Owning Up: Common Mistakes in Leadership and Strategy

Every movie produced under the Disney name is expected to perform extremely well, to the point that Disney films are shoe-ins for awards and accolades before their trailers are even released. With their recent acquisition of the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, it was common opinion that the brand would continue to own the market. 

With that in mind, when The Marvels, a 2023 installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, flopped at the box office, it shocked everyone, up to and including Disney’s CEO.

When questioned about the failure of the highly anticipated film, CEO Bob Iger told Forbes that the cause was a quality issue stemming from a lack of supervision by executives on set. The comment sent shockwaves through the industry, as the CEO worked to shift the blame rather than own up to failure.

As the saying goes, victory has many parents while failure is an orphan. 

Our hosts, AchieveIt’s Jonathan Morgan, VP of Revenue Operations and Marketing and Joe Krause, Senior Vice President of Strategy Consulting, sit down to discuss effective leadership, common leadership mistakes, owning failure and avoiding the blame game. 

Mistake #1: Not leaving space for others and their opinions

When you are hosting a platform for discussion and problem-solving, the only way to ensure success is by offering an open platform where people can feel comfortable speaking their minds and sharing opinions freely. 

Jonathan shares a story about a time when he entered a meeting, and during the meeting, he could feel the tension between leadership and the rest of the room. He was not the only one who noticed, as the CEO himself stated that he felt the need to leave the room. 

Building and fostering relationships built on trust with your team is key. If your team feels heard and respected, they will speak up and continue to advance the organization with their ideas. On the other hand, if they are more likely to silence themselves out of fear, progress will never be made. 

“Building a culture where you can encourage ideas and input and be receptive of that input is a much better way than creating this negative culture where even in an open forum, nobody’s willing to provide their input,” Jonathan says.

Mistake #2: Allowing the loudest voices to dictate the reality for the rest of the team

When unveiling strategy changes, whether it includes mandatory overtime or a 10% raise across the board, there will always be pushback. 

Leaders often make the mistake of listening only to the loudest voices in the room and then allowing them to dictate the course of the organization. 

“Typically, the people that are the unhappiest are also the loudest. Leaders are sometimes unsure of the action to take themselves, and they’ll use the loudest opinion as validation, assuming that voice represents the opinion of the entire group,” Joe says. 

Joe shares that this usually happens when rolling out new and different types of work. Tracking changes, filing new reports, and the like are usually met with opposition instead of optimism. It is crucial for leaders to follow the strategic plan, giving the steps a shot before allowing the loud to take over. 

“We talk about this a lot. 10% of your organization hates everything. 10% of your organization loves everything. The other 80% of your organization can be swayed either way. Unfortunately for everyone, sometimes the squeaky wheels are the ones that garner the most attention, and it causes the ruin of some really great strategies,” Joe says. 

Also read: Achieving the 90/10 Ratio: Improving Meeting Efficiency for Success

Mistake #3: Overcorrecting and receiving too much input

When beginning the strategic planning process, many leaders are extremely ambitious to find pain points or points of potential improvement, leading to town halls and searching for as much input as possible. But, what do you do with that information? 

Often, leaders include every idea in the strategic plan, leading to a document boasting hundreds of pages. Yet, the plan is too in-depth and broad to ever be executed. 

Conversely, some leaders opt to include very little of the input in the strategic plan. This leads the team to feel like the search for information and volunteering opinions was all for nothing. 

Building out a direction, receiving appropriate amounts of input, putting that feedback into motion, and closing the feedback loop is key. 

Listen to The Strategy Gap

A podcast about the space between savvy strategy and practical execution, including everything that can go wrong on the way. 

Mistake #4: Poor communication after the plan is finished

At the end of the day, the strategic plan is finished. Leaders host a summit or a party to announce their plan, everyone is excited, then everyone clocks out and goes home — with the plan never coming up in conversation again. 

In this scenario, team members do not have the direction or guidance to accomplish big-picture goals and changes. It forms the precedence that the strategic plans of the future will not matter either, so motivation dims and work stalls. 

Regular communication, dedicated strategic plan updates, and incentive programs (even the base level of recognition-based incentives) are crucial for strategic plan success. 

Additionally, when team members find holes or problems within concepts of the strategic plan, encouraging and rewarding counter-suggestions will ensure your organization advances instead of stalls. 

Mistake #5: Shiny object syndrome

When building a strategic plan, it is easy for leaders to look at competitors and other companies to see what they have adopted. The problem arises when the strategic plan becomes a copy-and-paste of the rest of the industry. 

Strategic plans should be highly fine-tuned for your organization. The goal of strategic plans is to make your organization stronger and better, providing employees and customers with a better experience overall. Authenticity is key. 

Interested in learning more? Listen to Jonathan and Joe’s full discussion on the latest episode of The Strategy Gap, where they discuss these topics and more, including AI, reward systems, proper and improper communication styles, KPIs, and more. 

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