It’s common to hear employees ask their leaders “What’s the strategy?” or “What direction are we heading in?”

Here’s what they are really asking; 

  • What’s the point of the hard work I’m doing? What am I working towards?
  • Does this business have a future, and is my job safe?
  • What does this business stand for, and do I want to be part of it?
  • How would you like me to prioritise my time and effort? 
  • What guidelines should I use when making decisions? 

There’s an expectation that the CEO and senior leadership team know the answers to these questions, but is it okay if they don’t? 

One of my favourite definitions of strategy is “the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a battle or war”.

A battle plan is required to win a war. And it needs to change when things go pear-shaped because lives depend on it. No matter what, there has to be a plan of some sort – the next set of maneuvers that will push forward, provide direction and give people hope.

In times of massive disruption, it is okay to focus on getting from point A to B in one piece and worry about points C to Z later.

It’s crucial to provide clarity around what point B looks like, why it is vital to get there and how each member of the team can contribute. When communicated authentically, people will unite to achieve the mission.

We have seen examples of this in businesses across the country over recent months. Staff have taken pay cuts on the chin, knowing that it’s the only way the company, and their jobs will survive. Leaders have found new ways to rally the troops when they can’t do so in person. Companies have repositioned themselves quickly to take advantage of opportunities. 

However, at some point, the question about the overall strategy will come up again. Leaders can get away with saying “we’re working on it” for a little while, but eventually there needs to be an answer, even if it inevitably changes over time.

Remember that they are asking the five questions above. Why is it essential to have the answers? Because the success of a company ultimately depends on its people and people do their best work when they have purpose and clarity.