Strategic plans, work plans, goals, action items, tactics, timelines… these are all fantastic tools for strategic leaders. They are important, and even necessary, to help leverage people’s work efforts and accomplish organizational mission. But we all know that our best laid plans can be disrupted by problems and opportunities during the year.
In those cases, what is a strategic leader to do? Abandon all hope of strategic planning and just go with the flow? Dump your plan and stay in reactive mode? I think not!
One strategy my team used to plan for unexpected problems or opportunities was a priority-setting brainstorm session. We identified criteria that should be used in prioritizing the activities we already have in our work plan as well as any new work that might emerge during the year. Some of the questions we explored included:
- How should we set priorities?
- What criteria do strategies or activities need to meet in order to be included in our work plan?
- What goals and guiding principles should we be consistently supporting as a unit?
- Does new work need to meet ALL priority-setting criteria or just some?
It was a fruitful discussion that helped us anchor our work plan and work priorities in overarching goals for our division and the system. We discussed the impact of our work, our customer’s needs, and the environment in which we work. We also had a useful conversation about how we want to work together as a team, and we agreed upon our own set of operating principles.
Since that conversation, I’ve noticed some of my team members have been more mindful of high-level priorities and have increased confidence in setting boundaries with other colleagues. In fact, just today I was copied on an email one of my team members sent to a colleague, explaining that a particular project would need to sit on the back burner until her higher priority work was completed. Now that’s leading and working strategically.
Last Wednesday, my team and I met for a long overdue planning session. (The photo featured here depicts some of our work.) Usually we conduct these every summer and spend a day off-site to re-focus on our mission, review our collective work from the year before and to set goals and priorities for the year ahead. Needless to say, due to staff turnover and my absence on medical leave, we didn’t get around to this important task until October.
In our two-hour abbreviated planning session, we still made time to include a discussion on each person’s “big ideas” for enhancing the programs, services, and resources we deliver to our campuses. And we talked through a draft workplan for this year in record time. While it wasn’t ideal…I would have liked to have had more time for everyone to discuss their ideas in detail…it was a start to reconnecting as a team and continuing to c0-create a desired vision for the near-future.
When I look at the Bass’s 4 I model of Transformational leadership, planning sessions are a key tool that leaders can use demonstrate Inspirational Motivation. If you recall from last Monday’s post, it was defined as:
- Inspire and motivate followers by providing meaning and a sense of challenge to their work.
- Involve followers in creating a desired vision for the future
- Communicate clear expectations
- Demonstrate commitment to shared goals of the team
Team planning sessions involve followers in creating a desired vision for the future. Documenting what happened in those planning sessions through a workplan can help set clear expectations and demonstrate commitment to shared goals. In addition, making sure that your team is grounded with a set of guiding principles or goals helps to provide meaning for everyone as they work together and contribute to the good of the organization.
What other tools, processes, or behaviors have you used to demonstrate Inspirational Motivation? Please feel free to share your expertise and leave a comment below.
You nailed the interview, you got the job and now it’s time to prove your value – full speed ahead! Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levels, encourage leaders to take a different approach to successfully navigate one of the most treacherous transitions you will face – starting a new job.
The pressure to deliver results – fast – can backfire and end up looking like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Making a lot of noise, causing a lot of action but not demonstrating your ability to lead and succeed.
To avoid a crash, Daly and Watson describe five crucial subjects or themes that new leaders need to understand before they charge forward. This will require structured on-going dialogue with your boss that they call “the five conversations:”
- The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss perceives the current standing or status of the overall organization and your unit. Your goal is to ensure a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face.
- The Expectations Conversation – define, clarify, and perhaps, negotiate what success looks like for you in your new job.
- The Style Conversation – discuss and determine how the relationship with your new boss will work. How do you each prefer to communicate, what boundaries exist, how are decisions made, and how frequent do you need to interact to ensure trust and success.
- The Resources Conversation – determine what resources are available, what you believe you need, confirm how resources are allocated and begin negotiating to ensure access to critical resources.
- The Personal Development Conversation – mutually identify opportunities and expectations for continual development to ensure success in your current and future roles in the organization.
In reality these will not be distinct one-time conversations but they are a framework to help new leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role. This is a time that it is “all about you!”
Posted in change and transition, communication, goals, Leadership, leadership development, organizational culture, resources, self awareness, stakeholders
Tagged communication, culture, feedback, Leadership, performance, professional development, purpose, questions, self-awareness, success, transparency, urgent
“That’s crazy,” “I could never do it that way,” You’re wrong,” “No, listen to me!”
Are you hearing statements like these at work? When new ideas are introduced are you seeing battle lines drawn? How do you lead for the common good when it seems like your people have completely different goals in mind?
Well, not to ignore how hard it is but the place to start is with dialogue. Which means helping people actually listen to each other, even if they disagree with what the other person is saying. Your goal is to help people move from:
- persuading or telling
- focusing on differences
- talking at each other
All of which lead to frustration, lack of trust and either/or thinking.
And move to:
- talking with each other
- looking at options
That requires finding some sort of common or shared interests as a starting point for dialogue. Instead of focusing on the dangers of the other point of view and highlighting the positive of their own point of view, help people work on specific issues by looking deeper and identifying underlying values, goals, and concerns that both sides share.
We encourage the leaders we work with to ask these two straightforward questions to build trust and identify shared interests.
- What do we all want?
- We do we all fear or want to avoid?
It will take work to keep people from focusing on their initial points of view and look at the bigger picture, but facilitating this conversation will help you and your people find a common good you can all agree on, and that is a great starting point!
Posted in building teams, common good, communication, goals, polarities, trust
Tagged communication, culture, ego, innovation, purpose, transparency, vision
Fourth and inches: the point in a football game where they’re almost over the goal…but just need that final push to get there. And the crowd goes wild when it works as planned, but just as often the punter is brought in, after the goal isn’t attained.
Many things need to happen on the field to get to this point:
- Knowing each player’s, and the other team’s players, strengths and weaknesses
- Calling the correct plays
- Having the right people where they need to be
- Consistently moving forward, with everyone’s eye on the same goal.
The Long-Term Financial Sustainability Workgroup at Minnesota State has been moving towards the goal of making our system sustainable for the future.
They’ve kept going by strategically identifying, then listening to and involving, all stakeholders, right from the start; communicating with everyone, clearly and consistently; figuring out who needs to be where and when, and moving steadily forward toward their goal.
The workgroup’s next move is a study session presentation to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees on Tuesday, November 15, at 3:15 p.m. You can listen to streaming audio here.
Management expert Peter Drucker famously said that what gets measured gets managed. When it comes to mission and vision, that can be especially important. Having a strategic vision and a well-crafted mission statement is a start, but unless they are reflected in day-to-day organizational goals they won’t be real to the people doing the work. Here are a couple of examples:
Dartmouth sustainability initiative includes a vision: “Dartmouth will build upon our unique strengths and traditions to become a global hub of sustainability by the end of this decade.” It also includes clear goals, such as adapting teaching and using the campus as a laboratory for best practices. In addition, they have identified progress indicators. For example, if the project is successful their graduates will be in demand for sustainability solutions and everyone on campus will understand how the institution leads in this area.
Connecticut state colleges and universities developed system and institution mission statements. As part of the project, a team identified metrics that met these guidelines:
- Indicative of progress
- Valid and reliable
- Comparison data is readily available
- Greater value than the cost of collection
- Institutional actions can impact the metric
How does your institution measure progress toward its mission and goals?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Author Dan Pontefract has released a new book that I found energizing and I encourage you to check it out. In The Purpose Effect (2016) he suggests that leaders can help their people recognize the “sweet spot” where the organizational mission overlaps with their role purpose and their own personal vision. You can read a summary of the book here – getAbstract
The sweet spot is the space where people feel engaged in their work, energized by how they can make a contribution and clearly understand the contributions their organization makes to their stakeholders. As leaders we rarely have the opportunity to be involved in the crafting of the organizational mission and vision but we can connect it to the day to day work being done and the unique aspirations of each person on your team.
Pontefract suggests that leaders focus on understanding and facilitating two-way dialogue in these three areas:
- Individual and personal goals or purpose and how they relate to the day to day work.
- what motivates the people on your team?
- how do they want to develop themselves?
- what most interests them in their job?
- how can you and the organization support their success?
- The organizational purpose, mission and vision.
- what are your organization’s values?
- how does the organization live out it’s purpose?
- what are examples of the organizational purpose?
- Role-based purpose.
- how do individual roles contribute to the success of the organization?
- where do individual roles make a difference to stakeholders?
- how can a leader recognize individual role contributions to the success of the department or organization?
Taking the time to understand each of these three areas is the first step. Then taking the time to consistently help your team members find their own personal sweet spot at work will help you bring your mission and vision to life.
Posted in building teams, communication, Engagement, goals, Leadership, leading authentically, Motivation, organizational culture
Tagged communication, engagement, Leadership, stakeholders, trust, vision