The pandemic forced a massive reset of the ecosystems of many businesses and has altered the assumptions leaders have operated from. Given the upheaval of the past year, parts or even the entirety your strategy may be outdated or been rendered irrelevant.
Many companies are embarking on new strategies that attempt to direct them down a path to success. Given the turbulence and destabilisation of 2020, leaders should be aware that their people require more clarity and credibility from them than ever before. Many initiatives to become “leaner”, “fitter”, “more agile”, can sound abstract or even threatening to employees who don’t understand where their role is in the new model or structure.
Now, more than ever, business leaders have to ‘sell’ roadmaps that are vastly different from what their teams are used to. Co-Founder of the Strategy Implementation Institute, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez cautions that “Alignment has to start at the top and then be cascaded throughout the organization.”
Evolving to promise based execution
Launching a new strategy right now demands a level of cohesion – of vision, targets and tactics- that most organization have never been forced to have.
Leaders should avoid trying to lead by announcement or executive order. Presenting your new strategy as a directive or closed case, is a kiss of death. When ushering in a new direction, your first step should be to invite your people to give you the opportunity to paint a picture in their minds that mirrors yours. Allow them the space to grasp the vision yet interrogate its merits, and the latitude to sound alarm bells, flag concerns and voice reservations.
Most importantly, invite them to brain-storm solutions and detail how they think challenges can be addressed. In that process, they become co-owners of the strategy and when they make the ‘promise’ to fulfil their role it is meaningful.
In ‘Promise-Based Management: The Essence of Execution,’ Donald Sull and Charles Spinosa say that “Employees make commitments to colleagues in other divisions and to customers, outsourcing partners, and other stakeholders. Promises are the strands that weave together coordinated activity in organizations.”
The authors add that “Promise-based management is particularly relevant to today’s executives as they increasingly specialize in their core businesses, divest noncore units, and outsource peripheral activities. It also helps executives to capitalize on business opportunities outside their core competencies and to engage and retain employees within a highly mobile workforce.”
As leader you have a responsibility to strike a balance between inspiring your team to a bigger vision and being realistic about the organization’s abilities. Your words must be credible and your goals plausible. When you make promises that don’t ring true, you lose face and break the trust that is required to persist during hard times. Without the glue of trust in place, as challenges arise, employees don’t own any failure because there is no integrity underpinning the system. This breakdown not only poisons your next steps, but bleeds into scepticism over future goals.
Currently, leaders are seeking commitments that in many instances require staff to break out of their comfort zones, flex mental muscles they haven’t before and approach tasks with a new purpose to enable the success of an unproven roadmap.
Sull and Spinosa emphasise that, “Promise-based management empowers individuals to act like true entrepreneurs within the organization—to spot opportunities, assemble the resources required to seize those opportunities, and adjust on the fly. Within the bounds of the firm’s objectives, employees can own and run their own personal networks of promises.”
Genuine promise-based management relies on shared conviction, that only happens when the strategy is embraced, not merely tolerated.
If you realise that your strategy needs an up-level, contact us to chat about how we can assist.
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