Too often, CEOs take the approach of, “I created a strategy; now read this document, understand your part, and make it happen.” Unfortunately, that’s akin to telling your team to meet at a destination without explaining where it is or how to get there.
Some of you might be thinking, “If I have to tell everyone how to do their jobs, then I have the wrong team.” But the most successful CEOs know improved communication can benefit every team: Even strong teams implement strategy more effectively when it’s communicated clearly.
As a leader, the onus on you isn’t just to build strategy: It’s also your responsibility to map the path to achieving it and to identify checkpoints.
These 3 tips can help you implement strategy more effectively through strong communication.
1. Cater to multiple learning styles. Everyone learns differently, so helping team members “see” your strategy must extend beyond the printed word and even beyond visuals like slide decks. About 65% of us are visual learners, according to Lake Superior State University, while about 30% are auditory learners and 5% are kinesthetic (or hands-on) learners.
For maximum success, mix and match learning styles, considering each role involved in the project. If you’re describing plans for a product, then use models to show how the product should look and operate. While you illustrate the product’s form, explain orally what functions each piece performs. Finally, ask project managers to mock it up using the same models.
2. Know what resources you have—and which you need. Too many companies start charging toward initiatives without evaluating what resources are needed for implementation.
I work with financial executives, and one client recently faced impending regulatory action. A Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering regulator issued a broad procedural finding but didn’t offer specifics concerning how to solve the problem. The financial institution’s executives knew they had a problem but weren’t sure how to address it.
A workshop gathered stakeholders, commissioned analyses through the BSA officer, and developed a plan. The plan detailed what needed to be done, by when, and who was responsible. The financial institution’s leaders had the expertise, but they didn’t realize the resources needed to meet regulatory expectations: an experienced BSA analyst, a business process specialist, a documentation specialist, a SharePoint specialist, and multiple anti-money laundering managers.
Often, teams already have—or can easily attain—the resources needed to solve their toughest challenges.
3. Use a road-map approach. When my team works with clients, we break down the strategy for each department via workshops, where we distribute visual roadmaps describing checkpoints to help departments stay on track. We discuss checkpoints verbally, and we disseminate the action steps in writing. This not only provides clarity, but it also cultivates interdepartmental support by showing how the departments’ roles fit together.
Executives are idea generators: They assess risks and look at prospective impacts on business. But it takes more than well-crafted strategy to implement a plan; strategy must be communicated often, concretely, and through multiple learning styles. The best executives aren’t just strong thinkers—they are also incredible communicators.
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