Mid-level managers and change agents run into a common problem. In order to provide value most effectively by aligning their projects to the greater organization, they need to understand the direction executives are trying to take it. Often, that information is elusive, either because it hasn’t been communicated much outside the executive conference room, or because the executives don’t really know either. Without knowledge of the organization’s strategy, those who are best suited to help implement it are left to guess how to contribute.
So if you aren’t privy to the conversation about strategy, how do find out what you need to know to do your job effectively? Even better, how do you participate in the conversation yourself? The following are four ways you can join the conversation when you’re not at the top.
People in the middle of organizations often feel like strategic information is available on a need-to-know basis, so they wait until it is shared with them. But the truth is, as a change agent for the organization, you do need to know! Don’t assume the information you need is out of your reach because you haven’t been told. Instead, be proactive and ask questions that will help you connect your work to the leadership’s vision of the future.
Take advantage of open doors and chance encounters to chat with executives at their level. As someone in the middle of the organization, you have a perspective that leaders have lost. When you show an interest in aligning with strategy and a willingness to share insights that will help with implementation, you become a valuable resource.
Facilitate the Conversation
Sometimes the strategic direction of the organization is not as clear as you expect it would be. Without clarity at the top, there is nothing really to align your initiative to. If you find yourself in this position, it may be time to step forward to help the leadership team determine a clear vision and strategy for achieving it. Educate yourself in a methodology and offer to help executives start the conversation. Then you will be a participant in creating the strategy yourself – and not just an active recipient of it.
Once you know the strategy, find ways to become more involved. Ideally, link your current initiative to the strategy and refine it for better alignment. Or, volunteer to take on a piece of the implementation. Create something important to talk about and invite yourself into the conversation with your ideas and achievements.
All of these tips require having the courage to step forward to become more involved. Shirk the idea that it’s not your place or that the conversation is out of bounds for someone in your position. Joining the conversation is well within reach if you take advantage of and create opportunities to participate. Jump in, and before you know it, you’ll be in the middle of the strategy discussion.