Execution IS the Strategy

Google ChromeScreenSnapz222Besides collecting a paycheck, what is an employee’s motivation for achieving a particular strategic goal? Why should they care?

At my Uncle David’s wedding several years ago, I had a profound conversation with a close family friend named Brian. Brian was David’s neighbor and his Best Man. Due to bad weather in Chicago (no surprise), he’d had major flight delays and other problems getting back to his home in San Antonio for the rehearsal dinner. He got there just in time to run into the church and take his place. Later at the dinner, I was thinking about the stress he certainly experienced and told him, “I heard about all the craziness with your travel yesterday. I’m so sorry.”

“Oh, the flight was fine,” he replied. “I’m just delighted to be here.”

“What a drag!” I rambled. “Weather can be so frustrating. Several years ago, we had a huge blizzard in Denver, and it stranded people right at Christmas!”

“Oh, you know, it actually doesn’t bother me. I didn’t have an agenda. I had a mission.”

Brian’s statement immediately struck me as insightful, and has stayed with me since. Why not make achieving your organization’s goals a mission? Your ability to clearly articulate your strategic priorities depends on understanding why you’re here and what you’re trying to accomplish.

You have to know what your target is to hit it consistently. You might not be able to see the target, but you must be able to visualize it and paint the picture for others. Think of pilots sometimes flying by their instruments in inclement weather, or military organizations “painting” their targets with radar to achieve hits at night.

As a leader, communicating your mission involves conveying why you care and why others should also care. So invite your employees to go on a mission with you. Help them understand why your organization’s priorities are important, whether at the team, department, division, or company level.

 Get Your Ducks in a Row 

One of the business world’s basic realities is that organizational strategy doesn’t always align well with day-to-day operations—i.e., the short-term tactics and logistics that combine to ensure the organization stays afloat. Indeed, bringing the two together may represent the most difficult part of your job.

It’s tough at any level, especially on the front lines where workers have a hard enough time taking care of their basic duties, plus all the new stuff their bosses throw at them. But then, organizational strategy probably doesn’t get much mention in their job descriptions. I’ll bet it does in yours, though. As a leader, you get paid the big bucks to align overall goals with the daily slog…because what’s the point of the slog if it goes nowhere?

I take it as an article of faith—and I trust you do, too—that people do better work when they can engage with and own their jobs. Conversely, they won’t care much if they believe their work doesn’t matter. So do your very best to show them how it does.  I recommend the 3T Method: Tell, Teach, and Train. Each step intertwines with the others at a basic level.

1.      Tell.  Don’t expect most employees to go out of their way to dig up the company’s mission and vision statements. They just don’t have the time. Instead, meet with each one and tell them exactly why their daily work matters and how it fits into the organization’s overall strategy. Once they realize they matter (and especially that the higher-ups know they do), they’ll be more likely to take ownership of their work, show initiative, unleash their creativity, and do a better job all around.

2.      Teach. Once you’ve shown your people how and why they matter, carry it forward by empowering them. As the work situation or industry evolves, keep them in the loop. Post metrics to demonstrate how their work has gotten everyone closer to the finish line. Mentor them, helping them grow into and beyond their jobs so they can step into positions of greater responsibility…and honestly offer them a realistic chance of advancement. Nothing kills engagement like realizing you’re in a dead-end job.

3.      Train. Consistently educate your team members in new procedures, software applications, and additions to their job descriptions. Don’t hesitate to help them refine their existing skills. Just because you have one type of hammer, for example, doesn’t mean you can use it for all hammering tasks. Ever try to hang a picture using a sledgehammer?

 Facing the Future

Depending on your situation, you may not find the 3Ts easy to implement. But the concept itself is simple enough. Think of each step as an investment, because in the long run, they will save you money. You’ll find it cheaper to Tell, Teach, and Train a team of dedicated workers who stay with you for years, actively helping you bring strategy and tactics in line with each other, than to constantly find and replace people who have no idea why their work matters—and worse, couldn’t give a flip.

Guest blog post © 2014 Laura Stack. This material is excerpted with permission by Laura Stack from her latest book Execution IS the Strategy. Forward your receipt to execution-book@aweber.com to receive special bonuses with your purchase.



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