This month I have been facilitating a strategy process for a really cool high tech company. It’s a company I’ve worked with for a while but this time the process was different—it was better. What made it better?  It really boiled down to a much healthier team dynamic.

When I first met the team, they had a new leader and he was still in the process of understanding what (and who) he had inherited.  This created the natural anxieties as a few people tried too hard to impress the new boss.  It meant that not all the bandwidth was going into strategic thinking.

Now, a couple of years later, the group is significantly more talented, more confident, and more effective as a team.  That great dynamic allowed us to focus on the ideas, issues, opportunities, threats…the juicy stuff that is confronting them as leaders rather than focusing on the deadly duo of turf and worth.

Turf and Worth

Turf: You’ve seen these people before.  These are the people who are so concerned about how any possible strategic move is going to affect their role, their power, their control that they run everything through a self-serving filter.  When you have a person focused on turf at the strategic table, no opportunity is evaluated effectively. The result is usually significant opportunities that are missed and important threats that are left undefended.

Worth: The folks worried about their worth can show up in different ways. Some are pretty quiet and don’t add any value because they lack the confidence to contribute.  That leaves a big gap in the strategic analysis.  In other cases, concerns about one’s worth show up in incessant talking and lame attempts to justify one’s paycheck. The neediness results in all sorts of tangential discussions and low value distractions.

If your team is doing strategic planning, ask yourself the following true or false questions:

  1. I put the best interest of the whole organization first.
  2. I strategize as a leader of the whole, rather than just as a representative of my area.
  3. I value the input of my team members in helping me assess opportunities and threats.
  4. I challenge and debate to strengthen the team’s ideas and plans.
  5. I contribute value to my teammates to help them see opportunities and threats.
  6. I am aware of my biases and work to minimize their impact.
  7. I am open and candid about my concerns.
  8. I share with the team when I am struggling to look at the situation objectively.
  9. I share any additional thoughts I have after the session directly with the person involved.
  10. I support and implement the team’s decisions once they are made.

This list represents a high bar but it’s a standard you should be aiming for if you are contributing to strategic planning on your team.  How did you score?

Further Reading

Strategic Execution needs to be More Inclusive

Running a Great Strategic Meeting

How can I be seen as More Strategic?