People Are the Strategy

People having a meeting in an open concept office

People Are the Strategy

One of the top priorities for leaders today is to build teams that work well together to drive strategy forward. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Great strategy and great teams have always been a business goal. 

But the truth is, they haven’t always been the norm. 

In the past, you might have skated when it came to building your team and sharing your strategy. When each day was pretty similar to the one before it, history was a good predictor of the future. Plus, teams that have been working together for a while made things go smoothly.

So even as recently as two or three years ago, having a strategy that was clearly understood by a strong team didn’t feel that urgent. But in our current reality, leaders need to excel with both a clear strategy and a cohesive team. In fact, you can’t have one without the other. 

Here’s why. 

First, there are a lot of newly formed teams out there as compared to a year or two ago. Some because of layoffs or restructurings after hiring sprees during the pandemic. Others from turnover in people moving on or opting out. And it seems most of us are having a hard time filling open positions in this competitive recruiting environment. Whatever the reason, teams are in flux. This presents a challenge when it comes to sharing strategy and translating that to your team. Both strategy and your team are moving targets.

Then there’s the reality that even intact teams aren’t “together” in the same way as in the past. Most of us adapted to remote work, and for many, that’s been a positive development. But remote work and hybrid schedules require special care to integrate new members and coalesce as a team. In the past, we may have relied on retreats and in-person meetings to set strategy and align team goals. This is harder to do with a dispersed workforce and many leaders haven’t made this a priority.  

Another thing that indicates the need to bring strategy and people together is that we’re still navigating through uncertainty. Are you hearing a chorus of voices all “certain” about different futures? Have you felt less decisive in the last year? If so, join the club. 

However, there’s a downside to treading water while you wait for the “right time” to work on strategy. It’s nearly impossible for people to perform well in their individual roles let alone as a team when they don’t have a clear direction. 

Finally, there are these statistics from the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey: Workplace stress remains at a concerning level, with 77% of workers having reported experiencing work-related stress in the last month and 57% experiencing work-related stress factors associated with workplace burnout. Burnout is no longer an individual problem – it’s a business issue that needs organizational attention and solutions.  

These challenges point to the need for a clear strategy to provide direction and purpose, and a cohesive team to drive decision-making and execution. These two elements are mutually reinforcing. So, if you want to recapture or sustain momentum, involve your team in a strategic planning process. Use your strategy discussions as a focal point for people to rally around. They’ll be more engaged with plans, better aligned with each other, and motivated collectively to meet their goals today while building the organization for the future.