Dear Manager,

The evolution of our companies comes from a combination of strategic, well- planned initiatives, changing market conditions, and simple twists of fate and fortune. While we have the inherent ability to take control of strategic initiatives, the marketplace and twists of fate are a whole different story!

Occasionally, yet very consistently, all three of these factors will come together to create a powerfully significant window of opportunity for management. What I’m suggesting is that there comes a moment in time when ones objectives present themselves in a clear, orderly, and attainable manner. This is a compelling and empowering moment for management, one that I’ve enjoyed personally.

All is right at this moment; the pieces of the puzzle seem to come together in dazzling Technicolor, forming a concept in its purest form. But wait! Do not pass “Go!” Do not collect $200.00! While a concept may have presented itself, there’s more work ahead to transform a concept into a successful initiative. (There should be major reluctance on management’s part to create “flavor of the month” initiatives. This only produces limited results, and much less sense of priority in challenging the broader issues at hand.)

Now that the fundamentals of your initiative have presented themselves, it’s time to bring form to function. More often than not, management assumes the role of “interpreter” in presenting its objectives. Your staff most likely has limited perspective and understanding of your frame of reference. You must consistently remind yourself of this to effectively translate your message and achieve success. With a broad initiative, management has the opportunity to create a singular voice.

Each organization develops its own unique personality. I certainly know mine did. This personality takes on a life and reality all of its own. Since no two companies are quite the same, this suggests that no single formula can possibly work out of the envelope. While objectives may be similar, implementation needs to be tailored to the culture of the organization.

How do you insure that your team will embrace and proactively implement management’s perspective for this “need for change?” Effective translation is part and parcel to presenting your objectives with clarity, conviction, and obvious fairness to all parties. Its presentation must speak to their issues in addition to your own. With the devil in the details, your understanding of their priorities and culture should allow you to address any and all issues they may perceive. If you fail to “touch all of the bases” in your initiative, plan on never attaining your initial (let alone) full objectives! Now that we’ve accepted that the details are “the whole enchilada,” how do we proceed?


Initiatives must be well thought out, have survived preliminary tests and evaluations, and have a clear foundation in truth and vision. All implications must be reviewed and evaluated long before the agenda can be formulated, let alone formalized.

I’d suggest a valuable first step would be to give heightened visibility to the fundamentals, the reality and the essence of your current perspective. No one wants to be blindsided out of left field, wondering, “When did this become so important”?! If the “winds of change” are in the air, begin by turning up the breeze.

Define your priority and responsibility to them as their manager by addressing current and relevant issues. Create a sense of priority and urgency to address these company or industry-wide issues. Open the forum for discussion should they choose to participate in the process. Let them know all options are open for review and must be addressed in the short term. They can choose to participate in the process, or accept the consequences.


By now you have developed some early versions of your initiative. Where are the potential hurdles, where will the objections be, if any? Review the fundamentals and the conclusions you have made with a trusted advisor or members of your management team. Ask these advisors to ask the “tough questions,” and to be very candid with any concerns they might have. Now is the time to flush out any and all areas of concern or conflict.

I’ve seen well-founded initiatives fail under their own weight due to a relatively small sticking point that could and should have been addressed much earlier in the process. To avoid a game of “gotcha,” you must exorcise all of the demons prior to the time of your announcement.

Consistently remind yourself that some members of your staff will view your plan from a very self-serving perspective. What will their issues be? What foundations will they use to support their positions? This is your opportunity to address these potential areas of concern on the front side, defusing future hesitations or negativity. I’ve often found that a well-written announcement is the most effective way to accomplish this. Written words present a strong voice and can address all issues without interruption.

As you prepare your announcement, avoid a posture of justification. Justification is based purely on the perspective of the beholder, and only leads to negotiation. This is not a time for negotiation. You are the leader; this is the time to portray this role in a very clear and decisive manner.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t listen to concerns; in fact you should be listening very, very well. You certainly want to be the first to know if, by chance, you’ve missed any relevant issues. If this occurs, address them decisively, never wavering from your fundamental mission. If need be, use this “limited flexibility” to reinforce your resolve to the fundamental objectives going forward.

If you can’t personally and passionately sell your plan to your team, cut your losses early, saving yourself and your team a lot of wasted time and energy. Similarly, if you are unwilling or unable to consistently provide the follow through required for success, then don’t bother. Regardless of its potential, the objective will ultimately be defined by your own ability and resolve to insure its success.


Be prepared for members of your team who will test your resolve. “So just how serious is he/she about this revolution we’re being asked to embrace … let’s find out.” This is when your backbone gets a serious stress test! Listening is certainly valuable; wavering insures false starts and ultimate failure. If there is wiggle room in your policies, this suggests you have failed to address all of the details in your preparation.


The final and most important step will be found in your strategy for execution. By now all parties have a significant investment in a successful conclusion to your initiative, yet it’s this final dynamic where many initiatives find their demise. Management has many priorities, but none greater than their ability to follow through, consistently sharing their voice in word and deed reflecting their resolve and commitment. The alternative suggests management was never serious in the first place, so why should your team take it more seriously than you?

Secondly, a precedent has been set for future and perhaps more critical policies and initiatives going forward. Should your team consider taking you any more seriously the second time around? We all remember the boy who cried wolf. It’s incumbent upon management, either personally or in tandem with other individuals, to take ownership and act as a single and resounding voice for the company’s agenda.

I recently read Jack Welch’s new book, “Jack, Straight From the Gut.” I enjoyed it greatly and would encourage you to pick it up as well – it’s a great $20 investment. Recently retired, Jack was the C.E.O. of General Electric (a 130 billion dollar company) for over twenty years. While I enjoyed the book in its entirety, I found a paragraph that I believe best captures this month’s topic of discussion:

“Making initiatives successful is all about focus and passionate commitment. The drumbeat must be relentless. Every leadership action must demonstrate total commitment to the initiative.”

Successful initiatives are timely and evolve with the climate and tone of one’s organization. They should dig deep beneath the foundation into the roots of an organization’s current and future potential. You must feel them with every fiber of your being, be able to envision their successful conclusion, and orchestrate them flawlessly.

Personal Regards,


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