Helping your team connect with Vision and Strategy

Need your team to achieve success in 2020?

This time of year it is popular to make new year’s resolutions, run planning days, set goals.

Early in my career, I was never really one to embrace goal setting or planning. Sure I had a list of things I wanted to achieve and prioritised actions, yet the words ‘strategy’, ‘goals’ and ‘objectives’ tended to make my eyes glaze over and sleepiness creep in. It’s funny – all my life I’ve been a planner, yet for some reason if you called it ‘strategy’ or ‘vision’, I lost interest. Over time, this has changed and I now embrace these things and love the planning process. In my other life as a consultant, one of my jobs is to facilitate planning days for my clients, and they are some of my favourite events!

Yet as I said, I haven’t always embraced it. And sometimes I found it a little boring!

Have you ever felt this way? Many people I work with in healthcare tell me that if they are honest, they aren’t really interested in their company’s or business’ strategy – they just want to get on with their job! Of course, if they lead or own the business, they are all for it!

What leads to employee disconnect here? For many, the word ‘planning’ conjures images of boring monologues by senior executives, having to analyse data they are not interested in, or feeling frustrated to waste their time coming up with creative ideas that will never be implemented.

In the same category of eye-rolling words you may also find ‘strategy’, ‘tactics’, ‘objectives’ and ‘critical success factors’. The outputs these words indicate are not bad – in fact, most companies would struggle to be effective without having the detail these words refer to. Yet these words for some reason do not inspire, energise or motivate many of us. And for some, they actually cause brain shut-down, leading to a sudden and extreme interest in doing anything BUT thinking about the detail behind these words!

So there seems to be a disconnect here. And that causes problems. People have argued for decades about the failure rate of strategy – it’s usually quoted as being around 60-80%. It doesn’t matter what the figure is – common belief is that a majority of business strategies fail. Now there are several reasons for this – ineffective planning, poor leadership, untrained staff, low morale, changing environments and so on.

One of the reasons I see regularly for poor strategy execution is a lack of understanding, leading to ineffective implementation.  I also often observe teams focussing on things that are not moving them toward the vision – that is, the implementation actions and measures are not aligned with the actual desired results.

What can be done then to remedy this?

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Be clear on what your vision for success is. Do you understand it? Is it achievable, yet still with a desirable stretch? Will it inspire people to action as a vision ideally will?
  2. Allow your employees or your team to be involved in creating the vision. (Of course if this is possible, it comes before point 1!) In this way they understand the process of setting a vision, which helps them understand the purpose of having a vision, which helps them connect with the vision, which helps them prioritise the actions that help them get there. Domino effect. Now of course in some businesses, especially the larger ones, this is not possible entirely. Yet even if the vision is set from above, team leaders need to find a way to help their team connect emotionally with the vision and to link it directly to their own goals and work.
  3. Language can lower or lift a message. Your message is impacted by the words that you use, the tone and the non-verbal signals you send. I’ll focus here mainly on language, because right at the start I talked about the number of people put off by the ‘strategy’ words. Often it’s because people don’t truly know what those words mean, or the words evoke feelings of inferiority or fear from past mistakes. Sometimes instead of Mission I use ‘Purpose’. Instead of ‘Vision’ I use ‘Dreams’. Instead of ‘Strategy’ I use ‘Priorities’. Instead of ‘Goals’ I use ‘Achievements’. You get the picture. All I am saying is, try to communicate in a relatable way- without the buzz words, corporate speak or trendy lingo or acronyms. Plain language. 
  4. Milestones and measures. Here it’s important to make sure that milestones are really clear, even breaking them down and setting shorter term goals. This helps people really focus, rather than getting distracted by goals that seem so far away. And measure need to align with the milestones and drive the appropriate actions – what gets measured, tends to get done. So make sure your measures are the right ones for success! Once we know what we are measuring, we need to ensure that we discuss how we are tracking regularly with the team.

Adjusting a few of the ways we approach vision and strategy discussions with our teams will go a long way to connecting them and encouraging action and results.

If you would like some help in setting your vision or engaging your team, we would love to have you join us at the EYHL Community. We have amazing training courses, Q&As with Roz and fabulous discussion forums with people helping each other be the best managers and leaders they can be. If this sounds interesting to you, click here to learn more.

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