Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Importance of Strategic Dialogues - Part #2

THEME: New Year, More Challenges

FOCUS: The Importance of Strategic Dialogues - Part #2

Sunday morning: February 21, 2010

Dear friends,

The purpose of a strategic dialogue is to define and infuse into the organization clarity about three things. As I mentioned last week, the first is strategic context, namely why are we making changes within the organization. While everyone knows that organizations change and change often, these day I continue to discover that many people do not understand why the changes are taking place within their specific organization. The result is limited sustainable movement forward and often the rise of significant turf battles.

The second goal of a strategic dialogue is creating clarity about strategic direction, namely where are we going. Leaders need to connect the aforementioned why element with the where are we going piece of the picture, i.e. the importance of vision which I shared earlier this winter in one of my previous Monday Thoughts Weekly E-mails. When the organization's strategic plan plus the vision and mission are connected to the need for change, there is the opportunity for people to focus and take ownership.

The third part is organizational philosophy, namely how are we going to move in this new direction. For me, exploring organizational philosophy creates clarity about how to apply the vision, mission and core values. It is the taking of the intangible organizational philosophy and turning it into a mental framework that everyone knows, understands and owns in order that they can achieve optimal performance, all day and every day. The problem with many leaders this winter is that they are trying to create clarity about these three parts by the power of their ego or position, rather than through strategic sharing and listening.

Strategic sharing is different than just telling people what to do and why to do it. First, it begins with a foundation of mutual respect. Recognizing that all involved have the potential to discover the answers to challenging strategic questions, leaders who do strategic sharing come as equals to the conversations. As Ken Blanchard wrote years ago: “We all have pieces.... The world and its problems are too complicated to go it alone. Together is better.”

This level of sharing is built upon a foundation of strategic listening. While many leaders get caught up in tactical problem solving mode, those who listen strategically look for the overall flow of the conversation and the organization's understanding of what is happening. It is from a place of listening that something unique happens. As Stephen Covey reminds us: “Real listening shows respect. It creates trust. As we listen, we not only gain understanding; we also create the environment to be understood. And when both people understand, both perspectives, instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions together.” In short, strategic sharing and listening help the organization move past the paradigm of leaders and followers. It generates the opportunity to not get caught in the victim place of us vs. them, and instead generates a collective "we".

This week remember: Leaders must engage the heart and mind as well as the hands when seeking to turn a challenge into an achievement. For those who want to explore strategic dialogues in greater detail, I suggest you check out the From Vision to Action booklet called “Turning Challenges into Achievement”. You can find information about it on our website:

Have a wonderful week,


Geery Howe, M.A.
Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in
Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change

Morning Star Associates
319 - 643 - 2257

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