When it Comes to Strategy, are You Sitting at the Kid's Table?

Jan 19, 2015
8 Min Read

Looking back on past holidays, you may remember what it felt like to be stuck at the kid’s table. But you’re a grown up now – so how come you’re still sitting at the kid’s table at work? 

Take a look at comments posted on workplace blogs or on social media sites, and it won’t be long before you find an employee complaining that they’re often left out of the loop regarding business decisions.

These employees complain that their boss doesn’t keep them informed of strategic business decisions, what’s in the pipeline for the next year or even how their work is part of the bigger picture. Senior leaders are even worse, they contend.

It’s a frustration Mike Figliuolo has heard before, and he has a simple response: “That’s crap.”

Figliuolo, managing director of thoughtLEADERSLLC, says that employees who complain that they don’t know what is going on within their company simply aren’t trying hard enough.

“If anything, it’s easier than ever,” he says. “Just look at your company’s organizational chart and find someone about two levels above you. Send that person an email and ask them to send you their department’s latest strategic plan.”

With that information, you’ll be able to see what’s going on and then be able to ask additional questions to determine how you or your department are affected by pending plans or possibly involved in a new initiative.

“It’s just pure laziness to sit back and say, ‘I’m not being included,’” he says. ““If you can’t take the initiative then sure, you’re going to sit at the kid’s table and eat chicken nuggets.”

An inclusive culture

Zappos is a company known for being transparent with workers. Employees not only receive detailed information about the company’s performance, but are encouraged to share information about the company. CEO Tony Hsieh often shares company news via Twitter and Facebook, even announcing the layoff of 124 workers in 2008 via Twitter.

Some employees may conclude that since they don’t work for a company like Zappos, they’re forever doomed to sit at the kid’s table because their company’s culture is different. But Figliuolo argues that many employees simply have never “reached out” to try and become better informed, and “they just expect management to spoon feed them.”

But if you’re an employee ready to become a strategic influence at your company, then Figliuolo suggests:

  • Stepping into someone else’s shoes. Instead of looking at an issue only from your perspective, try thinking of it from the position of someone in another department. For example, maybe you’re an expert on the minutia of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. But “that’s not going to get you invited to the table,” he says. The key is understanding how Sarbanes-Oxley is going to impact the CIO and plans for future development in that department. If you can explain that Sarbanes-Oxley is going to impede those plans, then you’re going to get attention because that person’s agenda is threatened, he explains. “You get invited to the adult’s table when you bring something from another perspective,” he says.
  • Doing your homework. Spend time talking to those in other departments to learn their top issues and concerns. Ask them to share their annual plans, which show priorities. This will help you refine how you can specifically add value when offering a new perspective or plan.
  • Never stop learning. Maybe your specialty is in sales, and you know nothing about IT. But there is a treasure trove of information online and through your company’s own website. The more you understand how your entire company functions, the challenges and industry trends, the better you can always be in position to offer insight or advice that can be seen as strategically important.

Management responsibility

Experts also advise that managers need to make it easier for employees to ask questions, and that the organization will benefit if they provide answers.

Paul Spiegelman, chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth, often writes on company culture, and says that managers and organizations can benefit by keeping workers more informed about the company’s success.

“You’ll earn the trust of your employees if you report on your company’s financial performance regularly throughout the year. Town hall meetings are an effective medium for communicating this information, so that staffers can ask questions. If the company is not performing as well as expected, own up to it, and let employees know how they can help impact the situation,” he says.

Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert, says that if employees “are kept in the dark about what’s going on, they will make up their own version and it won’t be a positive one.”

That means if there is something negative going on, such as profits slipping and sales taking a hit from a new competitor, then employees need to be told, he contends. “Not disclosing will only breed mistrust, suspicions and fear,” he says.

In addition, it’s important that employees learn to understand through transparency that tough times don’t last, and there can be a brighter future, he says.

“Keeping employees constantly informed and involved in long-term thinking and planning for the future helps lift spirits and prevents knee-jerk decisions that could come back later to haunt you,” he says.

Keep your entire team in the know, join us January 21 for a special webinar presentation with project delivery and leadership expert, Gordon Tredgold, "Creating a "GPS" for Your Projects - from Project Request to Success.

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