How to lead when your team is not as excited about the strategy as you are

How to lead when your team is not as excited about the strategy as you are

Over the past three years, we have conducted the Ready2Accelerate survey at the beginning of every year. 


We have been asking CEOs, “What percentage of your staff can you confidently say are fully engaged- happy, understand the vision and willing to put in the extra effort?” 

The responses have been varied. Some CEOs were confident that 100% of their team is energised and committed to the vision for the year. Other CEOs were less confident and offered significantly lower percentage. 

Given the worrying statistics on employee engagement, the possibility of leading a team or organisation where many team members are not interested in the company’s strategy is ever-present. Various personal challenges may arise causing team members to show up at work without the expected enthusiasm. 

Even if everything is perfect at work, team members may have personal situations that need attention beyond work. These may cause some team members to lose their verve for a moment. 

Unfortunately, team members cannot pack their emotions at home and show up as robots at work every day without them. Many leaders grapple with the challenge of leading team members who are not engaged or excited about their organisation’s strategy. 

The perils of developing strategy without involving others:

There are many approaches leaders adopt to resolve the challenge of disengagement during the strategy development process.

Many leaders engage their teams early during strategy development to get their buy-in. Only a few leaders ignore this time-tested approach. 

Recently, a leader set aside the ideas generated by the team that congregated for an offsite for the sole purpose of crafting the strategy for the organisation.

The leader was present during the strategy session but did not contribute to the ideas generated. After the session, the leader called two people together to work on a strategy that he believed was appropriate to be submitted to the board. 

This strategy will face resistance and low energy from the first day of implementation. The leaders who invested their time in the process feel side-lined. The leader has communicated that their ideas do not matter and that he can do without them.

I won’t be surprised if the team goes to every length to register their displeasure at being slighted. 

CEOs who, for whatever reason, refuse to engage other team members and produce ideas that they expect everyone to support are rare example.

What if the team leader had engaged all the key stakeholders, and the team worked together to develop a workable strategy for the organisation, yet team members did not show any palpable excitement about the strategy and the possibilities it could offer the organisation? How can the leader lead when faced with such a situation?

Accept that not every team member will be excited at the beginning:

Every good strategy will require changes to the made to the operating model of the organisation. The new strategy may call for new approaches to working, resource and role realignment. 

These changes can cause discomfort among some team members. The team members who have invested time preparing new strategies are unlikely to reject them. However, they may not happily welcome these changes. 

This mixed emotions does not mean they are against the new strategy. Hence, leaders must not judge this initial reaction as a sign of a lack of interest in the new strategy.

This change response is normal, and with continuous engagement, the leader can turn lukewarm team members into ardent supporters of the new strategy. 

Begin with your core fans and rally the rest in time:

Research from McKinsey indicates that the critical point or threshold of employee involvement in successful organisation-wide transformation is 7%. Leaders are more likely to successfully implement a new strategy if at least 7% of team members are deeply involved. Hence, leaders must not brood over those who are uninterested in the new strategy. 

First, they must find the 7% and start with them. Great leaders acknowledge that they don’t end at the 7% but work their way through the organisation, winning the hearts and minds of every team member.


Contextualise the reasons for disengagement and offer support:

To win as many hearts and minds as possible, leaders must seek to understand and analyse the cause of the lack of interest. There could be many reasons for lack of interest. 

Even though every member was in the room during the strategy development process, some may feel the ideas are unachievable. Others may be disinterested in the process because the ideas they thought would work were ignored. 

The leader has to acknowledge these sentiments and find ways to engage significant team members without wasting time. Leaders must do the hard work of rallying the team together towards a common cause after the rigorous debates that characterise the creation of strategies. 

Delegate responsibilities to other leaders and celebrate progress

One leader made significant progress when she delegated responsibilities to a group of previously uninterested stakeholders. Now, all the team leaders are delivering on their strategy. Some leaders make the mistake of working with only those who have shown enthusiasm. 


This decision leads to a few people lifting a heavy load. The implementation process becomes slow and burdensome. It is essential to effectively communicate and establish advocates or champions for each aspect of the strategy.

No leader can go on the journey alone. Leaders must start with the few sparks that may be available and grow the base of enthusiastic fans throughout the organisation. 
Be of good cheer

Critical steps for rallying the team behind the strategy:

1. Find the critical 7% of the team excited about the strategy and start working with them.

2. Recruit more fans, and offer them opportunities to lead and celebrate progress. 


The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, Founder of the CEO Accelerator Program ( and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory(

The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice.

If you have an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to [email protected]. Until you read from us again, keep leading.... from leader to leader, one practice at a time.

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