Lead people, not strategy

Strategy is described as the cornerstone of a company. I’m often amazed at how its implementation in everyday life still feels so challenging and difficult. Does a strategy truly speak to employees, and is it clear to everyone how the company strategy is reflected and implemented in everyday life?

From strategy to leading people

I pondered implementation of strategy in my son’s football tournament. The first games went badly, because the players were in the wrong places, and many only played their own game. The strategy that was thought out at the beginning of the game didn’t work. There was confusion on the pitch, the game positions were not in line with each player’s individual strengths, and a lot of mistakes were made. The strategy did not support the team’s success and opportunities for victory.

A strategy that the personnel do not fully understand leads to personnel not knowing their place or role, and each person starting to play their own game.

This is what happens in many workplaces too. The company creates a strategy that the personnel do not fully understand, the wrong people are in the wrong places, or the skills of the employees do not support the implementation of the strategy. These things, however, are still thought about too little when creating a strategy. Often, what follows from this is that the personnel do not know their place or role, and each person starts to play their own game.

Listen to people, and be ready to change course

So how did the tournament continue? One loss followed another, and the players began to give up. A few irrepressible souls continued to play and kept the team afloat, although the fatigue was evident in these boys’ faces too.

The same can also be seen in companies, if employees are not listened to enough. People give up, and return to the old way of doing things. Often, a few dedicated employees keep things going, making sure that business continues. The personnel become alienated and bored. In the end, even the most engaged individuals abandon the fight.

Towards a fresh start

And how did the team’s final game go? After a string of losses, the enthusiastic few remained bubbly. Many others had given up. The coach noticed this, and started to listen. Each player was asked what position he’d like to play, and the team was ready to give up on the strategy that had been adopted at the beginning. New hope emerged.

Employee-related studies, such as SnapShot and Pulse surveys make it possible to notice quickly if progress with the strategy has problems that need to be tackled.

This, hopefully, is also what will happen increasingly often in workplaces. Strategy will not be considered as something locked down and unchangeable; the direction can be changed if necessary, in a direction that is supported by the skills of the personnel at that moment. Close attention will be paid to how people are doing – to what works, and what does not. There will be flexibility. Nowadays, listening to the personnel and changing things flexibly is easy. Employee-related studies, such as the SnapShot express survey directed at supervisors that supports the annual employee survey and the Pulse surveys management tool, are quick and easy to implement several times a year. Tools such as these make it possible to notice quickly if progress with the strategy has problems that need to be tackled.

The final showdown

In the final game, there was hope, and the most spirited players got their first goal of the tournament. This lit the spark: soon came a second goal, even greater enthusiasm, then a third, and there was laughter. Out of a collection of drifting individuals a team had been born.

Let’s do the same at work! Let’s listen, and be prepared to change course if necessary. A winning formula for implementation of strategy is to have the strategy and the people meet and develop together. This will create enthusiasm, and the fire for success!