Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

Last week, I spent some time in Huntington, WV, meeting with clients. One of them was kind enough to join me for lunch, and she suggested we dine at Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti. The place is truly a landmark in the city! And it’s a shining example of crystal clarity on who they are and what they stand for.

The Jim’s menu is very simple and clean. They offer a few sizes of spaghetti (meat sauce or marinara), and few sandwiches, a few salads, a few drink options, and several choices of home-made pies. Nothing fancy, just good, solid home-cooking presented and served in a no-nonsense way by very friendly staff.

When I arrived, about 30 minutes early, the place was bustling, with booths and counter space full throughout the restaurant. As I waited for my “date” to arrive, I observed the place. It’s decorated as I imagine it has been for years — reminiscent of an older coffee shop or diner; simple, serviceable fixtures. The front counter has a sign that clearly states the establishment does not accept debit or credit cards; although they do provide one of those slim-line ATMs if you need to get cash (I assume they prefer to not deal with the fees charged by credit card companies, but are not averse to their customers paying them, if need be!). Note that this lack of accommodation for a mode of payment we all take for granted these days has not slowed business at Jim’s one iota! Pictures adorn some of the wall space — clearly, many a dignitary has dined at Jim’s, including JFK and Senator Joe Manchin.

My lunch companion grew up in Huntington and has been a customer at Jim’s since high school. She shared stories with me of what a local icon the place is and how it hasn’t changed much in the many years she’s been going there, even though it is now managed by Jim’s daughter.

I’ve been thinking about Jim’s for a whole week now. It’s a great example of knowing exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re good at. Jim’s puts on no pretenses and that’s exactly why its success has stood the test of time.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here. Can you state, with equal clarity and simplicity, who you are (as an individual or as a representative of some organization) and what you stand for?

If not, I encourage you to spend some time working on this. If you aren’t clear, imagine how fuzzy it is for your employees, suppliers, customers, and potential customers…and what the implications of that lack of clarity has for your success.

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For the past four weeks, we’ve been focused on Strategy, and now it’s time for this month’s wrap-up. Hard to believe! And we have only two months left on this Intentional Leadership Journey.

In an early blog post, I shared the story of my encounter with a young man working at the MAC counter in a mall I was shopping in. We got to talking and I shared that I had moved to the mid-west from Washington State and he talked about how he hoped to live in Seattle one day, soon. My response was that “hope is not a strategy,” which startled him back to reality, I think. He said he’d never thought about it that way. I asked how he thought he would get to Seattle — realize his dream — if he didn’t have a plan and take some action. We talked for a while longer, and as I left the store I could see the gears in his mind turning and turning…

Without a plan, our dreams will vanish. As a leader, we must be able to develop an actionable strategy for our team’s/organization’s vision to become a reality. And while it’s certainly crucial to your future success, having a strategy isn’t enough. Once you’ve cast the vision and engaged your followers, you must develop the strategy and then move forward to the next step: Execution. Great leaders don’t simply have a plan, they make it happen!*

So what does a sound strategy entail? It needs to be clear enough to give direction and flexible enough so you can adapt to changing conditions and unforeseeable events along your journey. As we’ve discussed, the only constant is change. If you aren’t moving forward — and I mean intentionally moving forward with a destination in mind — you are falling behind; in today’s world, that will result in the demise of your organization.

My mentors have told me — and I share it with my clients, as well — that leaders must deliberately and consistently set aside time to work ON their business, not just stay mired in the daily effort of working IN their business. I encourage my clients to schedule in “think time” as often as they need it — some do it daily, some weekly. Whatever the cadence you need, you need to do it and you need to make it a priority. In fact, I have some clients who have told me that when our coaching or mentoring engagement has concluded, they have maintained what they’ve referred to as the “Sacred Laura Time” (meaning our coaching/mentoring sessions were high priority and not to be messed with) as their thinking time, as they were already in the habit and had trained their colleagues and staff that they were engaged in important work during that time.

Be mindful, as you develop your strategies, to take into account the strengths of your team/organization, and work that knowledge into your plans, which will give you and even stronger chance of success down the road. The best strategies exploit an organization’s finest qualities.* In this way, you can prioritize your limited resources and use them to the most advantage for your organization.

As we conclude this month’s focus on strategy, spend a little time with your journal and reflect on what you’ve learned.

How are you thinking about strategy differently?

What steps do you need to take now to fully engage your organization, leverage their strengths, and propel yourself forward?

Are you disciplined enough to develop and stick to your strategy, even in the face of inconvenient circumstances and conditions?

Your answers to these questions will dictate the nature of your influence in the years ahead.

“See” you tomorrow, when I’ll introduce next month’s topic. In the meantime, have an intentional day.


*From the Intentional Leadership book by Giant Impact. 

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Good morning and Happy Friday! It’s been kind of a soothing week here, soft rain…kind of nice, actually. The trees continue to change color, although the rains have caused a lot of leaves to fall, so we have a lot of naked trees, already!

I’ve been thinking about strategy a lot this week, as I suspect we all are, since it’s our area of focus this month. In fact, I spent some time reading about it just yesterday, as I’ve recently completed the StrengthsFinder assessment, and my strongest talent/strength is strategist. The description depicts one who quickly picks up on patterns, envisions the diverse paths one could take, quickly considers the various consequences, culling options all the while, eventually landing on the most effective path to the desired outcome.

It’s a timely concept as I have been working towards a significant transition in my life and it is coming closer…in fact, I’ll be able to share more details with you very soon. As I’m in this “wiggly” space, I am, in fact, very much in a strategizing mind-set. And, as I don’t believe in coincidence, this month’s focus on strategy has been a little more thought provoking for me than some of the other topics we’ve covered to-date.

Having reached this turning point, finally, I intend to “celebrate” this afternoon by treating myself to a scoop of Hershey’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream (it is suspiciously nearly exactly the same as Baskin Robbins’ Peanut Butter and Chocolate…which isn’t available locally!) on my way home…and then we begin the weekend.

As usual, mine will be a mix of work and family time. I need to go back through some bookkeeping (not my strong suit and I’m learning a new system) and make some corrections. We’ve been invited to an “end of summer” party at a friend’s house. Some writing time, some resting time, and yoga. I am also looking more seriously at what’s going on the next couple of months — not just holidays but also end-of-year activities and planning for 2014.

How will you spend your weekend?

What thought have you given to the next 2-1/2 months?

Have you taken an inventory of your accomplishments and your progress-to-date towards your 2013 goals?

What can you do this weekend to prepare yourself for the week and weeks ahead?

What can you do to nurture yourself this weekend?

Who else needs your time and attention?

What have you been putting off that you just finally need to tackle?

However you spend it, I hope it’s intentional!

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You’ve likely heard me say this at some point, but if we don’t intentionally take time to stop and reflect on our experiences, we merely have a string of experiences in our lives, rather than gaining the wisdom from the lesson. In fact, I encourage everyone I work with to intentionally set time aside for “lessons learned” reflection after completing any significant effort or project. And the lessons are around both what they did well and what didn’t go quite so well, as you see, you can carry forward both kinds of lessons.

As a leader, it’s critical that you do this exercise and analyze past results. Then, consider what measurements you’ve put in place to gauge your ability to execute current and future strategies. Remember to incorporate your lessons learned as you prepare future strategies.

You have the opportunity to integrate strategy as a hallmark of your organization’s culture if you are thoughtful about this practice. You are significantly more likely to be successful in the future if you are able to strategize effectively during your down times, and then it will come as “second nature” during pressure-filled times in your business.

What can you do today, to move your team/organization in the direction of thinking and acting more strategically in all avenues of your business?

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Now that you have identified the others you will need to involve to move forward with your strategy, and have some time scheduled to meet with them to get started, take some time to consider these questions:

What strengths does each person bring to the table?

Why are they important?

What can you do to encourage and support them in functioning at high levels as you move toward this opportunity?

After you’ve given this some thought, make a point of spending a few minutes with each of these people today and let them know how much you appreciate their strengths and talents, and how valuable they are to the organization and the success of this upcoming effort. Let them know you are looking forward to working with them and that you will do everything in your power to help them — and the overall effort — be a success.

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How well do you know your team / organization? If you are to capitalize on your opportunities, it’s important that you know them extremely well; you need to know each person’s strengths and capabilities.

Strategies often fail during implementation because of an organization’s or team’s failure to scope the correct amount of time, capital, and talent necessary to fully embrace the opportunity.*

To avoid finding yourself in a similar situation, take some time today to think ahead…

What opportunity is in your future that you need to take advantage of?

What errors, obstacles, challenges do you envision encountering on the path to your goal? How can you minimize your chances of stumbling over any of them?

What else is going on in your organization that might cause additional challenges or restricted resources as you pursue this opportunity?

Who else needs to know your plan? What other teams/areas of your organization will be touched by this opportunity?

Whose talents do you need on your team to move strategically into this opportunity?

How soon can you meet with the necessary individuals to work through your strategy, map out some actions, and get started moving forward toward this opportunity?

*From Intentional Leadership, by Giant Impact.

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This week, we are going to focus on how we can capitalize on opportunities.

As I sat down to write today’s blog post, I was reminded of a story I read last night about Miley Cyrus and the recent “events” in her life. I need to preface this by saying, I don’t follow her career, don’t condone her behavior, or agree with what she appears to be doing. I know enough of her life to know she is Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter, used to be a young girl sensation as Hannah Montana, and now is apparently dead set on making herself over in a completely new image.

When I would hear some of the stories of her recent behavior (and who could have missed some of those stories?!), I thought, “Oh my goodness! She must not be thinking about what she’s doing and the potential implications and consequences of her behavior!” Frankly, I thought she was yet another public train wreck — another young person thrust into the spotlight and dysfunction that comes with that kind of celebrity when one is too immature to understand and deal with it in healthy ways. But, if the article I read last night (a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, following her episode as host of SNL) is accurate, my initial perception of her is dead wrong.

She shared with the writer that, in fact, what she had been hoping would happen following her performance on the music awards show is exactly what is happening! She noted that while it’s clearly more than a month since the music awards show, people are still spending a lot of time and energy talking about her, her performance, the controversy, and her music. In fact, the cycle continues to churn with new stories popping up, a couple of “open letters” from Sinead O’Connor, etc…Then she appears on SNL, making fun of herself, and spoofing others in the skits, and not in a pathetic, clownish performance. She says her most recent album (dating myself, aren’t I?!) is getting lots of play…and she commented that she knew exactly what had happened to Hannah Montana, “She was murdered!”

Clearly, this last comment is her telling the world that she has deliberately shed the innocent young girl persona and is ready to take on the world in this new, very sexual and very risque new version of who she is at this time.

The result, lots of air time in a lot of forums…lots of discussion…and more opportunities for exposure. Perhaps she’s not entirely a train wreck? She sounds as if she is indeed a shrewd young woman with a plan (a strategy) propelling herself forward. This is not to say that she will be entirely successful in achieving all she dreams of; only time will tell. But, for the moment anyway, this young woman has a strategy and she is executing against it.

So how does this apply to us? As leaders, it behooves us to have a strategy clearly mapped out and to rehearse them in our minds prior to executing them. This gives us the opportunity to operate at a higher level of awareness, which, in turn, allows us to be more intentional in our words and actions as we work to propel ourselves, our teams, and our organizations forward, as well.

What opportunity is in your near future? In what ways could preparing give you every advantage as you move forward?

As Charles de Gaulle said,

You have to be fast on your feet and adaptive or else a strategy is useless!

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Good morning and Happy Friday! It’s going to be another beautiful Fall day here in West Virginia, and I will get to enjoy the colors of the changing leaves as I drive to Huntington to help some people work through a communication conflict. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with these folks a few weeks ago, on a “fact finding” missing of sorts, and I’m confident we will work through the issues and develop some new guidelines for working together moving forward.

It’s really been a great week, filled with opportunities to share the gifts I’ve been given and add value to others in many ways. I spent a few hours with a small group of emerging leaders in the banking industry on Wednesday, teaching a couple of Laws of Growth (awareness and intentionality — my favorites, and truly the foundation for success in my humble opinion!) and a couple of Laws of Leadership (influence and connection). I learned vicariously from a couple of my coaching clients this week, as they discovered some personal truths. I watched John Maxwell’s book launch web cast. And I will soon be teaching Leadership Fundamentals to a couple of new supervisors.  I love what I do…

As I look ahead to the weekend, I have some bookkeeping to catch up on, some writing to do, and yoga, yoga, yoga! I will help my mother-in-law prepare to move into her new home. And I have a great new book to read, John C. Maxwell’s latest — Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn — about learning through adverse times.

What are you up to this weekend?

What do you need to do to take care of yourself?

What attention do the others in your life need from you?

What exciting things do you have coming up next week or in the coming weeks that you need to spend some time preparing for?

How will you feel when you get to and through some significant upcoming event, knowing you thoughtfully and intentionally prepared for it?

Looking forward to “seeing” you Monday.

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It’s time to take inventory of our assets.

What are the two greatest assets in your organization?

Why are the they greatest assets — what do they enable your organization to do that you wouldn’t be able to if you didn’t have them?

How can you more fully employ them?

When you look at your assets, what gaps are there?

What can you do to fill the gaps?

Be sure to spend some time looking at this from both a short-term and a long-term perspective.

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As we have done on numerous occasions, today we are going to seek some outside perspective on our strategies. I suggest enlisting the help of a trusted friend or colleague from outside your team or organization, this will allow you the benefit of an objective perspective.

Set up some time with this person, share one of your big strategies and ask for their candid feedback and insight on what you have planned. Ask how they might approach it differently.

Prepare for your meeting as you would prepare for a meeting with a mentor. Take some time to develop questions that will help you truly see your strategy in a new light.

When you meet, be sure to ask for ideas on how you can better leverage your assets, as well. Make sure to take good notes, and follow up with this person — let them know what you did with their feedback and show your appreciation for their taking the time to spend with you.

Good luck!

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