The President running a $10Bn business unit of a global financial services company was 18 months into a 3-year strategic plan yet traction and business results were below expectations and top leadership was unclear about how to increase the pace of progress. At stake was a pending decision by the Board to either retain or sell off the business.
Initial diagnostic work with the President and his team confirmed that execution had stalled. The strategy had too many “priorities”, it was too silo-driven (not integrated) and execution was under-resourced and not owned collectively by the team. In addition, the current hub-and-spoke leadership approach with the President at the center was unlikely to succeed in re-framing and implementing a more integrated strategy. The decisive business-wide resource trade-off decisions were unlikely to be made. I helped the President see that to succeed he would have to evolve his autocratic leadership approach and that he would need to fully engage the team in refining, re-launching and implementing the improved strategy.
My initial focus was on helping the President fully understand hard-to-hear feedback that the strategy was stalled out. Next, we worked together to map out his leadership approach and actions to re-cast and re-launch the strategy within 3 months and stay on top of execution in the 9 months to follow. I worked with him to adapt his leadership approach to balance giving direction with engaging his team to understand and own the strategy. As a team they simplified and elevated the strategy, targeting fewer higher value actions and articulating a clearer value proposition for stakeholders. They also made the tough choices on which initiatives to discontinue, thereby increasing the organization’s capacity to execute. The President deployed more engaging and collaborative means for getting the work done to build a shared understanding and shared ownership of the strategy.
The business re-launched the strategy in 3 months and accelerated progress on the key business priorities by year’s end. Individuals on the team stepped up and developed more rapidly because the President called upon them to both run their divisions and also to put on their “General Manager hats” as members of a team that collectively owned the success of the business. The President expanded his leadership capabilities, getting more comfortable with how to tap the full potential of a team. He also learned the value of taking on board hard-to-hear feedback and having the courage to act on it. The business remains in the portfolio of the enterprise.