Blog Article

Ever tried to build an igloo with the wrong kind of snow?

Posted by Stephen Lams

Stephen Lams

Tough, right?  It falls apart in your hands. It won’t bind.  It has no structure, no strength, and no staying power (if you prefer a sunny beach at this time of year, you also need the right kind of sand to build a castle). With the wrong kind, however clear the plan in your head, robust building isn’t going to happen. To build a great igloo, you need snow that sticks.

So what makes your snow stick?

Humidity: a subtle degree of dampness that strengthens and binds the particles – snowflakes or sand – into something you can work with.   Without it, you just can’t seem to get going.  Sound anything like your business?

So what’s the organizational equivalent of that all important humidity? It’s not strategy. Strategy is the plan – the igloo blueprint. And no, it’s not people either. People are the snowflakes waiting for the plan. Line managers make it all stick together. They make strategy happen by understanding what needs to be done. They translate ‘what needs to be done’ into employee actions, coordinating these actions within and between teams. They motivate team members, enabling them to deal with setbacks and spot opportunities to do things better.

Great line managers are like glue. They make strategy sticky. And they make people want to stick around to see things through. When employees leave, it’s often their managers they’re walking away from, more than their organizations.

3 steps to less flaky snow

  1. It starts with acknowledging that line managers – great or otherwise – are critical.  And that we can make them more effective.  Avoid the temptation to work on a process or a policy just because it seems less daunting!
  2. Invest in making their impact as positive as possible. Leadership development helps good leaders become great and helps ineffective leaders understand their impact, reflect on their habits and improve. Small improvements can make a huge difference to team effectiveness and the bottom line.
  3. Having better leaders doesn’t count for much if they aren’t enabled to make the people decisions they need to.  Recruiting, promoting, defining roles, building teams, managing performance, rewarding: we need to find ways to help line managers make (and embed) timely, accurate, and strategy-aligned decisions, without the brakes of traditional HR bureaucracy.  Technology is playing an increasingly key role in enabling the line and we must embrace that in order to remain competitive.   It’s a simple equation: the more you can enable the line, the more impact they can have, and the more performance they can squeeze from their teams.

Great leaders = sticky snow

To get your strategy to stick, the above steps will give you the humidity you need.  Great leaders, enabled to get things done, can have a huge impact on business performance by getting the most out of your snowflakes. Without the stickiness, strategy is just a plan. With it, strategy becomes visible and tangible. Roles align and work together. Objectives make sense. Employees know that their actions make a difference, they feel motivated and they can deliver their best performance. If you want to build the very best igloo, empower your line managers to give you the right kind of snow.



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