with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In today’s minisode, I’m going to cover the exact strategies you need to use in order to get your leadership team to think strategically at the organisational level. The reality is that a lot of leaders are technically great, but they need to get out of their functional roles.

Recently, I held a webinar with Business NSW, which is the organisation that represents a chamber of commerce and industry in the State of New South Wales, Australia. I ran a particular session on the High Performance Teams model. At the end, we answered a bunch of questions from the listeners and one of the questions we didn't get to was, “What do I do with a group of leaders in the business that have risen up through functional roles and are now really struggling to work on the business and to be strategic? They're getting caught down in the weeds. They may be thinking more about their own function than the organisation and it's causing a fair amount of chaos and tension across the group.”

This is a really common question amongst the organisations I work with; ultimately, I am brought in to try and help them remove any of the misunderstanding in the business about what the biggest priorities are. We also want them to work together on the business and we want to execute the game plan and lead cultural change. It's obviously easier said than done, but what I wanted to give you today was a seven step process to get that underway.

This goes hand-in-hand with a couple of other podcasts we've already done:

Okay, chief, let's talk about these seven steps and how to get them done in the right order as it’s actually quite important.

1. Create the space

Very rarely is this space in the office you work. In fact, it never is. If you want your people to get out of the functional areas where they get distracted, where they get emails, where they're automatically anchored to thinking in the day-to-day operations, but you want them to jump up to being strategic, it won't work. Go and find an Airbnb, go to the country, go to the beach, go to the mountains, whatever works. And get your leadership team to switch off devices and technology. Tell the rest of the business, you are away for the purposes of working on the business and in that space.

2. Set the frame

The frame is so important as it shows everyone why they’re there. This is the number one team in the business and this is about working on the business as a whole. This is about thinking about your customer at the heart, knowing your customer and having deep conversations about how everyone needs to understand your customer even better. This is about alignment of the leadership team to serve the organisation as a whole. You’re there to bond and unite because if you don't get trust between each other, then you're never going to win the game.

3. Situational analysis

One thing I like to do when I’m working with executive teams is to set up the room using the four walls. On one wall is the market, the industry, what's happening in the economy, the political landscape around you. On another wall is your customer where you put up your customer research, the good, the bad, the ugly, the great testimonials. Also include the customer avatars, and maybe some customer journey maps. Then on the wall opposite that is you – how's your business performance? You can also put up a SWOT, a PESTLE, your financial performance, operational performance. And then on the last wall is your competitors – the people that are actually trying to take business away from you or to lure your customers away. You want to make sure you understand what they're doing so you can do it even better. And when you stand in the middle of this room and you look around, then you're starting to work from a place of real knowledge and understanding of the true situation. Without doing that anchoring piece, Chief, you can't really then go away and start doing vision and strategy. You need to know where you’re launching from.

4. Connect your purpose to your values and vision

Why do you exist? What is the problem you are solving for your customers? The emotional toll, the frustration, the thing that you actually do that makes them go, “That is a great organisation. I love that they're in my camp! I love that I get to work with them.” What are the values, those behaviours and traits you are going to hold dear to you on this journey? And what is the vision? What is the grand outcome you're going for? At a particular point in time, what's going to be the numbers, the metrics, the operational standards? What kind of products are you going to release and in what markets? To what level of service? What's the culture going to be like? You need to build a vivid vision of the future so that you understand why you exist. This is where you're going, and these are the behaviours and values you're going to demonstrate along the way. That will get your team out of the functional mindset, I guarantee you, and working strategically.

5. Determine your strategy

Chief, now you’re ready to build a bullet-proof strategy, one you will execute better than anyone else in the market, and one which will differentiate you so much so, that when the customer sits there and makes a decision about who they're going to work with, they are able to see the points of difference and why they will work with you as opposed to your competitor. You also need to create a strategy for building value for your shareholders, if you have them, or any other stakeholders, as well as how you’re going to defend your market position.

6. Create an execution plan

Once you’ve built the strategy, then you need to turn that into an execution plan. Ask yourself what the pillars of your business are. Then consider what the projects you will need to set up in order to deliver them. Who's going to own those projects and do them by when? With what kind of budget and resource? Chief, by doing this, your team will be working together and if they nail the projects in your execution plan, they will solve the situational issue you're in right now. That is how you get your team thinking about how to work on the business. If all goes well, you’ll be aligned after a couple of days out of the office.

7. Build an Operating Rhythm

There is a risk that once you go back to the office, everyone can get distracted by the day-to-day. So you need to keep them operating at the strategic level, and to do this you have to have an operating rhythm where you connect to the annual, quarterly, and the monthly goals. Every single month you should come together and talk about the tactical projects in step 6 above. Everyone who is an owner or a sponsor of one of those projects gets up and talks to progress. What's been done, what is planned, what decisions they need made, how they are tracking against their budgets, time and resources. Importantly, you'll have all your leaders working strategically part of the time, and this is where you will really see things being driven forward as a business and that’s how you win the game, Chief. Remember, this isn't 100% of their job, but it should be a significant portion.


Chief, if you want help with any of this, we do run the Chief Maker Mini-MBA. This 12-week program talks through all these steps and details. It helps each person in the business get out of the functional and become a strategic leader. We walk them through their own business case, their own area, and everybody's got to build their own strategic plan, which includes all of these things. They share that with their peers in the program, and they all learn together, step-by-step, guided by me, every single week in live coaching calls.

Thanks again to Business New South Wales and MyBusiness for inviting me to work with them!

Deal hope,