I’ve heard senior leaders at various organizations confess that their mid-level leaders aren’t proactive enough when it comes to executing strategy. And mid-level managers at those same companies have shared that they don’t receive enough direction from leadership around strategy. The fact remains that a fundamental role of a mid-level manager is to translate strategy into action. The challenge is how to do that in an environment of constant change and often-insufficient communication.
The first thing that you as a mid-level manager can do to fulfill your role is to make sure you understand the organizational strategy. Your boss may not be taking the first step to sit down with you to discuss it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for some of his or her time to do so. Other sources of information on organizational strategy include the company website, company meetings, or letters to shareholders.
Once you are clear on what the organizational strategy is, you will need to clarify how your work group’s strategic priorities contribute to the organization’s strategy. After doing that, you’re ready to prepare a strategy message. It is helpful to start with a baseline “generic” message that connects the daily work of individuals and teams to the strategic priorities and organizational strategy. Don’t stop there, however – you will want to tailor that message to groups and individuals to help them to connect to it. To tailor the message, consider: what does that person or group’s work mean to the organization, and how do their actions contribute to the objectives? A good message will answer the question, “Why does my work matter?” In helping people understand that, you will inspire commitment and extra effort from others.
In communicating about the strategy, don’t limit yourself, however, to unidirectional communication. Communication that aligns and engages others goes beyond telling or even persuading; it requires asking and collaborating. Share the organizational strategy with your team and ask them for their input on how they contribute to it. Engage them in a dialogue about the strategy that shapes their understanding of it. In your conversations, be open and curious about their points of view, and show that you value them. You and your team are in it together – leverage their perspectives and you will not only build commitment and engagement from them, you may learn something that will help you to more effectively lead.