What Strategy?

I Homeland Season 5 - Peter Quinnam always struck by those moments where something completely unrelated to my work serves up a powerful metaphor or analogy for a particular challenge or opportunity I am observing in my industry, agriculture. Case in point, the Season 5 opener of Homeland. In what turns out to be a gripping scene (for me, at least) Peter Quinn, the elite CIA black-ops agent, has been called back to Washington, after two years on the ground in Syria, to be grilled by CIA senior management. Peter is the best of the best. If he were an account manager, he is the guy you would like everyone on your sales team to be more like. But, despite his skill and his will, the mission in Syria is not going well and CIA “top brass” want answers.

The most senior CIA “executive” at the table is particularly flustered with the apparent lack of results. He listens to Peter’s update on the situation then erupts. “What the hell is going on over there?” he barks, “I honestly can’t tell …is our strategy working?”

Hiding his own frustration, Peter faces the senior executive who is, no doubt, the boss of his boss’s boss, and says calmly, “What strategy? You tell me what the strategy is and I will tell you if it is working.”

The room goes silent. No one around the table can answer Peter’s question.

That scene really hit me because, out of nowhere, it summed up one of the most pervasive challenges in agribusinesses today: “what is the strategy?” Our observations confirm that it does not matter what kind agribusiness you are: a multinational manufacturer, a line company, a distributor, an independent dealer… chances are extremely high (and I mean extremely) that your people DO NOT know what your strategy is.

And here is the hardest thing for any of us in this situation to accept: if they don’t know what your strategy is, then you don’t have one… regardless of what you might think.

This is where so many of us get off course: goals and targets are not the strategy. Discount programs are not the strategy. Program-driven sales activities are not the strategy, nor is coordinating sales activities with digital media… the strategy.

Your strategy is your “play book” that helps everyone in your organization understand what the goals are and how you will create differentiated value for your customers in order to achieve those goals. Like any good “play book”, your strategy helps your people understand how key processes and resources will be applied within the business to create that differentiated customer value and what people need to be doing in order to contribute to achieving the goals. Finally, your strategy shows your people what is being measured so they can self-determine how to align their actions and contributions, best, to the organization achieving its goals.

What is your strategy? Start by asking these questions…

  • Are our goals clear?
  • What is our customer value proposition?
  • Is it meaningfully different from our competitors?
  • What does our organization do really well?
  • Can that be leveraged to create more customer value?

Top Four Characteristics of Admired Leaders

What are your people looking for from you, as a leader? What motivates them to follow you?

If you don’t know how to motivate followers in your agribusiness then how will you accomplish the aspirational goals and vision you want to achieve. You can’t do it yourself. You need followers who can multiply your effort.

We looked for data to identify the characteristics of admired leaders. We found that Kouzes and Posner, coauthors of The Leadership Challenge, had the longest-term, most validated and broadest leadership survey. Out of 20 different characteristics surveyed over six continents, the top four characteristics of admired leaders are:

  1. Honest
  2. Forward Looking
  3. Competent
  4. Inspiring

Their research documents that, for over 30 years, this pattern has been constant across countries, cultures, ethnicities, organizational functions and hierarchies, genders, levels of education, and age groups.

How are you doing in exhibiting these four key leadership qualities in your agribusiness?

  1. Honest – Are you demonstrating trust in others by showing empathy toward their issues, and displaying your vulnerability?
  2. Forward Looking – Are you challenging yourself and your people to find ways to change their work processes to accelerate the team’s vision achievement?
  3. Competent – Are you a constantly seeking/learning new ways to create value for your customers?
  4. Inspiring – Are you demonstrating inspiration and positive energy by acting on the aspirational goal in alignment the core purpose and core values of your Agribusiness?

When you consciously act, every day in every way, in alignment with these four characteristics you will increasingly engage your people in your vision and strategy.  AND your people will start exhibiting these same leadership characteristics with each other and your customers, which will compound the positive effect.

How Great Leaders Use Reflection

Are you really taking a leadership role in growing your Agribusiness to the next level?

If you’re not stopping at the end of the day, or starting your day by reflecting on where you want to take your business and how you want to get there, then you’ll be finding it very difficult to lead your people.

Who wants to work for someone who has no vision, or goals for their business?  Who wants to put in the extra effort when there’s no greater goal or direction for the business?  Who wants to go to work to just do work?  Don’t you want to motivate and inspire your people to achieve a greater vision in your business?

How can you lead your people if you don’t know where you’re going, or how you’re going to get there.  It’s from reflection that you’ll find key messages and stories for the vision of your Agribusiness.  Stories and messages that will help your people become clear on where you’re going, and inspired and engaged to help you get there.

During your reflection time think about these questions:

  1. Am I doing my best to make clear goals?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress on these goals?
  3. How am I doing at building positive relationships with my people that enables me to engage them and communicate the vision and goals of my Agribusiness?
  4. Am I doing my best to be happy and engaged about achieving the vision and goals?

If you’re not reflecting on where you’re going and asking yourself these four questions how can you be sure of your direction?  How can you be sure you’re leading your people through good thinking and action that engages them to join you on the journey?  Reflection time on where you’re going is critical to becoming a great leader and building a great Agribusiness.