Getting Your Senior Team to Be More Strategic

October 7, 2021 Jamie Notter

The senior team I’m talking about here is the CEO and their direct reports, which we’ll call VPs for sake of simplicity. We expect a lot of our VPs, because they must simultaneously manage their own function AND care for the organization as a whole. The tendency, however, is to focus down, into the function. That, after all, is where their deep expertise lies. As a result, I hear CEOs complain that their senior team is not being strategic enough.

There are several ways to address this issue.

  1. Start with trust. This may sound surprising, but the foundation of strategic focus is a high level of trust among senior team members. If trust isn’t there, and people can’t be vulnerable with each other, they will invariably avoid the tough conversations. That means they’ll never call each other out when they drift away from the strategic and down into the weeds. A team culture of not calling each other out makes it almost impossible to remain focused on strategic organizational results.
  2. Meet more often. Yep, surprised you again! Believe it or not, the most strategic senior teams I’ve seen meet for 10 minutes EVERY DAY just to share what they’re doing that day, then they meet weekly to review KPIs and high level tasks to ensure they are headed in the right strategic direction. This system requires some discipline to not get drawn into the weeds, but when it works, I usually see the VPs taking the same system and implementing it with their teams.
  3. Don’t reward individual wins. If you give your VPs bonuses based on the numbers they hit in their individual departments, then you must expect them to put their focus there—and not on the overarching strategic needs of the organization. Or at least it will shift the balance of their attention in that direction. You just have to ask yourself if that incentive system is worth that shift in attention.
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As you can see, getting a senior team to be more strategic is not about getting them to buy into the CONCEPT that they need to be strategic. They already agree on that. It’s actually about building a team and organizational culture that values more strategically focused behaviors at the senior team level.

When we work with clients to build a priority-based execution system, we always include work with the senior team to build a culture that will improve their strategic capacity.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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