At the risk of being obvious, leaders should always inspire action. But if a strategy isn’t inspiring action, maybe it’s not a good strategy.
It’s easy for the planner/leader to forget that my “aha” moment (strategic insight) needs to actionable, not just visionary. I have to turn “be better at customer service” into a list of actions, like “show each customer you understand before moving to a solution or a sale.” This means leaders need to use more action verbs.
We trick ourselves into thinking we get it. The funny thing is that language can tell us when we don’t understand. When someone says “What do you mean by that,” and you don’t know what to say. Hint: “It is what it is” doesn’t actually add detail.
I realized this while reading Leisa’s very smart blog post about strategists who spend months working on a plan that nobody else seems to understand.
This means leaders need to bridge the gap between strategy and actions.
Why Strategists Struggle with Clarity
Strategists and business consultants don’t always understand how their strategies will meet everyday tasks. They simply stop at the higher-level things without connecting them to the everyday (either because they don’t offer to see it through or the client doesn’t want it).
This is where the leader needs to translate what he can (to the rest of the organization) and push the strategists (with good questions) to better-develop the rest.
How to Start
First, remember that action is evidence of strategy. Great writers know that action verbs show, and modifiers only tell. So pay attention to the words you use. Strategists should show by using action verbs to connect people to their part in the bigger plan.
Second, tell each person only what matters the them. If you’re trying to inspire that janitor, it’s okay to be general (not vague; just general) until you get to his level in the organization. Then be specific about why his job matters. So it’s like “We’re doing x. This is how it might affect your work.”
Third, call me. I’ll tell you why it might be better to ask the janitor how he thinks it’ll affect his work.
This isn’t a magic wand, and many leaders aren’t able to take the time or energy to get this sorted out. As a teacher and consultant, I’ve helped organizations coordinate long-term strategy and action without disrupting the organization. If this sounds familiar, give me a call.
This post inspired by: Everyone is doing strategy right now. – disambiguity.