How well are you balancing the strategic and tactical; the new and the old?

I was attending a meeting with the leadership team of a successful technology company that was growing aggressively. The company was barely keeping up with the execution of the massive number of projects they were selling.

Everyone was working long hours and extremely hard every day. Leaders were traveling non-stop visiting customers and installation sites in order to motivate the troops and ensure everything was working as well as possible under the circumstances.

Needless to say, there were many challenges and issues that required the attention of the senior leaders, least of which, the fact that people were burning out and morale was suffering.

This meeting was the first time the entire LT spent quality time together in a long time. It was a much-needed opportunity for them to step out of the day-to-day churn in order to focus on, and address the business challenges and opportunities in a more proactive and strategic way.

The meeting was very productive and at the end of it the leaders faced a dilemma – they all acknowledged the importance of meeting on a regular and frequent basis, especially in such times of significant change. However, they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to meet that commitment because they were too busy.

In a different instance, I was working with a leadership team of regional sales division of a different large technological company. Like any sales teams, the pressure to make the weekly, monthly and quarterly sales number was grueling and constant. When the team had a bad week the pressure increased in order to catch up. When they had a good week the pressure continued to mount in order to keep the upward momentum. There was no release.

What made things worse was that the market, technology, and customers’ needs were changing quite rapidly. As a result, the sales team had to learn how to sell new products and services while at the same time continuing to sell the existing products and services. This was a challenging balancing act in an already stressful environment.

The leaders were challenged with how to lead the transition of the team into the new changes while at the same time keeping their people focused on the existing things. At a practical level, even though everyone understood how critical it was, people were finding it extremely challenging to find time to get away from their day-to-day selling in order to attend training classes and have strategic planning sessions.

Two different examples, among many that I come across, in which leaders need to manage for themselves and their people a balance between focusing on strategic topics, innovations and learning new things, for the good of pursuing a bolder and greater future, while at the same time continuing to dedicate time to the existing activities and initiatives that are still paying the bills. If you have experience in this, you know it is not an easy task.

So how do you do that effectively?

Here are a few practical tips:

  1. Start by envisioning your future state.
    Articulate in writing what success looks like once you have completed the transition/transformation of your team to the future state. Describe it as rich and detailed as possible.
  2. Identify clear processes, practices, and activities from the future state.
    Extract clear practices, behaviors, and activities from the future state. Highlight the ones you believe would make the biggest difference in compelling you toward your future. For example: if generating the future state requires the leadership team meeting in person every quarter or even every month, put it on your list.
  3. Commit to implementing practices from the future stated.
    You don’t need to commit to everything. Choose the ones you want to start practicing and commit to them. Actually declare your commitment explicitly and publically. In the case of the first team, the leadership actually committed to getting together for two-days every quarter. Every member promise to make that a priority and to attend, no matter what.
  4. Keep your commitment no matter what.
    When you commit to the new practices, you are likely to experience issues, challenges, and circumstances that will make you second guess your decision and want to not do what you promised. Be prepared for this. If you promised to meet every quarter, do not sell out, even if you are very busy. Just do what you said and trust your decision. If you have to “go through the motions” or “fake it till you make it” but do not stray from your commitment. I can’t stress this enough!
  5. Stay the course until the new practices become part of your DNA.
    Don’t let your emotions and self-criticism dictate your behavior. You must have faith in order to succeed. If you stay true to your commitment and keep it no matter what you will have a transformation in which the new practices will become easier and part of your new norm.

Generating change is a tough undertaking. It requires commitment, determination, patience and courage to stay the course.

You will go through a roller coaster of emotions. At times you will be sure it isn’t working or even worth it. At other times, you will feel elated about the fact that you stayed the course.

That is why, when it comes to this type of transformation it is so important that you do not pay too much attention to your emotional noise. Instead, stick to the simple principle of:

Say what you will do and do what you say!

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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