Many a leader has overseen sound strategic planning, only to come to a grinding halt in just a few months.
“I find we get quickly into the weeds,” said Michael. “I really like how you and I just worked on focusing on what matters, and the plan is great (see the previous article on how Michael and I refocused to help him rise above the weeds.) But we’ve planned many times. I share the vision and set the goals, and we hit the ground running. But then, somehow, the team starts bumping heads on projects…Pretty soon, it’s back to business as we’ve always done it – good, but not great. How do I bring my team along in the process?”
“That’s our next step, Michael,” I responded. “And you are spot on. Unless you can align and coordinate your team in actionable and measurable ways, you won’t get far. Let’s roll up our sleeves.”
Michael and I met with his executive team the next week. During this time, he unveiled his business imperative – the top goals and priorities, as well as the quantifiable impact as shared in my last article.
“Team, it’s time we tighten up and get more focused,” he said. “And I admit, I am a chief culprit in keeping us from having done so until this point.”
I chimed in. “What we want to do today is to review Michael’s business imperative for the company for the next 12 months.”
“No offense,” said Candace, the CFO. “But we’ve done this a few times before. And we don’t seem to get anywhere.”
“I understand,” I responded. “Strategic plans and business imperatives usually sound great, but few get far. One important reason is because the executive team isn’t invited to align and coordinate to support the plan.”
“Go on,” said Candace. “I’m listening.”
“Michael will share the business imperative for the company. This imperative identifies the key priorities for the next 12 months, supporting the company’s strategic plan. This imperative is measurable and actionable.”
“From here, however, each of you needs to ask yourself what this means for your own areas of responsibility – and develop your own business imperative. This should support Michael’s imperative. Your imperative should have the measurables and actions to support Michael’s. Make sense?”
“It does,” said Max, COO. “We’ve often listed out who owns what when it comes to the strategic plan, but we haven’t made it as actionable as you are talking about.”
“I can see a more workable plan in the making,” said Sandra, the Marketing Vice President.
“I’m glad you do,” I answered. “It does work.”
“Just a minute,” Max hesitated. “If we are all going to do this, what about all those other initiatives we are working on? What if they don’t fit into the plan?”
“Exactly, Max,” I answered. “Once you develop your business imperative, you will need to ask yourself what to do in order to remain focused. But that’s for our next step. For now, let’s have a good discussion on what Michael’s imperative means for you. And when we reconvene next week, bring your draft business imperatives and we will have some critical conversations. We will not only be talking about what to do with initiatives that don’t support the focus; we will also be talking about what shifts in culture and leadership behaviors you may need to make in order to succeed.”
“Culture shifts? Leadership behaviors?” asked Michael.
“Yes, Michael. You and your executive team are a system – all parts of a system need to work together in the same way. If not, you won’t get any traction.”
Next time, I’ll share details of the next meeting and the tough conversations Michael and his team had to have in order to break through chronic underperformance – and finally become a high-performing, aligned, and coordinated team.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.