6 Ways Your Board Can Help Your Strategy Succeed

An important factor in implementing your strategy is getting your board involved.  Yet many of the boards I work with spend way too much time on the past–reviewing operational updates and financial results.  That’s like looking in the rear view mirror to drive a car.  Unless there are specific operations issues that you could use their help with, you’re better off sending operations updates, key operating measures, and financial results ahead of time and focus the meeting on forward-looking discussion and decisions.

Here are six ways you can increase board engagement by improving board meetings:

  1. Provide a clear, cogent description of your business strategy and give regular updates of what’s going well and what are the key challenges.
  2. Brief them on the markets you are targeting:  Give detailed analyses of customers, competitors, suppliers, products, economics, and trends so they can better understand what you want to accomplish and help you think-through best approaches.
  3. Talk about important organizational issues such as how you’re developing leadership talent, acquiring new strategic skills, developing critical capabilities, recruiting needed talent, tackling organizational challenges, and any issues with key individuals.
  4. Address obvious problems and opportunities.
  5. Provide facts on current issues involving communities, banks, media, regulators, potential acquisitions and other stakeholders to get their input.
  6. Tap into board members’ perspectives on key decisions to uncover your own blind spots, learn best practices, and develop creative ideas.

In short, take advantage of the expertise you have assembled by engaging them to share their expertise and perspectives instead of simply feeding them information they could absorb on their own.

P.S.  Do the same with your management meetings–sharing information in a group setting is largely a waste of time.  The more you use meetings to generate discussion, make decisions, and move issues forward, the better.

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A few weeks ago I spoke at the New York Bankers Association Senior Management Conference on Succession Planning and Leadership Development. Banks are required to have succession plans, but many other organizations have not approached these two subjects adequately.  Having a succession plan provides for continuity in leadership with a plan already in place when and if a surprise causes a vacancy.  It also provides very focused development objectives for senior and mid-level leaders to work on.  If you are serious about the current growth and future strength of your business, you must have both a succession process and focused leadership development.

If you want a copy of my 10 Ways to Improve Succession Planning and Leadership Development, simply send me an email or call me.

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I partner with senior leaders to drive strategy, lead change, and improve organizational performance.  If you or anyone you know can use this kind of help, I’d greatly appreciate a referral.

The problem with improving innovation

For years I’ve helped companies improve innovation in a number of ways, and I continue to find that innovation itself is widely misunderstood.  Innovation is how companies rapidly grow revenues and emerge as leaders in their industries.  It is the single most important trait of highly successful companies.  Innovation is not the same a continuous improvement or problem solving.  It typically does not occur in management meetings or strategic planning.  You won’t get innovation by paying people to get results that are innovative.  Yet there are specific organizational approaches, skills, and ways of rewarding innovation that do work and have been proven effective.
Increasing innovation in an organization involves a step-by-step approach to develop skills and processes, generate ideas, filter them, test them and develop them while assessing risk, return, and ease of implementation.  The starting point is the willingness of senior leaders to create an environment where innovation flourishes.  And that is often the most difficult step.
For my 10 steps to creating an innovative organization, contact me.

Stop kidding yourself about leadership change

In my work with hundreds of leaders and managers, it’s become clear that a company’s overall leadership won’t become better by improving a single leader.  That’s because the environment, the culture and the supporting leaders/managers also have to be improved.  Further, this kind of transformation is rarely the result of the team doing it to themselves because there are simply too many political issues and behaviors that reinforce the status quo–usually  by individuals trying to justify their jobs and protect their turfs.  If you’re serious about injecting new life into your business, to reach the next level, and exceed your bold goals, you need new perspectives and new voices from outside.

The Key to Improving Performance

Imagine you’re in the passing lane of highway.  There are several cars in a line just ahead of you so you cannot  go any faster, but another car is very close behind you, tailgating.   That driver must believe that somehow you’ll go faster.  He is mistaken.

When a person is not performing up to your expectations and you want him or her to improve, you have to find out why the performance is lagging.  It could be skill, it could be motivation, it could be the tools, or one of many causes, including the inherent speed imposed by procedures.

If you want to change an effect, you must find the cause.  It is a mistake to try to change the effect.  It does no good to ride a person’s bumper if he or she cannot go faster.

What Apple knows about communications

I attended my high school reunion over the weekend and it reminded me that the most powerful communication between people is a shared experience. It is, perhaps the single most important observation from my work in getting a masters in communications, and in my work with scores of companies over the past 30 years.

It’s why well-run strategy retreats result in better performance than simply publishing a strategy summary. It’s why individual coaching is more powerful than performance critiques. And it’s why companies like Apple, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines have attained their high level of customer loyalty.

What are you doing to create shared experiences with your management team, your employee base, your suppliers, and your customers?