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The Crucial Role of Critical Thinking

In business, flawed critical thinking can frequently masquerade as assumptions posing as strategies, unwavering beliefs obscuring the path forward, and dysfunction being accepted as mere environmental turbulence. This deception leads to rising operating costs, diminished profitability, heightened frustration, and a dearth of viable solutions, despite considerable investments by the company. Central to these challenges is the collective thinking process. Overlooking critical thinking isn’t just a managerial misstep; it’s a high-stakes gamble that puts at risk the very foundation of effective leadership and untapped opportunities.

“In the face of these challenges, there emerges a glimmer of hope.”

In the face of these challenges, there emerges a glimmer of hope. Enhancing critical thinking becomes the guiding light for leaders seeking to navigate the complexities. It allows decision-makers to assess situations in a structured, organized manner to increase the depth and scope of considerations, incorporating relevant and critical criteria. The journey toward cultivating critical thinking is an investment in individuals and the fabric of resilient and forward-thinking business management. This article sheds light on the importance of critical thinking, emphasizing its pivotal role in organizational success and adaptability.

The Foundation of Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking is a cognitive process encompassing the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of information to make informed decisions. It extends beyond mere problem-solving, incorporating the development of a comprehensive understanding of complex situations, the foresight of potential outcomes, and the assurance that all actions are not only problem-solving but also in strict alignment with the corporate strategy. This strategic alignment ensures that decisions and actions contribute positively to the overarching corporate strategy or, at a minimum, do not conflict with it – increasing the scope of the business intelligence considered and leading to better-informed decisions.

Better Informed Decisions:

At its core, strategic management revolves around shaping an organization’s future to fulfill its strategic objectives while ensuring profitability. Critical thinking plays a pivotal role in empowering leaders to shift through vast amounts of data, recognize patterns, and extract key insights without losing focus on its Overarching Goal. It serves as a compass, guiding towards more effective decisions, and minimizing the risk of costly errors. Moreover, critical thinking prompts leaders to explore information that might otherwise be overlooked, thus enhancing the quality of their actions.

Navigating Uncertainty:

The business environment is inherently uncertain, marked by rapid changes and unforeseen challenges. Critical thinking equips strategic leaders with the agility to adapt to unexpected circumstances while staying true to their Strategic Path. Instead of relying on rigid plans, organizations can cultivate a culture of continuous evaluation and adjustment, ensuring resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Innovative Problem Solving:

Strategic management often involves addressing complex problems that demand innovative solutions. Critical thinking encourages professionals to approach challenges with creativity and open-mindedness. By questioning assumptions and exploring alternative perspectives, leaders can uncover novel strategies that drive innovation, set their organizations apart from the competition and avoid strategic convergence.

Effective Communication:

Clear communication is a cornerstone of successful strategic management. Critical thinking enhances the ability to articulate ideas, strategies, and decisions coherently. Leaders who think critically can convey complex concepts in a way that is easily understood by various stakeholders, fostering alignment and buy-in across the organization.

Overcoming Cognitive Biases:

Strategic decision-makers are not susceptible to cognitive biases that can cloud judgment. Critical thinking acts as a safeguard against these biases by promoting objective analysis and consideration of diverse viewpoints. Leaders who actively engage in critical thinking are better equipped to rule out personal preferences, ill-advised influences, and skewed insights in making unbiased decisions that align with the business’s current and long-term strategic objectives without unintentionally introducing risks.

Conclusion:

In the ever-evolving business environment, strategic management and the ability to think critically are not just assets but necessities.

By fostering a culture of critical thinking, organizations can navigate uncertainty, enhance decision-making processes, and promote innovative problem-solving. As the importance of critical thinking continues to grow, it stands as a cornerstone for building resilient, adaptive, and successful enterprises in the modern business environment.

You will not master the art of Critical Thinking by learning new strategies and gathering strategies; those ideas must be put into practice, reinforcing the fact that Critical and Strategic Thinking can be developed with intentional effort. Check out this easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand, easy-to-apply, concisely written mini-book for those who are interested in a bulletproof approach to developing their critical and strategic thinking skills.  Leadership Processes – elevating Critical and Strategic Thinking

Also, Explore our Strategic Decision-Making Framework to enhance the quality of your decisions. This comprehensive tool is designed to guide you through the decision-making process, ensuring thoughtful consideration of various factors.

And if Execution is an area in need of some attention, don’t miss out on our Strategic Management Journal—a powerful execution tool crafted to increase the likelihood of achieving your goals. This journal serves as a practical companion, assisting you in implementing strategic plans effectively and navigating the complexities of strategic management with precision

Be Strategic!

Easy to Not So Easy

Sitting across from your boss and receiving criticism for not quite nailing that supposedly easy goal can’t be easy or pleasant – it is an all-too-common experience. We get it; that moment when success slips through our fingers, and what we thought was a walk in the park makes us question our abilities. Those who genuinely reflect, learn and grow.

What’s even more daunting is the realization that the boardroom is not immune to this experience. Management meetings should be inherently challenging, especially in dynamic environments with aggressive growth goals led by ambitious leaders; we convene to dissect our performance, address challenges, and foster a space for creative problem-solving. However, the collaborative atmosphere takes a hit when the dialogue shifts from contributions to excuses. That one individual who consistently elaborates on problems – be it a lack of resources, time constraints, or unexpected emergencies – rather than discussing progress. While everyone else is engaged in moving forward, this person remains fixated on setbacks, leaving us to wonder why their narrative always revolves around problems rather than progress.

Our patience may run thin, and our enthusiasm for our once-eager colleague may diminish; however, it’s essential to recognize that there could be genuine reasons behind their extinguished contributions. Understanding these reasons can help us to help them get back on track.

“If it is not a gap in their expert knowledge, then it must be execution-oriented.”

Easy becoming Not so Easy.

Not everyone excels at executing goals; when execution is overlooked, it’s easy to lose control without realizing it. Effective execution is paramount, especially when striving to achieve ambitious growth and transformation goals, regardless of how seemingly simple or straightforward the activities may be.

It’s not uncommon for leaders less experienced in project management to confront challenges such as underestimating the time required to complete the goal or its activities, procrastinating to complete tasks until the last moment, or attempting to tackle incongruent tasks simultaneously. These difficulties are compounded by the demands of their busy day job, further exacerbating their struggles.

Easy becomes Not so Easy when either one of two things happens.

Discipline: Discipline is a pivotal element in goal execution, demanding consistent and persistent action to complete activities as planned. Being disciplined is even more crucial when goal attainment is not a top priority or when numerous urgent tasks compete for your attention. It’s advised not to rely solely on motivation but to establish a system that aids in staying on track.

Compounded Effect of Delay: The compounded effect of delay, stemming from practices such as procrastination, postponement, deprioritization, or last-minute adjustments, amplifies and complicates the consequences of inaction. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in project management, extensively discussed under the topic of how to manage the critical path. While goals are typically designed to be completed within a longer timeframe than usual, complete with built-in buffers, the depletion of these buffers and oversight of dependent relationships can quickly transform the delay of activities spanning a few months into a crisis. Addressing such crises demands additional allocation of resources and effort to re-establish control to get back on track.

Embolden Execution

There exists a myriad of tools and systems that leaders can invest in to enhance their ability to manage goal execution effectively. These tools enable a meticulous breakdown of activities, relationships, start and end dates, and resource and budgetary requirements. However, even with these detailed insights, a crucial element is often overlooked, causing many leaders to fall short of successfully achieving their goals.

Easy does not have to become Not So Easy. Leaders can boost their goal execution strategically, strengthening their efforts and overcoming weaknesses. To make these strategic tools effective, they should include tracking progress, reviewing completed activities, problem-solving, critical thinking, and the flexibility to make timely adjustments.

Embolden their goal execution by strengthening the process of carrying out a plan or task. The right tool will strengthen your goal execution and boost goal achievement with confidence, determination, and a proactive mindset. Infuse energy, courage, and boldness into your actions to increase your chances of achieving your goal.

Managing Progress goes beyond managing your project plan. Goal attainment demands intentional management – the periodic and frequent reviews of activities, an assessment of the impact of actions, and an evaluation of forecasted activities. Only through this can you ensure nothing was missed or forgotten, empowering you to proactively address any budding issues threatening the smooth execution of your task. It demands a tool like the NMCS Strategic Management Journal. It is more than just a well-designed journal; it’s a system designed to elevate goal execution, a tool that spans any timeframe, can start at any time and is versatile, so you don’t lose any pages. Start, stop, or miss a month without having to skip over any section.

Action:

We make our products accessible regardless of your budget and preference. Choose our downloadable PDF or our bonded book version. We also created a premium hardcover with additional insight for the individual who treasures their creative ideas and periodically reflects on their journey.

NMCS STRATEGIC MANAEMENT JOURNAL

or check out out published version on Amazon – Published Strategic Management Journal

Be Strategic

RhymeTime – Decision & Regrets

In the hustle of our daily lives, we find ourselves navigating a maze of tasks, expending energy and resources in the pursuit of effectiveness. Often, amidst the chaos, the realization eludes us that we hold the reins to many challenges that shape our experiences.

It is this very insight that serves as the spark for the words that follow—a poetic expression that fuses the realms of art and intelligence. This isn’t merely a collection of verses; it’s a reflection on accountability, a recognition that the solutions to many of our challenges lie within our grasp.

As you delve into the lines that unfold, consider them not just as words on paper but as a call to awareness, a marriage of thought and creativity. These verses invite you to ponder, to introspect, and to find inspiration in the synergy of art and intelligence.

Enjoy this journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Embrace the insights woven into the fabric of each stanza. May the marriage of art and intelligence within these verses kindle a flame of inspiration within you.

As you reach the final verses of this poetic exploration, consider the inspiration that has unfurled within you. The journey through art and intelligence has been a testament to the power of introspection and self-awareness.

Now, if you find yourself compelled to take charge, to seize the reins of your narrative, we extend an invitation. Elevate your decision-making prowess with our Strategic Decision-Making Framework—a carefully crafted guide tailored not only for business leaders but also with practical applications for every facet of your life.

Invest in this framework, and witness how it transforms decision-making from a task to an art form. It’s more than a toolkit; it’s a compass for navigating the complexities of life’s choices. Take the lessons learned here, merge them with strategic insights, and embark on a journey where each decision becomes a brushstroke on the canvas of your success.

May your path be illuminated by the wisdom gained, and may the choices you make be the stepping stones to a future crafted by your design.

Mastering the Art of Strategic Decision-Making

Practically speaking, Strategic Decisions are simply Decision that considers the Business’s Corporate Strategy, in addition to the decision’s objectives, ensuring that the decision is in harmony with all facets of the business. At the epicentre of all successful organizations are leaders who make strategic decisions. They holistically approach all business actions and decisions by considering the following:

  • The business’s overarching goals – Vision, Mission, or Purpose.
  • The business’s Current State, ongoing project, restrictions, culture, and environment, and
  • The critical elements of the decision.

In this article, we will explore the intricacies of strategic decision-making and provide insights into what leaders must consider to bridge the gaps undermining the effectiveness of their decisions while aiding the organization to navigate complex challenges and seize opportunities.

The Fundamentals of Strategic Decision-Making

An effective decision process takes a holistic approach to the decision, cohesively integrating business intelligence, insights, experience and strategy.

  1. Business Information-Driven Decision Making: Business Intelligence is the bedrock of strategic decisions. Leaders must gather and consider pertinent information in the context of the decision objective and within the broader business, encompassing ongoing initiatives and long-term goals, rather than relying on intuition alone.
  2. Critical Thinking: Leaders must employ critical thinking to evaluate complex situations objectively. They deconstruct problems into manageable components, identify root causes, and explore various solutions while staying above the fray. An analytical approach that ensures that decisions are based on a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
  3. Vision and Long-Term Perspective: Strategic decisions should be aligned with long-term vision while considering the potential future consequences of the current decision. Leaders collaborate closely to define and refine their solutions, ensuring all decisions support or further this goal.

A strategic decision-making process is one that effectively and systematically evaluates the decision options presented within the realms of:

  1. Problem Identification and Problem-Solving: Leaders work to identify the specific problem or opportunity that requires attention. This involves defining objectives and understanding the context in which the decision will be executed to address a Business Problem.
  2. Business Growth and Improvement: Leaders understand that all decisions, no matter how seemingly minor, impact business in some capacity. Their decision will either create a positive impact or a potentially negative ripple effect across the business.
  3. Collaboration, Execution and Feedback: Leaders’ objective when making decisions is to ensure that their decisions are implemented and they receive feedback on the effectiveness of their decisions on the business. Fundamental to making informed decisions is to influence the team to adopt and execute them.
  4. Team and Partnership: In spite of the locality of any decision, leaders are aware of the fact that decisions either detract from or inspire teamwork and partnerships, which is the foundation of a strong business. People follow leaders whose judgement they can trust, those they can rely on in a crisis who have their best interest and the company’s interest at heart.

Challenges in Strategic Decision-Making

The challenge with decision-making is often not in the leader’s intention but in the fundamental gaps in the decision-making processes they employ. Some of these challenges include:

  1. Cognitive Bias: Leaders must be aware of cognitive biases that can cloud judgment and lead to suboptimal decisions. These biases include confirmation bias, anchoring, and overconfidence.
  2. Resistance to Change: Implementing strategic decisions can face resistance within an organization. Professionals must be skilled in change management to overcome these obstacles.
  3. Confidence: Lack of confidence in the leader’s ability to make informed decisions based on sound -judgment.
  4. Uncertainty: The limited consideration of external factors, such as economic fluctuations or unforeseen market shifts, can introduce uncertainty. Leaders should develop strategies to manage and mitigate risks.

Conclusion

Strategic decision-making is the key to business success. By amalgamating business intelligence, critical thinking, expertise and a long-term perspective, leaders can navigate the complexities of decision-making and guide organizations toward achieving their objectives. In an ever-changing environment, the ability to make sound strategic decisions is crucial for staying ahead of the competition and ensuring long-term success.

To learn how to make Better Strategic Decisions, explore
NMCS Strategic Decision-Making Framework here!

Red Herring in Strategic Management

Have you ever felt as if the real issue at hand is not being addressed? Despite the validity and importance of every argument presented, it only served as a distraction from the actual problem. Yet, you cannot shake the feeling that every attempt to discuss the issue is redirected toward another seemingly less urgent matter.

In the context of Strategic Management, a “Red Herring” typically refers to a misleading or irrelevant piece of information that can divert attention or distract from the main issue or objective. It is often used as a metaphor to describe something that appears significant but is, in fact, a false trail.

Traditionally “Red Herring” was used in negotiation as a deliberate strategy to divert the attention away from the topic of discussion to a topic of lesser importance. This tactic allows negotiators to bring up the original topic later, under more favourable conditions or without facing challenges.

Whether using “Red Herring” in Strategic Management is intentional or not, the negative impact on the business remains the same, ultimately affecting the bottom line—profit.

Red Herring Strategy

The Red Herring Strategy in Strategic Management is quite common in the board room and management meetings to argue for one’s recommendation. Yet, it cannot amply be proven without being accusatory and committing career suicide. However, not all is lost; there are valid leadership strategies that can be used to counteract the use of Red Herring in Strategic Management, Strategies that coherently align the actions and decisions of the business with its business goals.

1: Clearly Define and Communicate Business Goals:

The cornerstone of any successful business is a leadership team collaboratively working toward common goals; goals they buy into, are inspired by and are motivated to work toward achieving.

Establish clear and well-defined business goals that are aligned with the Organization’s Mission and Vision. Communicate these goals effectively to all stakeholders, including the board members and management team. When red herrings are introduced, refer back to the established goals to ensure discussions and decisions remain focused.

2: Foster a Culture of Evidence-Based Decision Making:

Another cornerstone of success is teamwork, and teamwork is inspired when leaders create an environment that fosters transparency, collaboration, and creativity.

Encourage a culture where decisions are based on objective evidence and thorough analysis. Emphasize the importance of data-driven decision-making and request supporting evidence for any claims made during discussions. Encourage critical thinking and constructive questioning of the information presented, focusing on its relevance to the decision at hand.

3: Establish Decision-Making Criteria:

How leaders make decisions, what information is considered and how they evaluate the information presented before making a decision is rarely questioned, if at all. And only upon reflecting after an ill-informed decision negatively impacted a business is when the gaps in the decision-making process revealed. Even after gaps are apparent in the decision-making process, the process isn’t questioned, improved or steps taken to correct.

Develop a clear set of decision-making criteria that should be considered when evaluating options. These criteria can include alignment with business goals, financial feasibility, market potential, risk assessment, and strategic fit. When a red herring is introduced, evaluate it against the established criteria and assess its impact on the decision-making process.

4: Assign a Devil’s Advocate Role:

Too often, poor judgement falls through the cracks because team members are afraid to question the fallacies in their peer’s decisions, thinking or arguments, negatively impacting the organization.

Appoint a designated devil’s advocate in meetings to challenge ideas and arguments presented. This role is responsible for questioning the validity and relevance of information, ensuring that red herrings are exposed and addressed. Rotate this role among team members to promote a fair and balanced approach.

5: Conduct Post-Mortem Evaluations:

Similar to point 4 above, often, when a business decision fails, the decision is discussed superficially, and everyone moves on. The problem resurfaces differently with varying degrees of damage to the business – some minor and others more severe. The underlying issue builds in severity until it erupts into a significant loss, followed by swift actions – reprimand or dismissal.

After meetings, conduct evaluations to assess the effectiveness of decision-making processes and identify any potential red herrings that may have influenced the discussions. Use these evaluations as learning opportunities to refine future meeting strategies and improve decision-making processes.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a more conducive environment for effective decision-making, minimizing the impact of red herrings and ensuring that discussions and decisions remain aligned with the business goals.

Practical Execution:

The execution of these strategies is discussed in more detail in Leadership Processes, elevating Critical & Strategic thinking, with practical instructions:

1: To collaboratively define clear goals from the Business’s Corporate Strategy

2: To develop the information to minimize red herrings and realign the leader’s actions to the business’s agenda

3: To develop your own unique, coherent decision-making process, with insights to question any fallacies impacting the quality of your decision.

Also, check out the other articles in NMCS Insights Corner for additional tips, strategies and insights to help with other business challenges.

Additional References:

Leadership Processes – elevating Critical & Strategic Thinking

NMCS Insights Blog

Reach out to NMCS – we provide practical strategies even the busiest leaders can execute without breaking the bank or disrupting the organization.

(Un)Ethical Practices

In today’s extremely competitive environment, professionals who get ahead are even more aggressive than their counterparts, aggressively going after that sale, hustling to get that next opportunity, or towing the lines to get the edge ahead of the competitor. Regardless of the “game”, at the end of the day, there is right, and then there’s wrong.

The challenge isn’t one’s ambition but their ethical practice. Professional Ethics. The guidelines determine whether the action is right, questionable, or unethical. Regardless of the reasons or excuse one gives, at the end of the day, there’s the Right Thing to do, Hustling with Zealous Integrity, or doing what’s Wrong.

Sign of the Blurring of The Grey Area

Some businesses, leaders and people with opportunities get their big break or succeed because they strive in the grey area. They learn the system, figure out the loopholes and then take advantage of them, leaving their competitors at a disadvantage without legal recourse. Do you know anyone, or are you aware of anyone in this situation?

No one ever started off blurring the ethical line in business; it evolves over time with one micro-indiscretion, then once they get away, take the bigger and bigger risk until it becomes their modus operandi.

One-way professionals start blurring the grey line is by assuming they have equal ownership of a co-worker’s work without first discussing it with them or asking, especially if that work wasn’t published for distribution.

I recalled this bitter-sweet experience a while back. My supervisor invited me to a meeting to discuss a project with one of the senior resources from head office. I felt proud being invited to the discussion requiring my professional expertise, especially since I recently earned my stripes by completing phase 1 of a multi-million-dollar project in an impossible seven months.  A project I worked tirelessly on effecting organizational change in communication, management practice and transparency at a level previously seen as too risky to the business. Working late nights to ensure that the business valued from the project and that it wasn’t just another case of software parading as a solution; being plastered on top of core issues as a fix.

Despite my youthful naivety, something felt off. It would have been more appropriate to provide a heads-up as to the organization plan instead of coming across as hijacking my work and only engaging me after they failed to understand the strategy.

Then it all shattered when I realized that the project plan they wanted to discuss was my project, copied and modified to replicate the solution in another office. Not only was my work butchered, but it was taken without any notice or heads up. Instead, I was sitting in a room with two senior members of the organization, educating them on project management, including explaining my critical and strategic thinking practices. At that moment, I felt cheated. I don’t mind sharing my work, training people, and helping when needed, but I do mind people assuming because I made it look easy that it was easy, assuming ownership and then, when they fail, to not explain or apologize, but expect me to help them.

I did it out of respect for my supervisor but lost some respect for my co-worker. Prior to this experience, I admired that person; after this, not so much.

Just Unethical:

Insider Trading, Trademark Infringement, Misleading Marketing Practices, and Manipulated Financials Statements are just a few common, highly damaging examples of unethical practices. Less obvious unethical practice includes Plagiarism, Pollution, and Abuse of Positional Power; which are decisions to pursue a course of action you know to be unethical yet decides to continue anyway because the chances of being caught are low.

Consequences:

Every action has consequences, whether the consequence is immediate or not. Plagiarizing someone’s work and presenting it as yours may not be called out; however, the person being cheated will eventually find out, it will be upsetting, and they will talk.

Peter Diamandis captures the essence of the consequence of unethical practice in his quote, “Bad news sells because the amygdala is always looking for something to fear.” The brain does not forget; it lives on as a lesson to remember, a message to share so others do not suffer the consequence you did, and also, because humans love justice, they will get involved when they notice an injustice being done. It is human nature in us to want others punished for their unjust behaviour.

“Bad news sells because the amygdala is always looking for something to fear.” ~ Peter Diamandis

Customer review, Social media and Networking Storytelling are means by which unjust practices can take on a life of their own; so before deciding to take an unethical risk, consider the real cost – damage to your reputation, damage to the business and even worst, your damage reputation through association, will impact those you love. It is not worth it.

Ethical, Sustainable Strategies:

Don’t despair; there are ethical strategies to give you the tools to get ahead and elevate your work experience so you stand out the right way and develop your ideas into solutions others will want to purchase. The best part is that it doesn’t have to take years; you can start benefiting in months with consistent practice. See our products page for more detail. Products – NM Corporate Strategy

Closing

If you want help or need coaching, reach out to those you admire – your mentors – because most successful people are willing to give back by helping others aspiring for success in their expertise. But do not assimilate their success as your own. This strategy may gain you short-term rewards; however, this practice will steal your credibility in the long term.

So, avoid the temptation to take the easy way out and make bad decisions which compromise yourself and the business.

It is also worthwhile to emphasize that not because you can get away with questionable action or that the other party has little to no legal recourse; doesn’t mean that it should be done.

Additional References:

Reach out to NMCS

– we provide practical strategies even the busiest leaders can execute without breaking the bank or disrupting the organization.

Why is Corporate Strategy Important?

It is common to find many senior leaders questioning the importance of having a Corporate Strategy. They question how practical it is to their current business and question the value it will create if they invest the time and resources required to develop and execute a Corporate Strategy.

This article will shed light on What a Corporate Strategy is, Why it is Important, and provide insights on How to execute a Corporate Strategy “Fit for the Purpose” of your Business.

“What is Corporate Strategy? Why it Corporate Strategy Important? How to execute a Corporate Strategy Fit for the Purpose of your business?”

What is Corporate Strategy?

In its most simple term, a Corporate Strategy is the Details and Specifics surrounding the Business’s Ultimate Goal, its “North Star”, its “Overarching Goal”; essentially, it is ultimately what the “Business wants to Accomplish”. It is more than ambitious statements citing a Vision or Mission that sounds great. It is the statements that inspire and guide the entire company’s actions.

There are many different formal and informal “versions” of a Company’s Corporate Strategy, “Fit for Purpose” acceptable Corporate Strategy could include:

  • The Business Vision & Mission, or
  • The Business Purpose Statement, or
  • The Business Value Proposition, or
  • The Founder’s Vision for creating the Business, or
  • The Leader’s Goal – what they would like to accomplish, or
  • The Business perceived Competitive Advantage and how they intend to win in the marketplace, or
  • Simply, the difference the founder wants to make through the Business;

each of which, provides management with guidance to ensure that they are optimizing their resources toward the same ultimate goals as their peers.

The Business Vision & Mission, or Purpose, are the formal versions of a Company’s Corporate Strategy, from which its Values, Value Proposition, Competitive Advantage, and Company’s Corporate & Annual Goals are defined. Goals designed to achieve the Company’s Corporate Strategy. While the last four are not officially formal Corporate Strategies, they each serve the objective of a Corporate Strategy by guiding the leadership of the Business toward common goals.

Reference: See our book, “Leadership Processes, elevating Critical & Strategic Thinking“, for our proprietary Leadership Process detailing how to unpack a Business Corporate Strategy, extracting actionable yet relevant strategies; business leaders can rally around as they aspire to achieve the Business’s Corporate Strategy. Check our product page for more detail.

Let’s look at each component of the Corporate Strategy in more detail.

The Business’s Vision Statement

The Business Vision Statement communicates the “Aspirational Goals” for the business.

The Business Vision Statement communicates the “Aspirational Goals” for the Business. Because the Vision Statement is aspirational, it is by nature non-specific. It is deliberately designed to be left open for leadership’s creative interpretations while being flexible to remain relevant despite forecasted changes in the micro and macro environment, simultaneously setting the overall direction for the Business.

Apple’s Vision Statement 2023: To make the best products on earth and to leave the world better than we found it.

Amazon Vision Statement: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” 

The leadership at both Apple and Amazon can interpret the Company’s Vision Statement to determine precisely what each phrase means. Apple left its Vision open to venture into any product area as long as it fits the “best product” criteria while executing the Business’s operations with ESG consideration. On the other hand, Amazon set clear guidelines for its leadership to create the most customer-centric company that can sell anything online. 

The Business’s Mission Statement

Mission Statement primarily communicates what the business does and for whom.

The Company’s Mission Statement cites more achievable, shorter-term tangible goals the Business can pursue that are aligned with its Vision Statement. It primarily communicates what the Business does and for whom. While there are more complex structures of a Mission Statement encapsulating more details of the Business, the two key characteristics of a Mission Statement are to define what the Business does and for whom.

Apple’s Mission Statement:bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.”

Amazon Mission Statement:We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”

Apple’s Mission statement states clearly that Apple provides innovative hardware, software and services in their products for users who appreciate a good user experience, while Amazon’s Mission statement states that Amazon’s desire to make shopping online on their platform convenient while providing a wide variety of products at the lowest possible prices. Both Apple nor Amazon state in their Mission Statements the specific products or services provided, only what their customers can look forward to.

Apple promises innovative products and excellent user experience, and Amazon promises convenient shopping with the widest variety of products at the lowest possible price.

The Business’s Purpose Statement

The Purpose Statement communicates “Why” a business exists and how its products and services benefit their customers.

It’s a general observation that a business either has a Vision-Mission driven Corporate Strategy or a Purpose driven Corporate Strategy. The differentiating factors determining whether a company is Vision-Mission-driven or Purpose-driven often are 1: The Complexity of the Business and 2: The Persona of the Business.

The Structure of the Organization combined with its Operating Model and type of services provided often dictates whether a business will have a Vision-Mission Corporate Structure or a Purpose driven Corporate Strategy.

Apple and Amazon are often perceived as unreachable by their customer base, who do not need an intimate relationship with the company to reap the full benefits of their goods and services, while Insurance type companies often rely on a more personal connection with their customers to provide excellent services; resulting in Insurance companies opting for a Purpose driven Corporate Strategy.

Allstate Purpose Statement: We help customers realize their hopes and dreams by providing the best products and services to protect them from life’s uncertainties and prepare them for the future.

When planning the Business Corporate Strategy, most Small and Medium size businesses will benefit from a more straightforward Purpose Statement Corporate Strategy; it communicates to the staff and target market what the Business is and who it serves and provides ample information for the target customer to connect with the Business.

Whereas more complex organisations will want to evaluate the pros and cons of each structure before determining which format best fits the needs of the Business.

Corporate Strategy Details

Having established that the Business Corporate Strategy is either Vision-Mission-driven or Purpose-driven, clearly stating what the Business wants to accomplish, what it does and who it serves. The next step is translating the Business’s Corporate Strategy into smaller tangible goals, objectives and actions the Business can execute.

Think of it like this. The Business Corporate Strategy is the destination the Business is hoping to arrive at, why it needs to get to that destination, and the mode of transport it will use to arrive at its destination.

The Corporate Strategy Details – the Values, Value Proposition and Competitive Advantage – are the details necessary for the Business operators to work in lockstep to achieve its Corporate Strategy. Think of it like this; the details are the plannedrequiredcessary for the Business to get to its final destination as efficiently as possible, with the best possible experience for itself and its customers, while building trust and loyalty throughout the journey.

Values

Values are essential because values set expectations for the quality of the experience for staff and customers with every business transaction.

Theoretically, “Values” define how employees ought to behave in the daily execution of their duties and are the building blocks of the Company’s Culture.

Practically, “Company’s Culture” is the sum total of the collective behaviours of the workforce, whether the behaviours are sanctioned or not by management.

Realistically, “Values” listed in the Company’s Corporate Strategy alone do not determine Company’s “Culture” and often, in reality, the Company’s Culture is not a reflection of the Company’s Values.

Brand:

 

The Company’s Brand is a reflection of the general public’s judgement. It’s a “sum-total” of how the staff and customers feel about their interaction with the company.

Theoretically, “Brand” is the image the Business wishes to create for the public.

In Practice, “Brand” is the Public Image the Business has because of the experience its staff and customers collectively form based on their experiences with the Business.

Realistically brand isn’t determined by a branding exercise. A branding exercise will shed light on what Brand the company should curate, with insights on how to create the desired image. However, the Company’s Brand is formed by how well the operators of the business behaviours are aligned with the image it wants to project.

The reality is most businesses’ Planned Brands, and their Actual Brand are not aligned.

Value Proposition:

Theoretically, “Value Proposition” is the value leadership want the business goods and services to create for its customers.

In Practice, “Value Proposition” is the perceived value gained by the customer from the consumption of the business goods and services.

Realistically, the “Value Proposed” and the “Value Gained” often differ for most businesses, with the Business overestimating the value created and the customers underestimating the value gained. It is advisable for the Business to frequently seek and evaluate customer feedback to determine its true value proposition, incorporating relevant insights into the creation, delivery and follow-up of its goods and services.

Competitive Advantage: 

Competitive Advantage is lessening its importance in business management primarily because it’s seen as extremely difficult to develop and execute, while the changes in technology and the economy make the information relatively obsolete relatively fast; there is little incentive for Businesses to invest the time and money to develop, and even less incentive for Small and Medium Size businesses. However, for a business to thrive and grow, it must manage a fit-for-purpose Competitive Advantage.

Theoretically, “Competitive Advantage” is how the Business differentiates itself from the competitors in a way that is more appealing to its customers than the competitors.

In Practice, “Competitive Advantage” is constructed by most using “Quality”, “Service”, “Price”, “Technology”, “Access”, and “Product” to create an offering that will win more often than the competitors.

Realistically, “Competitive Advantage” influences the target customer to believe that your products and service are more valuable than the alternatives available.

Corporate Strategy in Perspective:

The Vision – Defines Aspirational Goals the Business can eventually achieve.

The Mission or Purpose – Defines Practical Immediate Goals the Business can accomplish given its resources.

The Corporate Strategy Details – Defines the Strategies, Plans and Specific Details of how the Business will behave and operate to achieve its Mission or Purpose.

Why is Corporate Strategy Important?

In a nutshell, a business without a Corporate Strategy is synonymous with a Taxi driving without a destination.

Businesses, especially Small and Medium size businesses operate under the impression that as long as they are making money, they are doing ok; however, once the initial momentum has been exhausted, the Business begins to experience problems, and if nothing is done to solve the underlying problem correctly, it starts to decline.

The fallacy most businesses make is, believing that once a business begins to struggle, the solution is business process improvement, systems or tools, which rarely works. Why? Because any product, systems and tools layered upon inefficiencies will not resolve the underlying problem, only temporarily mask it resulting in the problems resurfacing only to frustrate management.

Dire Problem: I worked with a medium size organization citing dire problems with Professional Services, Product Development and Sales, a tangled web of weekly battles on whose fault it was that affected Sales. Product Development was forced to re-prioritize and modify its product roadmap, while Professional Services struggled to deliver on the promises made by Sales. A recurring nightmare. The Difficult Problems Leadership weren’t able to solve suddenly assigned to me. Problems that were blamed for the losses incurred monthly. Problems the traditional solutions failed to resolve.

The Solution: Clarity of the Business Corporate Strategy with relevant Corporate Strategy Details and a pivot of the Business In-Year Strategy, so the Business can resolve the root cause of the problems while redirecting its effort to focus on other revenue-generating opportunities. Only then did things truly turn around, and the Business was now able to move forward with its growth and value accretion plans.

Note: It is important to recognize that in addition to having a Corporate Strategy and the Corporate Strategy Details, EXECUTION is Key! And Execution is in the Business’s Operating Advantage, Operating Values, and Culture impact on its Brand. Reach out to us to learn more about Operating Advantages, Operating Values and Culture Impact on the Brand.

How to Start a “Fit for Purpose” Corporate Strategy?

Operating Business often falls into one of the following categories:

  • A functioning Corporate Strategy, or
  • An Ignored Corporate Strategy, or
  • A Dated Corporate Strategy, or
  • An Irrelevant Corporate Strategy, or
  • An Idea of what the Corporate Strategy is, or
  • A Wishful Idea of what the Business wants to do or achieve, or
  • No Corporate Strategy.

The challenge is for you, the leader, to determine if it is a Goal you can move forward with. Then develop the details to support the achievement of that goal. Then validate the Business’s ability to execute the activities necessary to achieve that goal.

If, however, you are either unclear as to what the Business’s Corporate Strategy is, or whether the Business Operations are strategically aligned with its written Corporate Strategy, or how to begin solving the Business’s dire problems. Start with gaining some clarity on why the Business exists and how it intends to serve its customers and ensure that you ask all the difficult questions.

Once you have clarity, communicate first to the team, then to the rest of the Business and be open to feedback on whether it’s feasible. Work through the Corporate Strategy Details and Execute!

With clarity on the Business’s Corporate Strategy and the details communicated concisely to the Business, you will begin receiving insights from your actions, decision and subordinates on where the daily activities of the business conflict with the Corporate Strategy; valuable Insights and Information you can then act on.

An idea without execution is only an idea that soon fades and dies. The same is true for a Business without a Corporate Strategy. The Business will ultimately be pulled into conflicting directions, consumed with how best to allocate its limited resources.

A simple test you can do today to help determine if the Business has an effective Corporate Strategy is to ask. Ask your leader, managers or supervisors what the business Goal is. If they are uncertain, then follow.

  1. Apply the insights provided in How to Start above, or
  2. Get our book Leadership Processes, elevating Critical & Strategic Thinking, and it will give the Leadership Process to develop a Corporate Strategy, or
  3. Contact Us, and we will help.

Final Thought: Having a Corporate Strategy (Goals) people understand is a sign that you are in control. At the same time, not having an active Corporate Strategy is a signal that the Business is reactive to the circumstances of the environment; they are being led, not leading. We understand that a business strives when the circumstances are favourable – getting lucky, and struggles when the circumstances are unfavourable. However, it is important never to take your business luck for granted; ensure that it is supported by a Corporate Strategy that serves as a lighthouse in periods of uncertainty. And DO NOT risk your Business on chances because regardless of the circumstances, with Strategic Management, you can create your own favourable circumstances.

Be Strategic! Nallanie Manick

Is it Me?

Have you ever wondered – Is It Me? Am I the reason good employees leave?

If your instincts question your ability to keep good employees, listen. It’s a sign that you have the potential to be a good leader because it is natural for good leaders to question their capabilities, their role or their contribution to any situation and take accountability. This is how they grow and how they strengthen their leadership skills. However, if, on the other hand, you believe that you are always right and never take responsibility for your Team, that’s a red flag, and it is highly recommended that you reflect, start with our Insights Corner Post – 3 Tell Tale Signs of Ineffective Management Practice. It should shed light on any blinders you may have. Then look at other articles we have on our Insights Corner blog page.

The Quote Employees don’t leave their Jobs, they leave their Bosses! “ is harsh but true. Let’s explain. 

If we are genuinely conscientious, whenever valued employees leave. We will be curious and work to get to the root cause underlying their departure, questioning ourselves to determine if there was anything we could have done differently to prevent this employee from leaving. And, in case you were wondering, hearing how much the employee loved working with you and the company is no consolation because 1: you lost a valuable employee, 2: you were caught off-guard, 3: there is now a huge gap to be filled, and 4: you now have limited time to find a replacement. If you are lucky, your employee will stay on longer than the standard 2 weeks’ notice to help train their replacement. What’s even worse is that finding the right resource isn’t as easy or economical as it used to be.

While there are genuine situations when leaders are forced to strategically manage rogue employees out of the organization – for example, when the employee employment contract binds them. There are valid situations when leaders are expected to make the tough decision and let employees go when it threatens the business, such as when:

  • The employee’s performance is unacceptable; or
  • The boss-employee relationship with the organization or Team has broken down, or
  • The employee adopted the ineffective practice of doing only enough not to get fired – quiet quitting; or
  • The employee lacked interest in the organization, or
  • The employee lacked the capabilities and skillset to do the job; or
  • The employee refused to grow or improve with the organization, etc.

To a lesser extent, there is the situation when the decision to retire someone early is forced upon us, for example, when the business finances are at risk. Leaders are asked to either trim the fat – retiring roles that are no longer nice to have, absorbing their responsibilities; or to cut costs by downsizing – retiring a certain percent of the workforce. In both situations, there is an element of the least valuable employees being let go.

What if it’s Me, not them?

It is a common annual practice for leaders to engage in Strategic Planning – an intensive exercise of reflection, problem-solving and optimistic planning for the upcoming fiscal year. A Strategic planning process seldom questions the manager’s role in losing key employees. Instead, resource planning is done with planned actions on how to better manage the workforce, putting the responsibility on HR to improve employee engagement, correct company culture issues, and develop employment procedures and policies to correct “the attrition problem”.

Food for Thought! As a Leader, have you ever had a director, manager, or supervisor accept the responsibility for losing valued employees while being committed to improving moving forward? What about you? Have you ever wondered why someone you relied on suddenly up and left? What will you discover if you play devil’s advocate?

The Truth

The truth is, when a steady stream of high-performing employees with great careers ahead of them leaves, it’s because they are leaving their bosses, not the job. Employees leave because:

  • They felt stuck and couldn’t see any solution in the organization; or
  • They have out-grown their role and do not see any exciting career prospects for them; or
  • They want growth, more responsibilities or a salary increase, and do not see the possibility of getting that growth or expansion; or
  • They felt unappreciated, unmotivated, or disenchanted with the role; or
  • They felt stressed or frustrated with the situation; or
  • They feel bullied or disrespected; or
  • You are aggressive, rude or disrespectful to them; or
  • You are continuously discrediting or unappreciative of their work,
  • Etc. The list goes on.

The A-Players

A-Players are employees who execute their duties exceptionally well, work well with others, and continuously go above and beyond to be valuable employees. Depending on which camp you are in, you see A-Players as either an asset or a threat.

Strong leaders value other A players in their Team because they believe that the more expertise in the Team, the stronger the Team and the better the Team will perform. The better the Team performs, the better they perform. Whereas, leaders lacking confidence in their capabilities often feel threatened when A-players join their Team. The adage of the employee vying for their boss’s job is built on the premise of an insecure boss. Followed closely by the ‘bad boss” cliche in which the boss does everything in their power to discredit the good work of their employees while taking all the credit whenever possible. The message is not to get pulled into the drama but to be mindful of any biases based on your own insecurity and to do something about it.

If by chance you’re a product of the so call ‘bad boss’, learn from the experience, learn from your ‘bad boss’ what NOT To Do! Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you are already a leader with the positional power to hire, fire and shape the careers of those reporting to you. Those above also look upon you to grow your unit in lockstep with the rest of the business. However, if you ignore your limitations, your good employees will ultimately leave you for better bosses, and you will end up with a team of employees with low potential or employees who are too afraid to leave.

What can be done?

It is understood that with the current economic situation, and the current state of the business, managers may feel as if there are limited opportunities to address some of the issues listed under “The Truth”. However, there are strategies management can use to increase employee satisfaction outside of a promotion or salary increase. Three Strategies to consider if any of the points discussed in “The Truth” exist in your unit:

1: Create Opportunities for employees to strive within your unit.

Condition:: Within every Team, there are employees seeking opportunities to showcase their capabilities, take on more responsibilities, or grow within the Team.

How:: Delegate – Managers can fulfil the employees’ desires by delegating.

  • Delegate special projects to your hard-working excited employees,
  • Delegate leadership opportunities to eager employees to speak on specific issues,
  • Delegate administrative opportunities to passionate employees to prepare presentations for the Team,
  • Delegate problem-solving opportunities to the consultant within the Team to find solutions for challenges within the Team, etc.

Opportunities which will satisfy your ambitious employee’s appetite for growth, more responsibilities, and recognition without increasing the unit’s payroll cost; with the added benefit of increasing employee engagement and improving productivity within your function. Not to mention the ripple effect of enriching the quality of your leadership within the organization because when your unit thrives, you thrive.

2: Improve Culture within your Team.

Condition:: A team is dysfunctional when team members display high levels of stress and frustration and are generally unhappy. There is a high attrition rate, and much of your time is spent managing team issues and complaints.

How:: Respect – at the core of a healthy team is respect. It is one of the most important building blocks of productivity and success because when people respect each other, they work better together.

  • When a manager respects their employees, their employees:
    • Feel safe enough to speak up, and they speak up more,
    • Take pride in their work, increasing productivity,
    • Contributes more, going above and beyond to help their bosses.
  • When managers practice respect they:
    • Seek feedback and input from their subordinates,
    • Listen to the ideas and feedback from their subordinates,
    • They lead as a team – less as a dictator.
  • When managers encourage respect among team members:
    • Team members learn to trust each other more and are more comfortable working together,
    • Team members collaborate more, and they feel safe sharing ideas and getting feedback,
    • Team members develop friendships and enjoy working together, improving morale and productivity,
    • A manager’s job is more manageable, less stressful and enjoys greater productivity.

Regardless of the state of the Team, Respect is one of the most impactful solutions any leader can implement to cultivate a healthy team culture. It has the power to transform any dysfunctional team into a high-functioning results-oriented team.

You see, several years ago, when I was introduced as the leader of a five-function team, my introduction was met with resistance. It was obvious that in this Team of experts, each expert believed that they were better than their peers and demonstrated very little respect for each other or each other’s work. We needed to leverage their expertise while putting their egos into check to succeed. A policy of non-negotiable respect was implemented, and within three months, we went from a dysfunctional combative work practice to a collaborative problem-solving one, delivering one successful project after another.

It wasn’t easy and will not be easy for you; however, the experience was highly rewarding.

3: Level Up Your Management Practice. 

Respect is fundamental to keeping high-calibre employees from leaving, but alone it is not sufficient. Managing a team of high performers, people who grow, and people who are continuously levelling up their skills and capabilities; demands managing all aspects of their employment. Our February Insights Corner Article –  Remote Management – Straight Talk  – provides tools, strategies and insights on how to level up your management practice so you develop a more holistic approach to managing the entire employee’s experience.

Read this article to identify gaps in the 6-core management duties, and use the 4-Pillars of Management Practice to develop your management practice to attract and retain the best employees.

Yes, It’s Me!

Why? Because ultimately, you are responsible for your Team, and valued employees don’t just up and leave if they are happy, heard or feel as if they are part of a team. Before they even think of leaving, employees will discuss their ambitious desires with you, giving you an opportunity to find an opportunity for them or to find and train a replacement to minimize the negative impact of their departure on you and your Team.

Every article you read, every seminar you attend, and every opportunity you seek to improve must end with action.

From this article:

  1. Make a list of improvements you would like to see in your Team,
  2. Understand what the employee engagement levels are,
  3. Identify gaps in your management practice and use your experience and knowledge combined with the insights from this article and the two additional reading references below to devise “Fit for Purpose” strategies for your Team.
  4. Read the two additional reading material references below.

Additional Reading:

  1. Insights Corner Article: 3 Telltale Signs of Ineffective Management Practices 
  2. Product: Leadership Processes, elevate Critical & Strategic Thinking

Be Strategic,

Written by Nallanie Manick, MBA, PMP, B.Sc.

 

 

 

Remote Management – Straight Talk

Remote Management – Straight Talk

The COVID-19 pandemic thrust organizations – via trial by fire – into managing the operations of the business remotely. While some managers thrived, others struggled, resulting in trust issues and resorting to micro-management in an attempt to maintain gain control over the situation.

So what exactly accounts for the difference between these two groups of managers, and what exactly should new managers hired to manage remotely be aware of so they don’t make the same mistakes as their less successful peers?

Management Duties:

There is an avalanche of information online on management: how to manage, management styles, and tools managers can use to manage more effectively, so it will not be beneficial for us to replicate that information here but to develop a baseline on which to build on, later on. To truly understand what differentiates effective remote managers from those who struggle, let’s look at the 6 core duties of a manager.

  1. Plan – plan the work needed to achieve the objectives assigned to the unit through its manager.
  2. Act – execute the plan by hiring and managing the resources needed to do the work required to achieve the unit’s objectives.
  3. Direct – direct subordinates in the execution of their duties to achieve the unit’s objectives.
  4. Control – control the progress and quality of work completed to achieve the unit’s objectives.
  5. Measure – measure how effectively the team worked to achieve the unit’s objectives.
  6. Lead – create an environment in which the unit function optimally to achieve the unit’s objectives.

It is undeniably much easier for any manager to execute their duties in the office. However, despite some managers successfully executing their responsibilities in the office, the fact that the pandemic highlighted remote management disadvantages such as an increase in lack of trust and more aggressive micro-management; remote management demands some intentional attention.

4-Pillars of Intentional Management

Intentional Remote Manager

Ultimately, outside of one’s education and technical knowledge, intentional action is what differentiates an effective manager from an equally qualified, less poor manager. They dedicate the time and effort to question what they are doing and why, deliberately considering all factors holistically before deciding how to act—developing their critical thinking skill by proactively seeking opportunities to improve.

Intentionality is one of the reasons one group of managers thrive while others struggle. A person taking on a new role as a remote manager can improve their chances of succeeding by executing their managerial duties within these 4-Pillars of Intentional Management.

Intentionality. The word intentionality is powerful because it embraces thought-provoking practices. It encourages someone to pause to consider their objective, their resources, and the task in front of them before acting. It’s satisfying when you experience a manager managing intentionally, and awkward or painful to observe a manager managing without intentionality. So how can a manager increase the chance that they will thrive by adopting a practice of intentional management? 

Pillar 1: Build Relationship & Trust:

The foundation of Effective Management is Trust, which cannot be manufactured but only develops through the relationships a manager builds with their subordinates. On the plus side, whenever we meet someone for the first time, we assign a certain amount of trust because we automatically assume that because of the trusting environment within which this connection was made, this person is to be trusted. However, trust needs to be nurtured and earned with every interaction, with their behaviours, communication, and interaction either strengthening or eroding their initial trust in someone.

In a work environment, trust exists in the form of managers trusting that their subordinates will get the job assigned to them done, managers, trusting that their subordinate will complete their tasks diligently, and subordinates trusting that their managers will support them in the execution of their duties. This trust though initially given, is reinforced by the relationships you build. Here are a few questions to get a new remote manager started:

  • Who are your subordinates, and what do they do?
  • What are they interested in, and why are they part of this team?
  • How do your subordinate want to contribute, and what are they passionate about?
  • What are their strengths and skill sets, and how is it being leveraged?
  • What are their weaknesses, and what, if anything, is being done to overcome them?
  • What are their concerns, and what, if anything, is being done to address them?
  • Which, if any, of your subordinates are disengaged and why?

When managers demonstrate an interest in the people reporting to them, it inspires them to work with their managers to achieve the unit’s objectives.

Pillar 2: Roles & Responsibilities:

Having clarity on one’s role and responsibilities, meaning what they are responsible for and how they are expected to deliver that responsibility, is fundamental for the alignment between a manager and their subordinate. It is even more critical for a remote manager not in the same building or location as their peers and critical for productivity, which is necessary for efficiency and a functional unit. Conversely, a lack of clarity on one’s role and what they are responsible for only leads to frustration, exasperating the challenges of a remote manager who can resort to micro-management to gain control of the unit.

A few questions to get clarity started on your subordinate’s role and responsibility:

  • What’s every subordinate responsible is?
  • What is necessary for each person to deliver on their responsibilities?
  • What is missing or impacting a subordinate from delivering on their responsibilities?
  • What are the Protocols for escalation when someone’s ability to do their job is impacted, and are your subordinates aware of these protocols?
  • What are the unit norms for resolving conflict, and is it effective?

It is highly recommended as you dive into the exercise above to:

  1. Seek to understand what they do and why, and ensure you gain alignment and consensus on each person’s role and responsibility.
  2. Listen first and only after developing the big picture of how everyone contribute toward your unit goals and objective, then manage.
    • It’s understood that your superiors expect you to execute your duties during the transition phase, so rely on your judgement and your team’s expertise to execute the unit’s day-to-day operations.
    • Don’t be one of those managers who join an organization; the first thing they do is tell everyone else what to do and how to do it without first understanding their point of view; this will only frustrate your subordinate, making your remote management task unnecessarily difficult.
  3. Develop your metrics and system to measure productivity, progress and performance while developing your system to motivate and support the team.

So when starting a new role as a remote manager, prioritize trust and relationship so you deliver your best and, in turn, get the best from your subordinates.

3: Communication Plan & Strategies:

Communication is the means and modes of sharing your plans and ideas with your team, seeking feedback, and instructing your team to act. The sad truth is that poor communication is often at the root of all dysfunction and managerial issues. Why? In Part 4 of the Strategic Initiative Miniseries, we highlighted that communication channels are generally open and functioning when things are going well. However, communication clogs begin forming with the development of issues, concerns, or the fear of being in trouble. It is safe for any manager to assume that when things aren’t going well, it is because of a breakdown in communication at one or many points in the transaction process.

Every manager’s communication style is unique and specific to their management style, management of sensitive information and the demands of their unit, so it will not be beneficial to recommend communication strategies in this article that are “fit for your purpose”. Three points a new remote manager should take note off:

  • Develop your functional system for relevant transparency and communication with the team, one meeting the needs and demands of individual team members as well as the demands of the combined team.
  • To minimize clogs, ensure that relevant and essential information reaches your desk promptly so you can act, and create avenues and opportunities for issues to be raised and discussed in ‘safe spaces,’ which encourages team members to reach out and share their concerns with you.
  • Keep all communication respectful, regardless of the stress, frustration or anger other parties demonstrate.

Effective communication is at the core of every successful manager’s ability to execute their duties, without which they lack the information to make informed decisions in a timely manner, impacting their ability to control and guide their subordinate to achieve the unit’s objectives. So prioritize effective communication if you ought to have a chance to thrive as a remote manager.

4: Plan & Growth:

Managers, in addition to directing and controlling the work necessary to achieve the current goals and objectives of the unit, are also responsible for developing plans to grow and improve their units to coherently grow with the business. In all my roles, I keep a diary of ideas, capturing ideas and thoughts that would make my duties easier and more efficient or with observations on how the organization can effect change in areas of concern. I developed this practice because creativity is spontaneous and likely triggered by ongoing activities and events. You see, not all creative ideas come to you during Planning or strategizing because not all aspects of the operations of the business are engaging during this activity. It is worthwhile to develop your remote management practice with the following considerations in mind:

  • Growth and Planning is a year-round effort: identifying, evaluating and curating information throughout the year.
  • Collect and Assess Productivity ideas and Feedback from your team year-round, extracting ideas and information during team meetings, one-on-ones and other communications with the team. Information that could supplement or rule out growth ideas during the annual planning activity.
  • Ideas or plan without supplementary data to support it is futile. Throughout the fiscal year, measure critical success factors and forecast to ensure that based on your current and planned activities, the unit is trending to deliver on its objectives while simultaneously using the information to plan for the upcoming year.

In Summary:

In the last twelve months, we have seen an increase in roles for remote managers, directors, VP and C-suite resources, with remote work not relating to the pandemic but a shift in business management. The benefits of this strategic shift include a reduction in the cost of office space, the organization having access to a wider range of qualified resources and even a reduction in the need for relocation costs to incentivize high-calibre candidates to join your organization. On the flip side, the increase in remote management has seen a reduction in productivity resulting from the corrosions of organizational culture, as managers and employees find ways to rebalance productivity and work remotely.

Strategic Human Insights Image

The bad news continues with an increased number of employees quitting their jobs, citing frustration, stress and disenchantment as the reasons for resigning. This reminds me of the popular saying, “Employees don’t leave organizations; they leave their bosses.” I recall telling my supervisor on our one-on-one, only a few months working under his leadership, that I was disenchanted. You see, he practically joined the organization as a remote manager and made changes without considering how the role was executed, which made executing my duties difficult.

Don’t make this mistake in haste because, despite your expertise, goals, objectives, and managerial style, you only succeed if your team succeeds.

Intentionally manage the 4-pillars as detailed in the 4 pillars of Intentional Management in the execution of the 6-Managerial Duties to deliver on your  Unit’s Goals and Objectives. 

What do you think? What other pillars of success can the savvy remote manager provide to help the up-and-coming leaders in their group?

Act:

For more information on individual topics to supplement your Intentional Management, check out our Insight Corner articles and videos here

And if you’re interested in Elevating your Critical & Strategic Thinking Skills – check out this book on Amazon. A game-changing handbook you will not want to lose.

I’ll leave you with this quote, and choose every day to be strategic!

Risk or Negativity?

Risk or Negativity?

Are you part of an organization incurring NO RISKS, or without negative concerns crossing your desk? If you think so, you’re unaware or have a blinder risk. 

Did you know leaders can easily mix up a Risk and Negativity – Negative Opinion – if they are not careful? Why? Because Leaders are busy and responsible for the overall business, including its performance, growth, and employees. Leaders are expected to outperform the competition in an increasingly globalized marketplace. They are preoccupied and have very little time left for the Debbie Downers in the business.

Only you know how you assess the issues that cross your desk, whether the risks are evaluated based on merit or discounted due to personal biases. Biases such as the person’s negative tone, the negativity of the issue, or how the issue was raised. This article discusses tips and strategies to minimize biases while providing strategies to effectively discuss and differentiate between risk and negativity.

Risk is not a bad word“. Do you know any team that sees risk as a bad thing, people who perceive risks as criticisms or a personal attack on their performance? Teams that labelled risk bearers as people who saw the glass-half-empty, negative or pessimistic. Experience reveals that the topic of risk makes most people uncomfortable, which can lead to premature dismissal of a risk as negativity. What can be done if this is a possibility is to build awareness, develop the awareness to differentiate between risk and negativity and recognize the subtle behaviours and prejudices that can cause someone to discount risk as mere negativity.

What is a Risk?

A basic definition of Risk is Risk is the possibility of something going wrong. In a business environment, risks are dependent on other business activities. More commonly, risks are discussed in conjunction with a new investment, project or the decision to do something differently. The business decision to take action is designed to achieve a result that would not be possible otherwise. The actions create the opportunities within which the risk can happen.

The downside of avoiding risk is the business continuing on its current path – playing it safe – which, based on current projections, will cause the business to stagnate, decline, or incur losses. This reminds me of one of my all-time favourite quotes by Charles Darwin,  “It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” Business needs to evolve to survive.

It is important to recognize that Risks are not simple subjective statements of possible adverse outcomes but Analytical Hypothetical Theories comprising the following characteristics.

  • A Decision can lead to certain risky events happening in the future. However, there are no guarantees that the events will occur, only a likelihood that the events could occur.
  • The business will suffer Negative Consequences if the risky events do occur.
  • The business will determine if the negative consequence is something that it will accept as an acceptable cost for growth or a consequence to be minimized.
  • The business can minimize or eradicate the negative consequences of the risk only if they act. The business can assess whether there are Actions that can either reduce the negative impact of the threat or eradicate it.

If the business ought to grow, improve and survive against new and existing threats, the business must take on risks – A logical though unpleasant activity inherent in the management of a business.

Negativity?

Negative feedback, opinions, or concerns are conclusions made without any logical reason to support the conclusion. It can be construed as a fear response to a decision or action taken by the business.

There is value in someone having instincts based on experience; however, it is not acceptable to use years of experience as the only justification. A responsible person will not ignore their intuition but apply critical thinking to evaluate it. At a minimum, the person should state, based on their experience, the evidence indicates that if certain actions are pursued, the following events will occur, which will negate the benefit of the action in the following ways, and list out the impact on the business; and use their experience to provide the context within which others can use to evaluate their concern.

It is worthwhile to be mindful that negativity has no logic behind it. No case can justify taking up the valuable time of your busy leaders to consider your negative opinions. If a negative opinion is worth discussing, it is the responsibility of the person raising the issue to engage in some critical thinking; otherwise, they risk their contribution being discounted. And remember, as aspiring leaders, it is worthwhile to engage in critical thinking as often as possible; it will create better arguments both for and against an idea and elevate you as a thought leader in the business.

Why are Risks Not Simply Someone’s Negative Opinion?

There was a recent public debate on “unconscious bias”. On the one hand, it was argued that it is the organization’s responsibility to educate their teams on unconscious bias; while the opposing argument was, how could you know if it is unconscious bias? This logic cannot be used to differentiate between risks and just negativity.

Why? Because it’s the leader’s responsibility to equip themselves with the tools necessary to effectively evaluate risk. Leaders know that there are both know-unknowns and unknown-unknowns when it comes to identifying and managing risks, and they cannot rely on others to think for them. They recognize that they cannot just discount negative feedback but follow the thinking of the person raising the issue to evaluate whether it’s a risk or not.

  • Risks are founded on Sound Business Judgement, Information and Scenario Forecasting. At the same time, Negativity lacks insights and is based on emotions, fear or being overly cautious, without any evidence to support the concern.
  • Risk promotes the proactive management of the business, task, or project, while Negativity promotes judgements and arguments.

Thus, whether an issue is a potential risk or an overly pessimistic reaction is not always immediately apparent. If not, here are a few questions to help evaluate the issue to determine whether it’s a risk or pessimism.

  • Why is this a concern?
  • How will it impact the task, project or business?
  • What information do you have to support this thinking?
  • What further information do I need to determine if further action is required?
  • What are the consequences of ignoring this concern?
  • What are the consequences of pursuing this concern?
  • What resources do I need to redirect to evaluate this concern, and is it worth it?
  • What are the scenarios that will make this thinking a reality?
  • What if anything can be taken to avoid negative consequences?

Why are Risks easily confused for Negativity?

Risks are easily confused for Negativity and vice versa because Risk and Negativity share several superficial traits. Superficial because they appear the same only at the surface level; when digging a little deeper, risks are not just an adverse knee-jerk reaction to some activity in the business.

  • Both Risk and Negative Opinions are possible adverse outcomes if the business decides to pursue certain activities. Risk is a result of an analytical process, clearly that there is a likelihood of a negative consequence if certain conditions are met. At the same time, negativity results from unsubstantiated fear or worry.
  • Both Risk and Negative Opinions are discussed with a degree of urgency and concern. Risks discussion takes the form of an assessment discussion, while negative opinion takes the form of complaining.
  • Both Risk and Negativity are possible negative future outcomes. Risk is a possible forecasted outcome if certain conditions are met, while negativity is the fear bad things will happen if the business decides to move forward with a decision.
  • Both Risk and Negative Opinions are the results of either an action or a decision the business is considering. Risk is a discussion of possible things that can go wrong with a plan to prevent it while working towards acquiring the benefits of this action. While on the other hand negative opinion is a recommendation not to pursue the planned action for fear that something will go wrong.

In addition to the above Risk and Negativity superficial traits, other reasons why risk can easily be perceived as just another glass-half-empty point of view.

  1. Communication Strategy: When people are concerned or worried about something going wrong, they often start the conversation with the most urgent news first – the bad news. The news people can interpret as negativity.
  2. Timing: Poor timing is another reason people may rashly judge an attempt to discuss risk as negativity. If you spring bad news on their supervisor at an inopportune time, your supervisor is more likely to view the information as negative; especially if they lack the time or context to consider it further.
  3. Personalities: It is not logical, right or wrong, and not something anyone wants to admit; however, there is no denying the fact that some conversations are more effortless with people who are like us; and much more difficult with people who oppose us – opposes our style or preference. It is much easier to conclude that the news bearer is negative when their personalities conflict with our own.

Experience makes it easier for leaders to differentiate risk from an over-concern employee’s negative opinion. However, even with experience and tenure, some issues will cross a leader’s desk that will challenge them. When it is not obvious whether an issue raised is a risk, start by gleaning more information using the questions listed above, and use the risk characteristics discussed to differentiate risk from an opinion; and remember, the risk is based on a logical assessment of possible future conditions that can result in potential losses.

A word of caution, avoid labelling staff as negative, or the glass-half-empty type of people, because:

  • Business is a fluid entity in which things are always evolving. At times risks may not be fully fleshed out in the minds of employees; however, with some guidance and a collaborative discussion, the ideas can be fully developed or confidently ruled out. This process is also a valuable coaching opportunity for leaders as they develop their teams. There was this incident a few years back in which an employee raised a high impact, high likelihood risk with their supervisor. The risk was dismissed for reasons that were unsatisfactory to the employee, who was visibly concerned. However, the risk materialized later, costing the business a material sum and a customer. Suffice to say; the cost would have been insignificantly less if the issue had been addressed when raised.
  • Not everyone is a savvy communicator, and when put in the spotlight to address a complicated issue with an impatient group, the stress of the situation can override the urgency and importance of the issue. When nerves and fear compound concerns, it can exasperate the situation making the message more aggrieved than the communicator intended. Ruling it out as negativity instead of a possible risk.

Thus far, the focus has been on leaders, the people having to determine whether the issue raised is a risk or not. Despite knowing, it is a leader’s responsibility to lead; an employee raising a risk also has a responsibility to ensure that they get their facts straight and do some due diligence – critical thinking – before discussing with their boss. It would benefit them significantly to minimize the chances that they are crying wolf. The next section focus on the employee, the person who is responsible for bringing a possible risk to the attention of their supervisor.

Strategy to Discuss Risk.

Whether you’re a leader, an aspiring leader, or a subordinate, communication is about conveying your message in a way the receiving party understands. Effective communication is about understanding what is important, how the message will be communicated and when best to communicate the message. If communication is such a common everyday activity; then why are so many messages dismissed and critical information missed? Because; the person communicating their message was not able to communicate their thoughts clearly, and/or the person receiving the message either did not have the time or was not interested in decoding it.

It is understood that the bigger the impact on the risk bearer, the more emotionally charged they may be, and the greater the likelihood that the message will be communicated poorly. It is equally likely that the message will not be received well and will be easily dismissed. Pay heed to your emotional response to the different risk situations you find yourself in, pause, take a breather and think through the risk in the steps below. Do the work and improve your chances that your boss will entertain your concern. Don’t do the work and risk being dismissed. 

1. Analyze your Bad News:

Whenever someone anticipates something bad that could potentially happen, it is their responsibility to put that concern into perspective so the people responsible can understand and act. Avoid dramatization and sensationalization to get their attention. Initially, dramatization may work; however, eventually, people with catch on and your strategy will fail because no one likes the sky is always falling strategy.

It is highly recommended if time permits to do some diligence before interrupting your boss with a potential concern. Review the questions above, and gather some information before approaching your boss. If this thinking is new to you, it may take some effort initially; however, with practice, you will be able to assess each concern much more efficiently.

Caution, if the issue is time sensitive and critical, do not sit on it trying to evaluate it yourself.

2. Understood “facts”:

When deciding how to communicate bad news to others, it is important to understand the possible impact of that news on the other person. Sine understood “facts” to consider.

  • It is understood that when some people anticipate news they don’t want to hear, they automatically tune you off. If this is the case with your supervisor, then be mindful of this fact and find ways to reframe the news in a way that will not lose their attention.
  • It is understood that the less likely the negative event is, the more likely it is to be park it. Understanding that leaders are frequently bombarded by urgent imminent issues; if it is not detrimental or communicated with urgency, it risks being discounted. If this is the case, find a way to share the urgency and criticality of the issue without inflating it.
  • It is understood that the more complicated an issue, the more likely the urgency or importance will not be communicated and the greater the likelihood it will be dismissed. Complexity requires focus and someone’s attention. If your supervisor’s attention is in limited supply, find a way to summarise it so they understand the urgency in one minute or less. Once you capture their attention, they will dedicate the time to hear you out.
  • It is understood that if something isn’t relevant to the person, it can be minimized or dismissed. If you want your supervisor to pay attention, determine how it would impact them and ensure the importance is communicated.

3: Use the You Frame:

Dale Carnegie’s training teaches us that the best way to get a person’s attention is to talk about what is valuable to them, and what is interesting to the other person. He also advised that the best way to get someone to listen to what you have to say is to speak about them to them. This concept is referred to as using the You-Frame. The You-Frame restructures the message using the word “You” instead of “I”, “Me”. When you use the word “you”, it makes the message about them, grabbing their attention.

Caution: Do not make something about the other person if it is not about them. But, frame your communication from their perspective as it emphasizes the importance of this issue to them, thus encouraging further discussion on the topic.

4: Structure and Presentation:

Structure and Presentation are at the core of effective communication. It is even more important to communicate effectively when the stakes are high when there is a very real risk that jeopardizes your project, your supervisor, the business or you. It is important to develop the skills to concisely communicate this risk in a manner that is easy to understand to bring attention to the urgency and importance of the issue.

Structure:

  • State the Risk;
  • State the Impact on the Business, Person, Project or item;
  • State the urgency of risk;
  • State the help needed and by when.

Presentation guidance:

  • Communicate clearly, avoid being too wordy;
  • Avoid repeating yourself;
  • Avoid exaggeration, dramatization, or overly stating the importance;
  • Use professional language;
  • Avoid assigning blame;
  • Avoid or minimize emotional outbursts; and
  • Do not make it personal.

The above procedure will provide context, urgency and sufficient information for your supervisor to determine the urgency of the issue and, if they deem it necessary, to allow time to discuss further or dismiss it with an explanation.

In Summary.

It is unacceptable for leaders to assume the position “what you don’t know you are not responsible for” or “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”. Leaders are responsible for the business and must operate at a higher, more responsible level. So when information crosses their desk, it is their duty to evaluate it properly, to make an informed judgment using rationale and logic, not render it useless based on biases.

It is straightforward for someone to conclude that a possible risk is just some Debbie Downer seeing ‘The Glass Half Empty’. However, Regardless of how busy you are, there are effective critical thinking strategies to help determine whether the issue raised is a risk and tips and insights to minimize biases when making that decision.

As a bonus, the strategies serve as an excellent critical thinking risk determination framework for aspiring leaders.

Finally, even if you are an aspiring leader, take ownership of your issue assessment and risk communication. Gather the information, think through the issue using the guidelines provided and formulate your strategy so your point gains the attention you want it to get while developing your critical thinking skills, which will gain the respect and admiration of your peers and supervisors.

The only challenge is putting in the effort to be more effective in either your role as a leader or employee when evaluating whether a concern is a risk or a fear response to be dismissed with an explanation and avoid labelling anyone as either a Debbie Downer or someone who sees the Glass Half Empty or being labelled as a rash and dismissive leader.

Final Act:

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or want to find other cost-effective, minimally disruptive strategies to help your business. Strategy@nmcorporatestrategy.com; 289-201-2245.

Be Strategic!

Written by Nallanie Manick, Principal & Founder @ NM Corporate Strategy Inc.