by Anne Phillipson, Programme Director, William J Clinton Leadership Institute
The most important thing you can do as a leader is to give your business a reason to matter. I’m sure your organisaiton does matter –but who decides and then communicates the ways in which you matter most? That is the work of leaders and should be a top priority for the new year.
In times of exponential change such as these, we know that ‘what got us here, won’t get us there’. All organisations need to ensure their future relevance by spending time thinking strategically and aligning people and resources to those areas that set them apart.
‘Strategic thinking’ is a phrase often heard. But what does it really involve? Leaders focus on the future. They must spend time together anticipating the future, discussing what is shifting in the world around them, and planning how they will stay ahead of the curve in order to remain relevant. They put themselves in their customers’ shoes, and think deeply about how to anticipate their needs. Leaders step into the future, take a look around, come back and make a plan. That’s strategic thinking.
Most people think strategy is about beating the competition. It isn’t. It’s about servicing an unmet need, doing something unique or uniquely well for some set of stakeholders.
Whether you are thinking strategically about a business, a department or a person, here are some questions that will help to prompt your thinking and team discussions…
- What do we want to be ‘famous’ for?
- What do we want to ‘own’?
- When people think of us, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
- What do we do that is unique?
- What do we do uniquely well?
- What skills and attributes do we bring to the world / organisation?
- If this organisation/ department did not exist, who would miss us most? How would the world survive without us? How long would it take our customers to find a replacement for our goods or services?
All strategic planning should start with the CUSTOMER. We have to really understand and focus on the needs of the Customers we serve, or want to serve. What value do we create for our customers?
Purpose is who we are and what makes us distinctive. It’s what we as a company exist to achieve. What is your company’s purpose? And once you have defined that, does everyone in your company know and understand it? Aligning people with purpose, helping them connect with meaning (something bigger than making money) has the added advantage of driving employee engagement. People want to know that what they’re doing matters. Purpose-driven leadership clearly aligns people with purpose. By being crystal clear on your purpose, you can design your successful future.
A great purpose is not a great strategy.
Rather, a purpose is a strategist’s way to STAKE A CLAIM. With it, you’ve earned the right to play, to take part in the game. It’s where strategy starts. Winning the game takes a lot more. Your strategy is your plan to win.
Make meaning, then make money.” –Guy Kawasaki
Spending time together determining who you want to be in the future is time well spent, and January is the perfect time to get the team together to plan for the year(s) ahead.
Many people think a strategist’s primary job is thinking. It isn’t. It is setting an agenda and building a great organisation to carry it out. But certainly, thinking is what starts the wheels in motion. And getting the team together to think out loud, is the best way to ensure that you are thinking from multiple perspectives and experiences. Strategic thinking is absolutely in the realm of the leadership team in any organisation, and should be top of the agenda for the new year.
“A compelling purpose, backed by a system of advantage, can give you a difference that matters. It means that if you disappear, there will be a hole in the world of those you serve.” –Harvard Business Professor Cynthia Montgomery.
I hope that 2018 is a year that sees you serve your customers well, your people well, and a year in which you feel you are focussed as a leader on being the strategist your organisation needs.