4 Steps To Creating Total Strategic Alignment

Most leaders believe that it takes between six and 12 months, or longer, to develop a strategy. They mistakenly think that the criteria for a meaningful strategy are the amount of research and market analysis that goes into it, and the time spent vetting it with experts.

But our observation is that how well communicated a strategy is, is far more important than how logical or well researched it is. The effectiveness of any strategy is directly proportional to the level of ownership, commitment and accountability among the executive team. A strategy is only as good as the levels of commitment the people who are accountable to fulfilling it, possess.

Here are the essential fours steps necessary to create total strategic commitment and alignment.

Step one: Do a commitment audit and tell the truth about the current levels of ownership, commitment and accountability within the organization. Ask people to be blunt about the degree to which they understand – and believe in – your current strategic plan.

Step two: Craft a bold and compelling future. Help your leadership team roll the clock forward two to three years from now. What is a clear, concise and well-articulated 15- to 20-word statement that describes what you are committed to building as an organization?

Step three: Define your specific success criteria. What are the three, four or five key measurable outcomes that will let you know you have reached that future state?

Step four: Get everyone on board with these. This means cascading the process through the ranks of management, sharing the content of the strategy with all levels of staff and listening to and addressing issues of competence, sincerity and courage.

Remember, the issue is not, “What is the right solution?” but, “What will people buy into, take ownership for, believe in and commit to?” When staff buy into a strategy, it’s because they trust their leaders are telling the truth about the need for it, they believe that their leaders have the courage and resolve to address the real issues, and they have faith their leaders are competent to do what needs to be done in order to implement the strategy.

On top of this, when staff feel cared for, concerned about and respected, they will naturally support and contribute to the strategy being realized.

4 Ways You May be Undermining Employee Engagement

This looks at the four most common ways leaders undermine employee engagement.

1. Not saying thank you: Managers who only criticize and find fault with their employees’ performance run the risk of creating an unhappy – and less productive – workforce. Rarely saying something as simple as “good work” or “thank you” creates an environment where staff feel unappreciated and taken advantage of.

2. Recognizing the same people all the time: Some leaders single out the same staff over and over again for recognition and praise. No matter how deserving these employees may be, repeatedly acknowledging one small group of individuals can create an environment of exclusion, which leads to a negative backlash within the team.

3. Participating in background conversations about others: Managers may think they can confidentially talk about one employee to another, but what they say always leaks out. Leaders who grouse, gossip and gripe about their co-workers, employees and bosses — especially behind their backs — create an environment of distrust and disharmony.

4. Not letting your staff shine: Many managers miss the opportunity to have their staff be recognized for their contributions, both by their immediate team members and by senior management. Failing to give people an opportunity to make an important presentation to their peers or higher-ups, not acknowledging the significant contribution of an employee to other members of the team, and actively taking credit for an employee’s work all lead to decreased trust and reduced confidence among staff.

What all these behaviors have in common is an active narcissism, a blind insensitivity or a management immaturity that makes the manager look like a jerk and their staff feel uncared for.

One 2009 study was conducted to examine the narcissistic tendencies of bosses in American organizations. Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Management in the Florida State University College of Business, asked more than 1,200 employees to provide opinions regarding the narcissistic tendencies of their immediate supervisor. Their responses:

  • 31 percent reported that their boss is prone to exaggerate his or her accomplishments to look good in front of others.
  • 27 percent reported that their boss brags to others to get praise.
  • 25 percent reported that their boss had an inflated view of himself or herself.
  • 24 percent reported that their boss was self-centered.
  • 20 percent reported that their boss will do a favor only if guaranteed one in return.

“Having a narcissistic boss creates a toxic environment for virtually everyone who must come in contact with this individual,” Hochwarter said. “The team perspective ceases to exist, and the work environment becomes increasingly stressful. Productivity typically plummets as well.”

When it comes to employee engagement, all signs seem to point in the same direction. You are either building motivation or destroying it. You are either moving forward by appreciation or acknowledgment or going backward with lack of attention. The choice is one every manager makes daily.

Appreciation and Employee Engagement

Managers often think that the source of employee engagement is providing staff with material rewards and privileges such as more money, bonuses, stock incentives, promotions, titles, etc… While these things are important, their impact tends to be overestimated.

A huge dimension in employee engagement is the quality of relationship that exists between management and staff. Employees feeling they are known, accepted, appreciated, valued and trusted goes a long way toward getting employees on board with a company’s vision and strategy.

Many of the leaders we encounter seem either blind to this point — or worse —simply don’t care. By not listening to and recognizing employees which is a critical part of their job, managers are missing out on the opportunity to create a highly motivated, loyal and engaged team.

According to the Employee Engagement Report 2011 from BlessingWhite, engaged employees plan to stay where they are currently working for what they give; the disengaged stay for what they get.

The same report found that employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.

An even more telling find of the study was that when engagement surveys were conducted in companies, without visible follow-up action, engagement could actually be decreased. As the report states, “Organizations should think twice before flipping the switch on measurement without 100% commitment for action planning based on the results.”

All of this points to what we see every day in our consulting work. When managers are willing to go the extra mile with staff, loyalty goes sky high. Managers who acknowledge team members and show they care end up with employees who not only work smarter but harder and happier.

What have you done lately to show appreciation for your staff? I would love to hear your comments.