The vision is set, the employees are onboard, and if you’ve really excelled as a leader, you have your workforce compelled to come to work fully engaged in helping achieve the vision…but don’t stop there! The vision is where you want to take the company, that positive dream of where we can and should go, but next is the strategy and that is the how. How are we going to get there? Some leaders love the vision part and others love the strategy part, but what most leaders really love is the doing part, the goals and actions.
When we go in to meet with leadership teams on vision and strategy, we find ourselves continuously pulling leaders up out of the tactical. Leaders often make it into leadership roles because they are good at solving problems and getting things done, so when these same leaders get into a discussion about strategy, it usually takes only a few moments before they zero in on one issue and want to solve it, but that’s not what strategy is. The strategy is the plan and approach to achieving the vision.
Awhile back I worked with a leader in the healthcare industry to build a cohesive leadership team and then led that team to implement strategy. We set up a rhythm to work for one year. We started with a two-day offsite and then set up four quarterly meetings.
In the offsite, we spent the first day and part of the second morning purely on the team. We used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a tool to help the team members better understand themselves and their teammates’ communication styles. Each team member shared their own strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has areas to improve and needs help, so the more open team members can be with each other, the better.
Next, we created a team behavior contract. At each team meeting, the behavior contract was used as a check-in and accountability discussion. The team members each did a self-check and voiced to the team where they thought they were doing well and where they felt they needed to improve.
Identifying & Overcoming Barriers
The second part of the initial two-day retreat was spent on the business strategy. We started by discussing what or who might get in the way of achieving the vision. The team identified people who were resistant to the new direction, old technology in one of their systems, and an empty seat on the leadership team that needed to be filled.
In thinking about the support this team needed to achieve the vision, they identified several key people that needed to be engaged in the process, such as the SVP of HR to push through the stalled recruiting of the leadership team members, and the IT vendor to help them replace old technology in a special financing arrangement.
We listed the key stakeholders that they would need to engage. This included those mentioned in the support above, but also others who would be directly impacted if the vision were to be achieved. For example, they needed two of the noisy and influential physician leaders to be a part of the vision because they knew if they didn’t get them, the whole process could be sabotaged both overtly and covertly. Once again, the team needed to slow down before going fast and ensure they had the right leaders engaged.
Goals & Actions
This is where we finally let the leaders “off the leash” and let them think about solving problems, and they excitedly put together who would do what and when. They made an ownership spreadsheet that would be used in every meeting to ensure that the goals and actions were moving forward and that each team member was engaged and doing their part. They also used the spreadsheet and in each subsequent session to ask each other for help and remind themselves that they were not alone, they were doing it together.
We identified the areas we could track and measure success so we could continually gauge progress in working toward the vision.
Over the course of the year, the half-day sessions became so valuable that they continued having them long after the year of planned meetings were complete. The team learned to work cohesively and ultimately doubled the organization within a seven-year period.
There were, of course, difficult times, disagreements, and disappointments but having the strategy for both the business and the team made all the difference.