There is No Strategy if You Don't Manage Your Team
This is my site Written by Alora on July 21, 2009 – 12:55 pm

holding-reignsI often find myself frustrated dealing with people who sell themselves as “high level strategists.” I am not talking about consultants who are hired to help hone and build out a strategic vision for an organization; nor am I talking about internal specialists who are dedicated to researching and advising on strategic direction. What I am talking about are managers or department heads who identify as “strategic visionaries” and who consider the banalities of “management” to be less important than defining an over-arching strategy.

The single biggest issue I find when I come into an organization to help get things back on-track, is that when leaders are entirely pre-occupied with a strategic vision, there is a tendency to ignore employee development and management activities.

The irony, of course, is that a good strategist understands that employees are the key to making their strategic vision come to life. Yet time and time again, I have found that groups with the most strategically-focused leaders are the ones where the employees are the most neglected.

The problem, I believe, is in the misalignment of how a leader identifies — and what they actually like to do — versus what is part of the responsibility of the role. How many people who consider themselves innovators, visionaries and strategists are placed in the role of manager? And, honestly, much about managing people is terribly “innovative”? Very little of it. Managing people is down-n-dirty work.

Someone who manages people has to deal with messy details like:

  • team members who don’t get along
  • people who are not living up to expectations
  • talented people who are bored thanks to being under utilized
  • political entanglements with other departments
  • hiring freezes that prevent backfilling vacated positions
  • low morale among teams
  • budgetary constraints that prevent a manager from paying an employee what they are truly worth
  • helping form a career development plan so team members don’t stagnate
  • being honest with a staff member when there is no future for them with the organization

Face it, none of that is sexy. But someone who can’t or won’t do those things is not someone who should be managing people. And yet it happens all the time: a strategically oriented leader is put in the role of a manager, because leadership likes the idea of having a strong strategic direction developed for the department.

Nothing wrong with that. Of course the best departments are marching towards a strategic vision. But if you don’t take care of your team in the process, who exactly is doing the marching?