4 Leadership Steps for Better Strategic Conversations

A man stands confused at Better Strategic Conversations

Better Strategic Conversations Matter
Better 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 better 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 Do You Know If You Need Better 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 better strategic conversations – especially when the stakes are high.  For example, a recent client ran a two-day strategy retreat 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.

What Problem Are You Trying To Solve?
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.

4 Leadership Steps for Better Strategic Conversations
Leaders must get better at asking the right questions so that they address the right problems and have the right conversations. To have better 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.

The Most Common Mistakes
You’d be surprised how often leaders advocate positions without discussing the strategic choices available, 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.

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

To learn more about having better strategic conversations, Download The Top 7 Strategic Clarity Warning Signs

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