Decoding strategy into action for the Front-line

Have you ever been in that situation where you are on your way to get a coffee and have to fight your way through a group of employees crowding around the “Plan on a Page” document on the notice board in the lunch room? No? Neither have we! Don’t get us wrong – it is great to have important information readily available but relying on your team to access that important information themselves, and then make sense of it in the way you would like them to, is fraught with risk.

One of the keys to high performance is hooking the discretionary effort of your employees. That doesn’t mean getting them to work extra hours or doing more than one job. It means they have a laser focus on what’s important and they are energised by delivering on it. They will also know that their efforts are appreciated.

So how do you achieve this? Clarity is the answer.

Most Leadership Teams we work with are very effective at breaking the annual business plan down into what needs to be achieved quarter by quarter. These operationally focussed plans which emphasise what is important in the here and now, should be the starting point of Organisational Leadership Alignment. However, producing a plan on a page for the organisation generally doesn’t go far enough.

Do your senior leaders regularly engage with mid-level and front-line leaders to emphasise business priorities, consider any resource constraints or competing priorities, seek feedback on the direction and discuss the engagement of the broader workforce. Some ideas:

  • Executives and senior leaders should break their monthly or quarterly priorities into what needs to be delivered by work groups – is the connection for a team’s work to the organisation’s priorities clear;
  • Engage through the leadership ranks and solicit input. We often see targets and instructions being disseminated, and then frustration from Executives when they are not met. Genuinely soliciting input into the achievability of targets and what may get in the way will often result in a tweak to the plan which may it more realistic.
  • Ensure that front-line leaders are engaged with on a regular basis. These are the people that lead the vast majority of the organisations employees and will be the key to achieving the results that will enable the organisational outcomes.

You will know when you have effectively decoded your organisations plans and priorities into a form that will enable Organisational Leadership Alignment. Leaders at all levels will be pushing each other to do better and bringing out the best in each other. Higher goals and higher motivation to achieve them. It is infectious.

To complete the cycle, appreciation is vital. Business is not easy and delivering results, along with the effort that goes into it, should not only be recognised but appreciated. A team that feels they are appreciated will always outperform one that feels it is taken for granted.

So, in summary, break down high level plans and targets into pieces that are relevant to each team. Without doing this, you are asking your employees to make their own sense of it. Engage with the leaders throughout the organisation and ask for their input – they will see things you may have missed. Enjoy being part of an aligned leadership group and show your appreciation when the results flow!