6 Tips to Focus Employees on What to Do—And What to Stop

One of the toughest challenges facing any CEO is rallying the organization to effectively execute new strategies.

Many business pundits wisely encourage CEOs to use the company’s mission and higher purpose to appeal to the intrinsic motivation of their employees. Employees, to be sure, will commit their discretionary effort and innovation to a cause they believe will make life better for their customers and the world at large.

But these appeals, even the most altruistic of these appeals, will not be enough if CEOs don’t take steps to reduce the clutter and confusion that get in the way of new strategies.

Our research at InnovationOne shows that too many employees (who are usually overworked) do not understand the company’s strategies—and therefore the strategies stumble. The average US workweek for the non-exempt worker is 48 hours. (And much higher for many of my clients). In a recent survey by Kronos, 46% of HR leaders said that burnout drives about half of their employee turnover[i].

Too much to do. Too much change. And not enough clarity. Too much gets added to the plate with too little achieved and too little taken off the plate.

Platitudes and nice talk go only so far. Employees in today’s frenetic work environment want their executives to tell them where to focus their attention and what to place on the back burner. Unfortunately, too many executives launch new initiatives without prioritizing what is important.

So, speak up.

Here are my six tips for CEOs as you launch your 2018 strategic priorities:

  1. Identify the Big 5. Tell employees the top 5 organizational strategies to achieve this year. Only one of the Big 5 can be financial goals. Having too many financial goals causes organizations to be too focused on budget control. As a result, they miss out on the strategies that drive growth such as marketing, innovation, new technology and new business model launches.

 

  1. Tell employees what to stop I have worked for many organizations where an initiative never ended even though it was clear to the workforce that the initiative had long ago run its course. When nothing is removed from what is important, employees have too much to do. They then prioritize what they can achieve most easily, which likely is not your most important strategy. When initiatives are failing, and the organization needs to move on, be agile and admit it. Thank people for their time and move on to the new strategies.

 

  1. Update your tracking measures. Many executives fail to understand the importance of tracking measures and metrics. The most important metrics are predictive one — the measures that alert you to the high possibility of missing a key milestone. I have seen too many executives launch new strategies and goals and not give a second thought to the predictive measures to help them manage their success. Today’s digital technology makes determining and setting predictive measures easier than ever.

 

  1. Empower your employees and give them the information they need. Empirical studies show that empowered teams across the organization drive better strategy execution and innovation. They don’t do it in a vacuum or with a magic wand. Teams will not succeed without having the critical market, technological and other relevant information they need to do their work. Executives tend to want to hoard sensitive information. It is the wrong instinct. Share it. Teams also need clarity on decision-rights and the essential criteria for key decisions. Finally, teams need fast escalation paths to resolve conflict and keep moving forward.

 

  1. Get out of the way. It always saddens me to see an executive micro-managing their high-powered teams or trying to solve problems like they are still the technical expert. Each promotion in leadership is a leadership passage. With each passage, the leader must stop doing the important work (they excelled at) to make time for new, more strategic, externally focused, and more collaborative executive work at the higher level.

 

Executives can be more helpful to their teams when they help them overcome obstacles or connect them with critical resources outside of their organizations. Besides, when executives micro-manage their teams it throws water on the team’s initiative and innovation. It causes employees to hunker down and wait for direction (even when they have a solution) rather than to take a risk and make suggestions.

 

  1. Change your performance management and rewards systems to reward what is now important. Too often executives never give this a second thought to rewards. If you are trying to promote innovation or a new business model, but don’t change your performance management systems to align with the change, you will not overcome the cultural and structural inhibitors that silently stand in your way. Game over. But you won’t realize it until it is too late.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults and provides “hands-on” support for innovation, global talent strategies, developing agile leaders and teams, and other strategic initiatives. Questions? Please email Victor at victorassad6@gmail.com. Visit http://www.victorhrconsultant.com for valuable free reports. For research on innovation visit http://www.InnovationOne.io.

[i] “The Employee Engagement Study: The Employee Burnout Crisis: Study Reveals Big Workplace Challenge in 2017”. Workplace Trends. Found at https://workplacetrends.com/the-employee-burnout-crisis-study/.

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