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,



A Cure-All

Posted Leave a commentPosted in What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 1

There is a cure that is good for reducing unsightly politics, itchy inaction, painful apathy, and embarrassing turnover. It is also good for vigorously increasing sales and meaningful impact.

It is not a pill, tincture, tea, or cream. It doesn’t come from a dispensary; it comes from all of us. We as leaders (with or without title), can prescribe this powerful medicine. But what is is? It is a clear, commonly created, commonly understood, and compelling goal.

Everything is made (all) better when we understand and can get behind the goal.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Joe Loong cc


Heated Arguments

Posted Leave a commentPosted in We=All Who Matter, What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 1

Heated arguments over How, Who, or When usually indicate we have lost track of the three bigger picture questions: “What is going on now?”, “What do we wan to have happen instead?”, and “Why?”

To reduce friction and conflict–to get moving forward again–let’s go back and agree on What, What, and Why first. Then the How, Who, and When will be easy.


In your corner,


PS: Pretty much all heated arguments are about How, Who, and When.


Today’s photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc


Addicted to “How”?

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

We have somehow come to believe that we must vigilantly think about how all manner of things will unfold. We imagine that bad things will happen if we don’t try to anticipate and control eventualities. For most any situation, we envision all that could go wrong, we generate angst, we lower our buzz, and become less happy. We are addicted to “how” and it is an awful drug.

You might fear that we need to worry the “hows.” “How would anything get done otherwise?” you might wonder.

Try this thought experiment: What if you were constitutionally unable to think about how something will get done? Would it still get done?

Luckily, it will get done. And we can reduce our dependence on “how.” Focusing on what we want, why we want it, and how it will feel when it happens, we replace “how” thinking with creative thinking. And we notice that things get done, decisions and plans do get made–just in time–without all those nasty side effects.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: jainaj via photopin cc

Expect It – Refined

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Success, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1

I am grateful to a reader of yesterday’s Note (“expect that what you want will arrive”) because she helped me refine my suggestion.  She noted that when she expects others to do things, for instance, she ends up disappointed, not happy.

Expectation failed, I suspect, because she focused on how something should be done (person X will do Y) and not on what ultimate results she wanted. Of course, we have all done this. Examples include

  • pushing for a raise (how) so that we can be less stressed (what) about money,
  • trying to get everything on our task list done (how) so that we can relax (what), and
  • hoping this winter ends (how) so that we can finally enjoy the weather (what).

When we focus on the “hows,” we add too many constraints and stresses. We become blind to the myriad of other opportunities and avenues that could deliver those desired results.

New suggestion: Expect your desired results (what) and be open to the many wonderful ways (hows) those results will show up.


In your corner,


Effectiveness Habit #5: Know Why

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading, Strategy, Success, Sweetspot, What=Compelling Focus, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 2 min.

The weight of all your tasks can wear you down. Build resilience and feel good with today’s habit:

Effectiveness Habit #5: Know Why

It’s all too easy to get lost and disheartened in the day-to-day. When we do, we’ve lost sight of what we’re really shooting for and why.

Knowing the big picture and knowing why that big picture is compelling takes away the drudgery and leaves meaning, focus, and fit. It’s exciting to know that what we’re doing contributes. It helps us navigate the quotidian. And we all want to know how we fit into the bigger picture.

To use this habit,

  1. Write down a list of the key accountabilities (3-5 sentences answering, “What results will tell me I’ve done my job well?”) for your main work role.
  2. Write down a list of your and your organization’s goals, objectives, core and aspirational values, and mission.
  3. Review these at least monthly. More often is better. Recall the intent and more importantly the feeling of the intent of these big picture items.
  4. Maintain these lists over time.

(If you don’t have your key accountabilities or your goals, objectives, values, or mission, I suggest you build them ASAP. Drop me a line for some tips.)

Next time you find yourself struggling in the minutiae of your work, remember to come back to these lists and know why what you’re doing makes sense. And if what you’re doing does not make sense for the big picture, consider carefully why you are doing that.