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Uncategorized
A little over a dozen years ago I was diagnosed with a significant hearing loss.

It appears I have always had difficulty hearing certain tones within the typical vocal range and have adapted to distinguish some sounds without even realizing I was missing them. Wearing hearing aids makes a difference.

I don’t talk about it a lot because I rarely need help from others to manage, and I don’t see hearing issues as a core part of what my life and work are about.

Just this morning I learned that the term “tone deaf” is offensive to some people with hearing disabilities. It had never occurred to me that this might be true. In fact I have used that term fairly often in conversation, training sessions, and in some  blog posts. It is an effective way to express the dynamic when people are unable to recognize how their actions or communication are being perceived differently than their intent. And I was demonstrating the behaviour by using the term.

I am sorry for using a phrase that is hurtful to people. I try to be sensitive to these things and I will avoid using that term in the future.

I know some would push back at least a little here. It’s a common phrase that is rooted more in music than in disability, and the typical usage is pretty harmless. There’s certainly no intent to hurt or offend and (from what I can tell) many hearing impaired people don’t object to it. 

So why should I use a less familiar term?

It’s not about political correctness. It’s about compassion and priorities.

It’s also not just about this particular phrase, but every example when well intended language gets in the way.

There are things I want to say, messages I want to deliver, and ideas I want to share that matter quite a lot to me. I believe in them and I think a lot of people, especially leaders, should consider my words and apply the ideas to their lives and leadership.

If my tone, terminology, or timing is off-putting to some people they won’t do that. They will either refuse or simply be unable to take in my messages because I’ve turned them off with something that is far less important to me. What I want to communicate is lost to some people I’d like to understand it.

That’s bad communication.

And blaming your audience for not receiving your message because they are sensitive to something you did that got in the way is arrogant and ineffective. It means you are protecting an insecure ego instead of accomplishing your purpose.

Sometimes we needs to get over ourselves and out of our own way.

Too many leaders allow their intended impact to get sidetracked (or sabotaged) by fighting for the wrong things. We allow ourselves to be distracted defending things that aren’t that important to us, but are meaningful to others. We dig in our heels and think we are showing strength when we are really just throwing the acceptable grown up version of a toddlers tantrum until we get our way.

Take notice of the things that you react strongly to, or that get a strong reaction from others. Challenging people, even offending them, about something that is truly core to your mission and beliefs can be excellent leadership. 

Losing your audience over something unnecessary is bad leadership.


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Uncategorized
“Never let a good crisis go to waste” – Winston Churchill 

As plans to begin relaxing public health measures and re-open parts of the economic sector are being announced many of us are  asking what will be different post-COVID. In many of these conversations people seem to be operating from a passive posture. We are trying to anticipate broad societal changes over which we have little or no direct influence.

As valuable as it is to do scenario planning to respond well to outside forces, there is a better exercise for leaders right now.

What are the changes this season makes possible for your organization?

Here are a few possibilities you might consider:

1. Establish an Innovation Incubator: We’ve been adapting so rapidly in the last two months that we now understand that it is possible to make significant changes quickly, and to launch them incomplete and improve them on the fly. Start up organizations do this intuitively. More mature organizations may need to set aside an allocation of time, energy, people, and resources to operate a “skunk works” unit who are expected and empowered to experiment with ideas, approaches, and programs that are higher risk than most. Our generation of continuous change will favour those leaders who devote some portion of their support to entrepreneurial innovation.

2. Seek and Destroy: Most leaders have something in their organizations that they would love to eliminate, but haven’t had the courage, political clout, or justification to do so. Some of these are sacred cows and invisible elephants, others are systems, events, or projects that are just slightly too far out of alignment with the strategic direction or of too little impact to continue. You are unlikely to ever again have such an opportunity to clean up your organization according to your priorities. Now is the time.

3. Transform Governance: Board directors have been exposed by this crisis. Some have risen to the challenge to offer greater insight and support to the organization. Others have revealed their lack of awareness or commitment. When we were making urgent and difficult decisions in the early days and weeks of the pandemic impacting our work we saw what our boards are truly providing. As we anticipate emerging in the months to come we may be able to clarify the roles and expectations of the board in new ways. Start with understanding the 6 Hats each board member wears, then have a discussion about what kind of board you really need for the next stage of your work. Adjust accordingly.

4. Buff Your Brand: This crisis has forced us to examine our priorities in profound ways. Some things about how we function have been affirmed, others found wanting. These odd months before a new normal is truly in place are a chance for reviewing the way you represent your organization to your constituents or the public at large. Many marketing consultants are offering online workshops at discounted rates or for free. Whether it’s a new website, strategic social media, a deep cleaning of all your old blog posts, or any other aspect of your brand; your image and reputation can be shaped to best represent where you want to be in the future.

5. Stimulate Celebration: When I first developed the tool that became The REACTION Dashboard the idea that celebration was a major strategic and cultural point of leverage wasn’t on my radar. It has become the aspect that most leaders tell me has had the greatest impact on their lives and leadership. Exploring creative ways to involve your team, donors, beneficiaries, and community in celebrating in these days when we long for good news is a powerful opportunity. The culture of your organization is being shaped by everything that is happening. Wise leaders aren’t just letting that happen. Are you intentionally making yours a culture that celebrates meaningfully?

Catalyst is happy to provide a free consultation with charity leaders who are working to be healthy leaders leading healthy organizations. Contact us to set up a session.
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Leadership, Resources
My cynicism got the better of me.

A few weeks ago, when this COVID-19 pandemic was beginning I had multiple conversations in which I was asked how leaders could improve organizational culture in this time of distant work and high stress. I said there wasn’t much hope.

I was wrong.

In the time since those conversations I have seen leaders demonstrate care and compassion for their teams. I’ve seen them display sincere vulnerability in appropriate ways. I’ve seen them rally their teams around their mission and take on immense challenges, often with remarkable success. 

I’ve seen cultures strengthened significantly.

It turns out (as people wiser than myself already knew), that times of stress don’t only reveal the cracks in organizational health; they also provide a powerful opportunity to address some of those issues. There is great opportunity in crisis for those who are able to engage it well.

Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise. Some moments are high leverage, and this is certainly one of them. Physical separation from our teams doesn’t prevent us from deepening our connections and affirming our shared commitments. In some cases the change of situation becomes an excellent opportunity to make impactful adjustments.

So, how can leaders improve their culture in the midst of great challenges?

1. Be Human: Sudden adjustment to working from home and worrying about the wellbeing of our loved ones gives us a glimpse into life beyond work for our colleagues. Take time to ask more questions about how people are doing. Be compassionate about the limitations and difficulties of home schooling, cabin fever, constant stress, and loneliness. Talk about your own challenges in a way that doesn’t always set you up as the ideal. Emphasize relationship in the ways that mean the most to your people.

2. Focus on Purpose, not Productivity: We all talk about impact measures and the importance of mission. Now is a time to lean in to that aggressively. People are working odd hours, without familiar settings and resources, and with more distractions than ever. Don’t add to the pressure by having unrealistic expectations. Instead have open conversations about the challenges we face and how we can have the greatest effect for our mission under the circumstances. We need to count results, not activity; and we need to give our people the opportunity to shape their work with that in mind.

3. Celebrate!: For most of us the desperate urgency of the first days of the pandemic is over. Life is turning into a grind, with no end in sight. We are longing for normalcy that may yet be far off. We’ve abandoned most of our goals both professionally and personally, and so many of the typical highlights of our lives aren’t happening. We need celebrations! We need to have our successes recognized and our accomplishments acknowledged. We need the moments of joy to punctuate our days. We need good news stories, victories, and opportunities to cheer one another on. More than ever, we need leaders who are attuned to the power of celebration and committed to making it happen.

I’m not proud of being wrong, but I’m really glad I was. 

This is absolutely an opportunity for organizations to become healthier in ways that will long outlast the current situation. We’d love to help you do that.



Check out The REACTION Dashboard for a practical guide to understanding, assessing, and improving organizational culture in any circumstance.
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Uncategorized
Once upon a time…

There were two leaders, May and Jay, who found themselves trying to guide their organizations through a time that was called “unprecedented” so often that the word lost all meaning. They had risen to the challenge of the initial crisis with energy, decisive action, and great compassion; and their teams and organizations had handled the changes very well. The leaders were grateful for the people they worked with and beginning to think beyond the immediate issues into a longer season of change.

Quite predictably, both May and Jay as motivated leaders were thriving in the demands of the challenges. They told a few trusted friends that although the global situation was truly tragic, they were feeling enthused as leaders by stepping up to what needed to be done. They were tired, but it was the good kind of tired that comes after a solid workout or an invigorating project.

Equally predictably, some of May’s and Jay’s team members were tired, but in a different way. They had also risen to the challenge in selfless and committed ways, but their initial wave of enthusiasm had worn off and it was becoming more difficult to keep up with the needs of the day while also managing family, friends, loved ones, and life in something like lock down. The team were still doing everything they could and May and Jay could not have been more proud to lead them, but the strain was starting to show.

May loves her team. She wanted to help them handle the challenges of the time. So she shared with them what worked for her.

She sent every employee a copy of Getting Things Done and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and offered an online book club on how to apply the ideas to get the best results. She shared her personal priority practices and set up a weekly webinar where everyone could share goals and outcomes for their personal lives as well as work. She also arranged for an outside consultant to provide a session on how to manage time and energy while working from home. She wanted everyone to have the tools they needed to thrive.

Jay loves his team. He wanted to help them handle the challenges of the time. So he shared with them what worked for him.

He sent every employee a box of cookies from a local bakery and a copy of You Are Awesome! He shared his personal peace practices and set up a weekly happy hour where staff gathered online with a beverage of their choice to chat and laugh together. He also arranged for an online concert and scavenger hunt for employees and their families to enjoy together. He wanted everyone to have the treats they needed to thrive.

Some of May’s team felt overwhelmed. They felt like all these tools were really assignments that added to their obligations.

Some of Jay’s team felt overwhelmed. They felt like all these treats were really distractions from the important work they need to do.

May and Jay were confused. They had given their very best to their teams and it wasn’t working. Instead of appreciated they felt deflated and misunderstood; and even a little annoyed if they were totally honest.

May and Jay had a conversation and shared what was going on.

“May, you’re too intense! You need to lighten up a little and help people find some freedom so they can do their best under demanding circumstances.” Jay said.

“Jay, you’re too casual! You need to be more focussed and help people find some structure so they can do their best under demanding circumstances.” May said.

Of course they were both right.


We all need both structure and freedom in our lives at all times. Wise leaders know to provide both treats and tools. Some of us are drawn to one more than the other, though very few are as extreme as May and Jay. The challenge is when we innocently assume that others have the same needs that we do. As you lead and care for your team in demanding or unprecedented situations be sure to check whether you are giving them what they need, or just projecting your own needs onto them. If you need some help sorting this out contact us for a free coaching session.

Photo by   Zahabiyah Quresh  on  Scopio
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Leadership, Uncategorized
How do we prepare our organizations for what comes after the pandemic?

Every organization has some things that are untouchable. A time of sudden instability may be exactly the opportunity to take a closer look at whether those things are still serving your mission well. As Winston Churchill said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.

My last post raised three critical things leaders need to do to handle the harder decisions that are coming very soon. But now I want to suggest two unusual activities that may be valuable in preparing you for the longer term: Elephant Hunting and Shooting Sacred Cows.

(It may be unnecessary but I want to be clear that I am not in favour of trophy hunting and I mean no disrespect to those who do consider cows sacred. I’m just using the vernacular.)

Elephant Hunting: The elephant in the room in such a common trope it seems absurd; but that’s because it really is. The reality that mature, professional, decent people can have unspoken solidarity to never mention or deal with a looming issue doesn’t make sense. But it is all too often true.

Several years ago I took the picture on this post in the offices of Muskoka Woods. I absolutely loved coming across an eight foot high stuffed animal in their lobby. It perfectly captures the mindset that inhabits teams that will not risk rocking the boat by calling out what is known by all but never addressed. We carefully step around the obstacle, pretending it isn’t there, until it basically becomes invisible even as it remains in the way.

In this time when so much is uncertain and we are continually adapting to reality we didn’t anticipate it may be just the chance to point at the elephant and say “Let’s do something about this!”

Of course there is a chance it will backfire, but leaders with integrity are more likely to appreciate someone having the nerve, or accumulated frustration, to state the obvious. At a time when things are so difficult we need to get these long overdue issues out of the way. All it takes is one moment of boldness to expose the elephant. What happens next will reveal a great deal about the culture of your organization.

Shooting Sacred Cows: While we actively avoid acknowledging elephants, we sometimes spend way too much time, energy, and resource on sacred cows. These are the things (programs, facilities, traditions, people, etc.) that have been a part of what we do for so long that we can’t imagine getting on without them, even if we suspect or know they are no longer effective.

You can usually recognize a sacred cow by the way they are treasured in unassailable esteem and never held up to scrutiny. 

Times of transition, whether its new leaders coming on board, relocation, financial turmoil, or something like a pandemic, often expose the way these things have become undeservingly unquestioned. The new person or situation may cause us to ask, “Is this really helping us to accomplish our purpose?”

As so many organizations try to make changes to adapt to the financial difficulties ahead and the impossibility of business as usual it is no longer an option for wise leaders to protect what no longer serves. It is time to put the nonproductive cows out to pasture, if not throw them on the barbecue. As with elephants, it takes one person with the courage to ask the direct question to free up the group for needed consideration.


There are no guarantees in leadership. That is more clear than ever these days. Being the one who points out the elephant or challenges the value of the cow may be a career limiting move. Some leaders and organizations aren’t willing or able to even consider that these things are actually problems that drag against the good you are trying to do. That sucks, but it is occasionally the case.

But I have a strong suspicion that those leaders who step into that risk and respectfully yet directly challenge the status quo are the ones who will help their organizations have the greatest chance of emerging from COVID-19 intact and better positioned to increase their impact. 

Are you one of those leaders?

Catalyst can help you engage in dealing with obstructive elephants and outdated cows.
Contact us so we can take them on together.
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Leadership
I have been very impressed by most of the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by charity leaders.

With the exception of some dangerously ignorant religious leaders who insist on still gathering large groups for worship services, the sector has taken the risks seriously and adapted quite quickly to the temporary reality we are all facing. Many are caring for their communities in creative ways that allow them to continue providing some services without putting staff, volunteers, or guests at unnecessary risk. Others have made difficult decisions quickly to protect the financial stability of their organizations.

In my last post I made some recommendations for moving from the urgent crisis response stage to something more strategic and lasting. That seems well underway now. 

But as Winston Churchill said:

Leaders who have thrived on the adrenaline of the initial response to the crisis may be fatigued and suffering a bit of a crash from all that energy. And yet; the decisions made in the next few weeks are crucial.

Most leaders are at their best in times of growth. We are drawn to high potential and new opportunities for impact. Scaling down, reducing budgets, and taking the responsibility for decisions that will be very hard for others to accept isn’t something that many find inspiring or appealing. The best selling books and high profile conferences don’t say much about how to do this stuff. But it will be the role of many leaders in the months to come.

Some experts estimate that as many as half of Canadian charities may face permanent closure by the end of this year. Others are forecasting that a dramatic drop in donation revenue will hit hardest in early 2021 and last for a year or more from then. 

A lot of good organizations may not survive.

So what can we do to better our chances?

1. Mission First: As much as you, and many of your donors, care about the wellbeing of your employees, the real reason for your organization to exist is what you provide to the needs of the world. Programs, approaches, and facilities may have to be closed. Organizations that are very clear on what their real purpose is, and are able to adapt their model of addressing it, will be most likely to overcome.  Those that can’t communicate their mission or seem only interested in keeping the doors open for their own sake will face harsher difficulties. Clarity around priorities is non-negotiable.

2. Back To Basics: The elaborate systems we have built in brighter times may prove to be our undoing now. This is the time to reconsider everything about our approach and reduce what we can to the real essentials. Cutting the right costs means seeking the most efficient ways to work and communicate. Acquiring new donors is going to be much more difficult than strengthening relationships with those we already have. Many leaders have fond memories of leading scrappy, entrepreneurial, adaptable organizations. That kind of thinking will serve well.

3. Draw Lines In The Sand: There are far too few examples of charities that have ended in dignified ways. Determine now the criteria for layoffs, program closures, and the complete shut down of the organization. Engage the board and wise stakeholders in setting the limits beyond which you will not go. Having explicit financial, impact, and situational triggers for the hardest decisions you may ever make in leadership won’t make it easier to end something that has been good, but it will allow you to do so as well as possible. Instead of desperate scrambling for ways to avoid the inevitable, you will be able to focus on ending with compassion and gratitude for what has been done.

Of course there are some points for optimism. Some organizations will find this to be their most productive season in years. Some will fit the needs and donor interests of this moment. Some leaders will find wonderfully creative ways to remake their charities that will serve for years to come. I expect to see new partnerships, mergers, and innovations emerge that will inspire a generation.

These are times for leaders to gather the very best wisdom available, to take unflinching looks at uncomfortable realities, and to have the strength to be proactive about the path ahead. Who among us will rise to leading well in this season?
1

Catalyst, Resources
These are not easy days for leaders of any type.

The sudden and drastic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last few weeks have required us to make important decisions amidst great uncertainty; and in many cases have to revise those decisions repeatedly as new information and insights emerge. We have had to lead our organizations with as much calm and confidence as we can muster even while processing our professional and personal fears. Most leaders I know have risen to the occasion beautifully.

As demanding as it has been so far; I expect leadership to become more difficult in the weeks and months to come.

Most leaders respond well to crisis. We are motivated by the urgency and need for action. In many ways we like the pressure, and the rush involved in handling the unanticipated can actually be invigorating. Adrenaline is a powerful thing.

Our leadership teams, employees, and communities have also stepped up. Again, there is a remarkable ability to accept difficult circumstances when something of this magnitude is happening all around us. We can tolerate a lot for a while if we believe it is for good reason.

But that initial period of easy adaptability will come to an end and the adrenaline will fade. That is when leadership will require greater nuance and strength. As one deeply insightful article describes, we are facing an ice age, not a blizzard.

There are many great resources to help us understand how to lead through this crisis as it extends. Many come from people more experienced, studied, or insightful than me. I’d welcome you linking to the ones you find most helpful in the comments at the end of this post.

What I think I can offer are a couple particular reminders; things we probably already know but may not be acting on.

1. Your organizational Culture is far more valuable than your Strategy right now. 

The plans and priorities you had even six weeks ago have probably been completely abandoned. What remains as you try to change on the fly is the quality and strength of relationships you have built over time. Healthy cultures will find ways to shift resources and approaches with strong engagement from staff and stakeholders. Unhealthy ones will not. 

This is not the time to take Culture for granted. Continue to invest actively in people. Find ways to have both formal and informal interaction. Continue to train and treat (or school and spoil) your team even under pressure. It will pay off.

We have a quick, insightful, and highly actionable tool to help you understand, evaluate, and improve your organizational culture.

2. Your personal Character outweighs your skills and experience.

None of us have done this before. Even the most adept at remote working have never done it under these circumstances. The playbook for this situation is being written day by day, even hour by hour; you can’t find it in a library or bookshop. That means we all need to discern which of the multitude of “expert” voices we will listen to and which insights we will try to apply.

Ultimately it will be leaders who are adaptable, relational, and trusted that will find ways forward. Those who are driven by selfish motives or insecurity will find it extremely hard to maintain engagement. Make a point of checking in on your own identity and actions regularly and find some safe people to help you stay (or get) on track. People follow those they trust when all else is uncertain.

If you want a practical tool to do a personal character check up for yourself or your team please let me know.

3. Prioritize Celebration.

A quick glance through my social media feeds show that people are rapidly tiring of the latest projections and predictions. As much as we need to keep up with critical information, we are longing for good news. This is only multiplied, exponentially, by the enforced isolation of this particular crisis. Celebration is a strong counterpoint to fatigue.

Expect that your team, donors, clientele, and community need more celebration than you do. Find and flag as many examples as you can of the ways the things you are doing are helping, even if that only means reducing the degree of harm people experience. Make a point of drawing attention to what is hopeful. 

Whether you are a religious person or not there is a universal wisdom in the Bible’s advice:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Your efforts to give people reason and opportunity to celebrate in this time of turmoil may be the most important thing you do.

If I can help you work through any of these things as you lead please contact me.

It would be my pleasure to help you as you lead. You may also find some useful insights into Celebration and organizational Culture in The REACTION Dashboard.
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These are unprecedented times.

As difficult and uncertain as things are, I’ve been deeply impressed with the ways people are adapting to pandemic precautions. The creativity, dedication, and care demonstrated by charity leaders I see is truly inspiring. I am humbled by your commitment to serving others and your flexibility to handle essentials while supporting your teams. It is a time for leaders to shine.

But in truth, even the best efforts from leaders in this moment are severely limited by everything they’ve done in the past. If you have been driven more by insecurity than a rooted sense of deep identity, and you’ve neglected to build a healthy organizational culture there isn’t much you can do that in the midst of a global pandemic to turn that all around. You can admit your failings and try to improve but it’s going to be extremely difficult.

On the other hand, those leaders who have been working at their own leadership health and that of their teams are able now to see the fruits of that investment as they are able to adapt to uncertainty and rely on their people to step up to demanding circumstances. 

I put it this way on Twitter a couple days ago:



So kudos to the leaders who have done the work in relatively easier times to be able to handle this reality. That is the real work of leadership.

What is this crisis revealing about you and your organization?

During the pandemic response I am working from home to “flatten the curve” and protect my community. If you or your organization would be interested in a leadership session using any of our tools or just an encouraging conversation please Contact me.
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Leadership


Humble is hard.

As much as humility is an admired trait (for most of us at least), the process of becoming humble is rarely pleasant. It usually comes at significant cost to our ego, if not our reputation.

Leaders today live in a tension between understanding that humility is the path to greatest organizational success and a culture that is increasingly geared to self-promotion. We know that everything we do is ultimately reliant on many others, but we also have to recognize our own contributions. With so much emphasis on the individual; empowered by social media, profiles and awards, and seeing those who champion their own achievements rising around us, it can be difficult to know how to represent ourselves honestly.

For many years I was one who ascribed to the idea that doing good work quietly would always be seen by those who really matter. I convinced myself that any promotion of my accomplishments was inappropriate and selfish. I deflected compliments and diminished my abilities as nothing special. I thought that was humility.

I was wrong.

It’s taken me years to be able to confidently and openly express the things I do well and have achieved. (Maybe it’s a Canadian thing).

I was intimidated by, and jealous of, people who posted their awards or called attention to their successes. It looked like bragging. It was beneath me.

Wrong again.

I am learning, so very slowly, that humility is not demonstrated by denying my gifts. It is in holding them loosely and being eager to celebrate the gifts of others. Pretending that I am not proud of the results of my hard work is false humility, waiting for others to prop me up with praise. It is no less insecure than the people who constantly trumpet themselves for affirmation. Demeaning myself isn’t humble it’s harmful.

So what are humble leaders really like?

-They talk more about team than about self.
-They take more responsibility for failures than successes.
-They understand their strengths and use them confidently.
-They understand their weaknesses and show them openly.
-They encourage others to surpass their own achievements.
-They accept praise and thanks with gratitude.
-They intentionally develop others, and themselves.
-They have an accurate assessment of their own abilities and contributions.
-Their identity is not dependent on their performance.
-They commit themselves to the cause, not their personal brand.
-They admit mistakes and ask forgiveness.
-They earn respect rather than demand loyalty.
-They are teachable and accept both affirming and critical feedback.
-They celebrate achievements eagerly and give credit where it is due.
-They inspire humility in others.

Obviously there are far more…

What does humble leadership look like to you?
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Leadership, Resources, Vision
One of the growth areas for Catalyst in the last few years is facilitating Strategic Planning sessions. It’s work I love but I confess I’ve had a hard time figuring out the best approach. Most of what I’ve seen and tried has left me feeling unsatisfied, like there’s something missing that keeps it from approaching the kind of impact we aim for.

The problem for me is that so much strategic planning is terrible. Whether its brainstorming sessions with no connection to reality, or droning meetings lost in detail, it seems like much of what passes for strategic planning is nearly useless if not counterproductive. 

There has to be a better way.

Pat of the problem is with our basic understanding of strategy. We treat it as something static that gives us a false sense of control. Strategy lies.

But what I’m seeing over and over in guiding charities, churches, schools, and businesses through strategy sessions is that the bigger issue is that we try to treat Strategy as a separate thing from Execution and Culture. 

It’s fine to consider each of these components of a healthy and effective organization with some distinction, but they are inextricably entwined. There is no brilliant Strategy that can work without focussed Execution and supported by a thriving Culture. Our attempts to solve Culture and Execution issues by improving or innovating Strategy are doomed to frustration.

So change the approach.

By incorporating Strategy, Execution, and Culture all into the strategic planning process we do a much better job of identifying the real issues and opportunities. We show respect for the participants who often know that strategy isn’t the problem. We recognize that our organizations are integrated systems, not simplistic machines. And, perhaps most importantly, we leverage the effects of all three components to increase engagement, improve outcomes, and align every form of energy towards a brighter future – which is what we were hoping for to begin with.

There are lots of ways to plan a strategic planning process that will draw on Strategy, Execution, and Culture. My approach is always adjusting to accommodate new insights and tools to better serve the uniqueness of each situation. What is clear is that any approach that fails to intentionally address all of these is dangerously incomplete and inadequate for the realities of leadership today.

If you’re anticipating doing some strategic planning this year I’d love to hear how you’re designing the process to get results that are useful and effective. And if Catalyst can help contact me.

For an introduction to the Strategy/Execution/Culture approach to leadership read the last chapter of The REACTION Dashboard.
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