Who’s on First? Literally, who is working on your No. 1 priority?
And just as important, does the rest of the organization know your No. 1 priority and why it's No. 1? Or at a minimum, is the rest of the C-suite aware of your top priority and its relevance to the organization?
We all know what the answers to these questions should be; however, if you're like most, the answer to all of the above is most likely "no."
In CIO magazine, there was a brief but powerful article that I found relevant to any executive. The key takeaway in layman’s terms is this: When the C-suite has clarified its priorities and each leader understands the implications to his or her department and (more importantly) to the organization as a whole, an organization is more profitable.
Again, probably something we all knew, but PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) polled just over 1,100 businesses and validated our instincts. Thanks PwC, we owe you one.
The CIO article talks about collaboration, digital conversations, transformational change and fostering innovation, but we want to keep it a bit more simple. So here’s our summary: Starting with your leadership team, get your people on the same page and you’ll be more profitable. To help you do that, we offer three simple ways to get your team working on:
Share Where You’re Going
I know this may sound too simple to matter, but trust me, it matters. If your team members don't know your strategy or how their piece of the pie relates to it, how can they understand how to prioritize? There should be no question throughout the C-suite as to the importance of an organization’s No. 1 priority. It is the job of the executive team to explain the relevance to their individual divisions and departments. To illustrate what I mean, don’t explain “technical advantages” to people who aren’t techy. Rather, explain how the technical advantages will impact their day job. When your team knows where you’re going and its importance, people will start to ask "how’s that going to impact me?" That’s a good thing. A byproduct of these questions will be visibility into concerns that you probably need to be addressing anyway. So, start sharing and you’ll add clarity and eliminate surprises.
Direct how you’ll get there
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just share the vision and be done? Well, that’s not reality, at least not from what I’ve seen. The time when real rubber meets the road is when you say, "this is where we are going," and in detail, explain how you're going to get there. Think about it, how many "visionaries" are there in the world with great ideas that never go anywhere? Why is that? I believe the hardest part of a vision is actually breaking down the detailed plan for how you’ll achieve it. Whether it is driven by strategy, technology, efficiency, compliance or anything else, your team has to have a road map and know that there has been thorough planning and detailed consideration of how you are going to reach that vision. Winging it doesn’t work long-term and your team is smart enough to figure that out.
Be realistic in what it will take
As motivational as it sounds, “we’re just going to buckle down, work hard and get it done,” is no longer a reality. It is a pipe dream to think that your team can just buckle down and push through something that is as important as your No. 1 priority. If you have gotten by with that philosophy before, you're fortunate, but replicating that is extremely unlikely in a post- recession business environment. The fat has been trimmed out of every organization by now, so understand your team’s limitations. Don’t force employees to commit to taking on more than their day jobs without a detailed assessment of what the fallout will be. By that I mean if you pull an employee from his or her day job to work on your No. 1, there will be implications. So what is your plan to deal with those implications? Be realistic and assess who you have to help on the commitments; you’ll be glad you faced reality early in the game.
Bottom line, I think it's safe to say, all leaders can set a vision and lay out priorities. But the most transformational leaders — those most likely to establish a smart strategic path and achieve their vision -- are those who understand the importance of sharing that vision so that everyone understands and plays their roles.
Carey L. Rome, founder and CEO of Cypress Resources, is a management consultant, public speaker and noted expert on transformational and effective leadership. Carey is best known for enabling leadership success through his pragmatic, straight-forward approach to complex challenges.