4 Leadership Steps for Better Strategic Conversations

A man stands confused at the start of a giant maze which will test his strategy

Strategic conversations are important.

Strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations.  To create strategic clarity, leaders must be able to have effective strategic conversations to decisively move the business and the workforce forward.

The Definition of Strategic Clarity

We define strategic clarity as a strategic plan or decision that is:

  • Clearly understood by all stakeholders
  • Fully committed to by leadership across the company
  • Highly responsive to change when it matters most
  • Consistently and successfully implemented throughout the organization

How You Know You Need to Improve Your Strategic Conversations

If you find your leadership team having long, redundant, tangential, shallow, narrow or vertical conversations, you probably need to improve your leaders’ ability to hold strategic conversations – especially when the stakes are high.

For example, a recent client ran a two-day strategy session with their global executive team to make some critical decisions regarding target clients, account growth, acquisitions, resource allocation and work quality.  While it sounds pretty straightforward for a group of experienced and smart leaders, they were not prepared to hold a complex, fast-moving and collaborative strategic conversation.  Instead, they went down rabbit holes, debated myopic details, made erroneous assumptions, crossed personal boundaries and rehashed previous discussions.

Needless to say the CEO was frustrated.  He went to great lengths and expense to bring his top team together to address their biggest challenges and did not get the outcome he desired.

One important lesson here is that you must clearly understand and define the problem before you can design a strategy that can effectively address it.  Albert Einstein said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” Few of us spend that much proportional time understanding the problem first…but our solutions might be far more effective if we did.

Leaders must get better at asking the right questions so that they address the right problems and have the right conversations. To improve the level of your strategic conversations, follow these four guidelines before the “real conversation” begins:

  1. Articulate: Clearly articulate the big problem you are trying to solve or the big question you are trying to answer.
  2. Agree: Agree upon why it needs to be solved or answered compared to other priorities. Determine how it aligns with your current strategy, culture and brand promise.
  3. Understand: Understand the current situation, complications and implications – including lessons learned from previous attempts at solutions.
  4. Craft: Craft a specific problem or question statement to ground and begin the conversation.

You’d be surprised how often leaders advocate positions without discussing the strategic choices available, or ask for feedback when there is no desire to change direction, or discuss subjects that have little strategic relevance that would be better discussed offline or one-on-one.

Effective strategic conversations create clear strategies.  Clear strategies create commitment and focus that drive positive change. Are your leaders capable of having strategic conversations at the right levels?

To learn more about effective and strategic leadership, Download our Leadership Toolkit Now

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