Working strategically with your team

I’ve talked in the past about having a vision for your team – this describes where you want the team to be at a set point in the future, and should guide all decisions you make with and about your team.

This team vision fits into a wider strategic approach to running your team – you need a strategy for what the team will achieve, and you also need to ensure that the team strategy is aligned with strategies above you in the organisation.

Organisational strategy works something like this…

There’s an organisational strategy set from the top. There are then X number of divisional strategies which feed down from this. The sum of all the divisional strategies should achieve the organisational strategy. The next level down is team strategies, and even within your team, you could have functional strategies: the individual tasks and KPIs for each team member.

A solid organisational approach to strategy means that all the lowest level parts, when combined, achieve the organisational strategy. Your job as a leader is to make the link.

This can become a problem if you don’t have the strategy adequately communicated to you from above. If this is the case, you need to take ownership for finding out the strategy from above so that you can set your team and functional strategies to effectively achieve the strategy above yours.

What exactly is a strategy?

A strategy is a plan for how you’re going to get from A to B. A is “where you are now” and B is “where you need to be”. The first thing you need to know is what A and B are (often called your As-Is and your To-Be). Then you need to think about how to bridge the gap.

Achieving the To-Be

There are 4 key areas to think about as you look to get from your As-Is to your To-Be. These will help you to get to where you need to be.

•    Assess:    First, you need to assess the current situation to accurately understand your
•    Plan:    Next, you need to map out the steps required to get from where you are, to
where you want to be.
•    Act:    Once your plan is in place, you need to act on that plan by communicating it 
to your team and monitoring their actions.
•    Review:    Finally, you need to review how you and the team performed against the
plan to help you to perform as well, or even better, next time.

These are the 4 key elements of getting from where you are (your As-Is) to where you want to be (your To-Be). And remember, that these should all be aligned to the strategies coming down to you from above.

Of course, this isn’t a one-off exercise. Strategic initiatives are likely coming regularly from above, so as a leader, you need to put plans in place to achieve these over time. Remember: you’re a conduit for the information which your team should know, and a cushion from any disruption from above.

Plan in depth

A large part of planning is about breaking down the gap between your As-Is and your To-Be into manageable chunks. But for a leader, there’s more to it than that. You also need to put guidelines in place for your team to follow to keep them on track towards their own functional strategy so that you can operate consistently and measurable.

For many teams, this involves putting in place 3 things:

1.    Targets
2.    KPIs
3.    Standards


For a sales team, targets usually come from above, and they’re in general pretty simple to calculate. You take the number expected of your team from above, and you divide it between the number of people in your team. You then weight this according to various factors such as:

•    Territory
•    Level of experience
•    Role within the team
•    Customer base

It’s common to add on a percentage as a buffer as well, to stretch the team and maximise the chance of achieving what you need to as a group.


These are the behaviours you’ll see from people which suggests they will hit their targets. These should be based on historical data and include things such as:

•    Number of new leads identified
•    Number of phone calls made
•    Number of emails sent
•    Number of meetings attended

You’ll notice a constant here… it’s all about the numbers!


These are softer measures of success, which contribute towards things like:

•    Creating a strong team culture
•    Giving the right impression to customers
•    How the team is perceived from outside

For a leader, standards give the biggest flexibility to align required behaviours with your own leadership style.

Standards might be less tangible than targets or KPIs, but they can have a big impact on the team.

As you’re thinking about what appropriate standards there could be for your team, there are certain questions you could ask yourself:

•    What would be acceptable standards to set?
•    What standards would lead to acceptable performance?
•    What “red lines” would you have for standards which would prompt urgent intervention?
•    How would you address a general decrease in standards?

Key points on targets, KPIs and standards are that these 3 items should become performance benchmarks for your team. As you set them, you should stretch what’s possible, and as you lead the team, you should take action where necessary.


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