5 mistakes leaders make when communicating strategic priorities

As skepticism about the value of a college degree grows, higher ed leaders face greater pressure to communicate their vision and value to students, parents, and the public.   

Unfortunately, few leaders in any field communicate their strategic goals well, Donald Sull, Stefano Turconi, and Charles Sull write for MIT Sloan Management Review

Based on the authors' analysis of companies within the Standard & Poor's 500 index, they identified five critical mistakes leaders make when communicating strategic priorities to stakeholders.

Mistake 1: You offer a laundry list of goals

A long list of strategic priorities suggests that leaders haven't wrestled with the trade-offs among competitive objectives, the authors write. Limiting the number of goals makes it easier for your internal and external stakeholders to understand what matters most to the institution.

Mistake 2: You don't define your priorities

Objectives that lack explanation or concrete examples can feel vague. Instead, leaders should explain how they define each priority and where each goal sits in the overall strategy, the authors suggest.

Mistake 3: You don't explain why your priorities matter to the stakeholder

Your stakeholders may not understand why a priority should matter to them. Drive home the importance of your priorities by explaining how they create value for the stakeholder, the authors write. Expedia, for example, articulated its commitment to innovations in terms of value to customers.

Also see: Win buy-in for strategic investments

Mistake 4: You don't explain how the goal will be accomplished or measured

To flesh out your objectives, include concrete example of your institution intends to reach the goal, the authors suggest. Similarly, explicitly communicating how each goal is measured tells stakeholders that the leadership team is committed to monitoring progress, they add.

Mistake 5: You don't set a target date

A concrete target date gives your objective teeth, the authors write. When leaders are willing to publicly stake their reputation on reaching a goal by a specific date, stakeholders are more likely to take that goal seriously, they write (Sull et al., MIT Sloan Management Review, 1/24).

Read more: Make your strategic goals meaningful for departments and faculty

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