Sustaining a Strategic Focus

The leadership mandate is:

  • Achieve your management goals;
  • Develop your team;
  • And the prime directive, pursue sustainable improvements.

The leadership challenge is to develop an operating style that fulfills this mandate while effectively managing persistent, short-term, changing priorities that demand attention.  If your team’s time is consumed with resolving urgent issues, then the vital, longer-term improvement work goes undone; you’re always reacting, not leading.

Key to sustaining a productive balance between short and long-term priorities is consistently integrating strategy into team discussions.  Certainly, there are times when leaders must focus on the tactical, being directive when the urgency of the problem demands it.  But in most situations, leaders have the responsibility to keep the larger picture in perspective and visible to their teams, and avoid getting too engrossed in the details.  This helps their teams develop a strategic awareness about why their actions are valuable for the business and meaningful for them.  It also encourages the exploration of strategic challenges, wherever that may lead, and the potential for sustainable solutions which resolve those problems.

One way to strengthen a team’s strategic thinking is to carve out time during team meetings to focus on the strategic perspective, to discuss how a policy or process might be improved.  As an example, if your meeting is an hour long, dedicate the final twenty minutes to a conversation or update about longer-term issues and improvement opportunities, particularly those that could increase cross-functional agility and productivity.

And to ensure that you get this heads-up, future-focused time with your team, you may need to refine the format for the earlier part of the meeting, the portion that addresses tactical, shorter-term issues.  Seek to replace a report-out protocol for this part of your discussion with a structure that encourages team dialogue and shared accountability. 

Prior to the meeting, have team members share with you and each other a short, written report about key activities, wins and challenges; then during the meeting, each participant should cite just one win and one challenge, before soliciting team feedback and suggestions on their highlighted challenge.  Besides making the dialogue more concise, this format promotes the mutual dependence and accountability of the team members to each other, strengthening their bond and encouraging them to assist and support one another.

How are you sustaining a strategic focus with your team?

Leave a Comment