Six Steps for Rallying Your Troops in Difficult Times

Sept. 27, 2011
This volatile business climate is the perfect time to capture market share, improve shareholder value and increase revenue. But you need buy-in first.

Businesses are hiding in their bunkers while economic havoc rages across the globe. Rollercoaster stock markets, financial debacles, political gridlock and global tensions have created a "shock and awe" factor, leaving many corporate leaders immobile while they "wait it out."

But riding the economic squall is no strategy at all. It's a surefire recipe for collapse. (Remember what Netflix did to Blockbuster and how Amazon annihilated Borders?)

Now is the time for action. This volatile business climate is actually the perfect setting against which you can capture market share, improve shareholder value and increase revenue.

Align your team and establish an action plan to deliver what this new era mandates: "next practices" and improved performance.

We're at the tipping point of a new generation of business. Companies' survival will depend upon their ability to align their teams, with every member of the staff acutely aware of their roles in the big picture.

Hamilton: It's time to work "on" business, not "in" business.
It's time to work "on" business, not "in" business. Gathering the team for a strategic-planning session garners alignment from the entire executive level and can be the basis for creating unique strategies and plans to share with the entire company.

A finely executed collaboration unearths insights, tactics and techniques to rally the troops around the highest-worth activities. After working with hundreds of executives, we've developed six actions to alignment as the key to successful executive-team collaborations.

Select Strong Team Players

Selection is critical; collective intelligence is vital. Evaluate each player for potential contributions and ensure that they are capable of pulling their weight, not just pontificating.

Contribution inconsistency is detrimental to the team. As a leader, be prepared to give the team what they need to be successful: vision, autonomy, data, technology, training and coaching.

Tip: There's no room for those who don't ultimately buy in or share the vision. Encourage challenges to the status quo; but at the end of the day, invest in those who will contribute to a common purpose. Bring in new talent where necessary.

Replace those who are not pulling more than their weight. Make the decision quickly -- supported by key metrics, not opinion, for objective and irrefutable proof.

Create a Collaborative Culture of Aligned Thinking

Planning efforts should establish a context and common frame of reference for the entire organization. Everyone should have a reason to commit to the corporate plan, and each should have a personal stake in the outcome.

Remember, no one person or subgroup can drive a company to the level of success required to overcome the negative forces beating outside the door. The executive team's higher vision is a map that employees must consult time and again to check their position and stay the course.

Tip: Tap the collective IQ and energy of your entire organization by having a system of measurable two-way review, input and recognition. Consistently deliver the higher vision and receive constant buy-in.

Chart the Course

Planning sessions must articulate measurable business outcomes and clear accountabilities for success. What are the business impacts? Are the measurements embraceable? In other words, are they understandable and do they relate to everyone's roles, both as a team and as individual contributors? Measurement is the navigational tool that leads to sustainable outcomes.

Tip: Post and discuss a "scoreboard" that charts progress -- daily, weekly, monthly. Feedback is a real-time guide to reinforce success.

Prepare Your Team for Orchestrated Action

According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, 90% of organizations neglect or never implement their plans. Execution must be the primary strength of company culture.

Don't rely on individuals from singularly focused silos to carry out plans. This leads to myopic actions rather than smooth, coordinated and accelerated results. Instead, orchestrate a system to launch cross-functional action teams throughout the company.

True execution comes from the ability to assemble and focus diverse people and perspectives into single-minded actions.

Tip: Outside coaching may be necessary for successful launch, execution and follow-through. No pair of eyes is more potent in seeing through human dynamics, nuances and idiosyncrasies than that of an external adviser.

Play Out the Possibilities

It's not in stone, just in play. Possibilities are designed to open creative channels and foster new opportunities. List "what-ifs" and specific outcomes (possibilities) expected from customers, the industry, and from within the organization.

Next, craft aligned initiatives that direct the organization to meet these challenges and opportunities head-on. Make sure the initiatives realistically reflect internal capabilities and constraints, as well as which market forces to leverage.

Tip: Having defined contingency plan(s) in hand for best- and worst-case scenarios can mitigate the paralysis that often foreshadows a potentially disastrous event. Confront the down side head-on. Role-play responses with the team before the worst happens, and subsequent actions will be far more precise and effective.

Look, Listen and Adapt

Regularly assemble the leadership team to monitor overall progress. Check measurements, solicit qualitative feedback from customers and the workforce, and lay bare the positive and negative impressions. Then consider the implications of the various actions: Are the strategies put in place leading to the ideal vision for your business? If not, what shifts are necessary?

Tip: Engage in a higher-level "gut check." Do the results feel right? Are momentum and motivation levels still high? Are you listening? Have you reality-checked the big-picture messages against both internal results and changes in the marketplace/customers?

Connect With Other Business Leaders

Development of "next-practice" initiatives and strategies through peer-to-peer relationships is a potent weapon for weathering today's storm.

Connecting with other business leaders at the executive level is an excellent way to uncover new solutions that you may not discover otherwise. Collaboration is key when aligning a workforce. Find out what works and what doesn't from people who have been there before and whom you can trust.

Focus the executive team on well thought-out and agreed-upon courses of action, and you can rally a workforce that is disoriented, distracted or frozen in place, driving your business to grow and prosper.

Scott Hamilton has held a variety of senior-executive roles in companies such as McDonalds, Nestle USA, Bergen Brunswig, AlliedSignal and DirecTV. He also has lead business- and executive-advisory practices that have coached hundreds of leaders and their organizations through business-case development, large-scale change efforts, internal branding, voice of the customer, team-building, ROI scoreboards and talent-development programs. Hamilton is president of the Executive Next Practices Institute. Contact him at [email protected].

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