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Since co-founding Root, I’ve spent the last three decades with a front row seat as organizations around the world plan, define, and attempt to activate their strategic futures. Our teams have facilitated and supported leaders and their people as they aspire to create something that is differentiated, valuable, and meaningful. Often the organizations come to us to help them learn how to use new techniques in an effort to establish alignment and honest, open communication. Often they are working to overcome internal challenges, leadership changes, and market disruptions. And more times than not, crafting and sustaining profitable growth is the North Star. After all, an organization can’t stay in business for long without a healthy profit margin.

In each of these strategic conversations, the ideation about what’s possible generates excitement and hope. I am typically in awe as I watch the room begin to buzz with the possibility of success and renewed camaraderie. This type of energy is contagious! However, what happens next isn’t always as exciting. The activation of these plans and ideas is all about creating execution through people, and this is often fraught with setbacks and delays. People must change the way they think, and most importantly how they act and behave. And change is rarely, if ever, a quick, simple, or painless process.

Wisdom Gained Through the Roadblocks

In all these experiences, there is usually one or two comments or suggestions that really resonate and stick with people. These meaningful statements become defining moments for that organization, impacting how people think about bringing the new strategy to life and making it a reality for their future. It is a moment where beliefs and assumptions can be suspended and authentically reexamined.

I often think back on these moments and frequently recount them to others also on the edge of change. As the world continues to settle into the “new normal,” and the need to change remains a constant, I believe it’s time to share these pieces of wisdom in a broader forum.

 

Here are 23 quotes that stand out as key concepts for successful activation of organizational strategy.

  1. People don’t resist change; they resist being changed by someone else.
  2. People will tolerate the conclusions of their leaders, but they will only act on their own.
  3. Dialogue is the oxygen of change.
  4. Success is determined not by the learning speed of the fastest few, but of the slowest many.
  5. The need to change is not an indictment of your past performance but a recognition that you are farther than you have ever been but not yet where you want to go.
  6. Success is not about a few people having better answers; it’s about everyone asking better questions.
  7. Without truth telling, there can’t be trust; without trust, positive change will not occur.
  8. Strategy without execution is meaningless; execution without engaged people is impossible.
  9. Direct, tell, and sell needs to be replaced by ask, listen, and learn.
  10. Your people are the customers for strategy and change. Treat them that way.
  11. The purpose of a strategic plan is not to plan; it is to change the way we think and act.
  12. Servant leadership means helping others succeed without judgment. When we put service ahead of self-interest and ego, we gain the ability to lead and empower others.
  13. People must overcome the “OR” and embrace the “AND.” Paradox is power.
  14. Most change can occur more naturally with an honest assessment of where we are and a clear picture of where we want to go. Unfortunately, truth telling is not a core capability of most organizations, and you can’t visualize fuzz.
  15. A change in a belief occurs before a meaningful change in behavior.
  16. Don’t survey people to determine if they are engaged; just value their thoughts, and ask them to co-think how to address your most pressing challenges.
  17. High-performing teams only succeed when everyone owns the whole before their piece.
  18. Empowering people requires making sense of a firm framework of one way and inviting freedom of new ways. Creating a cadence of hardlines, guidelines, and no lines makes sense of the paradox of framework AND freedom.
  19. Stop can be more important than start, so be sure to ask yourself, “What have I stopped doing in the last two months that has made a positive (or negative) difference?
  20. The boldest action of a change leader is public vulnerability.
  21. The engine of true change is conversation and not presentation.
  22. Learning requires thinking, and without learning, it is not possible to activate strategy.
  23. Leaders are creators of creators and not creators of implementers.

Most organizations face similar challenges at one point or another, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, learn from others. I hope you find a statement or two from this list that resonates with you. Write it down. Share it with your people. The lessons learned through others can be extremely impactful on your journey.

June 28, 2022

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