Communicating Strategy to Your Staff
By Shannon O’Kelley
If you are like me, your natural tendency is to constantly think about strategic plans and initiatives to foster a more successful business.
We are always exploring ways to improve our businesses late at night, on the drive home, or in our executive meetings. This practice is common for most business owners and managers. What seems to be less common though is clearly communicating these ideas and initiatives to our staff members. Over time, I have come to realize that my thoughts and ideas regarding my business’s growth strategies were held mainly in my head—I was the only one who fully understood them. It is very difficult to initiate action plans on ideas if those ideas are not effectively communicated to the very people whose help we need to carry them out.
I believe that we can all grow to appreciate and understand the differences amongst our staff regarding communication styles. For myself, this has been a process that has required ample on-the-job training. Let me take an opportunity to share with you a “lesson-learned” story. Many years ago, I was facilitating a meeting with my clinic directors regarding clinic operations, billing, marketing, etc. To me it seemed like a very normal meeting. But during the meeting, I began to sense some frustration and confusion on the part of those attending. It was an ah-ha moment for me as I realized I had not fully communicated my thoughts, strategies, and vision. It was all in my head, but I had not done a good job of communicating it to my clinic leadership. As a result, they felt lost and frustrated. To remedy this, we started having annual all-company meetings every January to help set the stage for the upcoming year. This has been a very powerful tool for our company. It has allowed us to increase our employee engagement and gives our staff an inside look, and an active role, in the direction of the company. We’ve been doing these meetings for several years, and I still look forward to them each year!
I have found that the most important thing that we can do to ensure the success of the services we provide is offering our eager-to-learn employees transparent communication about our goals and objectives. As we clearly communicate, we build trust and that in turn helps them adjust and adapt as circumstances change. Adapting a new type of communication in your organization can, and probably will, be somewhat of a struggle. Even so, communicating a strategic plan is vital to ensuring that your team are all rowing the boat together, in the same direction.
TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING YOUR STRATEGIC PLAN
- It does not matter what size your organization is, every organization can benefit from strategic planning, a staff retreat, or an all-company meeting. All of these measures can be very engaging when executed properly. Non-traditional “fun” activities at the beginning of a meeting can relax your staff and often produce some great ideas. It’s important for your employees to feel that they are being heard and listened to. At our annual all-company meetings there is typically some sort of theme to the gathering, and we also incorporate an array of break-out activities.
- Encourage your staff and your organization to have regular huddle sessions in their clinic or department. These can be done weekly, monthly, quarterly, or at whatever frequency best suits your employees’ needs. These are great opportunities to share ideas and to create strategies in a somewhat informal environment. Smaller-sized group huddles allow people in your organization that may not be comfortable speaking in front of large groups a more comfortable setting to share their input.
- Make it a priority as an owner, a manager, etc. to spend dedicated time brainstorming, both on your own and with your leadership team, about the future of your organization. Ideally, these brainstorming sessions should take place in a remote location and without distractions. I find it helpful to organize my ideas in terms of one-, three-, and five-year goals or plans.
- Use technology as an engagement tool. I know for a fact that our younger employees are very comfortable with, and appreciate our use of, the latest mediums of communication. We learned this firsthand as we navigated the COVID pandemic over the last year-and-a-half. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are used to host virtual meetings. Slack is a great tool to create dialogue, share ideas, and ask questions. Asana has been helpful for managing task assignments and follow-up as well as program implementation. Obviously, technology is great, but I do feel that face-to-face meetings will continue to have value in our workplaces.
- Have fun with your strategic plans, initiatives, and implementation process. Create campaigns among your staff and offer incentives for hitting campaign goals. These can be very fun and will also increase engagement among your employees and your community.
- Do not be afraid to hire an executive or business coach. As I discussed previously, sometimes our ideas are in our heads–we know what we want our organization to look like and what our strategic plans are. Getting these ideas on paper can be a challenge. This is where a professional can provide direction, keep you focused, and help you to implement effective methods of communication. Utilizing and having access to an executive coach has been very effective for me in obtaining the results that I want for my organization.
- Create an advisory board made up of various disciplines and departments in your organization. We recently did this at our company, and put together a board of individuals from an array of roles who meet on a quarterly basis. We included front office coordinators, exercise technicians, clinical personnel, and individuals from our business office. These staff members focus on increasing employee communication, engagement and connectivity. I think that one of the biggest challenges that we have as an organization is effective communication amongst all employees. Gathering input directly from your people on how to improve in this area is an excellent practice—you will be surprised at the information and insights that you might gather.
I mentioned my earlier story about our clinic directors being frustrated with their unawareness of my strategic goals and how I learned from that experience. I was grateful for that learning process once the pandemic brought massive changes to our company and individual clinic environments. I found that my transparency during this time helped our staff weather the stress a little bit better because they could see I was being honest with them about how the pandemic was affecting our company both financially and personally. We purposefully, as a leadership team, over-communicated and it helped us successfully navigate the past 20 months.
Our greatest resource is our team. From the front office staff to the therapists, our employees will help carry out the strategic vision that we have crafted in our minds. We must value them enough to transparently share our vision, and how we see ourselves fulfilling it. As Nat Turner, leader of the 1831 slave rebellion, said, “good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” It is up to us to build that bridge.
Shannon O’Kelley, MPT, is a current PPS member and the Owner of IRG Physical & Hand Therapy in the greater Seattle area with over 35 locations. He can be reached at Shannon.Okelley@irgpt.com.