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Strategy Activation: When to Lean in and When to Lean Back

By Sarah Lechner

As a leader, your role in communicating a clear and compelling vision is essential to engaging your team in carrying your organization forward. However, there’s often a question around when to lean in and lead, and when to lean back and let others take the reins.  The risk of over-managing your strategic plan could lead to smothering your team to the point they disengage. While, under-managing your plan could result in leaving your team to fumble.

So, what’s the right amount of management for a leader to bring when it comes to strategic activation? Well, we think it depends.

First, as you move from setting your strategy to operationalizing it, our approach to strategy activation includes an initial assessment of each initiative on your strategic plan to determine the level of complexity and capability for each.

  • Complexity: How complex is each initiative when considering the degree of risk and impact, number of stakeholders, required milestones to achieve, potential challenges, etc.?
  • Capability: How well equipped is the organization in the capabilities required to successfully achieve the initiative?

We place each initiative on a matrix according to the assessed level of complexity and organizational capability. If an initiative is low complexity and the organization has the required capabilities to achieve it, we recommend you step back, empower the right person or team to take it on and establish a monitoring and support system on an as-needed basis. This presents an opportunity for staff engagement, creativity, growth and ownership.

On the other hand, if an initiative is deemed high complexity and organizational capabilities are low, we recommend a much higher level of management. In this case, you’ll first need to determine how to gain the necessary capabilities, either building them within the internal team or hiring them out. You’ll also want to have established a much more detailed project plan with clear steps and milestones to manage to and an approach to actively checking-in with and supporting the team responsible for the work.

At Coraggio Group, we partner with leaders to find the right balance of leaning in and leaning back in order to support successful strategy activation as well as organizational cultures in which people feel both adequately supported and stretched. We often hear from the leaders we work with how much they appreciate the role we play as collaborators, coaches and confidants; supporting them to successfully implement the strategies or changes we’ve helped them to design.

The next time you’ve got something big to make happen, we hope you’ll consider Coraggio as your partner. To learn more about our practical recommendations for active strategic plan management, check out Trever Cartwright’s Forbes.com article or give us a call. We’d love to hear from you.