How do serving leaders become more strategic leaders in 2016? This is an interesting question I ask my clients the last quarter of the year. What would you need to do to become a more strategic manager?
Having spent much of my career as a senior manager in midmarket companies, I’m not so naive as to believe that many senior leaders are spending all of their time becoming more strategic.
I believe successful entrepreneurs are strategic doers. They are also very good at helping others implementing their strategies. Actually, I would bet the best entrepreneurs are 20% strategic, 60% implementation focused, and the last 20% of their time is putting out fires. I’m not sure if midmarket entrepreneurs will ever able to hang up their firefighting equipment. It’s what happens when you’re building the foundation for a great organization.
Many of these challenges have provided a lot of great entrepreneurs with opportunities to leap frog their organizations into leadership in their markets. You don’t become a market leader solving problems the same way your competitor does. For better or worse, the best entrepreneurs are very good at saying no to things that don’t have impact on their organization’s bottom line. My clients and the organizations I’ve led all have one quality in common; they know how to focus on what’s critical to their success! But how do you know what has an impact on the results?
Here are several questions to help you jumpstart your efforts in 2016.
How do you evaluate the investments you make in your business? Are you strictly using financial metrics to make your decisions? Do your investments help you build unique capabilities in your markets? Are you leveraging all the leaders on your team when making your decisions?
How do you spend your time today? Are you looking at all aspects of your business or are you focused on the areas that have the greatest impact on your organization’s growth or bottom line? Do you have outsiders that can provide you with different perspectives on your decision making process? When was the last time you spent time with client or partner?
How do you gather information in your organization? Do you put a premium on the time invested in data collection versus creating systems that help you make better decisions faster? I find that many entrepreneurs struggle to move from an “activity is what I’m paid for” mindset. It’s much easier to feel like you’re making progress when you’re gathering information. Invest your time in getting better at making better decisions. When you make a decision does it align with your business strategy?
Do you know what the key drivers are for your business? Does your team? I see many great leaders sidetracked by focusing on the wrong things when working with their leadership teams. It is critical that you help your team and everyone in your organization focus on the right results. Do you measure your impact when you’re involved on a team? The more you can learn to leverage others’ capabilities, the stronger manager and leader you become.
Are you developing your direct reports? We are going to see a talent shortage in many key roles in your organization in the next few years. It is critical that you are developing the people around you for their next role in your organization. Do you make sure your team members are engaging members on their teams?
People will stay with your organization only as long as they feel part of something bigger than themselves. When asked why high performing people leave organizations, over 80% say they no longer felt connected to their manager. Do you reinforce your leaders’ efforts to build comradery on their teams? How do you invest to keep people connected to your organization?
Finally, how would you describe your organization today? Are you developing a culture that rewards both individual and teams performance? It’s critical that you set the standards at which your team performs. Are you a good player coach who is willing to get involved to help reach your organization’s performance objectives? If you want to engage your workforce, it is critical that you’re all in. Many of our leaders are close to retirement. You need to lead by example.
Now we’ve asked the questions. Take time to talk about them with your team. Each paragraph can be used over the next several weeks to help you get off to great start in 2016. They will help you become more a more strategic doer. Don’t worry, we will go into more detail over the coming months to help you have more impact in 2016.
Happy New Year. Look forward to working with you in the coming year! See you next week.