How good leaders improve strategic direction by including their team

Think you’re a great leader but don’t have time to do everything? 

Are you becoming overwhelmed with the amount of work you, the founder, has to do? 

Being a great leader doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. It doesn’t even mean being good at everything. Being a great leader means surrounding yourself with a trusted team and knowing when to use their skills and delegate work. 

Leadership is crucial when it comes to developing your business strategy because you need to ensure that your business is on the right path. This article will give you advice and tools that a good leader could take on board and use with their team to improve their business’ strategic direction.

Make sure you have a strong leadership team

First things first, make sure the people you surround yourself with at the top end of your business are the right people. A strong leadership team working alongside you will allow your business and your strategic direction to run effectively and seamlessly. 

For a successful implementation of a new strategy, the roles and responsibilities within your business need to be clear. This means there are clear channels of communication that move both ways to get messages to people quickly.

Your primary leadership team is your board of directors which could be made up of the following roles: CEO, directors of sales, marketing, strategy, operations, and finance, or any other specialist whose skills your business may require. 

Department heads are part of your leadership team

Your business will have different departments below the board who may report directly to the relevant director or if your business is large enough, heads of departments or team leaders. Again, this requires clear channels of communication, the more people in your business, the clearer the channels need to be. 

Having a strong leadership and management team is crucial to improving your strategy as it will instill confidence in your employees, who will be heavily involved in implementing the strategy. It is also crucial in terms of attracting investors as your new strategic direction might involve looking for investment. 

Investors are more likely to put their money into your business if they can see it’s well-run with a strong leadership team in place. Investors are risk averse and having the right team in place will go a long way to easing any concerns and instead filling the potential investors with confidence in your business.

Microsoft is a great example of a company with a strong leadership team. They have skills and experience that covers all areas they need to strategise and progress. They all know their role and how to work together to achieve the best possible result for their business.

Undertake a departmental SWOT Analysis

Now your business is structured to effectively implement strategy, here is a tool that will help lay the groundwork for you to create your business’ new strategic direction.

SWOT is a brilliant tool that you may have heard of or even used before. What you, as the founder, need to ask yourself is — when was the last time you used this tool and how many people were involved when you did it. 

SWOT is a strategy tool that facilitates a self-evaluation of your business’ strengths and weaknesses as well as assessing the opportunities and threats that might be coming your company’s way. If only you, the founder, completed the SWOT then the benefits of the exercise will be much smaller then if you opened it up to a wider team.

When to undertake a SWOT Analysis

The ideal scenario is to implement a departmental SWOT. This means that within each department of your business, they carry out a seperate SWOT assessment for their specific area.

This is good leadership because it puts the act of delegation to practice. It shows an acceptance that the specific departments would be able to create a more in depth SWOT because they only deal with their one aspect of the company – whereas the founder will have an overview of the entire business.

Each team within the department should complete the SWOT as a brainstorming exercise in order to get as many views across as possible.

For example, if it’s the marketing department; what have been the strengths of previous campaigns? What were the weaknesses? And are there any opportunities that could be taken advantage of in future campaigns and at the same time are there any threats to be avoided? 

How to ensure outcomes are properly communicated

Once each department has completed their own SWOT and whittled down the brainstormed ideas to a clear and concise evaluation, they need to report their findings to the senior leadership team through the clear channels of communication. 

These channels are crucial and need to be in place so that none of the important learnings from the SWOT evaluations are lost. Once the SWOT reports are back the leadership team can use this feedback to help improve the company’s overall strategic direction.

The power of SWOT Analysis

Though SWOT might seem like a common, and even a basic strategy tool, it is important to highlight that the most successful businesses in the world use it. Amazon has consistently used SWOT throughout its existence to grow and become the biggest company in the world.

From originating as an online bookstore, Amazon’s leadership team has regularly used SWOT analysis to assess it’s strengths, weakness while looking at the opportunities and threats to progress.

A high-level SWOT for Amazon would include: accessibility as its strength, limitation to books as its weakness, the growing use of the internet as the representation of opportunity, and other online competitors such as eBay as the representation of a threat. 

Through this analysis, Amazon was able to expand its service as a business and has gotten to the point where most people use Amazon to buy anything from toothbrushes to the latest technology. 

Perform a Crisis Management Assessment

Crises can take many forms. From global pandemics to a shortage of stock, when your business is facing a crisis it can seem overwhelming. It is essential that you, as the founder, don’t burden yourself with the full responsibility of dealing with and solving the crisis. You have your leadership team for these exact moments. 

As long as your business has a strong structure in place – including the set up of your leadership team and the clear channels of communication – then it can face a crisis head on and navigate through that crisis through a well developed strategy. If this is possible for your business, then it could even turn mishap into a positive situation. 

How does it work?

To develop a business strategy for a crisis, it is helpful to break down the problem into manageable sections. The Crisis Management Assessment is a brilliant tool that helps you do this. 

The Crisis Management Assessment asks you theses questions:

  • What will change or has changed in the world?
  • What will change or has changed in your industry?
  • How will this affect or has affected your revenue streams?
  • How will this change or has it changed your value proposition?
  • How will this alter or has it altered your customer segments and relationships?
  • How will this alter or has it altered distribution channels and partners?
  • How are your resource needs going to change or have they already changed?
  • How is your cost structure going to be affected or has been affected? 

Again, it is crucial to pose these questions to your leadership team because by sharing the load, you could free up the mind to be able to effectively think of solutions. This should be done as a brainstorming exercise where one writes down every suggestion and then, as a group, decide what the best ideas are afterwards . 

Once you’ve answered all these questions as a team, you will then be able to formulate a strategy together as the crisis will have been broken down. Using the Crisis Management Assessment as a basis for your future strategic direction should be a must for your business. 

The ‘pandemic pivot’

The global coronavirus pandemic was an opportunity to use the Crisis Management Assessment approach to help businesses’ re-strategise. Through breaking down the crisis with these questions, solutions presented themselves. For example many companies did the ‘pandemic pivot’ and took their businesses in completely new directions when they became aware of the imminent threat they faced.

Complete a MOST analysis as a team

SWOT and the Crisis Strategy Assessment are great tools to get all your business issues out on the table as a team; and just as you have laid out the issues collectively, the development of the strategic direction is also something that could be best done with the key leaders in the business, or in departmental cases, by every member of the department.

The MOST analysis tool, however, can facilitate the creation of a new strategy for your whole business immediately. Like the previous two tools, MOST is best used and gets the best results when you complete it with your senior leadership team having taken onboard important input from your departments.

How to perform a MOST analysis

MISSION –  With your team, you must decide what your business mission is. It’s easy to interpret this as what is your ‘vision’ for the business but it is advisable to stay clear of that thought process. Keep your mission to what the desired turnover and profit of the business is. Obviously, it’s important to always have your business vision in mind but these are almost impossible to measure and therefore difficult to evaluate. 

At this point, add a timescale to your mission in order to measure and evaluate your eventual progress (e.g. ‘Our mission is to achieve X amount of turnover and Y amount of profit within one year’). This way your mission is tangible and quantifiable. Discuss with your team and agree upon a mission that is both ambitious but realistic. 

OBJECTIVES – Your objectives are the milestones you need to achieve to reach your overall mission. Think of them as the rungs on a ladder to the end desired profit and turnover.

As a team, brainstorm what needs to happen for your mission to come to life. Do not worry about the hows yet, but just write down as many steps as you can about what you consider would have to happen on your business’ journey over the given time period. 

When discussing as a group your business’ potential objectives it’s useful to keep in mind the ‘which will’ technique. This means for each objective turn it into a sentence containing  ‘which will’ in order to lay clear what the purpose of each objective is. 

For example you may decide that an objective is to ‘increase your audience base’ so then you would go on to expand ‘which will bring in more customers to your business’. It is important to know the reason for all of your objectives.

STRATEGIES – Your strategies are where you begin to assess, as a team, the general options you have to achieve your objectives. You don’t need the specifics of how an objective might be achieved but just an idea and the specifics will come later. 

For example, continuing with the objective of ‘increase your audience base which will bring in more customers to your business’. A strategy to achieve this objective could be to ‘create and put into action an online marketing campaign that will reach new audiences and attract them to your business’. 

Again, it’s important to stress, it’s not how you put this into action at this stage, you just need to get as many ideas down as you can and then as a group decide upon the best ones. For each objective you have you should have at least two strategies attached. This will give your business options and allow you to have a reactive and responsive strategy meaning your business will have a greater chance of achieving your overall mission. 

TACTICS – Your tactics are the nuts and bolts of your strategy. This is when MOST analysis stands out from SWOT and Crisis Management Assessment because this is where you will create your actionable strategic plan. 

This is where as a group you decide the ‘who’s doing what and when’. This is an example of why it’s so important doing the previous work as a leadership team because by this time, everyone will know enough about the business’ mission, objectives and strategies and therefore the process of delegation becomes easier. 

As a good leader you will discuss with your team what are the day to day actions (tactics) and who is in the best place to commit to them. As previously said, for this to be as efficient as possible clear channels of communication need to be established both for this process but also throughout the whole period of implementing your new strategy. 

If there is an absence of a needed skill for your new strategic direction within the team then you as the founder should make the decision to bring in outside help. It’s not a fault of the business to not have a complete set of skills and experience but it is a fault if that isn’t recognised and addressed. 

For example, sticking with the previous strategy example of creating a marketing campaign. If you don’t have a marketing specialist then you could hire a part-time marketing director who can help you with this aspect of your strategy and boost your business’ chances of achieving its mission. 

A great example of a leadership team that used MOST analysis to great effect is the Indian company Reliance Jio. Through deciding their mission, setting their objectives, identifying strategies, and creating an actionable strategic plan through tactics, Reliance Jio became the largest phone operating network in India and the third largest in the world.

To sum up

Great leaders surround themselves with a great team and they use them. This is crucial when it comes to developing a business strategy. You’ll want a high level of expertise, experience and people who know the business when looking to improve your strategic direction. 

The three tools mentioned in the article are best implemented when used to utilise the strong teams within your business then enable the development of a strong business strategy and progress as a business. For all of this to be successful, however, it is paramount that you have clear channels of communication so that everyone understands what his or her respective roles and tasks are, and that time and resources aren’t lost because of issues with communication. 

To begin the process of improving your business strategy today, download the Business Strategy Toolkit including templates and instructions for the MOST analysis, Crisis Management Assessment, and SWOT tools. 

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog, Entrepreneur-Resources.net.

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