Top-down communication is only one component of what needs to be done.
As leaders, we know that it's important to engage employees. Doing so is good for morale, which is good for business. It is also personally rewarding to help grow talent and deepen their connections and contributions to a higher purpose.
Most people like to feel a sense of accomplishment, so they strive to be productive every day. At the end of the day, they like to look back and say, “I got these things done today” or “I made great strides…” Part of a leader’s role is to guide in getting the right things or best things done, most of the time.
In light of this, many leaders prioritize consistently communicating the organization’s strategy to all team members. The hope is that it will result in employees who spend their time working on the right things and who connect what they’re doing with greater organizational objectives. However, leaders are often unhappy with the outcome because top-down communication is only one component of what needs to be done.
Here are five practical ways to enhance employee strategic understanding, connection, and engagement.
1. Reverse the Communication
Have employees across the organization tell their story of how what they “got done today” helped move the organization toward achieving its higher purpose. It is so enlightening to see how employees are connecting what they do with the organization’s strategy. You may be surprised by how they are making the connection, and if their story is not on the right path, it is a great opportunity to have a gentle course correction. Either way, you will have a better understanding of gaps.
2. Focus on the Middle of Your Organization
Things get lost in translation. Often, senior leaders grasp the bigger picture, and it is easier for them to make the appropriate decisions as to how they are spending their time relative to the impact the organization needs. Unfortunately, many senior leaders assume the mid-level leadership and managers will also have a strategic mindset as they decide how to spend their time. Remember, mid-level leaders are often deep in tactics so it can be hard for them to rewire their thinking and view tactics from a strategic perspective. Also, in many organizations, the mid-level leadership has more direct contact with most employees. If you bring them along, it can be a huge boost for the entire organization.
3. Practice Using Strategy as a Filter When Discussing the Big Stuff
As departments are having their meetings, ask them to practice using the strategy as a filter for prioritization of resources and projects. When they are making recommendations, ask them to link their recommendations to strategy. Practice on the big stuff first. Once they become more comfortable with this process on high-impact decisions, it is easier to make it a habit of thinking from this perspective on the little stuff.
4. Cultivate Emerging Talent
Identify those who show interest or capability and include them in bigger-picture strategic discussions rather than limiting those discussions to existing leaders. In addition to asking them for their thoughts during those discussions, ask for their recommendations and their rationale. Some great questions are:
- If you had to make the decision today, what would you decide, and why?
- What other information would you need or want to make a decision?
- If we don’t do X now, what could be the implications a year from now, three years from now, etc.?
- If we decided to do X, what might we have to forego and why?
5. Don’t Give Up
It takes focus, effort, and patience to incorporate this type of thinking organization-wide. Remember, every 1% improvement matters. Also, most people want to learn and relate to a higher purpose. Get their ideas of what drives their engagement and connection and take some risks to let them test some of their ideas.
Taking steps to instill strategic understanding and thinking deeper into the organization is worth the additional thought and effort. When your strategy becomes the guiding light for all employees, not just board members and executives, more of the impactful things will get done and more of your people will be inspired to be a part of it.
C. myers helps financial institution decision-makers uncover opportunities and continuously optimize their business models. Their depth and range of experience in linking strategy, talent, desired financial performance and successful execution enables them to work with their clients as strategic collaborators. They have the experience of working with over 600 financial institutions, including 200+ of those over $1 billion in assets. C. myers helps financial institutions think to differentiate and drive better decisions through strategic planning & business model optimization, strategic solutions and implementation, strategic leadership development, real-time ALM and financial forecasting, education, and thought leadership.