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Talent Management Excellence Essentials January 2015

Executing Your Strategic Plan Seven ways to help employees By Chris Rafter Congratulations! You’ve just put in eight months of effort and finalized a spectacular new strategy for your business. You’re weary but excited since you know this plan will deliver differentiation and growth, outshine your competition, and make your customers cheer. You’re absolutely certain it’s going to please your board of directors and shareholders as soon as it starts working. What are you forgetting? A brilliant strategy, standout positioning, or a blockbuster product innovation can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution will keep you there. Unfortunately, by their own admission, a majority of companies struggle with this. Among more than a hundred thousand employees surveyed at 1,000 companies in 50 countries, 60% rated their organization weak at execution. Specifically when asked if they agreed with the statement “Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action,” most answered ‘No.’ According to Harvard Business Review, 93% of employees admit they do not fully understand their organization’s strategies. In addition, 37% of strategic financial targets are missed due to misalign-ment between strategic goals and the actual work performed. The most perilous time for any strategy is during its execu-tion. Execution is where the number of people involved in the strategy skyrockets and the CEO’s vision and wishes collide head on with uncertainty, skepticism, and misunderstanding. It is by no means the end of the strategic process, it’s more of a long incubation period, during which the strategy is fragile and vulnerable as it takes root and grows. Great CEOs build great teams of people, and people build the company. No CEO can do it alone. Here’s the undeniable reality that governs every company: Strategic execution is the result of thousands of small, daily deci-sions, tasks, and activities performed by employees, each person acting according to the information they have and their self-interest. All of these little decisions are like grains of sand, piling up on either side of a scale. The sum total of all of them will determine the company’s success. They don’t have to be large decisions made by department heads, numerous tactical and operational decisions (most of which the CEO doesn’t even know are being made) will influence the outcome of the strategic execution. If you follow these seven steps, and train yourself to spot when these are happening, you’ll be certain your employees are aligned and on the right track to executing your strategy successfully. 1. Explain it, explain it again, and sell it. You may think “I’m the CEO, they have to listen to me.” If only it were that simple. What’s the reality? It’s really easy for employ-ees to not follow your strategy and get away with it, especially if they’re a few levels down in the management structure. It’s particularly dangerous if they feel they have a personal incentive to not  follow your strategy, like their own job security. Think that’s far-fetched? It happens more than you think. Remember: Employees make decisions based on the information they have and their self-interest. To overcome this, a CEO needs to explain and sell this strategy to their employees as many times as it takes until it takes hold. They need to walk the talk. Assume people won’t believe you the first time they hear something. It might take two or three tries before it is believed. Professional communicators and advertisers alike know repetition works. Consistency is convincing. Your employees are multi-sensory, analytical beings. They’re going to listen to every word of the strategy, and they’re going to filter it through their own experience lens. About two sen-tences in, the question “What’s in it for me?” is going to pop into their head – if you’re lucky. Some will react with fear, and won’t see any positives. There are many ways for fear to express itself: fear of change, fear of losing their job, fear that the CEO might be wrong and might run the company into the ground. How does the CEO overcome this? First you have to under-stand what is going on in their minds. Then you have to get those doubts and questions out on the table and assault them with the strongest tools at your disposal: Transparency, honesty, humility, and logic. 2. Craft a detail-rich, inspiring description of the future. This is when the CEO’s communication and story-telling skills kick things into high gear, and where visionary leaders shine. Some employees might need help envisioning what a successful future looks like. Help them out, don’t leave them in the dark. Crafting a story that tells how the company will look and what working there will be like in 12 months or 3 years is a great way to get them to understand the planned outcomes of your strategy. There is a reason great political, religious and social leaders all have “dream” speeches: THEY WORK! They help people understand where you want to go and encourage them to follow. 3. Record and replay questions, objections or insecurities As you’re explaining the strategy, you should be on the lookout for new, original questions from each person you encounter. Ask them if it would be OK for you to use their question – and your great answer - in future conversations with other employees. Don’t be afraid to probe and ask for the question behind the question, to flush out hidden insecurities. Address the elephants in the room, every chance you get. Being able to anticipate and answer an audience’s questions is a very powerful way of demonstrating that you are on your game, you’ve thought this through, and most of all, that you genuinely care about their concerns. 4. Ensure employees can conceptualize the strategy around their own work or role. It’s much easier for someone to buy into something if it aligns with their  purpose. If someone works for you as truck driver, their main purpose at work is to earn a living by driving a truck. They just heard you, their CEO, announce that the company’s new strategy is to: 1. Expand the customer base 2. Reduce expenses, and 3. Reduce our carbon emissions footprint, It is essential that the employee should be able to understand how what they do and the decisions  they  make contribute to the strategic goals. It makes them feel connected, secure and empowered. Maybe this truck driver can’t do much to bring in new custom-ers (#1), but they probably can adjust their driving and routes to use less fuel, helping with goals #2 and #3. If you encourage Talent Management excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 01.2015 Submit your Articles 9


Talent Management Excellence Essentials January 2015
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