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Leading from the front and middle

The Translating Strategy Interview 

Many organisations have a strategy – owned and known well by the senior leadership. But when it comes to emerging leaders running front line teams, strategy can seem very distant and irrelevant to day to day work. It shouldn’t be. Aligning your team’s work with the strategy of the organisation is a critical success factor – for you, the team and the organisation. 
 
If you’re a typical emerging leader running a front line team, you’ll have not had much help from your manager when it comes to translating your corporation’s business strategy. You need clarity on what it is your team much achieve to deliver on that strategy. 
 
Let’s take an example from FASTLEAD’s experience working with a large consultancy’s payroll team. The corporate strategy was to serve its clients to make their businesses more successful. The consultancy identified two critical pillars in support of its aims: having the right systems; and a highly engaged and happy workforce. We asked the payroll team how they felt their roles impacted directly on the strategy – how could internal payroll activity touch the success of client businesses?

Through discussion, the team realised that they could - and did – impact on the ‘happy workforce’ pillar. We explored how if the wrong benefits are paid, holidays not properly accounted for, or salary increases not communicated in a timely fashion, then staff became frustrated. Most of these mistakes were oversights by line managers - sound familiar? – which led to the payroll team receiving irate emails and telephone calls from staff members. Typically, the payroll team – and they were honest about this – sheeted the blame to the managers at fault. In general, the payroll team were themselves disengaged as a result of this morale sapping work environment.

We then took the team on different path – one where they could add new value to the business and help take it towards its strategic goals. The payroll team changed tack – they now respond to complaints by: saying they’ll fix it; there’s no blaming of the managers; they immediately assist the manager to complete the paperwork; and corrections are made. Crucially, the solution of the problem is quickly communicated back to the staff member. This was a sea change in attitude and process. The secondly significant tactic was an outreach program visiting managers and explaining the repercussions of payroll problems and briefing them on how to complete the forms.

These two initiatives had immediate consequences: the payroll team built a reputation for being great to deal with - as opposed to painful. And, managers started taking the form filling more seriously. A further efficiency benefit accrued when payroll responded to manager feedback and simplified the forms.

We understand that not every team will be able to employ a consultant to help them define how they add direct value to the organisation. So here is a simple way for you to do it yourself: conduct a ‘translating strategy’ meeting with your manager. Hint: it’s best to give them some advance warning so they can think about it! 
 
Stage #1: Read the organisation’s strategy document 
 
Find your organisation’s documented goals, seek to understand them and the strategic pillars. Send a copy to your manager prior to any meeting. 
 
Stage #2: Interview your boss 
 
Organise a brief interview to discuss how the strategy impacts what your team has done, and needs to do. You will need to be able to align the work of your team is how it impacts the successful execution of that strategy. We have some suggested questions to ask of your manager. This conversation will help you - and them - define what is really important and what is not, and how your team can add the most direct value to the business in the coming period. 
 
Ask your manager about their role: 
· What do you see as your critical goals in the next twelve months? 
· What do you believe are the greatest challenges / barriers to achieving these goals? 
· What are your measures – both lead and lag indicators – of success? 
· What pressures do you believe you will face where I - and my team - can provide support? 
 
Ask your manager about your role: 
· What do you see as my critical goals in the next twelve months? 
· What do you see will be my greatest challenges / barriers to achieving these goals? 
· What key measures – both lead and lag indicators – do you recommend I consider using to establish my level of success? 
· What pressures do you believe my team and I will face – and where do you believe you will be able to provide the most support? 
· Which capabilities do you think I will most need to develop to assist me in being successful in the next twelve months? 
· Which existing capabilities do you think I will most need to draw upon to assist me in being successful in the next twelve months? 
 
If you are unsure as to whether your manager would welcome such a meeting, send them a copy of this article and see whether they think it would be a good use of their time. 

Let us now how you go on the FASTLEAD Forum

Alistair Gordon 
FASTLEAD Coaching Team 



THE LESSON FROM THE INTERVIEW

 

You need clarity on what it is you and your team much achieve to fulfil your part in achieving corporate goals.

 

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