later not much changed.
Of course an inspiring vision and a game-changing strategy are both vital, especially for those businesses looking to carve a path through the impact of technology disruption. The participants in our own Big Kahuna Leadership Survey confirmed that they are very focused on technology led strategic transformation. But they also know that they need game-changing leadership to successfully execute the strategy.
In the book, Uncommon Leadership, the authors suggest that “The two fields of strategy and leadership are often taught separately in our business schools, when in practice they should go hand-in-hand.” They add that, “Leadership is needed to bring vision, purpose and life to any strategic plan.”
What is missing that strategies that look elegant on paper seem to fail in their execution?
Perhaps there is a clue in Don’s example. He found that the key ingredient for successful execution of a game-changing vision and strategy was organisation wide ownership. His approach had the hallmarks of a typical conversation; a more intimate one-on-one style where speaking and listening are equally important. He painted a picture of where the organisation would end up if nothing changed. That sparked a demand for a bold new vision and strategy.
His leadership team followed through by extending the conversations with employees into the practices, processes and behaviours that needed to change to support the new vision and strategy. Old beliefs had to end and new conversations were ignited. When people’s individual values and beliefs line up with the vision and strategy, as happened in Don’s example, they are inspired to not only execute it, but to take it beyond what was originally envisaged.
Don may be on to something with his conversational approach. The aptly titled HBR article, “Leadership Is a Conversation.” outlines the results of research conducted by the authors on the general state of organisational communication. Most of the participants in their study expressed their desire to simply “have a conversation” with their people.
The article concludes that, “By talking with employees, rather than simply issuing orders, leaders can retain or recapture some of the qualities—operational flexibility, high levels of employee engagement, tight strategic alignment—that enable start-ups to outperform better-established rivals.”
Is your vision and strategy alive and well?
PS: Want to develop your game-changing leadership capability?
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