How Did We Get Here?
Ever since the founding of the first organization (whatever it was), leaders have struggled with this problem—how do you motivate people to give their best? Age after age of autocratic leaders used fear as the primary lever for engagement. Compliance was key. In the last century, scientific managers used the “carrot and stick” approach that was well suited to a population of workers with minimal education and low expectations. Then around mid-century, things changed. People became more educated and their expectations rose, forcing leaders to involve them more. That led to the rise of “participatory management,” which was originally supposed to flatten out hierarchies and democratize the organization.
Whether you realize it or not, your life is a series of negotiations. Some are grand negotiations that come rarely come along and require sizable effort (e.g., buying a house, negotiating a job offer, or acquiring a new business). Other negotiations are more commonplace (e.g., settling on a movie with a friend, picking a family vacation spot, or determining how to spend a small financial windfall).
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As a new leader it is critical to remain fair and consistent. This can be tough as a new leader can quickly find himself under pressure to help a friend, bend the rules, or make just one exception. People who were once his peers now report to him. Handling the change in the relationship can be tough. Although the new leader’s intentions might be positive (e.g., wanting to gain support of key team members or trying to make a deposit with a reluctant follower), others might see things in a very different light. As Stephen M. R. Covey wrote in The Speed of Trust, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”
Creating a grand strategy – without the associated resources needed to execute it – is a recipe for frustration, disengagement, and many undesirable consequences.
Have you ever found yourself in this boat?
Are you putting your people in this situation, by expecting more than you’ve prepared, equipped, or even allow them to accomplish?
I took this photo this week when we visited my in laws farm. You just can’t take a bad picture of these cows.
The old joke about a farmer being ‘outstanding’ in his/her field popped into my head.
A couple of months ago, we were up at the farm and I made this quick video about strategy. I thought you might enjoy it as it poses a question about what type of strategy you are pursuing.
Take a moment to reflect on your grand strategy for your team or organization.
Seriously, take just a moment to sit back and focus on what you plan to accomplish.
Arguably, that exercise has likely revealed that you are in one of three groups:
Group #1: You found this to be a fairly simple exercise as you have invested significant resources to create your plan. You have paid the price in time, energy, and intellectual bandwidth to create the plan. Congratulations. This is good news, but is likely destined for disappointment as you don’t have a process in place to execute the strategy.
The word strategy is bantered about in meetings, classrooms, cocktail parties, and everywhere else.
Perhaps you’ve heard people saying things like:
- “I’m a strategic thinker.”
- “We are shifting strategies right now.”
- “Our strategy this year (or month) is…”
In many instances, the individual, team or organization isn’t truly pursuing a strategy or thinking strategically, they are exhibiting more of a herd mentality.
Some 18 months ago, David Bowie succumbed to a battle with cancer. After his passing, I invested time studying his career. In short order, it became clear that the career choices Bowie made align with what the best thinkers say about strategy
Perhaps it was intuition, studied decisions, or advice from others that informed his career. Whatever the source, Bowie’s career moves were smart moves.