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CEO Case Study: Creating Your 'Why' & Improving Engagement

By Anthony Taylor - January 14, 2022

Anthony Taylor here from SME Strategy. We help teams create and implement their strategic plans successfully and help them get to their One Destination. And today, I want to talk to you about creating your 'why' with the help of your people.

So I was talking to a podcast guest the other day (we have a podcast on strategy and implementation). And I asked him, I said, Hey, you know, when you entered this new organization and went through the process of getting acclimatized getting to know people, he shared with me something that I really thought was insightful. He shared his process for not only getting to know his team, but engaging with them to create a shared vision of their organization early. And I want to walk you through the process that he followed - the process that we recommend for any manager and leader trying to move their team forward in creating a 'why'.

Getting Team Buy-In

So, the first thing that he did was he interviewed all of the members of their team to really get their buy-in. He met with them one on one and asked them, you know, what they wanted to accomplish with the organization, what they saw as success, what their concerns, wants and needs were. So fundamentally, what he did in that process was he got there buy-in. And of course, he was trying to meet them, of course he was trying to understand the organization, but it was a really easy step to get buy-in from his team. It gave them the opportunity to share what was important to them, so that they felt heard, it allowed him to understand what they wanted to accomplish. So they had their stake in the plan. And then he was able to have conversation with them, so that it wasn't him responsible for all of that - it was them responsible. So them being able to take their own ownership of the plan to help move that forward.

So, lessons for you, whether you are a new leader or seasoned and experienced leader, how can you get the buy in of your team, as part of the strategic planning process? One of the things I love about facilitating strategy sessions, the way we do as facilitators, and not consultants, is it's all rooted in psychology and getting the buy-in of the leadership team. It's their plan, not our plan. So creating a process and a structure so that it's always on the shoulders of the people implementing the plan, not on the consultant who said, Hey, do this. So how can you get buy-in from your team early, so that it's their plan, and not your plan?

Use the Input of Your People

The other thing that he did that I thought was really insightful was use their input. Okay, so he came in fresh, you know, with a new perspective, but he really needed to get the group mind, the group consensus and the group understanding of what's going on. So I always say there's more of them than there are of you. And you don't know everything. You might know a lot, but you don't have that full picture. So what he did was got their input, so that he could make the most informed decision and leverage the expertise of the members of his team.

And so you as a CEO, as a leader, have insightful leaders around you. And they have a different perspective than you have. So I invite you, and I encourage you to lean on your senior managers to look at their perspective to try to understand things from their seat. And then you'll have a clearer picture. You don't necessarily need to do everything that they say, but look at it as an input to help you make a better decision. You don't see everything, there's more of them than there are of you. So if you can successfully leverage your senior managers, you're going to be more successful in your strategy implementation, and be more successful as a CEO.

Related Video: Why Leaders Need to Step Back, Listen, & Observe

Empower Your People

The other thing that it does is empowers them. You know, when you lean on people, when you ask them for their input, it puts the onus on them to give you great information. And then you're really creating that partnership together. As Keith Ferrazzi says, it's really like co-creation. How can you co-create the future with your team, if you're not using their input, then you're just kind of doing whatever you think you should do. If you're getting their input, it's really developing a partnership. Some people do it intuitively, some people have to work on it. In almost every case, I've seen it create greater results because you're getting that diversity of thought, diversity of perspective, the diversity of understanding, which means you're going to get better results.

The third thing I really liked about what he did in talking to the team was understood their perspective on why the company existed. He had previous agency experience, and came to the table with what he thought the vision of the company should be. But if he didn't have that buy-in and didn't have that understanding of what everybody else saw, that they'd be moving in different directions and into what we call the Multiple Destination Trap. And so he was able to solicit all of that information to create one consistent company 'why', company purpose in terms of who is the agency? What do they do? Who do they do it for? And really take all of those bits of information to create something that was consistent and aligned across the entire organization. Instead of creating something brand new on his own, he took the inspiration and information from everybody on the team, put it together and created something that was aligned and that people already were connected to - the root of what the company is.

The Great Resignation

There's a lot of talk around the 'Great Resignation' and employees feeling disengaged. I believe, and I assert, it's because they don't have a connection to why the organization exists. You know, yes, we're trying to make the world a better place by selling this software solution. But really, is that what we're doing? if you're not connected to it, then your context of showing up to work occurs differently. You're going to be disengaged, and you're going to leave. If you're an employee, this might resonate with you with jobs. If you're saying I'm just kind of bored, or I'm not challenged, or I'm not interested, it's probably because you're not connected to a purpose that's bigger than you. If we think about it from a psychological and organizational behavior perspective, it's the sense of belonging and self fulfillment. There's not just hey, let's have a 'why' for 'why's sake, it's we are physiologically designed to have a bigger purpose. And if we don't have that bigger purpose, we are going to search for it. And that's what happens with disengagement.

So as a leader, and as a CEO, I encourage you - I recommend that you connect your teams to that bigger purpose. If you don't, they're just going to be doing a job, they're going to be disengaged, and they're going to look for something that's more fulfilling. And with all of the remote work options out there, and all of the cool companies that are doing purpose driven work, if you don't have a bigger 'why', your company is going to suffer. So create that, connect that, have that conversation, engage your team, and that CEO did that extremely well.

Implementing with Your Team

So how to implement this with your team. As you're moving forward in your strategy implementation, get your people bought into the entire process of creating the 'why' and creating the direction for your team. Use their input, their perspectives, not just what you bring to the table. You're going to have better results, you're going to have better diversity, you're going to have better buy-in, it's going to move you forward. And create your company 'why'. You know, some people call it a mission statement. Some people call it a mission, some people call it a purpose, whatever it is, make sure that there's something bigger than the work that connects and attracts your people. You're going to get better outcome, you're going to get better engagement, you're going to have greater happiness, and you're going to be more clear strategically on what you're doing, and why you're going to do it. That's going to help you focus, you're going to get better results. And that's what we're all here for.

So if you are looking for somebody that can help you align your process, align your team, help you create that purpose or 'why' and facilitate your strategic planning process, we'd be happy to talk to you about how we could do that. We facilitate strategic planning sessions virtually and in person, and we do stakeholder engagement. We also support implementation so we can help you accomplish your goals as it relates to organizational guidance, and then we can coach you one-on-one to support you getting there.

So click on the link in the description to find out more about that (CTA below). You can have a conversation with myself or somebody on our team. And with that, I just really hope you enjoyed today's video. I hope it helps you create a great structure for getting buy-in with your team. I hope it helps you get greater engagement that helps you as a CEO have a great work life.

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So thanks for watching. My name is Anthony Taylor. I'm the Managing Partner at SME Strategy. Really thank you for watching today. I hope you enjoyed it, and we'll see you next time. Take care!

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