How Deep Into Your Org Chart Do Employees Connect With Your Organization’s Strategic Goals?

How Deep Into Your Org Chart Do Employees Connect With Your Organization’s Strategic Goals?

By: Sheri Nasim, President & CEO

This year, I had the opportunity to work with two major clients to help them refresh their strategic goals. One organization chose the old school method of having business unit and operational leaders gather in person at a multi-day retreat to share their first pass plans with one another, then refine those plans over the next two months and lock in their goals for the next fiscal year along with OPEX and CAPEX budgets. The other organization (which, ironically, is a department of an Ivy League school) chose to refresh their strategic plans iteratively over a five-month period. They wanted to involve more stakeholders in the planning process, which would ideally result in shared accountability for delivering on the goals.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both strategic planning methods that my clients chose. But both were wise enough to skip drafting and editing 30+ page strategic plans. Instead, both walked away with a set of actionable, measurable goals that could be cascaded to the individual contributor level. As authors Kenneth Carrig and Scott Snell state in Strategic Execution (Stanford Press, 2019), three out of every five companies rate their organization as weak on strategy execution.

As I’ve written in multiple posts over the years like – 3 Proven Ways to Move from Strategic Planning to Strategy Execution – the sooner you can connect your strategic objectives with the goals and rewards of individual team members, the better chance you have of turning that theory into reality. Strategy execution happens with true goal alignment from top to bottom, regular monitoring of progress, and linking individual incentives with organizational performance.

I’m fortunate to work with leaders who understand that the days of the written strategic plan are past. Whether you choose the multi-day, retreat style method or the multi-month stakeholder model of refreshing your strategic goals, you’ll be far more likely to achieve those goals when you help your team members connect their goals to the big picture.

Question: What ways have you found to bridge the gap between strategic planning and strategy execution?

Farewell and G’day to WD-40’s Outgoing CEO Garry Ridge

Farewell and G’day to WD-40’s Outgoing CEO Garry Ridge

6.5 years ago, when a San Diego-based client asked for our help to codify their core values, I immediately reached out to WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge. I was first charmed by Garry when I heard him speak at a leadership conference. His Australian accent, the catch in his voice when sharing a story about balancing the weight of leading a publicly-traded company while making time to be a good soon to his aging mother, the self-deprecating humor, made Garry one of the most approachable speakers I’d heard. And when I emailed Garry to ask if he would be willing to host my client for a “culture field trip” to WD-40, his response was an unqualified yes.

I explained to my client that in order to accelerate their work, I wanted them to experience what it looks like when a company’s core values are hard-wired into their behaviors and, ultimately, organizational performance. This basic connection is true for every organization. The key difference is that a few leaders like Garry Ridge take personal responsibility for codifying the connection between culture and performance. They don’t outsource it to HR or delegate to Marketing. They live it and model it every day.

When I showed up at the WD-40 headquarters with my clients to learn about this culture connection, Garry Ridge personally met us at the door and led us through a one-and-a-half-hour tour. Here are three of the top takeaways we heard from Garry on that culture field trip:

  1. Create a learning environment. When Ridge was promoted from within as CEO, he knew that growth was being held back partly due to deep silos within the organization. “Those who knew the most about how things worked guarded that knowledge, which gave them power,” Ridge said. He immediately set to work to define the concept of learning moments. Over time, he built trust in the concept by showing that no one would be punished for trying something new and sharing knowledge about what worked and what did not. At today’s WD-40, knowledge is shared and information moves easily.
  2. Personalize accountability and responsibility. In Helping People Win at Work, a book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Ridge shares the unique WD40 performance review system. Employees develop measurable, achievable goals that will help the company reach its annual strategic targets. They describe what ‘A’ work looks like, rate their own progress each quarter, and review these ratings with their manager. The manager’s role is to help employees achieve all As. Ridge says, “If you help your people get As, your performance management system will ignite them to blow away your customers with outstanding service. Because people who feel good about themselves want to return the favor.”
  3. Get your values off the wall. WD-40 doesn’t just want good performers, it wants good performers who are also good citizens. Ridge believes that values must be at the core of your business model, not just words engraved in a plaque on the wall. Not only does the company have six, clear-to-understand values, but they are ranked in order of importance. He explained, “Life is about values conflicts. When these conflicts arise, people need to know which value to focus on.” Employees are taught the values at orientation, assigned to ‘tour guides’ to help explain values in action, and hold themselves accountable for demonstrating the values, which make up 30% of their performance review.

WD-40 Garry RidgeOn August 31st of this year, Garry is stepping down as CEO of WD-40 after 25 years of service. He plans to launch a consulting practice called The Culture Coach. I, for one, look forward to supporting Garry in this next chapter just as he has so graciously supported mine. So, farewell to Garry as WD-40 CEO and G’day to your new, exciting role!

5 Key Takeaways from Our Webinar – DEI in Action: Building a 2022 Roadmap

5 Key Takeaways from Our Webinar – DEI in Action: Building a 2022 Roadmap

On October 27th, we hosted our final 2021 quarterly webinar dedicated to the subject of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). If you’ve joined our previous DEI webinars, you’ve seen Arthur Benjamin, Sr. Director Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Tinuiti, take on the role as moderator for a panel of experts in the field. For this webinar, we asked Arthur to deep dive into the subject by interviewing Martina Winston, VP and Senior HR Partner Diversity & Inclusion Leader with Protective Life.

Specifically, Martina came prepared to share her experience with developing and honing Protective Life’s D&I Strategic Roadmap. Here are the top five takeaways from the webinar:

1. Don’t try to keep up with the D&I Joneses. You’re DEI journey must begin by starting with an honest assessment of your organizational readiness. Don’t try to do what everybody else is doing or rush to win awards. Instead, hold one-on-one conversations with executive leaders and key stakeholders about where you are and where you aspire to go.

2. Let the numbers tell the story. Review the demographic data of your employee population to help you determine where to start your DEI journey. At Protective Life, for example, Martina and her team found that improving both gender and racial diversity and inclusion in the areas of recruitment, development, and retention were key areas to focus on and help the organization mature.

3. Not all consultants are created equal. Just as you need to assess the reality of your starting point, finding a partner and tools that meet you where you are and what you need at key legs in your journey is critical. “You’ve got to constantly check where you are,” Martina said. Stay true to your progress, and don’t take it personally if you haven’t achieved 100% of your goals at the outset.

4. ERG’s: We. Are. Not. Ready. When you agree to step into the diversity and inclusion role, be prepared to field a well-intentioned, continuous flow of ideas from your colleagues. This includes starting employee resource groups, or ERGs. “I should have gotten a t-shirt that read, “We Are Not Ready,” said Martina. “If we had started ERGs 3 ½-years ago, they would have failed. We simply were not ready. But I’m happy to share that in 2022 – 4 years into our journey – we’ll be starting our version of ERGs called Growth Network Groups where our employees can learn, grow, and connect.”

5. Share the load. Martina shared samples of Protective Life’s Strategic DEI Roadmap for 2019 and 2021 to show how the work developed and matured. A key takeaway was that no single person could be responsible for developing the roadmap or doing the work. She worked with a diverse group of stakeholders from across the organization to determine what initiatives to include and who should own the work. The 2021 version also designated the Support needed by each Owner to deliver the work.

If you are a student or practitioner in the DEI space, you’ll know that it is filled with amazing, transparent, generous, passionate people like Arthur Benjamin and Martina Winston. We are incredibly honored to share our platform to continue to take part in the conversation and growth of this community. Watch this space for what we’re teeing up for 2022!

Watch the replay from this lively discussion.

Question: What traction did your organization gain with its DEI strategy this year, and what’s on your 2022 roadmap?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

Turn Strategy into Executable Goals with the Balanced Scorecard

Turn Strategy into Executable Goals with the Balanced Scorecard

Not long ago, I was asked by one of my clients if I could help her company with strategic planning. My answer was, “Yes and no.”

Like many of today’s organizations, this team was already suffering from initiative overload. Without a system for tracking business critical and mission critical goals, their strategic plan was doomed to fail. I explained that, “Yes, I would be happy to help your team create a strategic plan, but only if I can also help them put a system in place to help them execute that strategy.”

This is the season of the year where many of us are busy working on strategic plans. For some, those plans get shelved in favor of jumbled priorities and unfinished initiatives. For others, the goals that come out of the plans get added to the already impossibly long list of projects our overloaded teams are already working on. Either way, if we don’t have a process to turn our most important goals into an executable strategy, our plans can be pronounced dead on arrival.

Don’t let this happen to your organization. Instead, track your strategic goals with a performance management system like a Balanced Scorecard. First developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in the late 1990’s, today’s Balanced Scorecard platforms help organizations of all sizes and in every industry turn strategy in executable goals in four important ways:

  1. Communicate the business critical and mission critical goals the organization is trying to accomplish.
  2. Align the day-to-day work that everyone is doing with strategic goals.
  3. Prioritize projects, products, and services.
  4. Measure and monitor progress toward strategic targets.

The system connects the dots between big picture strategy, operational goals, and key performance metrics. I have my favorite balanced scorecard platforms, but one-size does not fit all. Check out this site for options that may work for your organization, and ensure that your strategic plans get executed in 2022!

Question: What is your organization doing to manage initiative overload?

Bonus! Download our simple, FREE strategic planning template here – a framework to help you measure organizational performance beyond key financial metrics.

3 Skills to Help You Master Leadership Excellence

3 Skills to Help You Master Leadership Excellence

We’ve all come across them. Those leaders who people naturally gravitate toward. Though it seems counterintuitive, the magnetic effect these leaders have on people is not because of how people feel about the leader. It’s because of how the leader makes people feel about themselves.

These leaders have mastered the embodiment of two basic facts:

Fact 1: Every person matters.

Fact 2: Every person wants to feel valued.

By keeping these facts in mind, you can master the skills necessary to achieve leadership excellence. Here are three skills that will have the highest impact:

1. Help People Connect the Dots. In my post, “A Pharaoh Walks Into a Bar,” I illustrate why team members need to understand how their daily jobs fit into the big picture. It is your responsibility as a leader to help your team connect the dots. You may use formal tools like strategy maps, or pull up to your nearest whiteboard. Regardless of your delivery method, take the time to sit with your team members to help them visualize their role in the success of the organization.

2. Help People Grow. I know a CEO who likes to joke that, “The only thing worse than training your people and then they leave is not training your people and they stay!” All joking aside, one of the main reasons people give for leaving companies is that they stop growing. Growth brings energy, vitality, life, and challenge. Without growth, we’re just going through the motions. Create a culture of learning and growth to maximize the collective talent of your team.

3. Give People Sincere Appreciation. People who don’t feel appreciated are often the first to burn out or jump ship. It only takes a minute to recognize a team member for making a positive contribution. But, doing it right requires more than an occasional “thanks”. Give timely and specific praise to show your team members how you value their contribution. Here’s a quick demo to show you how.

One final secret to mastering leadership excellence – you can’t fake it. Leaders who genuinely care about their team members will invest the time to help each one feel valued. Be committed to helping them connect the dots, helping them grow, and giving them sincere appreciation. Every day is an opportunity to help people see the best in themselves and achieve their highest potential.

Question: What is one thing you can do today to help someone else feel valued?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

Getting Results: Leverage Competitive Advantage Through Team Alignment

Getting Results: Leverage Competitive Advantage Through Team Alignment

Does your team trust each other? If not, what impact do you think that’s having on the bottom line?

This is a question that we have explored with teams ranging from publicly-traded companies to nonprofits. Regardless of the size of your team or the industry you work in, “trust is the foundation of real teamwork,” writes Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

In the mid-1990s, Lencioni observed a business climate that was maniacally focused on growth with little attention paid to the fundamentals of team alignment and organizational effectiveness. As a result, Lencioni and his colleagues developed a simple online assessment that measures team effectiveness in five key areas.

1. Trust

Think about a time when you worked with a team member who you trusted. What was that experience like? Did you freely share information with her? Did you ask her for help? Admit mistakes? Now, think about a time when you worked with a team member who you didn’t trust. What was that experience like? Did you ask him for more data? Did you talk to others about his reliability? Did you try avoiding him altogether? Now multiply the results of these interactions by all of the possible team member combinations in your organization. You can quickly see how trust impacts speed, and how speed impacts results. We’re living in the age of Airbnb, Kickstarter, Etsy, and Uber – where trust is the fundamental economic driver. Yet, trusting our colleagues as much as we do total strangers is something that we have yet to master.

2. Conflict

Teams that do not trust one another will be reluctant to have open, constructive conflict. You’ve seen this in action in the form of passive-aggressive behavior, circular conversations, veiled discussions, and guarded arguments. You’ve witnessed people nodding their head ‘yes’ in the room but shaking their head ‘no’ in the hall. Teams that trust one another freely engage in debate so that they can assess reality correctly before making a common commitment. Teams that lack trust also lack the ability to effectively uncover the root causes of issues that impact performance. Instead, they spend their time dealing with symptoms and side issues.

3. Commitment

A team that can accurately assess reality will have a better chance of making clear commitments. A note of clarity here. Team commitment is not the same as consensus. When you are encouraged and inspired to share your ideas and know that you’ve been heard, you’re more likely to agree to the final decision even if it differs from your original input. As a result, you walk away motivated and feeling valued rather than resentful. Commitment requires weigh in before buy in.

4. Accountability

If you manage a team of people, you understand that part of your role is to hold them accountable for delivering results. Holding your peer team members accountable, however, is harder. This is especially true when you haven’t built trust, participated in constructive debate about root causes, or felt that your opinions about what to do to move forward haven’t been heard. You’re much more likely to call your peers out when you’ve bought into the agreed upon direction to deliver results.

5. Results

“What gets measured, gets done,” is a familiar maxim. If you are measured and incentivized based on individual effort, human nature follows that you are more likely to put your individual results over collective results. High-performing teams, however, understand that if the team loses, everyone loses. When you’re held accountable for team results, you’re much more likely to make the extra effort to help team members when they need support.

Teamwork isn’t easy. But high performing teams understand that team alignment is a competitive advantage.

Question: Are you achieving results or experiencing regrets toward team goals so far this year?

Whether your team is brand new, choking from lack of trust, or is long overdue for a team building event, CEE can help you measure, map, and move the dial in five key areas necessary for high performance: Trust, Healthy Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results. Learn more about how we can partner with you here.