Thanksgiving meal is always a big deal at my house. And setting the table is one of my favorite parts. Because this was the first year for my family in a new house in a new state, I wanted to make it really special and took more time than usual in setting the table for the big meal. As I finished, I realized there are definite correlations between setting the table for dinner and “setting the table” for achieving strategy success. Here are a few of them:
1. Welcoming people
The table is one way to express your interest in sharing something special with your guests. It is often the first thing people notice when they enter your home for dinner. The same applies to strategy communication and engagement. So when introducing your people to a new strategy, consider the ways you can to create sensory interest. Is there anything visual you can share to elicit their curiosity and attention the minute they enter the room? Did you make conscious choices on room set up and music? What can you do to show this is special and you care about engaging them in achieving strategy success? Same applies to digital communications – take the time to consider the look, sound and “feel” of the content you are sharing. First impressions can be lasting ones!
2. Imagining the full experience and not just the turkey
As I set the table, I did a practice run and thought about what my guests might need throughout the meal. I moved some things around so everyone would have easy access to certain items. I thought about what would actually fit on the table and what wouldn’t. Same applies to strategy. Often executives have spent so much time creating the strategy (kind of like cooking the dinner) that after months and months of work, they rush through the most important part – sharing it with others.
When it comes to sharing our strategy, we expect to hear things like, “This is so exciting” and “I’m so impressed by this.” However months and months of work by the leadership team is likely not consumable by everyone else in one sitting or one communication. Strategy communication and engagement is best done when leaders take as much time determining how the strategy can be best consumed as they did creating it in the first place.
3. Invite people to bring something of their own to be part of it
My Thanksgiving table this year included items brought by my guests, so I wanted to showcase their contributions and not just my own. I realized this would change the table from “my table” to “our table” and I’ve learned through my work on engagement that making something “ours: is the best way to go. With strategy, your people have a lot to offer. They will likely be the difference makers between successful execution or mediocrity and failure. So, as you share your strategy with your people, invite them to bring something to the table. Maybe you ask for their input regarding the organization’s most significant strength or significant challenge. Or you take the time for everyone to share a story about an obstacle they’re experiencing and how the new strategy could be useful to them. Whatever it is, ask them to bring something and not just be a passive attendee.
After 20 years in the field of engaging people and encouraging strategy success, I’ve realized that “the experience” matters as much as “the content.” I’m now using those learnings in my personal life.