There’s something about receiving communication directly from leadership that inspires motivation. Whether or not a subordinate agrees or disagrees with the leader’s message or intent, there is often a discrete reaction – either big or small – that is difficult to suppress. It may inspire a new way of thinking or a new path, or the message may cause undesired behaviors. Either way, when important announcements come from an organization’s leader, people pay attention.
Take the recent political race for the U.S. Presidency. Regardless of your political leanings, we are all generally tuned in to the speeches, debates, television appearances, and press releases of candidates. Even the international community is keenly aware of the 2016 race to the White House.
The mainstream media understands this dynamic and puts forth great efforts to capitalize on these leaders’ actions to capture additional audiences, secure ratings and design additional news stories.
Retail leaders considering a new solution implementation should take advantage of this mindset. I am working with Josh Pollack, The Parker Avery Group’s Merchandising Leader and resident pricing expert, on a point of view that focuses on this critical component of successful project leadership (check back with Parker Avery’s Insights page early summer for publication). I’m also near the end stages of a package selection project, where the retailer is coming to some final decisions on the new solution, implementation timing, resources, etc. One of the common themes between the point of view and our discussions around planning the client’s actual implementation is that project sponsorship and leadership must be at the highest levels possible.
Without giving away the content, the main theme of our upcoming point of view is around putting in place strong and highly visible executive sponsorship of any strategic initiative – ideally at the c-level. Why? For the major reason I just stated – people pay attention to leadership.
If you are undergoing or planning a solution implementation and want your organization to not only understand the changes, but embrace the transformation, the project must be spearheaded from the very top. Otherwise it’s just new software (and usually very expensive).
Through a defined business strategy, leadership can successfully drive design decisions, which ultimately become new processes and promote organizational alignment and acceptance. This is very hard to effectively accomplish if the project is lead by subordinate roles.
Executives also have the ability to initially “rally the troops” around the initiative as well as maintain the momentum, much more so than director or manager level roles. We are not proposing that non-executive roles are not critical to the success of a solution implementation – quite the opposite, in fact. By virtue of having the strong support of executives, resources on the project team are typically perceived to have augmented importance within the company. It’s almost a snowball effect: as executive communications tout project accomplishments and progress to the company as a whole, more subordinate project resources are viewed as highly knowledgeable, yet approachable for associates not directly involved in the endeavor. They essentially become project “ambassadors” and can facilitate more informal conversations about the project to further acceptance, buy-in, engagement and enthusiasm.
It’s all very similar to U.S. citizens listening to pundits debating the political arena and then discussing the interpretations, virtues and issues with our friends and families before figuring out which candidate to support.
As a society, we listen to leadership. We pay attention to the actions of those in executive roles. And we typically make decisions or frame opinions based on those high-level communications and actions. As you plan and move forward with your next big initiative – regardless of the solution – keep this mentality in mind.