Stakeholder support is important
One of the key factors of effective strategies is stakeholder support. This boils down to a significant majority of stakeholders supporting the plans. But there is another, probably more important, factor for effective strategies.
In the late ‘90s and early years of the new millennium I assisted SA Rugby with the facilitation of their strategic plans. The rugby CEO was fully aware of cultural clashes between rugby stakeholders and he went to great lengths to achieve deep stakeholder support for the new plans. A large component of these plans was a comprehensive approach to development and transformation from grassroots level all the way to Springboks. This including diversity targets for team representation and in the national organization.

Change in leadership
The development and transformation plan had an encouraging start with implementation gaining traction. However, the plan did not factor the effect of a change in leadership. Three years into the implementation of the plan a new rugby president candidate entered the fray making Donald Trump-esque election claims like: “SA rugby is in disarray and shame. South Africa needs to be restored as a respected and feared rugby nation.”
He won the election and, as is often the case, the new leader did not accept his predecessor’s plan and threw it, and many people associated with it, out; he wanted to ‘own’ his territory like a new male lion taking over an existing pride.

In 2006 this new president was also unceremoniously evicted. He had trashed predecessors systems and, it seems, did a lot of other dubious things. This was evidenced in a subsequent court case that concluded with barring him from serving in any capacity on the general council or committees of the South African Rugby Union.
It’s obvious that there are lingering social, cultural and economic reasons that affect the pace of transformation but the question is; could, a repeating cycle of self-righteous and egotistical leadership be the most significant reason why transformation slowed down in rugby and why, in 2016, the South African Rugby Union is once again being threatened by politicians because their transformation is too slow?

 If your work is in the way of your life, get rid of your work

But let’s, for the meantime, leave the vagrancies of sport politics and focus on individuals.

One of my clients gave the following feedback recently; “I feel as if my business strategy is secondary to my personal strategy. But, if I am clear on how I want to lead my life it’s easier to determine what I want from work.”

My feeling is that people often end up blaming their lack of success on external issues such as their work, their boss, their employees, the market or even their family members.  They do this without recognising that, to become ‘successful’, their personal strategy is more important than their business strategy.

Synergize your strategy with the organization’s strategy

Once you have developed a personal strategy, you need to synergize it with the strategy of the organization you work for (or the one for your own business).  If you work for someone else, it’s a smart to even help in the development of the organization’s strategic plan, preferably one that takes a Blue Oceans Strategy approach. In so-doing you’ll become familiar with its underlying priorities which, in turn, makes you a co-creator in the organization’s future; motivating your own future within it.

 Manage cultural clashes

If you experience feelings of exclusion or marginalization, or if your values and in particular your socio-cultural priorities are not respected, performance will suffer. This can even occur if dietary differences like vegetarian, vegan, Halaal or Kosher are not catered for.  Organizational ignorance of cultural diversity often manifests a loss of group cohesion and poor performance.  In this instance, the mental toughness needed will require you to initiate and engage in difficult conversations with your organization about any differences in social and cultural needs. This engagement should be done without a loss of dignity or integrity for either party.  Investing your passion and effort into the organization’s plan helps you feel that you are achieving your own plan simultaneously. If however a large gap exists between your own plans and values and those of the organization, you will experience a loss of motivation and ultimately, resentment.  In fact, there’s very little chance of building mental muscle and expressing mental toughness in this environment.

If you find yourself in this situation you are at a significant crossroad.  As I see it here are some of your options; firstly you can accept the difference between your personal strategy and that of the organization.  But, a consequence is that you are likely to lead a life of growing resentment and demotivation.  Secondly, you can change your personal strategy and try to bring it closer to the organizational one.  This may be problematic choice, but it can be a tactic which gives you sufficient time to reassess what’s possible in your life.

The third choice is the one I would generally recommend and that is to engage with the organization and identify where you can collaborate so that your mutual strategies correspond more.  Alternatively, you can find another organization to work for that has a strategy which aligns with your own. Finally, you could opt to work for yourself.

My fourth and last recommendation is the one I chose a long time ago, and that is to generate your own income sources. At times, the consequences of this choice have been tough but I’ve never regretted it. What is clear to me is that it’s crucial for you to develop coherence between your personal plans and the work that you are involved with.

You don’t live your life in separate compartments. The more you’re able to align your work with your life, the more effective, efficient and mentally tough you’ll become. Nevertheless, although I say that we shouldn’t compartmentalize our lives, in times of extreme demand and stress it can be a useful tactic to mentally bracket the part of your life that’s causing you undue stress. This area is then somewhat contained, whilst you deal with it and you minimize the spill-over onto other areas of your life.

Dr Steve Harris. Motivational speaker, team building, conference speaker, keynote speaker