“With top managers and strategy, it’s often like with young teenagers and sex," a senior manager once told me, "they talk about it all the time but rarely ever get down to business." Well, while this may be painful for the teenagers at worst (*if* the observation holds true), for the managers it can have dramatic consequences. Swamped in operational details, they don't have enough time left to work on a master plan. The problem isn't new, but lately it's become even more serious.
All of a sudden, everything's different from before
When asked what their most important job is, managers will usually tell you: keeping track of goals and developing a strategy to achieve them. And yet this is precisely what managers tend to neglect the most on an average workday. Why? Because day-to-day business keeps pounding at their doors, leaving no room for the greater picture. It's what I call a strategy dilemma – and you're probably familiar with it. What has recently changed, however, is its potential consequences. In a VUCA world – with things changing faster and faster –, if you don't have a full-blown strategy you're likely to get hit by the consequences fairly soon. In other words, success can fade faster than you can spell out what VUCA stands for.
Private and occupational challenges
Add to this the rapid changes of roles and locations. Today it's the U.S. for you – tomorrow it's Asia. Always with the family in tow. So, the challenges of the job are compounded by private ones. Burying your head in the sand is certainly not an option. I am 100 percent sure that you have a choice. True, you can't change the circumstances – but you can change your attitude. And when you do, you will truly and deeply understand that you don't have to do everything on your own. After all, you have people around you that can help you make room for your important tasks – if only you let them. That is, if you develop them adequately. At some point of your career you've probably come across the Circle of Influence, a framework invented by Steven Covey. If you remember it well – good for you, as it provides an excellent foundation. If you've never heard of it, it's worth looking into it. You never know when it will come in handy.
Free up some of your capacity
Of course you could also start recruiting new people. But I'm assuming you had good reasons for choosing the ones you have. One of those reasons might be that they resemble you in one way or another. Equipped with helpful tools, you can empower your staff to support you in your everyday work. In my experience, coaching tools have proven particularly effective. Even without professional coaching training, they allow you to provide just the impetus your people need for their development. What's more, you'll quickly learn how to use them.
A focus on strategy
Employees who have been adequately developed and empowered enable you to focus on your essential tasks. As a result, you'll no longer have a hard time keeping up with the changes of the VUCA world. You'll be positioned well for those changes – based on the right strategy. Trust me: The times you felt bad about neglecting your strategic work will be over. What's more, you'll be rewarded with greater business success.