Successful Strategy Implementation is Far from Easy
Closing the strategy execution gap is hard work.  Not many organizations naturally combine strategy and strategy execution.  Research by IBM found that only 10% of strategies are deemed to be successfully executed.  According to PWC, only 8% of leaders excel at both strategy and execution.

Successful Strategy Implementation Starts with Strategic Clarity
Successful strategy execution begins with strategic clarity. Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations in terms of revenue, profitability, customer loyalty and employee engagement.  A strategy is clear when those who have to lead and implement it:

  • Can consistently articulate what matters most
  • Believe that the strategy is equal to the challenge at hand
  • Know it is implementable in their unique market and culture

Two Successful Strategy Implementation Mistakes to Avoid
Successful strategy execution starts with designing a clear and compelling strategy that will help your business win while guiding decision-making and roles throughout the company.  The process of communicating the strategy is often called cascading, or spreading the plan to all levels, teams and employees.  But before you cascade the strategy from the board room to the frontline whose everyday work will be informed by the plan, consider these two often-ignored mistakes:

1. Being OK with Misalignment
Misaligned goals and conflicting success metrics wreak havoc on strategy execution. Primary strategic alignment occurs when everyone in an organization works toward the same goals and success metrics.  Secondary strategic alignment is when goals and measures, while aligned with the overall strategy, are unique to each team or function.  Both approaches can work.

Unfortunately, too many leaders are unclear about how each function directly or indirectly fits with the overall plan.  Fight for alignment.

2. Not Actively Involving Your Employees
While we believe strategy design starts with the executive leadership team, strategies cannot be consistently implemented across an organization without commitment from the hearts and minds of key stakeholders. Smart leaders actively involve their employees in translating the strategy into daily goals, actions and metrics that work for them and for the business.

Mandated strategies from the top rarely hit the mark or meet the needs of customers without the dedicated help and thoughtful input from the frontline. Empower employees to challenge strategic assumptions early on and to make the decisions that work best for them in the strategy implementation phase.

The Bottom Line
Successful strategy execution requires accountability for explicit alignment and active involvement from those you expect to carry out your plans.  Do not let strategic ambiguity set the stage for conflicting priorities and do not expect strategic compliance from those who have not been involved in making the strategy their own.

To learn more about successful strategy execution, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy

Unclear Business Strategies Are Too Difficult to Execute
While it seems like common sense that unclear business strategies are too difficult to execute, leadership team after leadership team continues to think that twenty clear strategic initiatives equate to strategic clarity.  When you ask employees, that perception could not be further from the truth.

How to Increase Your Odds for Strategic Success
Overly complex strategies rarely take off or get implemented.  The sad thing is we know that, instead of being the exception, this situation holds true the majority of the time.

  • IBM found that less than 10% of well formulated strategies are effectively executed.
  • And even though strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies, employees we survey perceive that the business strategy is 50% less clear to them than their leaders believe.

What is Strategic Clarity?
Not only must your strategy outline clear and compelling choices about where to play and what actions to take…it must also be understood, believable and implementable enough by all key stakeholders.  You will know your strategy is ready for action when employees understand how their work directly contributes, believe it will lead to successful results, and know the entire company is fully committed to it.

How to Avoid Unclear Business Strategies
Here are four critical “musts” for putting together a business strategy that can be successfully executed:

1. Make the Strategy Ruthlessly Simple and Clear
Every company has a lot of moving parts and important projects. Not all initiatives are created equal however.  If you want to improve your chances of strategic success, spend the time required to identify the two to three strategic imperatives that matter most.

Strategy is all about choices and trade-offs.  The primary test of leadership is ruthlessly defining what not to do, wisely stretching limited resources to fit your aspirations, and fully committing to making it happen.

2. Actively Involve Others
The best strategies are those that are co-created with broad input, not just in the executives’ ivory tower. Not until you earn buy-in from all stakeholders (employees at multiple levels, customers, suppliers and any others who have a stake in your company’s future), can you expect widespread commitment to the plan and the willpower to overcome the inevitable challenges.

3. Maintain Steady Two-way Communication
The timely flow of information is critical for any strategy to succeed. Important messages need repetition and dialogue.  Your business priorities and the rationale behind them are your most important messages.

Your business strategy must guide and inform decisions across the organization.  Don’t expect employees to “get it” right away.  Reiterate the strategic priorities at every opportunity and welcome any questions about why it matters and how it should be implemented.

4. Provide Necessary Resources
Just as you can’t reap a harvest that has not been sown, you cannot expect strategy execution without the tools and systems required to make it a reality. Make sure you provide the resources (e.g. time, money, people, expertise, systems, practices, knowledge, skills, processes, etc.) to get the job done.  Do your employees have the resources required to get the job done?

The Bottom Line
Don’t fall on the wrong side of the statistics that weigh against the successful implementation of your strategy.  Start with a strategic plan that is simple and clear and that has been designed with input and challenges from multiple levels and departments.  Then keep a steady focus on the end vision and provide the means to get there.

To learn more about avoiding the traps associated with unclear business strategies, download 7 Ways to Stress Test Your Strategic Clarity

Who Is Responsible for Employee Engagement Accountability?
When employee engagement is on the rise, who takes credit?  And when engagement is on the decline, who takes the blame?  Is the finger pointing at you?

Whether you are the organization’s CEO, the head of HR, a manager, or an employee, we believe you are responsible for employee engagement accountability.  All members of an organization carry the responsibility for employee engagement accountability; they simply fulfill different roles.

Why Employee Engagement Matters
Employee engagement matters to the people and to the business.  The impact of lower employee engagement scores is pretty startling.  Companies with low levels of engagement report:

  • 12% lower profits
  • 19% lower operating income
  • 28% lower earnings per share

While higher employee engagement scores correlate to:

  • 18% greater productivity
  • 12% higher customer satisfaction
  • 51% less voluntary turnover

Employee Engagement Accountability by Role

  • Employees
    Employees are the ones who can tell you how engaged they are and what changes they would like to see to improve their levels of discretionary effort, advocacy and intent to stay. Employees are the voice of engagement…the ones who determine how effective any engagement initiative is.Assuming your workplace culture is one where honesty is valued, you can count on employees to give you candid insight into where the employee experience needs improvement and creative solutions for making the workplace better.
  • Managers
    As the link between senior leaders and employees, managers play a critical role in employee engagement. They should regularly invite employees to voice concerns and hold themselves accountable for seeing that their teams have what they need to perform at their peak.
  • HR
    HR is often responsible for driving overall engagement initiatives across the organization…for identifying where the focus needs to be, for aligning programs across functions that will effectively address key issues, for keeping everyone on track, and for reporting back to management and the workforce alike on what progress is being made.
  • Senior Leaders
    Leaders set the tone. They need to be completely behind employee engagement efforts if they are to succeed.  Their support and influence is crucial.Leaders need to buy into and support engagement initiatives and lead others as they walk the talk.  An effective way to keep leaders on track is to provide the data that shows the difference increased engagement can make…in real numbers.  This is how HR can grab and keep the attention of the company leadership.

The Bottom Line
Engagement matters and is the responsibility of everyone—from top to bottom—in the organization.  No one is “off the hook.”  Employee engagement accountability is everyone’s responsibility.

If you want to learn about employee engagement accountability, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Engagement

How to Give Effective Feedback as a New Manager
Giving effective feedback is a manager’s most useful tool in shaping performance and developing the team.  But don’t use the graphic above as an example.  The illustration, rather than showing how to give effective feedback as a new manager, is more an example of what NOT to do.

Five Components of Effective Feedback
If you want to know how to give effective feedback as a new manager, we recommend you start with the basics.  Overall, helpful employee feedback contains at least five components by:

  1. Demonstrating a genuine intent to support the employee’s success
  2. Encouraging the right behaviors
  3. Informing how to improve with specifics
  4. Creating a two-way discussion
  5. Having a clear purpose and benefit for the individual and the team

 

1. Demonstrating a Genuine Intent to Support the Employee’s Success
As a new manager especially, examine the intent of your feedback.  If the true intent of your feedback is to defend your own behavior, confirm your authority or to appease a third party, you are probably giving feedback for the wrong reasons.  If on the other hand, the purpose of your feedback is to help your employee reach their potential and succeed, you are probably doing the right thing for the right reasons.

When you are genuinely interested in developing your team member, they will be far more committed to listening and making an active effort to improve.  With the right intent, employee feedback does not always need to be positive.  Sometimes, negative behavior needs to be pointed out in order to make changes that are needed to be successful.

2. Encouraging the Right Behaviors
Make sure you work toward improving the behaviors that matter most…the ones that align with the business strategy and desired company culture.  If your strategy, for example, is to improve customer loyalty, focus on the performance and behaviors related to positive customer interactions…listening well, checking for accurate understanding, helping to solve customer problems, etc.

3. Informing How to Improve With Specifics
General comments like “you’re doing great” or “that did not go well” have little value in changing behavior or improving performance.  You need to call out a specific behavior and then cite examples of how it could have been handled differently and better.  Perhaps your team member was so concerned about asking the second question that they failed to listen to the answer of the first.  They may need to slow their pace, learn to really listen, and then carry the conversation forward from there.

4. Creating a Two-Way Discussion
Effective managers model the kind of open discussions you want with your team members by being sure to invite their input and suggestions on how to improve.  Starting off with a few questions to understand their perspective can set the stage for a two-way dialogue.  Often, when given the chance, employees can critique their performance quite correctly and will have good ideas on how they can practice and improve.

5. Having a Clear Purpose and Benefit for the Individual and the Team
Make sure your employees understand exactly how the improved performance will benefit both themselves and the team.  Better customer facing skills, for instance, will result in happier clients, fewer complaints and better business.  When you link the performance to beneficial impacts, the feedback is much more likely to be internalized and acted upon.

The Bottom Line
As a manager, you are responsible for creating the environment to get the most from your team.  Use constructive feedback to encourage the behaviors you want and to discourage the behaviors that go against your strategy and your culture.  The more you do it, the better the odds that your team will focus on their ability to change and grow.

To learn more about how to give effective feedback as a new manager, download 8 Reasons Why Leaders Need 360 Feedback

Pre-Call Sales Planning Meeting Questions Matter
The varied amount and inconsistent quality of pre-call sales planning creates a wonderful opportunity for hungry sales teams to outperform their peers.  Why?  Because sales reps who prepare by knowing the answers to critical pre-call sales planning meeting questions are more likely to add value, handle objections and secure the next steps required to move the sale forward.

Buyers Expect More from Sales People
According to Forester Research, executive buyers report that less than 25% of salespeople meet their expectations, create value or get agreement for a next step during their sales meetings.  Much of the poor track record comes down to a lack of sales preparation.  Sadly, executive buyers report that:

  • 78% of sales people did not have relevant client case studies to share
  • 77% did not fully understand their core issue
  • 70% of sales people were not adequately prepared to answer their questions

The Top 7 Pre-Call Sales Planning Meeting Questions
Assuming that you have a clear definition of your target clients and can express your unique value proposition, you must, at a minimum, know answers to the following seven pre-call sales planning questions before meeting with any potential client.  Most of this can be learned from minimal research and by networking both internally and externally.

1. Their Business: What is going on in their industry and their business?
2. Their Network: Who do we know in common?
3. Issues: What issues are they most likely facing? What questions and concerns will they most likely want to discuss?
4. Examples: What are compelling examples where we have solved similar issues for similar clients?
5. Value-Add: What unique insights and value can we provide in areas that matter most to the client?
6. Objective: What is the buyer’s objective for the sales meeting? What is our objective?
7. Strategy: What is our strategy for achieving our desired results and who will play what role?

These seven pre-call sales planning questions are the ticket to play the game.  You should not get on any client call unless you have clear answers to each question.

The Temptation to Avoid at All Costs – Winging It
We believe that less than 30% of sales people meet a buyer’s expectations on sales calls because they repeat the same mistake over and over again.  They wing it.  This forces them to focus on their company, their products, and their solutions instead of their customer and their customer’s customer.

The Bottom Line
Sales reps who prepare outperform those who wing it.  Pre-call sales planning allows you to anticipate, add value, demonstrate competency, gain credibility and show respect.  Unless you thoroughly prepare, you may never get the chance to move to the next stage in the sales cycle.

To take pre-call sales planning meeting questions to the next level, download 30 Sales Questions More Important than Budget

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