Why Your Strategy Goes Off the Rails and How to Fix It

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading, Strategy
Reading time: 2 min.

Most of our time at work we focus on Do: getting done all the stuff that needs to be done.  This is sometimes called Execution. We rightly invest time, energy, and money improving our Do.

Sometimes, we pull back to examine What we should be doing (and why we should do it).  This is sometimes called Strategy. We should focus on making our What better and better.

Too often, though, our Strategy and Execution (our What and Do) go off the rails. Try as we might, the strategy didn’t work as we hoped; what we wanted done didn’t get done. It’s frustrating and exhausting.

Why the struggle? Partly it’s because there are so many market and internal pressures. Partly it’s because keeping everything in check demands lots of willpower. But mostly it’s because our strategies are missing two factors: We and Can.

We: If our strategy isn’t a win for everyone who matters (clients, shareholders, team members, and the community), they will resist. The resistance may be active or passive. To the extent everyone sees our strategy as a win for them, they will jump in.

Can is our head game. If any of us (especially the leaders) have fears, uncertainties, or doubts (most often seen as “Yeah Buts“), our strategies and execution (our What and Do) will suffer. If we have negative judgments/beliefs about ourselves, others, the situation, or the world, our strategies and execution will fall short. The good news is that fixing our head game is simple to do.

To fix our strategies, let’s invest in What We Can Do.

 

In your corner,

Mike

‘ext Before ‘ent, Please

Posted Leave a commentPosted in We=All Who Matter, What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 2 min.

For the sake of speed at work and home, we tend to concentrate on content: who’s doing what and how & when they are doing it. But, oh wow, does this generate resistance! People will actively or passively fight over these details. They fight mostly because they have no ways or means to agree. Our biggest mistake is trying to press harder and go faster to get past this resistance and on to performance.

The better way is to start with and frequently come back to the context. Context gives us a foundation to agree and build upon. We clarify what is true now, what we want to be true in the future, and why. A great way to kick things off is to ask, “What results will let us know we’ve done a good job here? And how will we know we’ve done a good job along the way to getting those results?” With context set, the content conversations will flow much more easily and productively.

‘ext before ‘ent, please.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: It is so much easier to find agreement or come up with creative win-win solutions at the context level than we ever can at the content level.

PPS: Another word for context is strategy. Another word for content is tactics.

PPPS: The simplest way of describing the difference: why vs. how. Next time you notice the team getting stuck, see if they’re open to setting aside the how for a moment and focusing on the why.

 

Today’s photo credit: Free the Image First contact. via photopin (license)

Certain Change Leaders

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
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Some leaders are comfortable with and even thrive in uncertainty and change. We see them being strategic, inspirational, and courageous. They help us find our next best markets, positioning, and offers. Their blind spot is getting to the end zone before everyone else and wondering why no one has followed them.

Other leaders demand certainty and resist change. This appears as fighting for the status quo, having finance dictate strategy, and focusing on operational efficiency. They help us preserve the familiar. Their blind spot is thinking that holding back change is healthy or even possible.

So which type of leader do we need more in our world today? Actually, we need both. Most importantly, we need leaders who can be a strong bridge between the vision-and-progress types and the steady-and-safe types. These certain+change leaders support the vision, understand that change is certain, and help those who crave certainty take a well-lit path to the new normal.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Paulo Etxeberria Argi eta garbi via photopin (license)

The Essence of Good Strategy

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Strategy, What=Compelling Focus
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Good strategy requires clarity about the present, clarity about the future, and a good dose of ignorance about the past.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: We only have to ask, “What is true now? What do we want to be true and why?”

PPS: We capture the past with the present: everything important from the past is found in our present. We leave the rest alone because focus on the past will keep us rooted there.

 

Today’s photo credit: Ib Aarmo My great grandfather’s chess pieces via photopin (license)

We Need Leaders Who Are Realistically Unrealistic

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 2 min.

To get things done well, we need to be realistic. We need to understand and rely on concrete things such as priorities, constraints, people’s talents and motivators, and how everything fits together. We need to build the team’s capacity and repeatedly deliver on spec, on budget, and on time.

To choose what things we are going to get done, we need to be unrealistic. We have to detach from reality (the way things are now) so that we can see and tell a story about how things are going to be. And we have to inspire ourselves and others by believing so much in this vision that everyone can feel the excitement of it–as if it were already done.

It’s a bit of a balancing act, for sure. And it’s a necessary one.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: It can be hard to be both realistic and unrealistic. We each prefer being one or the other. Companies sometimes handle this by matching unrealistic leaders with realistic ones: an unrealistic CEO with a realistic COO, an unrealistic marketing VP with a realistic sales VP, etc. When this is impractical, we must balance both ourselves.

 

Today’s photo credit: Mike Licht cc

The Siren Songs That Tempt Every Leader

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading, Strategy
Reading time: 1

Trying to figure it all out and get it all done are the siren songs of leadership. They snare us every time.

We can avoid the rocks of micromanagement and the shoals of overwrought strategy by leading instead of deciding or doing. We have more than enough to do as captain of the ship. Our work is getting clear on desired outcomes, setting up rules of engagement so that everyone can win, believing (really, really) we will succeed, tracking and tacking, and getting out of the way so that others can execute.

Let them do the figuring out and executing.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: One sign that you are headed for the rocks: the sense that it’d just be faster if you did the work instead of them. Steer away! Pure siren song, that.

 

Today’s photo credit Lorenzo Costa – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, Link

How To Say No To Emails, Meetings, Etc.

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, What=Compelling Focus
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It’s hard to say no to all the emails, meetings, interruptions, and other demands on our time. It is hard, that is, until we commit to something bigger, better, and more important to say yes to.

Yes. It’s that simple.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Easy? Nope. Simple? Yes. Doable? By you!? Of course.

PPS: How to find that something? Look for something compelling. It will use your talents, engage your passions, involve you in problems and opportunities you care about, and leave you well cared for including being well paid. In short, it will feel terrific to imagine and exciting (and perhaps challenging) to pursue.

 

Today’s photo credit: John&Fish cc

Clear

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1

Get clear on the what and the why. The how, who, and when will become silly simple. Any focus on the who, how, and when without really knowing the what and the why explains most of the resistance, pain, or frustration we experience.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Yes. Resistance, pain, and frustration are strong indicators. See them and you’ll likely see a lack of (shared) clarity about the what and the why.

PPS: Strategy then tactics. Tactics isolated from strategy (esp. the “why”) is a recipe for disaster.

PPPS: Yes, we still have to follow through. But follow-through happens easily-happily-freely once we have the what and the why plus the who, how, and when.

 

Today’s photo credit: Dean Shareski cc