Wisdom Was Not At The Top Of The Graduate School Mountain

We’ve all been exposed to and some of us worked in Best Places to Work, as written by Kathryn Dill, Forbes Staff writer.  These company’s “get it,” they have a feel and an energy about what makes them special everyday regardless of circumstance – Google, Apple, Wegmans, Costco – some year-in, year-out. Some of those listed have clear, concise strategies that are flawlessly executed. Some not on that list, sail off into the un-chartered waters of oblivion and may have a lovely gold-embossed leather binder on each Exec’s credenza collecting dust.

As we mentioned in Painting the Strategic River Green, the Strat Plan is not just a document. It is not some ephemeral leather-bound journal “the suits” pat each other on the back as masters of the universe. No! For the most successful of organizations it is the Strategic and Cultural blueprint – the living, breathing soul of an organization by which we all hold dear and eschew to making a contribution towards each day within our functional area of expertise. The companies that don’t commit to this level of forethought usually find themselves on the dung heap of cocktail-party conversation disdain as we have nothing else of value to discuss. Immersing your employees and weaving them throughout the strategic plan dramatically affects an organization’s culture. A colleague of mine in Hamburg, Torben Rick delivers a similar message, “Strategy is rational while culture is emotional.” You cannot have one without the other and maintain long-term success. Your culture pervades every square inch and meter including the paint color in the break room.

Organizations are communities with shared values and beliefs – everyone with an identity unto itself – good and bad. It’s true what the Robert Fulghum poem “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” tells us, as it’s as appropriate in today’s world as it was decades ago.  Sadly, many of us have forgotten how to treat others in and out of the home and office with the enormous distractions technology has afforded us with. How the hell did some of us venture this far off the map? When did kindness become replaced by covering your ass and political correctness? Moving an organization forward is about establishing a direction the community can rally around and embrace the purpose knowing their input everyday matters.

Setting strategic direction is not about debating every word in your vision and mission. It’s about establishing the strategy, the tactics and the blueprint for execution in a clear, concise and compelling manner that moves your organization forward with the resources to support that execution.

Peter Finch, Network 1976

Peter Finch, Network 1976

Does the plan emulate your culture, and how can you “immerse” and “engage” your people to want to? Employees want to see and feel their contribution; that their worth and work is valued by someone – someone who truly cares! Let me ask this one about your feelings towards your employees, do you really give a rip or are you “managing” ergo behaving as if they are a line-item expense?  Can you honestly say without reservation or hesitation you truly care about Mary Jane as a person, first and value her as an employee, second, or are you more of a “what-can-you-do-for-me-lately” kind of  leader or manager? One thing’s for certain is they smell what you’re cooking based on your behaviors and their perceptions of you. Like the Peter Finch soliloquy in the movie, Network, “they’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.” 

Can you blame people, even some of your employees for feeling this way? I’m not suggesting it’s a “we versus they” mentality. What I am suggesting is you need a plan, leadership and a community that believes what you believe in. A plan your employees can own and be proud of owning in their role and responsibilities; to see a sense of accomplishment knowing what each one of them does every day matters. The answer lies in how to deliver a message of care and concern for employees that their worth is measured in the approach and the work they perform and are held accountable for.

People want to know their work matters and for leaders it’s creating an environment where everyone, even at the lowest practical level has some “say so.” Whether it is a better understanding of what the Big Picture looks like and how best to capture what you do best, to how can you leverage that discipline in order to dominate your market and your competitors.  For others, it’s capturing the priorities that make the most sense for execution of that strategy – what has legs today and what may be practical another day.  There’s only so many initiatives that can be realistically and logically executed to a level of expected proficiency, and there’s only so many people and  finite resources that something’s ‘gotta give.’ Changing roles may need to be addressed, removing other now-less important things off of everyone’s plate, and maybe some processes may need attention and further discussion. It’s a concerted effort on everyone’s part.

McLintock! 1963You’ve heard it countless times before, the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Chill Willis, the colorful character actor of American Westerns in John Wayne’s McLintock, said it best. He asks a young pioneer, “You plan to give McClintock a fair day’s work don’t you?” “Why Yes,” the sooner replied.  McLintock then bellows, “and for that you’ll earn a fair day’s wage. We both hold up our heads.” Your expected result to accountability is to do the right job at the right time for the right reasons correctly.

We all learned many things in grad school from Sloan and Wharton to Harvard. What many of us didn’t pick up on at the time was Wisdom. Wisdom to appreciate who had gone before us and those that will come after us. Some things just take time, experience and hard knocks – for some of us, more reps are required. It’s a simple process frankly that synthesizes the message in its simplest form. What would you have to do to get your organization aligned? What would it truly take to lead, and what can you provide that’s worth following? What would you rather be, popular or successful?

Clients turn to us when they struggle with moving things forward in their organization, setting strategic direction, engaging and mobilizing employees, and creating a high-performance culture. We break through the critical human and cultural integration challenges that obstruct your company’s ability to break through boundaries. Your challenge is to leverage the best attributes of all legacy cultures and operations, while being fully inclusive of all talent. We have a proven methodology laying out an efficient, effective path to maximum impact and results while preserving critical relationships, and working together may make sense to you and for your company’s success.. What we do preserves the core and enhances your organizational capacity for collaboration, innovation, and productivity gains that drive business results with agility.

Please share your thoughts on culture and strategy below. I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or for more information on our solutions, please review our website and contact me +1 205-482-2177  to discuss your Strategic Direction for your company today!

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