343: How to Be More Strategic in Six Steps with Stacey Boyle

By September 10, 2018Podcasts

 

 

Stacey Boyle says: "Purpose dominates method."

Stacey Boyle shares the why and the how behind being more strategic at work.

 

You’ll Learn:

  1. What “be more strategic” really means
  2. Why to ALWAYS establish the purpose before the method
  3. The three building blocks of smart decisions

 

About Stacey

Stacey has led global consulting and research departments for over 20 years, during which she has built a reputation for groundbreaking work connecting investments in people to critical business outcomes. Today she runs two consulting firms that help some of the world’s best companies and non-profits answer their pressing business questions about investments in people. Stacey is President and Chief People Planner for Smarter People Planning, LLC, and Chief Assayer for Assay|Edu, LLC. Stacey has a Ph.D. in Applied Behavioral Research & Evaluation.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Stacey Boyle Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Stacey, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Stacey Boyle
Thanks Pete, I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, me too, me too. First I wanted to start by hearing that you have recently, or maybe it’s been longstanding, developed something of an addiction to audio books. What is the backstory here and what are you listening to?

Stacey Boyle
Well, very interesting. I had a friend – sort of, I’m a competitive type person, so my friend told me he read or listened to 50 audio books in six months.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, did he?

Stacey Boyle
Oh yes – well, he claimed he did, whether he did or not, I don’t know. He claimed he did. Being competitive – having a competitive nature, I thought yeah, no, no, I’m going to do 51 at least. I didn’t quite make it, but I worked pretty hard and got there. I was listening to a lot of non-fiction books, business books. I’ve listened to a couple of fiction books, but primarily non-fiction.

We just kind of have a fun way of competing. We always compare “What are you reading? What are you reading?” He’ll read things that are little more headier than I do, but we just kind of have fun. I really – it’s become really bad. I wake up first thing in the morning, it’s like “Alexa play Audible.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Stacey Boyle
Oh no, see now she heard me. Now she started to play Audible.

Pete Mockaitis
Audible playing. What will play now from Alexa? What’s queued up? I’ll put you on the spot.

Stacey Boyle
Yeah. Alexa stop. She just started playing when I said that, so I had to go stop her.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool. I don’t know if this counts as a secret advantage, but one of our sponsors is called Blinkist, which I’m a huge fan of. You can get summaries of non-fiction books either read, you can read them, or read to you, audio. I think that their voice talent is really strong in terms of I actually enjoy listening to the voice who’s reading.

You can sort of get the core ideas of a book in 10 to 15-ish minutes. I think it’s perfect for books you’re like, “I know I’m not going to read this whole thing, but oh cool, I can get the basics in a shorter period of time.” That’s Blinkist.

Stacey Boyle
That’s a great way for me to beat my friend too, to be like, “Hey, guess what? I did 100.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s right. He’s just like, “What?” And you’ll be able to speak knowingly and intelligently about them. Awesome. Cool.

I want to hear your scoop. One book that is near and dear to your heart that should probably be read and savored every word as opposed to summarized with a Blinkist, is your book, Be More Strategic in Business. What’s it all about?

Stacey Boyle
Well, thanks Pete. I want to give you a little bit of backstory. Our full title for the book because of course all good book we have to have a nice long subtitle because we try to be simple upfront. Our full title is Be More Strategic in Business: How to Win Through Stronger Leadership and Smarter Decisions.

I wrote this book with my business partner Diana Thomas. In the introduction we talk about our backstory. We have a pretty interesting backstory.

Diana started working at McDonalds in a restaurant in Maryland when she was 16 years old. She ended up working her way all the way up across the next 35 years to become the vice president of training and development for McDonalds U.S. and was the dean of Hamburger University.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Stacey Boyle
She has a longtime running career working for McDonalds corporate.

I started my career, I graduated with my doctorate at the age of 29 and then went out and worked for a big five consulting firm and then just went to a bunch of different companies. I worked for the top three e-learning companies. I worked for a predictive analytics company, a learning and development magazine.

I kind of got the breadth and Diana’s got the depth. Between the two of us, we’re both leaders now, but we’ve kind of gone at it sort of different ways. We’ve seen different things. I’ve seen many different industries just as Diana has.

We came together – we met, it’s kind of interesting. I sort of stalked her since 2005. She didn’t really know it, but I kind of did. I got into a-

Pete Mockaitis
Several years here.

Stacey Boyle
I did. Finally I told her this story, she’s like, “I didn’t know you were lurking in the background.” I said, “Well, I was.”

I went to a conference and I arrived late because my flight was late or something like that. I arrived late and I saw Diana presenting. She was a keynote on a stage. I thought, “Whoa, I really like this woman. I like her message. She’s strategic. I can learn so much from her. I love where she’s going.” She was presenting about the training programs and all the initiatives they had at McDonalds.

When I was watching her present I thought, “Wow, what’s she’s doing with data, she can really do a lot more. She could show a lot more of these results.” But what I had to offer in 2005 wasn’t really resonating with people because I was in the area of predictive analytics and that wasn’t a thing really in 2005. People didn’t understand it. It was a thing in my world, but it wasn’t in the rest of the world.

I really wasn’t sure how to approach Diana about it, so I just kind of stayed back, didn’t really talk to her too much. Fast-forward to 2010, I ended up working for a learning and development magazine. We designed learning awards. McDonalds applied and Diana kept wondering why she wasn’t ranking higher in the awards when they were announced.

I went out to McDonalds corporate and talked to her and I said, “Well, here’s the reason. Your measurement could be a lot stronger. You could have a lot more results focused and focus on outcomes a lot more.” She’s like, “Wow, what are you talking about?” I said, “This is what I identified in ’05 but I didn’t talk to you about it.” That was 2010.

When she retired a couple years ago – when she retired, we talked to each other and I said, “Hey, we’ve got such a great story what we’ve done together at McDonalds and what we’ve done with other clients, we should write a book about strategic leadership,” because we both are very different leaders.

Diana is naturally a strategic leader. She naturally is a big picture thinker and sees results immediately. Whereas I came out of academia and I was just very tactical, in the weeds person. I had to learn to kind of become strategic.

With the two of us, we were good partners because she would be big picture and I would be details tactical with the data and then I would talk to her about how to apply that strategically. That’s where sort of it worked – our relationship and our business partnership works really well, in that sense. We learned from each other and we leverage each other’s strengths.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Yeah. Intriguing and beautiful that partnership and how it all came together there. I do recall, I believe it was in 2007, we were trying to – predictive analytics really wasn’t much of a thing.

I remember we were consulting a call center and we needed to get some better prediction associated with forecasting of call volumes based upon the day of the week and where it was in the year based on historical data. It was really hard, like “Hasn’t someone already figured this out? Can’t we just buy a piece of software that does this for us?” The answer was kind of but not really at the time I remember.

Stacey Boyle
No, you couldn’t have. But we could have set up a regression model for you and have done that for you, but-

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, we had to do it the hard way. Exactly. It was like, “Okay, day of the week, the month,” etcetera, “Is there a holiday? How did it go last year?” which was helpful because you want to have the right number of reps on the phone and not too few and not too many or you’re having crazy hold times that drive people nuts or you have people just sitting around and kind of spending more money than you need to.

Stacey Boyle
That’s right. What’s the right mix to deliver the right results? That’s what we needed to know.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. Let’s talk about this word ‘strategic”. One, what do you mean by it and why is it valuable? What’s sort of the antithesis of being strategic?

Stacey Boyle
Okay, great question. Let me start this. When I first got out of college I had my doctorate and I got my first job at a big consulting firm. I had moved. I had just gotten married. I moved to the Chicago area and started my big job. I was really excited. I had my six-month probation performance review.

When I sat down with my manager he said, “You didn’t get a good review.” He started by telling me that and saying that “People did not like meeting with you. They don’t like talking to you. They think you’re too in the weeds. All you do is pull up a spreadsheet on the screen. You start talking line by line and telling people what you’ve done. People don’t care what you’ve done Stacey.”

I was in shock. I was thinking what – essentially he was telling me I was being too tactical. He said to me, “You need to be more strategic.” I didn’t know what that meant. He didn’t tell me what that meant and I asked him, “What does this mean?” Mind you, this is before the internet. I couldn’t go Google it and figure it out. He said, “This is a big consulting firm. You need to be more strategic.” Then I didn’t know what he meant.

Of course I’m a thoroughbred, so I’m going to dig in and try to figure this out here. Then I would watch the people around me get promoted and get promoted. I would work really hard. I tried to figure out and I’d ask people, “What does being more strategic mean? What does this mean? What does this mean?” I’d watch people and observe.

I got an idea. I started getting better because I realized people would come to me, start talking about results. They’re saying, “Well, we found 10% did this. We’ve got the majority of the learners doing this. We’re seeing this outcome over here. We’ve seen this change in sales.” I’m like, “But how? How? How?” I wasn’t realizing I don’t need to focus on the how; I need to focus on the results.

That did not come naturally to me. I had to gradually learn over time how to become strategic, what it meant. What that means is when you aren’t strategic, what it means is that people won’t include you in meetings because they think you’re longwinded.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. We’ll never finish on time if Stacey’s here.

Stacey Boyle
That’s right. We’re going to get there and who wants to sit here through this whole spreadsheet, right? You get passed over for promotions. Guess what? When it’s time for layoffs, guess who’s the first on the chopping block? Because you’re doing a lot of stuff, but is it the right stuff? That’s what you have to know. Are you moving the needle with what you’re doing? You need to know that. You need to plan accordingly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so we’ve seen very clearly the consequences of being not strategic versus being strategic. This word then, part of it’s focusing on the results and focusing on the right stuff that’s going to truly impact things. Any other kind of layers or facets of the definition of being strategic?

Stacey Boyle
Yeah, what we’ve done specifically is we came up with – Diana and I really like to use metaphors because we think metaphors resonate with people. If I explain this to you in a metaphor, you’re going to remember the metaphor and the story that I tell you versus just telling you, “Okay, we have a six-factor model,” You’re not going to remember these factors.

Pete Mockaitis
A great metaphor is like a string around your finger.

Stacey Boyle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
See what I did there. Couldn’t resist.

Stacey Boyle
And I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
….

Stacey Boyle
A good metaphor on how to be more strategic in business is we’re – in our book we help you build a strategic ladder. The idea is that this is a ladder that you build that you can take with you to different companies, different organizations, different industries, whatever you need. But once you build this ladder, you’re always working on the rungs of the ladder.

The metaphor we use in the book is Diana had a conversation with Stephen Covey, you know the – Stephen Covey with Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He has a metaphor about building a ladder and having a ladder in a jungle.

The leader is the one who climbs the ladder and looks over all the treetops and says – and all the producers are down on the ground clearing the weeds, whacking with the machetes, knocking everything down.

The leader is the one that climbs the ladder and looks over the treetops and says, “Hey guys, we’re in the wrong jungle,” or “Guess what? Everybody else is across the river. We need to go across the river,” or “Hey guys, keep going. We’re doing the right thing.”

Pete Mockaitis
What’s so great about that metaphor is if you’re the person who’s just sweating bullets with the machete chopping down stuff and you’re like, “Who’s this lazy jerk that gets to just chill out on a ladder?”

Stacey Boyle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“He’s not doing any real work like all of us over here.”

Stacey Boyle
Exactly. They’re down there doing stuff, but is it the right stuff? That leader up there above the treetops can see they are doing the right things to keep the job.

Then that leader will have that ladder and they can move to another jungle, they can move over to a construction site, then can take that ladder and become a firefighter, take their ladder with them. Once you kind of have these core skillsets of being strategic and seeing the big picture, then you can move around successfully and you can be really awesome at your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, excellent. Let’s hear it. If someone is sort of a rank and file employee, not a vice president or director, but somewhere below that, what are some of the first steps to develop this mindset and this view and becoming more strategic?

Stacey Boyle
What we’ve come up with is this six-factor model. The first factor, so think of the first rung on your ladder, and that’s around developing your foundational skills. How do you do this?

This is what I didn’t understand back in the day when I was told I was too tactical. This is where you need to understand what’s going on inside your organization, inside your industry, outside your industry. You need the big picture of what’s going on around you. Sometimes you get that with your onboarding training, sometimes you don’t.

The bottom line is it’s up to you to understand what your organization is trying to accomplish and how you can help them accomplish that. If you don’t understand that, then you’re not going to have the big picture and have clear direction in your job.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. Any pro tips on first steps towards that?

Stacey Boyle
I think one look at – if you’re a new employee, what you get with your onboarding training. You can get a lot of information there. You should definitely know your company inside and out. We always say, “You need to be at least as well informed about your company as your customers are.” You need to know everything about your company and not just your silo.

If you’re just sitting in IT or you’re just sitting in marketing, you don’t need to know just that aspect. If you work for a retail company, you need to go out and shop that store. You need to know that store. If you work for a big consulting firm, you need to understand all the solutions that your organization offers that people can purchase and how do they use it. How do they make decisions with what you give, the services and products you offer?

Pete Mockaitis
But Stacey, that’s not my job.

Stacey Boyle
Yes, it is. … everything – you’re responsible for everything. Diana says this all the time. You’re responsible for everything in a 360 degree radius. If you don’t have to – as a leader, you don’t have to go do it, but if you hear of something that needs to get done and you have an ability to help someone, then you need to go do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That’s a great gauge right there, at least as much as your customers know. Sometimes – I’m thinking about one of my first internships, it was with Eaton Corporation and their electrical equipment.

My gosh, there’s a lot of electrical equipment out there and I didn’t really know much about electrical equipment I just sort of turned on the lights and then the lights turned on. But in terms of the transformers and the generators and the switches and all the stuff that’s necessary in order for electricity to flow and get going.

Their customers, it varied by segment, but my goodness, there was a lot to learn just in terms of “What the heck is this piece of equipment and what does it do? Why would you want to buy ours versus the other guy’s?” It took some learning to get there.

Stacey Boyle
Yeah, sure. That’s why we talk about this – we use the metaphor of a ladder because it takes you a while to get there. For a while, your bottom rung may be made of Jell-O. It may not be very stable. That’s okay. It will get solidified as you learn more and more and more and you research about your industry and your competitors. You can look at benchmark and look what’s going on in other industries.

But you need – so our first factor in our leadership model is to develop your foundational skills. The difference is developing them intentionally, really trying to do it and ensuring you do that.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say skills, I guess, not to be Mr. Distinction annoyer guy tactical …, but when you say skills, a lot of this sort of kind of sounds like just sort of knowledge, like content knowledge, like these are the facts and the contexts and thusly what’s a big deal, what’s not a big deal and sort of having that foundational understanding. Is there sort of more that kind of is underneath the umbrella of the skills here?

Stacey Boyle
Yeah. What we’re thinking – what we’ve seen and what we know is you develop your foundational skills around the organization. You also have to build out your personal foundational skills. What is your vision? What is your ideas of where you want to be? Where do you want to go? How can you add value?

You have to intentionally think about what you want to do within – say if your organization and your industry is this box, to play within this box, what do you need to do to contribute to what’s going on in there? We want you thinking about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. What’s the second rung?

Stacey Boyle
It’s called – the second one is about establishing a vision. If you’re working – let’s say you’re working in a certain function. You’re in IT, sales, maybe you’re in learning and development. When you work in a function, the vision of your function needs to clearly be tied to the corporate structure, the corporate vision.

The way this comes down is the corporation has a vision. There’s a reason they’re doing what they’re doing. There’s a reason they’re in business. You want to know how what you do ties to that bigger reason. That’s where the strategy comes in, understanding what your corporation does down to what your department does, how you contribute to the strategy that drives the vision.

You need to understand how your functional vision ties to the bigger vision. If you’re leading that function or you may not be leading the function yet, you may be an aspirational leader and hope to lead that function someday. You want to be sure that your department’s vision is tied to the bigger vision.

If it’s not, this is where you get an opportunity to manage up maybe, to work with your manager and think about how you can tie your task, what you do, to the broader vision because sometimes it’s not as well thought out as you would hope it could or should be.

Pete Mockaitis
Well could you give us a couple of examples in terms of hey, here’s a misfit or a poorly aligned situation with regard to a function and the overall vision versus a great one, so we can kind of make that a little clearer?

Stacey Boyle
Yeah. I can give you – specifically – so we’re from the learning and development, so workforce training is where our background is. Lots of times we’ll have programs, somebody will say, “Oh my gosh, we’re missing the sales mark. We’ve missed sales for the last two years. We have a big problem. Let’s go put two million dollars in sales training. Let’s go train the whole sales force.”

Maybe that’s not really the problem. Maybe there’s something else. Maybe you have a leadership problem. Maybe you have a product problem. Maybe you have an innovation problem. Maybe you have something else.

The alignment and the learning development is just being reactive and not really thinking through and aligning what you need to do and looking across the organization and looking at what really is the root cause of the problem, so you’re not really aligned to what you need to achieve your vision. You’re going out and you’re making all these investments and you’re not making an impact. You’re not moving the needle.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fantastic in terms of it’s a kneejerk response, “Ah, you do training. We are not getting the sales we want; therefore, the intersection that’s appropriate is for you to do training for our salespeople.”

But I guess if you have that context in terms of looking around and seeing what’s going on, you might very well learn and maybe have some conversations with some salespeople, “Whoa, it’s really hard to sell this product when there’s a competitor who has a product that works better and costs less.”

Stacey Boyle
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“Of course, anybody would choose the other guy over us, so go figure we’re having a hard time selling it.”

Then your role in terms of training might really be more so about “Oh well, how do we be closer to the customer, to learn what they really need and innovate or how can we sort of push improvements out faster instead of getting bogged down by bureaucracy or slow decision making or whatever is resulting in us falling behind in terms of having a great competitive offering that’s worth selling and buying.”

Stacey Boyle
Exactly. This is actually one of the sort of issues behind the curtain of learning development that we have is a lot of investments made in learning and development are what we call faith-based investments. That means we know investing in the workforce is important to do and so we just do that. We’re not going to really measure impact or kind of see because we just know that sales are going to go up because have to train the sales force.

But there’s no clear vision or strategy or plan around why we’re training or what we’re going to train, and what are the targets we expect to achieve, what are the outcomes we expect. All of that’s not thought through sometimes just because it’s we’re just going to throw this money at this problem that we think we have, but it’s really not clear yet.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. I do training myself. That is a pet peeve. I’m really careful to sort of capture some figures in the before and after that really do point to a tremendous ROI with regard to, “Hey, look at all the hours saved from not – no longer participating in meetings that should not happen or tasks that should not be done or analyses that should not have been done or could have been done more efficiently and effectively.”

It’s like hey, what do you know? 1.4 hours per person, well multiply that out. That kind of really adds up pretty quick just recouping your training investment.

I’m a big believer in that because otherwise – faith-based, I think that’s a good way to say it. It’s like, “Well, we’re hoping that the money we put here is doing some good. Yeah, but it’s really hard to say. How can you measure that?” It may be tough to measure, but I think you’ve got to do a little something with regard to alignment and measuring of your training.

Stacey Boyle
Well, that’s exactly – you hit the nail on the head because that is rung number five when we jump up there.  We have a tool that we use called the Impact Blueprint, whereby we encourage people to think to lay out what is the impact you expect.

You think about what are the metrics that are the leading indicators, just like you talked about: hours saved, time saved, the return on investment. What you want to do is think about what are the leading indicators and what are the business impact metrics that we expect to show that we’ve impacted the strategy, the corporate strategy.

You want to set targets to do that. You want to have targets, so we know where our destination is, so we know if we reach our destination or we exceed our destination. That’s why it’s important to have the targets.

We like the Impact Blueprint framework because it’s – everything is on one sheet. It’s not – it can be simple to complete, but it can also be complex. The good thing about it is it’s a strategic thought-provoking process to go through. The listeners on the podcast can go to our website, BeMoreStrategicInBusiness and go to Resources and download an Impact Blueprint template that we have up there for them.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. What’s the third rung?

Stacey Boyle
Is engage stakeholders. Be sure you have – again, it’s looking across your organization. Be sure you have supporters for yourself personally as you develop professionally and for your organization. Don’t do this in isolation and do not work in a silo because if people do not know who you are and other leaders do not know who you are and what you do, you will not survive. That’s clear. Then the fourth rung is-

Pete Mockaitis
Can we hear a little bit more about engaging stakeholders? You say one of the problems is that folks are just not even aware of who you do – who you are, what you do and how that matters. What are some of your top tips for that?

I’m thinking of this comes in terms of sort of like the interdepartmental or inter-functional stuff. Just sort of how do you make that known in terms – you probably don’t want to just get a bullhorn. But it’s important that many people have that awareness so they can know when to reach out and then to calibrate their own decision making based upon your group’s needs.

Stacey Boyle
Yeah, absolutely. The bottom line is smart networking. It’s networking internally. Diana tells a story about needing some IT solutions for the learning and development function and other organizations have gone to the executive team and asked for more funding for IT. We’re having a really hard time getting the funding through.

But Diana was really savvy and went around and got support from other functions. She demonstrated and she built the case for these other functions. When they got into the meeting, not only was she there making the ask, but there were other people supporting her ask because she demonstrated how this funding would support the other functions. There were multiple people going in asking for this funding for her department.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great.

Stacey Boyle
Because she had networked and built the case outside.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent.

Stacey Boyle
That’s another point. I just want to make one more point. That’s another point that we discuss is that I didn’t even realize this. I learned this from Diana many years ago is that decisions are not made in meetings. You think the decisions are made there, but lots of times decisions are made before you get to the meeting. The meeting is just a formality.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. I saw that in my work in strategy consulting. We called that pre-wiring, getting all the folks and all their concerns addressed before the meeting so then we all just sort of collectively ratify it together. As well as they say a lot of work in government or the United Nations in terms of yeah, what you see out on the floor of the assembly has kind of already been sort of sorted out in many ways.

Stacey Boyle
Yeah, that’s not the pre-show. That’s the show.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay, cool. Smart networking, any pro tips for doing that well?

Stacey Boyle
I would say definitely put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

If you’re an introvert and you need to go out and maybe you don’t know anything about IT or sales or some of the operation functions, go out under the auspices of learning more and exploring and get to know your coworkers. You can do that formally. You can do that informally. But it’s very important that you do that with whatever approach you’re comfortable with.

When we talk about engaging the stakeholders, you want to engage stakeholders not only from a business side, but from a professional side. You want to use these other stakeholders to help you develop yourself professionally.

We encourage you to not only include your fans when you ask for feedback and ask for support, you want to include people that can be your critics too, that are harshest on you because you’ll get a great perspective from them as well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Let’s talk about the fourth rung here.

Stacey Boyle
Okay, so the fourth rung we have is about building your strategic plan. We think you need to have a plan to have direction, to know where you’re going. When people are tactical, they’ll tend to just focus on the how. “How am I going to do this?” They’ll just jump in.

Whenever I consult with peoples sometimes they’ll say, “Stacey are we going to do surveys? How are we going to do this? Are we going to do a regression? Are we going to do focus groups? How are we going to do this? How are we going to measure the impact of this?” I say, “Wait, wait, wait. It’s not how.” “But we just bought a big survey tool. We have to use it. How are we going to survey? We’ve got to do it.”

I’m like, “Wait, wait. Why? Why are we doing this? What are we trying to accomplish here? We have to have the plan.” Sometimes people that are not strategic don’t want to think about the plan. That’s one thing where you can help yourself is start laying out a plan.

That’s why I mentioned the Impact Blueprint. It kind of helps you think through and build out a plan and a strategy for yourself and your project and your investments to think through what the outcomes are.

One thing that we say is that we want you to be sure that, keep this in mind, is that purpose dominates method. The purpose of what you’re doing and why you’re trying to do this – take on an activity or a task or investment – is more important than how you do it, than the method.

If somebody comes and says, “Okay, let’s do predictive analytics.” That’s not the answer. It’s what are we trying to accomplish. I don’t know if that’s the right solution. I don’t know if that’s how we go about it. I want to know what we’re trying to accomplish first.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. That’s a nice succinct way to say that: purpose dominates method. Yes. Okay, so when building out the strategic plan, what are some of the most critical questions you want to make sure that you answer well to have a pretty solid robust thorough plan?

Stacey Boyle
One thing that we think is important in a plan is we have – to build out a strategic plan, we have it all the way from you start at the vision, the corporate vision. This is to ensure that you stay aligned strategically. Mentally, this blueprint helps you stay aligned mentally and it helps you physically and tactically stay aligned.

You think what’s the vision. Then what’s the corporate strategy. Then how does my function contribute to that corporate strategy. Because there may be ten components to the corporate strategy. There may be three components. Your function contributes to one, two, three or all three of them. You clearly align.

Everybody on your team needs to know where you align to the corporate strategy and then what your function strategy is this year or for the next four or five years, whatever your plan is, however long your plan is, and then how you contribute to that strategy.

Then what you can do from there is then what you do is think about what we do in this function and what are the business questions we need to ask and we need to answer this year. You can work with your stakeholders to figure out what are the business questions we need to answer to show that we are impacting the corporate strategy, which is influencing the mission.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Yes. All right, then we talked about the creation of the Impact Blueprint is showing up in the fifth rung of executing. Any other thoughts when it comes to the execution of the strategic plan?

Stacey Boyle
If the strategic plan is your blueprint, so if you have your blueprint, when you build your blueprint, you think through – we’re going to invest in all these activities, these initiatives, when you build your plan you think of what are our leading indicators and what are our impact measures that we want to track. You’ve thought through this and you have some targets that you want to achieve.

This is where you get into the how, how we’re going to do this. This is where we know if we’re doing surveys, if we’re doing predictive analysis, analytics, we’re doing correlations, whatever we’re doing we have a plan and we’re going to measure business impact. The reason this is strategic is because we’re showing the value of what we’re doing.

When there’s change going on all around you and everything is shifting and you feel like there’s an earthquake all the time, when you have a plan and you have a structure, you can – you have direction. You’re able to shift and move and pivot as you need to because you have a big picture of where you’re going and you’re staying aligned. If the corporate strategy changes, you can change your plan as well. You have to be flexible to change it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Then you’ve got it. You’re – I like those notions associated with the leading  indicators and the impact measures in terms of you can see real time if this thing is working out and then be prudent about shifting it as opposed to if you haven’t plan-fully, thoughtfully established those upfront, you’re probably never going to adjust. It’s like, “Well, we’re not done yet, so let’s keep going and see what happens.”

Stacey Boyle
It’s like, “Hey, we’re in the wrong jungle. It doesn’t matter. I’m still whacking away at the weeds. It doesn’t matter.”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Thank you. Well, then let’s talk about making the decisions from there.

Stacey Boyle
Really, what we’re saying is you can make smarter decisions because you will be making some data-driven decisions. Let me be clear. There are all kinds of data. There are quantitative. There are qualitative. There’s your gut feel. There’s your experience. All of that goes into decision making.

But we do need some data to make smart decisions. We’re not just making decisions like, “Let’s build a sales training. Sales is down. Let’s go build a training and go,” like we talked about. We’re making decisions based on evidence. We’re making evidence-based decisions.

We know this is what’s happening, so here are the decisions that we need to make. Yes, we need to train the sales force or we need to change this training program or we need to continue this marketing initiative or eliminate this sales program, whatever it may be.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Then when it comes to this decision making, do you have any particular checklists, frameworks, considerations that you go to again and again to make wise decisions?

Stacey Boyle
One thing that we like is we’re ensuring that again, engaging your stakeholders. When we work with our stakeholders, we’ll say, “Hey, here’s what we’re finding out. Here’s what we’ve seen with what’s going on.” We will collaborate and make decisions.

When we have meetings with stakeholders, you don’t want – this doesn’t necessarily have to be a consensus. It can be a collaborative and consultative process with you. If you’re the strategic leader, you’re looking – you’re making decisions with your stakeholders and you’re consulting with them. It doesn’t mean everything they say you have to do or you have to change your function or your activity is based on what they say.

You can take their insight, but you want to get feedback from everybody and say “Here’s what we’re seeing.” Somebody else may say, “Hey, we’re seeing the same pattern,” or “No, you’re off base because of this.”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Okay. Any others?

Stacey Boyle
I think that’s it. I think just having a plan and a picture and just being intentional is what’s important.

What we like about the ladder metaphor is that, like I said, factor five is the execute your strategic plan when people want to focus on the how, the people that don’t have – the tactical people don’t have the foundation, don’t have the bottom rungs. They just take a running jump and jump right on rung five and try to work their way up. But you don’t have a strong foundation, so you may not stay up there.

You may be leaning against a tree, but it may not be the right tree too. You don’t know. We think it’s important to – even though we don’t really so much like this linear process, we think this strong foundation is really important to have to make a stable ladder so that you can stay where you need to and you can continue to see over the treetops.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Could you maybe share an example of all of this coming together, each of the rungs and sort of a smashing success emerging as a result?

Stacey Boyle
Well, I think one I might be a smashing success.

Pete Mockaitis
There we go.

Stacey Boyle
…. Like I said, when I started the consulting firm, I jumped right to factor five. I came out of college and I was like, “Oh, I know how to do all of this stuff. I’m just going to start analyzing some data, getting some stuff, getting some programs, start analyzing it.” I had no idea what the business did. I didn’t really know what we sold. I was just doing a bunch of stuff and doing some spreadsheets.

Until I learned what I needed to do, until I needed to understand what be more strategic meant and how to act upon that and get those skills – I learned that through working with a bunch of different types of leaders, different types of organizations and moving from company to company, working with different companies as a consultant, working with different organizations and learning and observing other leaders, that really helped me to become more strategic.

Now when I work with my clients, I have to – it’s not natural for me, but I can work with intention and be strategic. I can get in the weeds too. I like doing that, but I realize that I have a better impact when I communicate strategically.

Some of the tips that we give about communicating strategically is that one you want to know yourself. You want to know what kind of person you are. Once – again, my feedback, I kind of knew that I can be longwinded and I can talk about details. I know how to sort of temper that now, well, not sort of, but I can temper that now, now that I know.

You want to know your audience, know who you’re speaking with. We give an example of if someone asked you “How was your weekend?” you’re going to give a different answer if it’s your mom or your doctor or your partner. You’re going to give a different answer to that. You have to know your audience.

And that you want to communicate with intention. I think one of the best examples of that is say you run into your CEO in the elevator and they say, “So, how are you doing Pete? What’s going on?”

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m good.”

Stacey Boyle
“I’m really tired man. I stayed up all night working on this project. Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go get a Starbucks as fast as possible.” That’s not what you want to say. You want to focus on results. You want to say, “Hey, remember that customer retention project you green lighted last month. We’re almost finished with it and we’re about to roll it out. We’re starting phase two next week. I’m really excited about it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s much better.

Stacey Boyle
That’s what you want to say. That’s when the CEO will say, “Pete, why don’t you come to my office and tell me how that goes in a week. Check in with me.” That’s what you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect.

Stacey Boyle
Another step that we found in communicating is around giving headlines. This is one thing that I learned pretty early on too is when you want to summarize information and you want to give the headline. You don’t want to give the details.

I used to think that I liked the storytelling part of the building up to the aha moment, but that’s not what people want to hear. People want the aha. They want the headline. Give them the headline and then if they want to know how you did it and the details and they want you to pull out that big 1,000 line spreadsheet with data and all filtered up, then you can do that. But that’s not what people want.

They want to know the answer to their business question. You do that upfront and that’s being strategic.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yeah. It’s not quite like a Netflix drama. We enjoy being teased and the bits and pieces falling into place. It’s a different animal entirely.

Stacey Boyle
Yeah. Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, well tell me Stacey, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Stacey Boyle
I think this is great. We’re excited. Like I said, we have some resources on the website. Not only do we have the Impact Blueprint template, but we also have a self-assessment, so many self-assessment type checklists for the six factors that you can go to our website and download.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Stacey Boyle
I have two quotes. I have a personal quote and then I’ll give you sort of a strategic business quote. My personal quote is from the movie Auntie Mame from 1958, my favorite movie. Auntie Mame says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

I love that quote because it teaches me to take risks and to live, live, live life and to stick your neck out and be vulnerable and courageous in my personal life and professional life.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely, thank you.

Stacey Boyle
That’s my personal quote. Then I have so many professional quotes, but one that I really like – I think a good strategic one is – comes from my favorite blogger. My favorite blogger right now is Avinash Kaushik. He’s the marketing evangelist for Google.

He says, “It’s not he ink; it’s the think.” When you think about that, it’s exactly what we were talking about. It’s not the details. It’s not how big the report is. It’s not how many slides you have in the PowerPoint. It’s the thought you put into it. What’s the headline?

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Stacey Boyle
Well, I have so many. My background is in research. But one that I just love that I go back professionally and personally is from Brene Brown. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her. Her first TED talk went viral in 2010. She was one in 2013. But she has one The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame and Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count.

Her research in vulnerability and courage, I listen to all the time when I’m in different points of my life personally and professionally. I can always pick up a little nugget and find something to apply. When you’re trying to climb your ladder, listen to Brene Brown because she will help you think about how you get up there and stay up there.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Stacey Boyle
I would say hands down my favorite book is Freakonomics. It’s always been. Then really anything by Marshall Goldsmith. I love his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, is exactly an alignment with what we’re talking about. All the skills and everything you have that got you to this place in your career, may not get you where you want to go.

I recommend Marshall Goldsmith book and the classics are the Covey books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I love The 4 Disciplines of Execution and Speed of Trust. I finished those. They’re excellent. There are lots of tips and things you can apply immediately.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Stacey Boyle
I would say that – I have a couple things. One, as I just mentioned, Avinash Kaushik, the digital marketing evangelist with Google, he has a blog called Occam’s Razor. I absolutely love it. He is fantastic. I’d highly recommend looking up Occam’s Razor blog.

Something that – I don’t know. Pete, have you ever seen The Profit on CNBC with Marcus Lemonis.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, Marcus Lemonis. Yeah, it’s fun. I like to watch it with my wife some times.

Stacey Boyle
Oh my gosh, I love that show. He’s so strategic. He gets in there – I just love it. I highly recommend that show on CNBC.

Pete Mockaitis
What I like about him is that he seems like he really just gets it through and through in terms of how people are people and they have emotions and things and yet they also need to be taking the right actions. He manages to deal with both sides I think quite effectively.

Stacey Boyle
Yeah, I agree. I saw one just last week. He was helping this company. He was helping them kind of – they make all personal investments and he was helping get them on the straight path to success.

He was telling the guy building the website; he’s like, “Okay, go build a website.” They guy’s like, “What do I do?” He said, “I don’t care. Make it great.” That’s strategic. That guy was like, “How do I make it great?” “You figure that out, but make it great.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. How about a favorite habit, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Stacey Boyle
100% it’s working out. I go to the gym Monday through Friday every morning. It’s a habit. I have to do it. It’s not only physical; it’s emotional stability for me so that’s critical for me. And sort of my addiction of listening to my books. I kind of have to do too.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, yeah. Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they quote it back to you?

Stacey Boyle
I would say I really think that “It’s not the ink; it’s the think,” that I share with people all the time seems to resonate with people. Again, that’s not mine. I got that from him. Then the quote from Auntie Mame seems to get a lot of laughs from people.

But I think really when I talk about, personally, when I talk about measuring the impact of business investments, when I talk about the leading indicators and the business metrics and that it’s really important to not just show vanity metrics, which are all the metrics that say, “Hey, look how good we are. Look how many people we’ve trained. Look how many website clicks we got.” Don’t just show your vanity metrics. You want to show where you made an impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Stacey, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Stacey Boyle
To our website, which is BeMoreStrategicInBusiness.com. You can find more information out about myself and Diana Thomas and the resources for the book.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Stacey Boyle
Yes, my final challenge is to be and stay strategic to be awesome at your job and have an awesome career.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect. Well, Stacey, this has been a lot of fun. Thank you and keep on being strategic and helping others do the same. This has been a whole lot of fun.

Stacey Boyle
Thank you Pete. I appreciate it. Yes, this was great.

Leave a Reply