Business leader behaviours to help you to implement strategy in your team successfully

Even the most brilliant of strategies need to be communicated and implemented effectively in order to be successful. You may have drawn up the grand plan, but is it understood and followed? Adjustments and tweaks to a leaders behaviour can sometimes make all the difference. We are very grateful to Floor Slagter, one of PRS’ newest associates, who has extracted some practical advice from her PhD research on the subject in the form of some top tips which we hope you will find useful.

What business leader behaviours help you to implement strategy in your team successfully?

Many organisations spend a lot of time formulating their strategy. However, a formulated, well-thought out strategy that remains unimplemented is worthless.

Also, if management has communicated the headlines of the strategy, but operational follow-up from the other parts of the organisation does not happen, the strategy becomes fragmented, creating misalignment throughout business units.

Consequently the image of management on the work-floor is undermined – How serious or professional are they perceived, if they don’t do what they set out to deliver?

If you are struggling to implement your strategy, you are not alone:
Research (1) points out that “two-thirds to three-quarters of large organizations struggle to implement their strategies”, and that often a majority of the employees are not aware, or do not understand the strategy of the company they work for.

If you are thinking “So what?”, maybe you should think twice. Companies that have no clear strategy implemented suffer from less employee commitment and satisfaction (2), hence more employee turnover or underperformance that simply costs you money. This is old news, since we discovered this fact over 60 years ago. However, we still fail to give strategy implementation the attention it deserves.

As a business leader you can start changing this tomorrow, by simply focusing on the following 4 categories of behaviours (3), you will be more successful in delivering strategy implementation within your team.

1. Provide the dot on the horizon

Communicate goals clearly. You can’t overdo this. An average person needs to see or hear a message 7 times before it sticks and he or she acts upon it. Often as a business leader you forget that employees have not been involved in the process of strategy formulation, so it will take time before the team has the same level of knowledge as you do. Inform your employees about goals, expected results and the importance, by tying the initiatives to the strategic goal it corresponds to. In this way, work instantly has more meaning for the employee.

Delegate… with all the consequences, so that employees feel ownership. Check up on progress and provide relevant information, facts, figures, and opinions.

Tip: Plan an OGSM workshop with your team (Objective, Goals, Strategies and Measurements) in which you link team KPI’s, activities and owners of these activities to the goals and objective of the company.

2. Enthuse people to participate

Tell stories! Talk positively about the initiatives that are taking place to your employees.. But also, confront and question: discuss when things are not working and learn from this. Call people to order if they get off track.
Identify threats and opportunities and discuss the pros and cons of new proposals.
Suggest problem solutions or brainstorm with your employees about the right solution and offer help where necessary.

Tip: As a business leader you don’t always have to come up with the solution. Asking questions (and preferably open questions) can be just as, if not more, powerful. Experiment with the power of questions during your team meetings and ask a minimum of 10 open questions (starting with “What?” “How?” “Describe?”).

3. Start the dialogue!

Ask your employees for their ideas, advice and opinions – and listen to these. As a business leader you don’t have to have all the answers. It is very powerful to involve your team in coming up with ideas. Simply ask the question “ What can we do better?”. Encourage your team to develop new ideas and use innovation. Give feedback, but also be open to receive feedback – both positive and negative. Lead by example and correct behaviour that is directed against the team.
Celebrate successes that are achieved, make these collective and communicate these. Do the same with failures. In this way you stimulate team learning.

Tip: Stimulate your team to experiment with their improvement ideas using the PDCA cycle (4) :

Plan

– Identify the problem, collect relevant data, and understand the problem’s root cause, develop hypotheses about what the issues may be, and decide which one to test.

Do

– Develop and implement a solution; decide upon a measurement to gauge its effectiveness, test the potential solution, and measure the results.

Check

– Confirm the results through before-and-after fact comparison. Study the result, measure effectiveness, and decide whether the hypothesis is supported or not.

Act

– Document the results, inform others about process changes, and make recommendations for the future PDCA cycles. If the solution was successful, implement it. If not, tackle the next problem and repeat the PDCA cycle again.

4. Don’t be the boss, be approachable!

As a business leader, make sure you spend time on the work floor, preferably every single day. Show interest in your team members and how your team feels when their work is accomplished. Show understanding and listen. If you make a mistake admit it and learn from it (again: lead by example). Don’t underestimate the importance of this sense of empathy and humanity you can add as a business leader to the workscape of your employees.
Reflect on your own activities and behaviour. Often as a business leader you get caught up in the daily, hectic ways of working and loose sight of the long-term goals, that are just, if not more, important.

Tip: Make sure that you reserve some time to reflect on your week, schedule this in your agenda, for example on the Friday morning. Simply ask yourself the question: How have I worked towards success this week in both the long term and the short term? And what will my actions be next week to be successful in both the short and long term?

(1) Sull, D., Homkes, R. & Sull, C. (2015). Why strategy execution unravels—and what to do about it. Harvard Business Review, 93, 57-66
(2) Drucker, P. F. (1954). The practice of management. New York: Harper & Row.
(3) Based on Floor Slagter’s PhD research at the Rotterdam School of Business, Erasmus University Rotterdam
(4) Langley, G., Moen, R., Nolan, K., Nolan, T., Norman, C., Provost, L., 2009. The Improvement Guide, 2nd Edition. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, page 24. https://theleanway.net/the-continuous-improvement-cycle-pdca

If anything you’ve read has struck a chord with you, or you would like to find out more please do not hesitate to contact PRS directly for a conversation.

PRS to Develop Business in US

We are delighted to announce that Gerry Cappelli is joining the PRS team to lead the business in the US. Based in New York, Gerry has a wealth of experience across financial services firms. Together with her coaching and mediation expertise she will be a strong ambassador for PRS. Andrew Pullman, CEO, says “I am pleased that Gerry has joined the team. Having worked with her for over 9 years at Dresdner Kleinwort, I know that she will bring strong leadership to our activities in North America.”

Gerry is an experienced HR executive who is spearheading our initiative to grow our business in the US. She has worked for several leading global financial services firms in a senior leadership capacity. Her expertise includes employee relations, litigation risk management, talent acquisition, talent management, reductions in force, change management and company reorganisations. Gerry is certified as a Conversational Intelligence Coach, an Executive Coach and a Master Career Coach. She is also skilled in administering a number of assessment instruments as MBTI, TKI, ELI and SEIQ. In addition she is qualified as an Arbitrator, Community and Workplace Mediator.

The Final Frontier – a case study on coaching across cultures

executive coaching culture

Today we are featuring an article of interest by Ian Claffey about his coaching work in Mongolia. It is a fascinating look at the opportunities and challenges that working in a different culture presents, and the approaches required to meet them. Importantly, if you ever find yourself in this part of the world, Ian also provides a selection of top tips for doing business in Mongolia.

Coaching in Mongolia – The Final Frontier

Arriving at Chinggis Khaan International Airport on a cold winters day was always going to be a shock to the system, more so as I had left Thailand several hours earlier, which had been +38 degrees. I had known cold as a child in Glasgow, but this was different. Ulaanbaatar is one of the coldest capital cities in the world. It would be easy to think that an average 250 days of sun each year would bring warmth. However, temperatures range from -40°C in the winter to+40°C in the Gobi Desert in the summer.

My first contact with Mongolians was through their Embassy in London. I was invited to a function, and I was delighted to attend. It was there I was introduced to the leadership team from the Association for Development of Mongolian Women in Europe, (ADMWE) when they held a dinner to celebrate Mongolian Lunar New Year, ‘Tsagaan Sar’.

The (ADMWE) were planning their ‘Mongolian Woman of the Year’ awards to be held in Frankfurt. I thought I would show goodwill and offer to provide and pay for a leadership coaching programme for their fund-raising auction, not thinking they would ask me to attend the event in Germany.

coaching mongoliaMy coaching career has provided me with some interesting experiences over the years, including conflict mediation in Nigeria, team development on the Vaal River in South Africa, coaching Group Internal Audit Teams in Singapore, Tokyo, and Zurich, as well as supporting a Leadership Team, at Board level, in the mountains of Tuscany, none of which prepared me for being auctioned off to 150 Mongolians. At the auction the programme I provided was bid for by a CEO from a leading company in Ulaanbaatar, I was very happy the (ADMWE) made some money from the event. The proceeds from last year’s event provided a range of programmes for children in Mongolia. These included supporting girls to build confidence and leadership skills. Also, a strong boy’s initiative, helping to develop good interpersonal skills, along with providing 200 children with school bags and writing materials for the start of the new school year.

I have travelled extensively with my work in Asia, mostly in South East Asia, but arriving in Mongolia was like entering a new world. The more I got to know the people, the more I liked them. I read about their history, values, beliefs, and culture. I also noticed they are fiercely proud and have a unique presence – a quiet strength.

My professional career has been built, in part, trying to understand different cultures, to provide solutions for the clients, and organisations I work with, who are operating in new cultures, and who are often facing cross-cultural challenges or conflict.
In my experience, having empathic understanding is key to getting the best out of people when arriving in a new country. Depending on which part of the world a direct approach may also be needed. To be too inclusive may be seen as a weakness in some countries. I was interested to see what might work best in Ulaanbaatar.

One of the largest opportunities and cultural challenges facing Mongolia is the Oyu Tolgoi mine. The mine was given its name from the turquoise-coloured copper ore found in the Gobi Desert. Mongolia has an abundance of natural resources including coal, copper, gold, uranium, and rare earth minerals. This has made it a very attractive destination for international organisations. I suspect that doing business with international organisations, without losing their identity, will remain high on the agenda for Mongolians.

Mongolia joined the free market in 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was followed by the introduction of a multi-party system and a market economy.

coaching UlaanbaatarOne of the few countries in the world not to have embraced executive coaching, I was keen to look at how coaching could work in Mongolia. I wanted to make sure it was set at international standard. When in Bangkok, I met with the Regional Director from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) for Asia to explore how we could ensure quality. We are now looking at getting an (ICF) Chapter set up in Ulaanbaatar.

Resource-rich in copper, gold and coal, Mongolia is in a very strong position to make the most from its natural wealth, in particular, Oyu Tolgoi mine and other mining projects. Strong leadership and direction from the MPP, The Mongolians Peoples Party, along with investment by the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and input from China, Japan and South Korea will make it possible for Mongolians to reap the rewards.

Taking a corporate approach, with a long-term view of creating robust senior leaders, is where coaching can help. Developing local ‘talent’ will, in my opinion, facilitate better relationships when dealing with multiple stakeholders from a range of different countries, levels and disciplines. Building a goal-setting and solution-focused mindset, based on the ability to both give and receive constructive feedback, is critical when developing strong leaders.

I have put together a list of tips for doing business in Mongolia:

• Mongolians are very hospitable people. Try to accept any food or drink you are offered, even if you only take a little. They can be offended if you refuse. Having said that horse milk is an acquired taste!
• Accepting with two hands is the way things are done, the right hand supports the other at the wrist or elbow.
• Respect for elders is shown by greeting them first, try not to walk in front of an older person, this is seen as sign of rudeness.
• As you enter the meeting room, it is normal that your host will indicate when you are to sit.
• Your host may be late, this is part cultural and part Ulaanbaatar traffic. It is not meant to be disrespectful.
• Legal and business documents may be viewed as work in progress, rather than the finished item. A flexible mindset may be required from time to time.
• Giving or exchanging small gifts is often seen as part of the relationship building stage and a nice experience.
• The exchange of inexpensive gifts may also take place on the signing of contracts or agreements.
• It is sometimes customary to toast with a shot of vodka, be careful if you are offered Chinggis Khaan ‘Gold Label’ vodka, it is 39% Alc. Vol.
• My final tip and one that works in most countries is to behave as you would if you were a guest in someone’s home. This one has never let me down.

Ian Claffey MA – Executive Coach, APECS Acc, NCP Acc, MAC