‘ext Before ‘ent, Please

Posted on 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,


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 on Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 1 min.

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,



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

The Essence of Good Strategy

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Strategy, What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 1 min.

Good strategy requires clarity about the present, clarity about the future, and a good dose of ignorance about the past.


In your corner,


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 on 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,


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

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,


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 on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 1 min.

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,


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


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

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,


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

Just Add And

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Strategy, What=Compelling Focus, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1 min.

We believe in trade-offs: we can have either freedom or structure, money or doing what we love, short-term profits or long-term sustainability, good looks or good personality, I win or you win, openness or security, low price or good quality, etc.

These apparent dichotomies create intractable problems and limit our health, wealth, and happiness. Yet they are based on not much at all. Who says we can’t have both?

In fact, we can solve many of our problems with one little, powerful word: and.

Instead of saying, for instance, “We can have profit or ensure everyone is well-paid,” we can ask, “How can we be very profitable and make sure everyone is well paid?” This unleashes our creativity and opens possibilities.

Just add and.


In your corner,


Today’s photo credit: A Fork In The Road via photopin (license)

What to Do When We See People Struggling, Pushing, Fighting, Complaining, Burning Out, or Leaving.

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

Every business must have a rhythm for people getting the right things done well together.

The rhythm includes

  • regular, sane, productive meetings,
  • a way to select, do, track, and course-correct strategic projects,
  • communication and accountability norms,
  • role designs that say what results (not tasks) we expect from each person,
  • hiring people who understand and support the rhythm, and
  • an organizational design (how to split up the work, who reports to whom) that supports the goals.

Our job as leaders of both new and existing organizations includes ensuring that this rhythm always evolves to match the age, stage, and size of our organizations, that people know how it all works, and that they work with the rhythm to succeed well, often, and happily.

It’s time to improve the rhythm whenever we see goals missed and people struggling, pushing hard, fighting, complaining, burning out, or leaving. We can tell we are doing this well when the right things consistently get done well, with ease, and we are hitting our goals.


In your corner,


PS: We may think that being the leader means being in charge. That is, we set the direction, make decisions, and delegate. Being in charge is an important part of leadership. Stewarding the rhythm is the other important part. If you prefer doing one part, consider hiring someone to take over the other part.


Today’s photo credit: Lif… cc