A 2016 Forbes article reported a survey in which employees were asked: “How frequently, if at all, are you able to make the connection between your day-to-day duties and how they contribute to the company’s bottom line?”
Of those surveyed:
47% said “Always,” 39% said “Sometimes,” 9% said “Rarely,” and 5% said “Never.”
It is important to have clarity about what employees understand. If people do not know how they contribute to the success of their business, then they do not connect their activities to business results. As a leader, how can you contribute to a different outcome? Ask questions, listen to the answers, and then commit to team development that will shore up areas where understanding is lacking.
Unfortunately, we are not always great at listening to what we are told. As leaders, we’ve achieved our positions because we have demonstrated ability and been shaped through experience, even our failures are great teachers. Once we reach a position where we have the added responsibility of strategy execution, the tendency is to become a “teller”. It is quicker and easier to be the person with the answers then to spend the time developing a team’s understanding of how what they do contributes directly to successful outcomes.
In our sales program, Pure Selling, we demonstrate how the salesperson who is asking questions and letting the customer do the talking is the one in control of the conversation. The rep guides the conversation by asking appropriate, open-ended questions. Asking questions related to strategy, with a view to guiding and educating is similar and will help employees gain greater clarity about what needs to get done.
Coaching is another important component to strategy execution. If we are asking questions, we are better informed about what others understand and how aligned their perceptions are to the overall objectives of the organization. Where course corrections are required, good coaching is a way to help bridge gaps between our intended course and actions based on limited understandings. Additionally, asking for feedback will highlight where disconnects might exist – either yours or theirs. The sooner and better any misunderstandings are addressed, the closer you will come to accomplishing the objectives you’ve identified.
If strategy execution sounds a lot like undertaking people leadership, that’s no coincidence. Strategy development is heavy on science and data, but implementation requires a strong emphasis on first recognizing what people understand, and then using skilled leadership to get everyone moving in the same direction.