I've been reading and hearing about people lamenting the fact that their leaders "aren't strategic enough" for a long time now, and this seems to have been rising to a crescendo. So I thought I'd weigh in with a few pointers. I'd like to say right off the bat that I don't view strategy and tactics as being separate, they are on the same continuum. Yes, I know what you mean when you say they're separate, but in reality it doesn't work that way. Not even when you have vast amounts of data and "norms" that derive from that data. We've been lulled into somehow believing that "talent", "leadership" and "strategic insight" must somehow need to be "helicoptered" in from elsewhere, that having locally-grown leaders is somehow less than desirable. I don't know, maybe leaders brought in from elsewhere always look greener than home-grown ones. We forget that we ought to be always growing, albeit at different rates and in different areas for different people. We forget that great strategists started off by being disciplined workers. Workers who knew their jobs inside and out, and that it didn't take them twenty years to become proficient. Workers who went on to become great supervisors and managers, adding more and more knowledge and competencies as they went. And finally perhaps arriving at the c-suite more than ready to adjust to their new strategic functions simply because those functions weren't exactly new to them in the first place! That doesn't sound too familiar because it happens in very few companies. Here's how you can have that.
1. Raison d'etre.
If you want your people to become more strategic, you had better be more strategic yourself. One of the most important aspects of being strategic is to know intimately your raison d'etre, the reason for your existence, the reason why you are in business in the first place. If you aren't clear about that particular "why", forget about your people having strategic alignment. They wouldn't have the foggiest idea what to align with! Speak often about why you are in business. Ask your people why they are in the business. Once you all know why, the other "Ws" and "H" will fall into place quite easily.
2. Two up.
I had written a post earlier about "Two-Up". This is where you need to be willing to "overtrain" your people and flies in the face of "Just-in-time" practices. But it actually goes a lot deeper than that. It is all about having your people living in a state of ever-increasing proficiency. That's right, I'm not talking about achieving a certain status, I'm talking about where you live. Do you constantly involve more junior staff in high-level strategic projects? Do you put in the time and effort to coach them and ask for their opinions during project meetings and the like? Do you involve them in meetings with other project partners, suppliers, clients and so forth? Do you put them at ease by delegating their job functions to others while they're away, so that they don't need to tackle a huge pile of backlog when they return? You might like to consider something along those lines.
3. Peter Principle.
I also talked about the need for "Popping the Peter Principle" in another post. How are you ensuring that the Peter Principle does not take effect in your organization, or at the very least is reduced to a bare minimum? Remember that you need to ensure that it does not operate for yourself as well! Perish the thought that people perform poorly because of poor job fit. They don't. They perform poorly because they lack the right character qualities and/ or are poorly led, and usually both. Look around your organization for people who are good at what they do, and ask whether they would become great if posted somewhere else or given other tasks. Do not allow the Peter Principle to become operative!
4. Greater Than Yourself.
No matter what business you think you're in, you are in the people development business. Are you taking the long-term, multi-generational view of making others Greater Than Yourself? Do you deliberately recruit brilliance into your organization? Are you able to recognize uncut gems when you meet them? Do you invest in cutting and polishing them into highly valuable jewels? If you are, you'll find more strategically-minded people around you than you might care to handle. All the better for spin-off businesses and valued partners down the road, I say!
Still complaining that your people aren't strategic enough? Stop it and contact me. I'll give you a hand. And maybe a boot now and then.