For an idea to become a successful business, leaders need to effectively communicate their vision to their employees — and to recognise when their strategy isn’t working. Dale Carnegie Training has trained presidents, leaders and business executives in the past 100 years—including Warren Buffett and Lee Iacocca—so we reached out to Peter V. Handal, the company’s CEO, to find out how leaders can recognise when something needs to change and communicate this to their team.
“Leaders need to set goals and monitor the progress of employees,” Handal says. “Are we meeting the benchmarks? If not, we need to change.”
But it’s often easy to continue doing what you usually do because it works.
“I did a search of companies on the Dow Jones in 1912—when Dale Carnegie was founded—and in 2012, and only one of them remained on there for the past century,” Handal says.
“This proves that what works yesterday doesn’t work today.”
Look to Competitors to Evaluate Your Own Strategy
To identify when something isn’t working, you need to examine what your competitors are doing. Have they altered their plans? Are they one step ahead of you?
In addition to metrics, leaders should also listen to their employees and always “have their ears to the ground, because the ones at the top usually don’t know what’s going on in the fields,” Handal says.
To find out if your current strategy is on track, you need to move out of your comfort zone and take the time to investigate on your own. This means wandering around to listen, chat with employees one-on-one, identifying any trends during these meetings, soliciting different advice and even implementing a suggestion box.
“The media today is so diverse, it’s not smart to listen to just one source,” Handal says. “In much the same way, leaders should try to absorb as much advice as possible.”
Brainstorm and Communicate, Rinse and Repeat
Once you’ve realised that your strategy isn’t working, you need to communicate this to your team and come up with a new plan.
“E-mail is fine, but it isn’t enough. You need to think of every communication outlet you can think of—this means face-to-face brainstorming sessions, webinars and audios,” Handal says.
In fact, he says you need to “repeat the message so much that you gag on it.”
“If the reason why the old strategy isn’t working is because you made a mistake, admit to this quickly,” Handal suggests. “This will disarm everyone because no one expects you to say ‘I made a mistake.’ “
But if the strategy isn’t working because the world has changed, you need to get everyone involved in coming up with a new plan.
“It would be a mistake to say ‘This didn’t work, now get to work,’ ” Handal says. “It isn’t effective and doesn’t motivate team members.”
Instead, by getting everyone involved in the decision-making process, Handal says, you will be able to come up with a better strategy, because everyone feels connected and persuaded by it.
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