The New Strategic Imperative: Stop Before You Start

“Leaders don’t stop. Leaders don’t remove. Leaders just add to the things they expect to be done, and then are surprised that people feel hopeless and disengaged.”  Jim Haudan, author of The Art of Engagement

I’ve seen this situation in many organizations – both for-profit and nonprofit. Struggling to do more with less to cope with economic pressures (including with fewer employees), management tends to keep adding strategic directives without taking any away. The combination of increased workload, information overload, and multi-tasking to keep up with it all, is a dangerous condition resulting in employees feeling overwhelmed at not making any progress. Is it any wonder that they disengage before they withdraw or implode?

In some organizations, management seems to have a limitedattention span as it follows a strategy-du-jour. In some nonprofits, the situation may also stem from initiatives that seem to take on a life of their own, in which management continues to automatically sink resources in such programs/events/activities without stepping back to address “Why are we doing this? Is it still relevant to our mission and our market?”

The best way I know to help prevent piling on strategic initiatives is to STOP – FOCUS – and LISTEN.

  • Before initiating any new strategies, take the time to STOP and consider what you’re asking of your employees. For example: Are our new plans realistic given our organization’s resources and capacity? Will our employees be able to handle the organization’s new initiatives without undue burden?
  • FOCUS your strategic intent by asking: What resources and/or trade-offs are necessary to secure employee commitment? If we weren’t already doing this [existing program or activity], would we start now?
  • LISTEN and take into account employee ideas and concerns: Do employees clearly understand our new direction and the rationale behind it? What ideas/suggestions do our employees have to effectively execute the new plan(s)?

So “do not pass ‘Go’ and do not collect $200” if you’re not prepared to STOP-FOCUS-and LISTEN …  unless you want a “monopoly” of employee disengagement and burnout.


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