When it comes to leading Strategy and Operations at any level of an organization, there can often be competing priorities that blur the focus on what is most important. For any great Strategy and Operations Leader, being able to discern what to prioritize and when is critical to success in the role. However, this is certainly easier said than done.
Further, with all of the ambiguity of a Strategy role, as well as the inevitable fires that will arise on a daily basis, it’s easy to lose sight of how you are empowering team members to achieve success. For many Strategy and Operations Leaders, the ability to remove friction and empower team members not only fuels growth for a company, but can also elevate the work of those around you.
While the ambiguity in Strategy and Operations necessitates the ability to flex between a number of different challenges, when the humanistic aspect of work is removed, individuals will begin to feel as if they’re punching a time card rather than being driven by a mission.
This is a challenge that Keith Ward, AVP of Operational Strategy, Change Management, and Organizational Impact for the National Wildlife Federation, recognized early in his time leading Strategy and Operations.
On this episode of Aspiring Ops, Keith dives into the role he plays as “the connective tissue” across the National Wildlife Federation, and how he’s approached the role with a ‘people-first’ mentality. He also highlights the way he goes about introducing new processes, and ensuring he has buy-in every step of the way.
For Keith, it’s his goal to ensure his colleagues always have clarity in their role and validation in the work they do. This was a point of focus for Céline Felan as well, as she outlined why it’s so important to provide clarity in the Chief of Staff role. For both Céline and Keith, the more people understand the value of their presence, the easier it is for them to recognize how important their contributions are to the success of the organization.
If a Strategy and Operations leader is intentional about centering team processes around the needs of their employees, then there becomes a sense of ownership throughout the organization. Not only does this help create a culture that drives alignment and engagement, but as Keith shares, it’s key to eliminating some of those undesirable fires that pop up on a daily basis.
“When you work in Operations, everyone has a fire, but you need to be really intentional about how we proceed and make the change lasting,” says Keith. “Operations can bring people together to figure out these solutions. In doing so, you get people to gain an understanding for how their other colleagues work, which can alleviate a lot of these fires in the future because that understanding creates empathy.”
In other words, when individuals are able to see how their contributions directly affect the work of others and the company’s big picture, they take pride in their ability to have a positive influence on organizational success.
At the end of the day, people work to make an impact in some capacity. The more we as Strategy and Operations leaders are able to empower our teams to do so, the more success we’ll see. So as inevitable fires arise that leave us scrambling for solutions, be sure not to overlook the most important aspect within any organization…people.
To learn more about the National Wildlife Federation, check them out here!
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