Before You Start Talking – Think

Uncertainty — market uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty — can adversely affect the success and growth of a company. But there’s another kind of uncertainty that takes a big toll on performance: the lack of certainty that exists within a company.

More than ever before, people at all levels of an organization need to understand the strategic aims that their leaders are pursuing. Equally important, they need to have a firm grasp of how their own work relates to those aims. No longer is it enough for employees just to “do their jobs.” And no longer is it enough for executives simply to issue orders. Instead, leaders must explain to their people the strategy — the sense of organizational direction — that underlies every operational directive. If your employees aren’t sure about where you stand, or about where your company is heading, then their uncertainty will hinder their ability to help move the company forward.

People within organizations enjoy a lower degree of strategic awareness than you might think; in any case, their level of strategic awareness is lower than it should be. A couple of months ago, we surveyed several dozen participants in an Executive Education program at Harvard Business School. (The program in question, Driving Performance Through Talent Management, gathers executives from every part of the globe, and from companies large and small.) The vast majority of these organizational leaders said that it was “not true” (30 percent) or only “somewhat true” (38 percent) that “employees at every level understand, and are able to discuss, the big-picture strategy” of their company.

Again and again in our research, we’ve observed variations on that finding. In 2007, for example, we surveyed roughly 1,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies about issues related to motivation and engagement. In that survey, we asked respondents to rate the degree to which their “manager communicates a clear strategic direction” to them, and the average score for that question was notably lower than the score for many other questions that we posed. (This survey took place before the 2008 financial crisis, and thus before the current moment of “uncertainty.” Clearly, the kind of uncertainty that bedevils organizations internally is a longstanding problem.)

To raise the level of strategic understanding within their company, leaders must learn to be intentional about the way that they communicate with employees. In other words, they must work to align what they say — and how they talk — with a clear pattern of strategic intent. The practice of communicating with intentionality is one element of a new leadership model that we call organizational conversation. In the more traditional model, leaders treat employee communication as a matter that’s essentially distinct from company strategy. Intentional leaders, by contrast, put a premium on integrating those two components of leadership responsibility.

Here are four ideas that will help you become a more intentional leader.

Read the rest of Before You Start Talking here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Boris Groysberg

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comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

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