How to Have a Meaningful 1:1 Discovery Conversation

Strengthening relationships and ourselves through mutual understanding

There’s no perfect way to have discussions with another to strengthen or build a relationship. The willingness to have the discussion at all is a great start. Here are a few thoughts for having a meaningful 1:1 conversation with a colleague, a direct report or your boss. (They can also be useful with those in your personal life.)

It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.”

-Hermann Hesse

1. Set Your Mindset:

First and foremost, consider your mindset before having this conversation. Be curious, open-minded and seek to understand the other person. Also be willing to be vulnerable and share your preferences and thoughts.

2. Share Insights in Advance:

We all have needs in the workplace as well as ways in which we prefer to communicate. Sharing some of these insights about yourself up front allows each person to take into account the other’s style and needs in order to have a productive conversation. If you’re looking for a tool to help build your own self-awareness and that of your team members, try this free, quick Behavioral Assessment to learn more about your leadership style and motivating needs.

3. Reflect on Your Style:

Consider how you prefer to make decisions, process ideas, resolve conflict and interact with others. Without judgement, think about how your style compares with that of the other person.

4. Begin with Ease:

Start with a few positive words expressing your desire to learn more about this person. Set the environment for an easy, pleasant dialogue to explore. You are both there to seek greater understanding, not to judge or compete.

5. Explore Similarities, Differences, and Insights:

Compare preferences with one another. Where are you similar? Consider if these similarities may create a bond and where they may create tension. Where do you have complementary strengths? How might these differences make you better together as you balance one another’s styles?

6. Share Ideas:

In your discussion, share a few ideas on how you might use this better understanding to strengthen your relationship and perhaps to make you a better leader (and human). Some find it useful to create a shortcut phrase to use when certain behaviors appear to prompt both of you to select a more productive path.

7. Keep it Going:

Stay connected and keep talking. This initial conversation is a springboard. Continue learning about one another and yourself. You don’t have to become best buddies. However, you will strengthen the ability to respect others who are different from you, or where conflict occurs because you are quite similar.

We will never truly know all the ways we impact those around us by what we do, what we say and how we say it.

Understanding yourself and others provides opportunities to bring your best self to every encounter.

I wish you well in the never-ending journey to discover more about yourself and all those you interact with.

Do You Want to Learn How to Align Your Team for Amazing Results?

As a leader, you are expected to produce results and to build thriving cultures. Doing so requires not only the right leaders on the team, but having an aligned, cohesive leadership team. Do you know where the opportunities are for your team? Perhaps you have some thoughts, but what if you had real, science-based data rather than the movie running in your head?

In our 90-minute 1:1 Team & Strategy Alignment Session, you will discover insights about yourself, each leader and the team’s collective strengths and caution areas. You will also learn how well positioned your team is to deliver on your organization’s strategic priorities. 

You will be astounded by what you learn about yourself, your team and how well they align to their most important goals. AND, you will walk away with ideas you can put into action right away.

Want to learn more? Here’s a brief example. Now imagine a rich conversation about your team and the work you need to do. Still not sure? Take this free, quick Behavioral Assessment to learn more about your leadership style and motivating needs. 

Strategic Imperatives: Aligning strategy, leaders and culture to create thriving organizations. Here are a few ways we help strengthen leaders and build leadership team alignment.

Leadership Team Alignment Requires this Foundational Element

At a recent client offsite with a senior leadership team, I asked these leaders to consider how often they readily “assume positive intent” about the words or actions of another. These executives share similar drives of wanting to have influence over people and events. In essence, they all like to be in charge. Their bias for action and their agility helps them to move quickly, qualities that served their organization well as they navigated through uncertainty and disruption when Covid-19 upended the world as we knew it.

They continue to zig and zag and leap over unprecedented obstacles. Despite similarities in styles, every person has unique qualities. These leaders have sufficient differences which help them balance on another, but also periodically cause friction and misalignment.

How Often Do You Assume Positive Intent?

Assuming positive intent requires trust. And trust is the critical foundational element for any high-performing, aligned team. We may disagree on how to accomplish something, or you may want more details than I need, or I may feel totally comfortable taking a risk that makes you tremble.

The best path forward comes from first assuming positive intent. When trust is present, you can talk about your different perspectives and ideas, and you can respectfully disagree. You don’t feel the need to take your worries and criticism to others to vent or for validation. You remain open to talking through differences to find the best solution you can at that point in time. You may end up simply agreeing to disagree. Yet both will at least feel heard and respected, rather than dismissed and ignored.

The next time you find yourself jumping to assign motivation to another’s words or actions, take a moment to reflect rather than react. First, assume positive intent. Then openly explore one another’s perspectives. You will not only surface better ideas; you will build trust and strengthen relationships and alignment of your team.

Do you want to learn how to align your team for amazing results?

As a leader, you are expected to produce results and to build
thriving cultures. Doing so requires not only the right leaders
on the team, but having an aligned, cohesive leadership
team. Do you know where the opportunities are for your
team? Perhaps you have some thoughts, but what if you had
real, science-based data rather than the movie running in
your head?

In our 90-minute 1:1 Team & Strategy Alignment Session, you will discover insights about yourself, each leader and the team’s collective strengths and caution areas. You will also learn how well positioned your team is to deliver on your organization’s strategic priorities.

You will be astounded by what you learn about yourself, your team and how well they align to
their most important goals. AND, you will walk away with ideas you can put into action right
away.


Want to learn more? Here’s a brief example. Now imagine a rich conversation about your
team and the work you need to do.


Still not sure? Take this free, quick Behavioral Assessment to learn more about your leadership
style and motivating needs.


Strategic Imperatives: Aligning strategy, leaders and culture to create thriving organizations.
Here are a few ways we help strengthen leaders and build leadership team alignment.

Stop the Guesswork of Hiring: Put the Right People in the Right Seats

A recent study revealed that a staggering 76% of executives do not believe they have the right people throughout their company to execute their business strategy.

CEOs, CHROs and other business leaders I speak with feel the pain when they can’t find the right people or keep the talent they have. One CEO client described finding and keeping good people as a “life or death” risk for his business. Desperate times don’t need to resort to desperation hiring. A lack of alignment causes great pain in organizations. Alignment starts by putting the right people in every role.

The good news is that leaders who believe they have the right people to execute their business strategy are experiencing 42% less turnover than those lacking the right talent.

Here are a few ways you can align people to jobs with the right people in the right seats:

Get fully aligned on what the job is before you determine the candidate requirements

Before jumping in to describe the years of experience or education required, start by getting really clear on what the job functions are. What will this person be doing that’s important and common to the role? It’s more important look for equivalent experience, skills and the right behavioral and cognitive match for the job than whether or not the candidate has a degree. Make sure all those involved in the hiring process are fully aligned on the position and the candidate qualifications.

For more than a decade IBM has been eliminating the need for a degree as a job requirement for many of its jobs. According to its CHRO, about 50% of US jobs no longer require a degree. They are more concerned with the skills, experience and fit for the job and their culture. NEC had this practice in place in the 1990s for just about all US positions including at the leadership level.

Select for fit aligned with all key aspects of the job

Having the right background on paper won’t matter if there’s a poor fit with the job duties. Assessment instruments appropriate for selection such as the behavioral and cognitive tools provided by The Predictive Index provide rich information on the candidate and how well they align to the position profile. For instance, a sales position may call for someone with more of a “hunter” profile than a “farmer.”

Understand fit with the team, the manager and the culture

Beyond aligning to the job, explore how the candidate might fit with the manager, the team and the company’s culture. Here’s a resource for insights on how different styles lead, work and operate within a team.  Consider if you need more of the same types of styles on a team or if greater diversity of styles might bring some balance and fill gaps. Your questions should certainly explore a cultural fit and alignment with the organization’s values.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution while you can to help you take the guesswork out of hiring!

Attract Diverse Candidates

You may think you are already struggling to fill positions on teams with qualified, available candidates, yet alone those with diverse backgrounds. However, you may be overlooking great opportunities to attract and retain diverse talent and create more inclusive cultures. Consider practices you can take to uncover bias and gaps in your current talent acquisition approaches. Expand your view of diversity beyond visible traits of gender and race to include those with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and multiple generations. Remove any non-essential requirements from your job postings that may serve to discourage diverse applicants. Expand your recruitment sources to add other organizations, geographies and educational institutions.

Be extra diligent when hiring leaders and managers

Leaders and managers have a direct and profound impact not only on business results, but also on culture. It’s easier to get a sense of a candidate’s background and experience than it is to ascertain their leadership style. Understanding the styles of the team members may also reveal how different leaders can align with and shape the results and performance of the existing team. Structured interview questions, pre-hire behavioral and cognitive assessments and careful reference checking can come together to reveal traits that can make or break parts of your business.

For heaven’s sake, train interviewers to interview effectively!

Come on now – we’ve all been candidates being interviewed by people who had horrible selection skills. Years of interviewing experience doesn’t necessarily translate to doing it well. It’s a mystery to me why we leave critical hiring decisions in the hands of people who have not been properly trained. Train leaders, managers and talent acquisition professionals to probe deeply to understand a candidate’s experience and style using structured interviews, explore the individual’s motivations as they move through their career and tap into the rich data a valid behavioral assessment provides. IBM currently requires all those involved in the interview and selection process to be certified in the “Select for IBM” program. The training reinforces looking for skills over degrees and eliminating some of the bias that can appear in the selection process.

It’s time to power up the Talent Acquisition strategy, team and tools!

It’s never been more important to have a highly qualified, professional talent acquisition team, strategy and tools in place. No longer is the “recruiter” simply an entry level role for the Human Resources department. It’s time to up the game and get beyond “post and pray”.

These tips combine methods and tools to help you fit the right people in the right seat, aligned with your organization’s values. And yes, I’m passionate about assessments! I’ve used them for decades and would not ever hire anyone to work for or with me without them. I included Predictive Index solutions into the Strategic Imperatives solutions because I experienced the power of these tools and analytics as a PI client. Interested in checking these out? Use this link to take a Behavioral Assessment for yourself. It will take just about 6 minutes and you’ll find great value in the insights!

Here are some other really useful (and free) resources to check out:

Download this Guide to Structured Interviews e-book to power up your interview process with these key steps

Sources: Beyond more years of experience than I often admit to, here are several sources used to inform this blog and well worth looking at:

The State of Talent Optimization 2022 Report. 300+ executives reveal the cost of the “Big Quit” and the top drivers of employee retention.

Why IBM Chooses Skills Over Degrees. A Conversation With Nickle LaMoreaux
Chief Human Resources Officer for IBM, CHRO CONVERSATIONS, GALLUP, APRIL 13, 2021

Woods, Arthur, The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2021

Get the Most from Your One-on-One Meetings

Communication constantly swirls around us in a barrage of text, slack, chat, social and email.  While these can be quite useful and quick, none will substitute for the powerful impact of a one-on-one meeting a leader or manager has with team member.  Yet too many of these meetings fail to make an impact and may come across as just another appointment on the calendar.  Each one-on-one meeting presents a stellar opportunity for alignment and impact.  

The most impactful one-on-one meetings embrace a dual purpose around the person AND the work.  They provide opportunities to solve problems, engage in strategic discussions and check in on key projects.  From a person-centered perspective, they also show team members that you care about them and are supportive of their career and development goals.  

Here are some tips for making these meetings most impactful for you, the employee and the organization:

1. Schedule regular meetings and respect this time.   

Determine a frequency that works best based on the size of your team, the roles and how often it makes sense for individual meetings.   Knowing there is regular time on the calendar may prevent some daily interruptions.  Show up on time and stay the full time.  If you must cancel, provide advance notice and reschedule in the very near term.  

2. Determine priority topics.   

While a formal agenda might not be necessary, you may get in the habit of sharing topics to discuss in advance important to either of you.  Some may be recurring themes while allowing time for other pressing topics.  At the start of your meeting, you can compare topics and perhaps even agree on time for each.  “Let’s go through these two items in the first 10 minutes so we can spend the rest of the time doing a deeper dive on the third topic.” 

3. Be present and create positive energy.  

Focus fully during the meeting to make the most of the time together and demonstrate you value the individual and their time.  Turn off the phone and alerts coming from your email, calendar and data-generating watch.  Start on a positive note with a compliment or acknowledgement of a recent win or effort.  Beginning with positive energy helps to open the dialogue and put the person at ease.

4. Solve problems and surface solutions.  

One-on-one meetings can be useful to dig deeper into challenges and collaborate on potential solutions.  You may ask the employee in advance to come up with ideas on a challenge the department faces or to describe the challenges they are facing and come up with ideas for solutions.  You’ll discover how the employee solves problems and will learn more about what’s happening a level or two deeper in the organization.  You can use this discussion to offer input and feedback and to identify road blocks that you can remove at your level.   

5. Dig deeper on strategic questions.  

Too many meetings cover issues at a surface, fire-fighting level. When grappling with more strategic issues, you may want to pose a question or topic in advance to allow the person time to gather thoughts.  These could be questions about a product or service, opportunities the company may be missing, a key customer or planning for the leadership offsite.  

6. Be a person talking with a person.  

Engaging as one person to another brings humanity to the discussion.  Everyone has personal challenges and celebrations.  Taking time to share something about you and asking about their life can encourage them to be open if they are facing a stressful situation.  People want to feel a sense of psychological safety and be vulnerable from time to time.  When you as the leader express vulnerability, you provide unspoken permission for your employees to do the same.

7. Engage on career goals and professional development.  

While coaching, feedback and learning often happen in moments of interaction, it’s important to also devote some focused time on development conversations.  This may be every meeting, or every other or in certain sessions.  Provide the individual with a heads up if the topic will be about development.  These personal conversations often require a bit of reflection by the individual to feel prepared.  During the meeting, ask focused, open-ended questions to encourage the employee to express their goals, experiences and challenges.  Ask what you can do to assist.  Offer up ideas after the individual has had a chance to speak to avoid shutting down the dialogue.  Express your confidence in their ability to continue to learn and grow.

8. Align, summarize, and clarify.  

It’s helpful to summarize any agreements you’ve made to ensure you are on the same page.  Include any action items each of you agreed to and clarify the timeframe and follow up.  Referring to commitments from the last meeting encourages accountability for the employee and for your own actions.

9. Acknowledge and appreciate.  

Leave a few minutes at the end of the meeting to express appreciation and acknowledge ideas and efforts.  Avoid generic or inauthentic phrases.  If there’s something specific to recognize, say it.  “I appreciate what you’ve done to ….”   In any case, simply pausing for a few seconds and saying “Thank you” shows you value the person and the interaction you’ve just had.  

Recognizing that the greatest threats to an organization’s success often come from a lack of alignment, the one-on-one meeting provides a venue to get aligned around the work and set up an environment for the individual to thriveLeadership requires balancing numerous paradoxes.  Aligning the human and results-driven factors may be among the most critical and the most rewarding.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution while you can to help you take the guesswork out of hiring!

5 Ways to Stop the Great Quit

With 4.2 million Americans quitting their jobs in October 2021 alone, attracting and retaining workers rises to the top as a critical business priority.  Savvy leaders recognize that this is not just about people quitting.  It’s a worker revolution where people have greater flexibility to determine where, how and when they want to work.  These factors and more present CxO leaders with an opportunity and a responsibility to realign their business and talent practices. 

Has the Great Resignation impacted your business?  If so, you’re not alone.  Over 300 executives surveyed by The Predictive Index shared their insights about The Great Resignation summarized in the 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report .  The “Big Quit” is top of mind, and executives across industries are feeling the sting. Executives reported that one in five workers have quit in the last six months, and 75% of execs say it has impacted their financial stability. 

Top 5 Ways to Terminate Turnover:

On a positive note, the report revealed five turnover terminators to combat these challenges: 

1. Companies with the right people in the right roles have 42% lower turnover.

Most of us have experienced the pain of hiring the wrong person for a role.  Relying on resumes, the usual sources and “gut feeling” sets you up for retention roulette risking hiring someone who doesn’t fit the role, the team or your culture. The tight labor market brings desperation hiring to the forefront.  Aligning the right people in the right roles should be every leader’s dream. Building a company of top performers (and keeping them) starts with putting the right people in the right roles. People with a solid fit to their job, team and company culture are more engaged, more committed and more likely to perform well. 

2. Remote-friendly companies are experiencing 33% lower turnover.

Leaders of fully on-site organizations (either by necessity or by choice) reported a turnover rate of 24%. That number drops to 16% among remote-friendly organizations (i.e., those that support hybrid or remote work in any capacity)—that’s an eight percent decline (and 33 percent change).

A September 2020 global study by Steelcase revealed that while most people want to work from home to a degree, most also want an opportunity to come back to the office.   54% of US respondents say they expect to work from home one day a week or less; 26% say they expect to work from home just two to three days per week.

Bringing them back to the same old office, work environment and hours won’t cut it.  Leaders who take this massive shift as an opportunity to create better work experiences, inspire and engage people and help teams work together better in the future. 

3. Companies that prioritize health care benefits experience 27% lower turnover.

This pandemic-era work experience has not only brought forth physical health concerns related to Covid-19, it has also revealed behavioral health concerns as employees grapple with family challenges, isolation from social circles, financial challenges and more.   Desired healthcare benefits have moved beyond easy and affordable access to medical care.  These extend beyond the physical, into the realm of emotional health. Employees also value having a healthy workplace. Companies reporting that providing competitive health care benefits isn’t a top-three talent priority, executives reported a 22% turnover rate. By contrast, companies where healthcare benefits are a priority, the attrition rate falls to 16%—a six-point decrease (and 27 percent change).

4. Inclusive companies are experiencing 19% lower turnover.

Beyond physical safety at work, people also crave psychological safety.  The want to feel safe to freely share ideas with bosses and colleagues who will listen and value their perspectives. That feeling is so important, it’s making the difference between a quit and a stay.  Beyond illuminating the importance of healthcare, the pandemic put inequity in all forms in the spotlight.  Improving diversity is only the part of the equation.  Inclusion goes beyond diversity to embrace all voices and all experiences.  Doing so helps to reduce turnover. 

5. Companies practicing talent optimization are nearly twice as likely to avoid the brunt of The Great Resignation.

Talent optimization simply means ensuring your business and talent strategies are aligned.  When your talent is equipped to execute on business strategy, it means you’re leveraging each person’s natural strengths—and optimizing their potential. That’s what talent optimization is all about.  Successful businesses don’t run themselves.  Even the most well-crafted strategy requires the right people and practices to execute well.  Aligning both talent and business strategies includes designing the right teams and structure, hiring the right people for each role, inspiring them by providing development and coaching opportunities and keeping your finger on the pulse of your workforce by diagnosing and uncovering aspects of disengagement in teams or the organization. 

Read this insightful report to discover how executives are tackling The Great Resignation.  Ask us how we can help you to future-proof your organization. 

Future blogs in this series will dive more deeply into each of these areas with recommendations and resources. To identify the best actions for you to take for your company, first, quantify the talent problems you are facing and the impact on your business.  Next, identify the root causes driving workers to quit and to remain.  Then implement targeted, aligned magnetic workforce strategies to attract, engage and retain the best people for your organization. 

Contact us to learn how we can help you create, align and optimize your business and talent strategies.  Visit our Resources section for other useful articles, tools and reports.   

Sources:

The 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report by The Predictive Index, January 2022.

The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts by Arthur Woods, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2021

Work Better:  It’s time for an experience that’s fundamentally better, Steelcase.  Work Experience Diagnostic Study conducted in September 2020 by Steelcase in 10 countries.

Remembrance and Resilience

September 11, 2001 (Image by Ronile from Pixabay)

I knew the 20th anniversary of 9/11 would emotionally tug at my heart, but I didn’t expect the powerful force that would swirl through my entire being from the moment my eyes opened.  Images and emotions from two decades ago hit like a lightning bolt as if it was yesterday. 

As I’m sure is true for so many of you, I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001.  I was living on Long Island and working from my office in Connecticut in what I considered my dream job as a Vice President of Organization Development for Gartner.  After watching in horror as the first tower went down, I spent hours trying to get through clogged telephone lines to reach my sister Carolyn to find out if my brother-in-law Jim was safe.  Jim was a NYC Firefighter in the Hells Kitchen district, right next to Times Square.  By the late afternoon I was relieved to hear that Jim had the day off and was out fishing that morning cut off from the news.  Returning to his car he turned on the radio to be greeted with the horrible events unfolding that day.  He rushed home, kissed my sister, and went down the street to the elementary school to wish his son a happy birthday before heading into “the city” to support the rescue and recovery efforts.  Buried in the tremendous rubble were his closest friends among the hundreds of first responders and thousands of other souls who tragically died that day.   

As happened with so many others, 9/11 became a turning point for me.  My plan before that tragic day was to work for Gartner for 5 years and then start my own consulting practice.  Instead, I left my high-paying job a month later and launched my first business without one single client.  “I’ll give it a year” I told myself.  That was nearly 20 years ago, and I’ve since launched my second consulting practice, Strategic Imperatives, helping organizations thrive through greater alignment of their strategies, leaders, teams and cultures. 

On this September 11, I found myself near San Diego at a Pinnacle Global Network event for business leaders.  I nearly declined this invitation when I saw the meeting date.  Ultimately, I was glad I came.  Being with other entrepreneurs brought me positive energy and reminded me of the courage I had in launching my first consulting practice 20 years ago as well as the resilience in all of us.  The past 18 months have tested that very resilience in different ways as we continue to navigate through a global pandemic and the health, economic, political, and business challenges at every turn.   Every challenge brings opportunity if we look for it with a positive and curious mind.  I look to the future with an open heart and mind as we emerge from the current crisis just as we have from those past.  We may be changed, but we are still strong, courageous, caring and full of gifts to bring to the world. 

Align Leaders and Strategy to Navigate Challenging Times

Being thrust into a global pandemic and the economic, political and lifestyle impacts it leaves in its wake certainly tests the mettle of many organizations and leaders. Regardless of the impact recent events have had on your business, unprecedented social, economic and personal challenges continue to swirl as many leaders face the ambiguity of an uncertain future.  While this feels “different” the fact is that change has been driving the bus for some time and is here to stay.  As early as 1987 the term VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) was borrowed from the military and used to describe the changing world and challenges faced by business leaders.[i]

Realigning business priorities, the workforce and likely both stands as an acute reality for many, and the stakes are high.  Powerful emotions are at play when strong leadership is needed most.  Alignment certainly includes ensuring your leaders are on the same page and supportive of the specific strategic goals to pursue.  While agreement has its own challenges, the bigger mountain to climb may be to ensure you have the right people in charge of leading these strategies.  Organizations that survive and thrive through even the most tumultuous challenges not only shift their strategies, they also ensure alignment with their leadership capabilities.

Strategy pivots and external forces may require different capabilities than you needed yesterday.  Assessing and aligning leaders requires taking several key steps to:

  1. Understand your current leadership capacity
  2. Adapt how you lead
  3. Align strategy to leadership strengths
  4. Mobilize and align your people

Understand your current leadership capacity.  Just as with strategy, there’s a need to assess the current state of leadership.  While you can do this using your opinions, be careful of the movies running in your head about each person.  Science-based assessments provide far more accurate insights. When speed is of the essence, either pull out qualified assessments you have used in the past, or select one that can easily be implemented and provides valid results.  A brief, science-based instrument such as The Predictive Index’s Behavioral Assessment[i] can reveal critical information such as a leader’s preferences for decision-making, managing risk, reacting to change and connecting with people.

Adapt how you lead.  We become more of who we are in times of stress.  Challenging times requires even greater self-awareness of our strongest behavioral drives, how to leverage them and when to adapt how we lead.  What worked before may backfire in the face of change.  Leading remote teams requires different methods when you can’t walk around and see people.  How do you shift leaders from their innate styles?  You can’t just tell them to act differently.  Instead, you can tap into data to raise awareness of the most pressing issues, inform the discussions you need to have and the decisions you must make.  


Align strategy to leadership strengths.  Every leadership team can stretch their strengths and capabilities somewhat.  However, even the best teams have gaps.   For greatest results, the behavioral styles and strengths of your leaders need to be compared to and aligned with your organization’s strategic priorities.   Below is one model for illustration.  Talent optimization leader, The Predictive Index, uses a framework adapted from Harvard to depict strategy in four quadrants:  exploring, cultivating, stabilizing and producing.[i]   Mapping these strategic quadrants to leaders’ behavioral preferences reveals alignment of strengths as well as gaps. 

Adapted from The Predictive Index Design strategy alignment model

The capabilities that once served the company well may be less important or need to stretch into new areas. Those creating strategy may not be well suited to execute it.  Leaders used to systematically driving high-production, efficient operations may struggle with experimenting with new, untested processes or suddenly become risk-taking innovators.  There’s no single model of effective leadership traits.  Much as with any sports team, the most successful companies rise to the top and stay there because of the combined capabilities of many, not just one single leader.  

Mobilize and align your people.  Resource needs change through business growth, competitive shifts and external forces of dynamic change.  Beyond strategy and leadership, leaders must consider the work to be done and the people doing the work.  Middle managers and front-line staff serve as the linchpins for achieving strategic goals. Leaders must find ways to mobilize and align the workforce – the people closest to customers, products and services. Successful change management comes when new strategies are implemented while experiencing minimum negative outcomes.   Simply telling people what the new priorities are won’t be enough.  Training them won’t be enough.  

The next article in this series will discuss ways to mobilize the workforce to successfully lead through change and challenging times.   Read the previous article, How to Redefine Strategy Amid Chaos for ideas on quickly pivoting strategy to survive, stabilize and thrive. 

Contact us to share your thoughts or to learn more about how to assess, align and activate your leaders and teams for organizational success. 


[i] Adapted from The Predictive Index PI Strategy AssessmentTM  instrument. https://www.predictiveindex.com/assessments/strategy-assessment/

[i] The Predictive Index (PI) is a talent optimization leader offering science-based solutions, technology and a global network of management consultants and practitioners.  Diana Rivenburgh is a PI Certified Partner.

[i] The acronym VUCA came initially from the military and was later associated with leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus to describe or to reflect on the volatilityuncertaintycomplexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. 

Shift Strategy Now

How to Redefine Strategy Amid Chaos

Quickly Pivot to Survive, Stabilize and Thrive Again

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak global havoc, many organizational strategies are in peril or even obsolete. Without a playbook for our current state, smart leaders are looking for ways to reimagine, redefine and reenergize their business model.  Strong economies mask a number of leadership flaws and organizational gaps.  Now, more than ever, organizations need to redefine strategic priorities and align these with their leaders, teams and structure.  Yet in this era of upheaval and uncertainty, alignment must happen quickly, go deep and be constantly assessed.

Before you can align, you must know what you are aligning to.  Naturally, that starts with strategy. 

Strategic Burst, Not Strategic Planning

Now’s not the time to go into deep, long-term strategic planning.  Instead, consider a series of “strategic bursts” to identify priorities over the next 12-18 months to reimagine possibilities and protect the organization from risk.   While we don’t yet know what changes will come from this unprecedented experience, we know that there will be significant change and challenge. 

  1. Assess Your Current State:  Without delving into tons of data and analytics, have your leaders openly discuss what’s happening today to identify assets and strengths to build on as well as the greatest risks to mitigate.  Be sure to include people and culture elements in this assessment.  You won’t get through this without the right people, practices and cultural strengths.  Consider the driving forces at play such as regulatory changes, revenue shifts, supply chain disruptions, labor shifts or health and safety. 
  2. Reimagine Possibilities:  Reimagining possibilities challenges thinking under “normal” conditions, and we are in anything but normal times.  Amidst this uncertainty, leaders need to reset and put on a different set of lenses to consider what can be in the future and what must be done today.  You don’t need to know how to get there or have near 100% certainty of success.  Nothing is certain and striving for the perfect answer will derail you faster than the pandemic.  This dialogue must be open with an invitation to raise any and all new thoughts and gaps without censoring or retribution.  Suspend judgement.  Get all ideas on the table.  Refine and prioritize later. Leaders should reach into their teams to find ideas for reinvention, efficiencies and the best use of talent.  One client tapped into an idea from one of its Regional Directors to continue to obtain state revenues during the COVID-19 crisis and used this to influence other states to do the same.  This may have been the single most important action to sustain this business while they figure out next steps.
  3. Define your Strategic Imperatives:  Among the many possibilities surfaced for the near term and future state, refine, clarify and articulate your greatest priorities.  While much is unknown, having defined priorities provides a north star for decisions you need to make now and in the near term.   These should pass muster against any criteria you have set for strategic focus such as impact on financials, meets customer needs, is viable in the midst of this crisis (not just someday) and you can execute on this near term. 
  4. Align Priorities and See Connections:  Be sure to look at alignment of priorities.  Will one require a significant financial investment when the funds are rapidly depleting?  Do you have the talent and resources to execute or will this be too stretched across the organization?  Avoid being myopic when applying solutions.  For instance, there will likely not be one answer for shifting how, when and where people do work.  “Remote forever” vs. “everyone come back to the office” by a certain date may be naïve thinking.  Instead consider all the inter-connected pieces – workplace, transportation, safety, technology, communication, learning and measuring impact as well as the emotional and social impacts your people are experiencing.  You don’t have to have all the answers yet.  Just raise the interconnected parts so they are addressed along the way and don’t derail your efforts. 
  5. Be Fast and Agile:  Speed and agility are more critical now than ever.  You may put some ideas in effect as soon as they surface, especially if they are critical to surviving or stabilizing or if a new timely opportunity has surfaced.  Hold up your strategic imperatives to your current state and take immediate steps to address gaps and barriers and to leverage potential enablers and assets.  Be sure to factor people and culture into this strategy pivot as you realign work, manage remotely and make critical decisions on talent retention, reductions or redeployment.  
  6. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse:  We don’t yet know what we don’t yet know.  As we move into the next chapters of this surreal environment, monitor key drivers, shifting events, progress and your people.  Continue to mine for ideas and move quickly on those most viable and act quickly to assess and mitigate risk.  Also keep your finger on the pulse of your people as they juggle work, family, isolation, fear, change and uncertainty.  Rather than the annual employee engagement survey, you may consider assessing the employee experience every few months so you can take action now. Ensure multiple avenues for communication and treat your people with respect.  You need them now more than ever and want to retain the best talent now and when the job market turns around. 

Even the most compelling creative or practical ideas are only as good as the execution.  The next two articles to come will bring ways to align the leadership team to the strategy and align teams and people, despite the challenges you may be facing from distributed and distracted workforces. 

Contact us to share your thoughts or to learn more about how to rapidly pivot your strategy and align your leadership team, people and organization to survive, stabilize and thrive again.

RELATED ARTICLES AND INFORMATION:

Download the Surviving an Economic Downturn Guide

Leading in Crisis

Team Building Through Change

Building a Resilient Organization

Managing a Virtual Workforce – download this free e-book

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Are your leaders, teams and organizations thriving?

Today I’m writing to share an opportunity through our strategic partner, Wisdom Works, to become certified in the Be Well Lead Well Pulse®.  This strategic framework and pioneering assessment system addressing how leaders make thriving a game-changer in teams and organizations, starting with themselves. The Be Well Lead Well Pulse® is the first-ever assessment to look holistically at 19 science-backed factors linked to human thriving and resilience. Leaders, teams and organizations who use it gain personalized insights about thriving in a feedback report, along with strategies for cultivating fulfillment, leadership effectiveness and a culture of flourishing at work. Given the disengagement and stress rampant in our world today, we see Be Well Lead Well Pulse® as part of the much-needed antidote.

The Be Well Lead Well Pulse® was developed by Renee Moorefield, PhD and her husband David Moorefield, PhD.  Recognized as a global thought leader in wellbeing leadership, Renee has coached thousands of executives and teams to operate from an inspired purpose and vision, wellbeing and internal balance, plus the leadership capabilities required evolve and uplift workplaces, families and communities, and our planet. Nike, Hyatt, The Coca-Cola Company, Sainsbury, Cox Automotive, Merck & Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, Centura Health, and Western Union are among her list of clients. 

The program being offered in Atlanta on April 22-24, certifies leaders, executive coaches, strategists, trainers and other human development and wellness practitioners to administer Be Well Lead Well Pulse®, framework and assessment.  The Be Well Lead Well Pulse® program is accredited through the International Coach Federation for Continuing Coach Education (CCE). Practitioners who complete the certification program in its entirety receive 21.75 CCE units (11 in Core Competencies and 10.75 in Resource Development).

This Atlanta-based certification program will be hosted by one of Wisdom Works’ client partners, Cox Automotive. You’ll find details about the certification program here, along with registration information here (with an early bird discount of 10% for those people who register by February 1st.)  Should you decide to register, please let them know I sent you! 

Giving back is an integral part of the Be Well Lead Well® engine. As such, 1% of the gross revenues from the Be Well Lead Well® brand will be committed to Capital Sisters, a unique nonprofit supporting microloans exclusively to enterprising women in developing nations who are denied access to traditional financial services. 

I will be there and hope you will join us.  Would you be interested in participating in this certification, and possibly, spread this opportunity to others?

Wishing you the very best in your own journey to be well and lead well!

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10 Steps to Creating a Focused Effective Strategy

A well-defined Strategic Plan sets you on a focused course to demonstrate and increase value. An effective strategic planning process results in a thorough understanding of the organization, the value it brings to the constituents it serves and what leaders most need to focus on.

Does your Strategic Planning Process have all these factors?

1. Utilizes your organization’s Vision, Mission and Values as its foundation.

Doing so helps you to stay true to what’s most important for your organization today and into the future. This may require reviewing, revising or even establishing your organization’s Vision, Mission or Values.

2. Provides focused direction while also being nimble.

Your Strategic Plan must be focused on what’s most important in order to align resources and avoid distraction from the noise. At the same time, you must keep your finger on the pulse and remain nimble enough to shift course if needed.

3. Articulates a strong value proposition.

A value proposition is simply what your organization does better or differently than others and how you will grow and measure this value. What makes you unique? Why should customers come to you? Going through this activity can wake up leaders to the need to up their game or just to be able to get the word out.

4. Ensures alignment of all leaders.

Do you really know what your leaders think are the most important goals or are they giving you lip service in meetings while working on their own side projects? Find out where there is agreement or disagreement early on before friction slows or stops your progress.

5. Has the confidence of leaders and teams.

Understand early on where your leaders have little faith that a particular initiative will succeed. Have them talk to their teams and really listen to the views of those closest to the work. Avoid the desire to simply quiet the naysayers or they may arise later in destructive ways. Raise concerns and address them. They may help you to mitigate risk or identify what needs to be in your change leadership strategy. (Yes, you need one of these.)

6. Builds on leadership and organizational strengths and fills the gaps.

There are instruments that can help you easily assess where your leadership team capabilities match the type of work that needs to be done in your strategic priorities. Find out where the strengths are and where you can stretch people. Rather than force-fitting leaders into roles where they will fail, figure out alternative ways to fill the gaps. Perhaps a next level leader can step up and have a development opportunity. You may need to hire for specific roles such as leading the Data and Analytics initiatives. Or you may need short-term external support or expertise to get started.

7. Teaches you throughout the process.

A strong strategic planning process builds the experience, knowledge and capabilities of the leadership team and Board as they participate in the process. Every strategic planning process I facilitate serves as a learning experience for the leaders of the organization. They face tough questions, question the status quo, interview their clients and engage their people. They end up with a strong Strategic Plan and stronger leaders.

8. Provides positive results while still in the planning process.

A well-designed planning process includes interviewing key customers and influencers to learn about their needs, views of your organization and what’s happening in the external environment. Engaging your people influences your culture, brings you new ideas and starts to bring them on board for change. Leaders will often take action to strengthen a customer relationship, solve a problem or shift people while the plan is still being inked.

9. Is reinforced and achieved through your culture.

Your new strategy may require significant change in your culture. Does it call for greater service, innovation, quality or collaboration? Aligning your culture will be one of the biggest challenges you will have in achieving your strategy. LET ME REPEAT THAT. Aligning your culture will be one of the biggest challenges you will have in achieving your strategy. Assess your cultural strengths early on and include strategies to shift and align your culture in your Strategic Plan and your Implementation plans.

10. Has execution top of mind.

A strategy’s brilliance must come to life through effective execution. Consider not only how you will achieve your goals, but also how you will build organizational capacity in the process. How can you strengthen leaders, shape culture, engage your people, bring the right talent on board, and build high-performing teams that can continue to contribute?

Contact us to learn how we can help you to create or implement your strategic plan and to ensure you have the leadership team and alignment you truly need to execute effectively.