Peter had a unique ability to always be present with people. He listened carefully to what they said, commented in a way that indicated he had understood, and asked insightful questions. It was even more unique in that he did the same thing no matter whether they were executives like him or receptionists or cleaning staff. He sought opinions and ideas from everyone, and if they challenged his own thinking, he asked deeper questions in an effort to really understand points of view. As he stood in line in the cafeteria (and invited someone to go ahead of him), he never failed to ask questions about their work that exhibited a knowledge of their best contributions. Peter respected everyone, and he made it visible.
Ryan, the whiz kid who was really innovating in the technology department, was also a whiz at passing people without saying hello, or even holding up his purposeful stride long enough to hold the door for someone two steps behind him.
Brenda was nervous. A well-respected star in her organization, Brenda was excellent at great results and leading people to those great results. She was known as an outstanding problem-solver and planner. But the CEO had thrown out a challenge: “I’d like you to become more strategic.” Brenda was unnerved by his request. “What is being strategic? How do I become more strategic? I have no idea if I have it in me.”
There’s a stubborn consistency over the years in how poorly CEOs judge the success of their strategies. Beginning with John Kotter’s research in 1995, and followed by McKinsey’s in 2010, CEOs self-reported that only about 30% of their strategies were successful. Seemingly signaling a breakthrough, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s March 2013 survey of 587 global C-suite executives reported that, “on average, only 56% of strategic initiatives have been successfully implemented in the last three years at their organisations”. But a study by Towers Watson in September 2013 puts a dimmer on that seeming breakthrough: “Employers felt 55% of change management initiatives met initial objectives, but only 25% felt gains were sustained over time.” Whoops – back to the dismal 30% success rate in actually getting what you strategized.