How do you blow up a bridge in under 10 seconds? You let your emotions get the best of you. It is so easy. You get really upset and steam about it for minutes, hours and even days. Then you act!
A comment, an email, a gesture or even the lack of any of these when otherwise called for.
Take it from me: you burn it and it will take years, if even possible at all, to repair it.
This week I came across three bridges that I was so close to blowing up. In each case, I was about to say something to someone who, in my judgement, deserved to be spoken to. But to what end?
And this is where I saved two of those bridges. By asking “to what end”, I was able to see that the ultimate outcome would only see me feeling better about the situation and the other person probably never speaking to me again. And that would have been a big mistake.
And guess what? By not saying what I wanted to say, and by taking a very different approach, I actually saw a different side of things in those cases.
So, be careful about burning your bridges. You will be very surprised when the obstacle or object of your anger comes back into your life and that bridge is staring at you – still in pretty rough shape.
Don’t go there. Hold your tongue or keyboard. Think about the end result and exactly who your actions are going to help. If the answer is ‘you – because you will feel better saying something’, then don’t do it. It is not worth it. Suck it up and move along.
You see, later in life, and in my case that time span was only a few months, good things might happen – just because you didn’t burn the bridge.
By the way, did I say I came across three bridges and saved two of them? I am still considering the third. I need to read this post again.
Every great organization conducts a strategic planning session, of some sort, every few years, which produces a strategic plan that, in the majority of cases, goes no where.
Forbes.com suggests that most organisations don’t do a very good job with ‘life after publishing’ when it comes to the strategic plan. For various and sundry reasons, these plans often just sit on the shelf and collect dust.
In our recent book, The 7 Elements of Strategy Execution, Mona Mitchell and I boil the ‘life after publication” down to 7 things we should think about to help us bridge that gap between strategy and execution. There is lots to think about.
But what is the first thing we should think about or do right after the plan comes back from the publishing house? What is step #1 to give our new plan the best chance of survival?
During out three years of research and interviews preparing to write the book, I had a wonderful discussion with a friend and former bank executive in Toronto. He talked about his CEO at the time who was now in charge of a new entity as a result of a very large merger between two banks.
He learned a big lesson at the time and I pass this to you as my #1 step that I would follow to give my plan the best chance of success.
Here is what my friend heard from that CEO. “Tell people what you are doing, why you’re doing it and tell them what’s in it for them or how they fit into the picture. And then, tell them again and again throughout the year.“
My advice for your 1st step: build a communication plan. Don’t just communicate, build a PLAN to communicate. What is the message, how are you going to communicate it, who will communicate it, when will you communicate it and who is going to get it?
In all aspects of our professional lives, a good plan will ensure that things get done. Without a plan, things slip, we get busy and move onto to other seemingly important things.
If communication is the key ingredient to strategy success, plan it. Don’t just wing it.
What is your first step after the strategic plan is published? Build a communications plan to ensure that everyone knows what is going on and what’s in it for them and that they hear this message repeatedly throughout the year.
Every once in a while, I get the urge to connect with the Project Management Institute (PMI) Board of Directors to suggest a name change.
Project Leadership Institute (PLI)
In my humble opinion, not only does it sound better, but it makes a lot more sense. We are project leaders much more than we are project managers.
I often use the analogy of an orchestra leader to describe the role of a project manager. The conductor is there to make sure that everyone is playing from the same page, heading to the same goal and knows what to do every moment in time. His or her job is to make sure that the product gets delivered on time (in time) and in scope.
I was speaking at an event in Burlington Vermont last week and I heard someone suggest that project managers really are project leaders – their primary role is to lead people and not to manage projects.
Unfortunately, we get stuck with labels and this is a great example. ‘Project manager’ is the most popular title in our field, so it was a very logical choice. But here we are, almost 75 years later, and I wish we could change the name.
One of the benefits to a name change would be a very logical focus on the word ‘leadership’, which in my mind is long overdue. We spend way too much time at the beginning of our careers as project leaders and managers on the technical side of projects rather than on the people side. It seems we only get to the people side or the leadership skills and knowledge and attributes after the PMP designation or after our 5 to 8 year indoctrination into this business.
So, yes, we are stuck with the label ‘project manager’, but I really wish we could move to ‘project leader’.
Project leadership Institute. It is a very nice ring to it, and I think it promises a lot more than the current name.
One of my Linkedin contacts, Michelle Krupa, posted an article from the web site Makeit.com, a portal from CNBC. The headline read:
“Mark Cuban: ‘One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice.’”
Thank you, Michelle. Thank you, Mark. You reminded me of one of my core values. The truth is that it took me many years to figure this out. Good things come to good people. And more importantly, everyone deserves respect, politeness and a smile every once in while.
Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks and stars on ABC’s “Shark Tank”. He is worth an estimated $3.9 billion.
This article tells us that Cuban told Vanity Fair in a 2018 interview that being nice is a simple skill that anyone can develop and that can go a long way: “One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice. Nice sells.”
And it goes on to credit Cuban as saying “To put it bluntly, at the end of the day, people hate dealing with people who are jerks. It’s always easier to be nice than to be a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.”
These days, I work hard at being nice. It helps me. I feel good.
But as well, and certainly not the reason I try to be nice, I love to see other’s reactions when I make an effort to say ‘thank you’, or ask if they need help, or simply smile.
In business, on a plane from Vancouver to Toronto, at a conference in Burlington Vermont, anywhere, anytime, it pays to be nice.
“Culture is the often-overlooked foundation of an
organization. It determines how the group retains talent, how it develops and
releases new products and whether it meets targets. It affects how happy and
satisfied employees are at work.”
7 Elements of Strategy Execution
When Mona Mitchell and I struck out
to research for our book “7 Elements of Strategy Execution”, we knew that the key to success was not just in the
execution of the plan, but in the development of the culture around that
execution of the plan.
“Your people are the force behind the execution of your strategy, and if
they’re not thinking and behaving in ways that advance your goals, you’ve got a
Bain & Company conducted a
survey of 1,268 managers called ‘Management Tools & Trends’ survey, 2017. In it, 4 out of 5 respondents agreed with the
idea that today’s business leaders must trust and empower people, not command
and control them.
Leaders must give their people
something to work for, something to drive for and a sense that they are part of
a bigger picture – this builds culture.
Mona and I asked Alan
Middleton, Executive Director, Schulich Executive Education Centre, Schulich School of Business, York
University to pen the forward to our book. In part, he wrote “Lou
Gerstner the ex-CEO of IBM observed ‘culture
isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game’, yet too often we fail to engage our most valuable resource, our
staff, in the journey through disruption and change.”
Yes, culture drives strategy – not the
other way around.
Key Elements to Building a Strong Strategic Plan
Company X gets it now! They
realize how important it is to focus on the execution of the plan as much as it
did on the creation of the plan. In fact, they hired a well-respected team to come
in to help them with the execution phase.
But when the team arrived and saw what they were working with, they
realized they were in trouble.
As some of you might know, since the release of my latest book, 7 Elements of Strategy Execution, I have
been ramping up to a major branding shift from the project management guy to the
strategy execution guy. And I am close.
My journey over these past few years, leading to this new phase of
my professional life, has been revealing and somewhat surprising. Back to Company X.
What did they quickly learn? You cannot make something work that
was not built properly in the first place.
Company X thought they had a plan, but in reality, it was not
going to work.
Before you read my new book, before you bring in the big guns to
help you execute the plan, please make note:
Key Elements to Building a Strong Strategic Plan
Get everyone involved who should be involved in the visioning and planning,
Then look at the people who you don’t want involved and ask yourself if they
should be involved? Better to have your
enemies and nay-sayers involved from the start.
Connect your plan to the big picture – to the organizations’ overall
Use the planning process to become more innovative – making sure to manage the
Create a realistic and manageable plan – get a project manager involved
Build a culture around the vision and the plan.
absolutely need a sound strategic plan to be able to execute well. Build from a good foundation and your chance
of success is definitely better.
“There are a thousand
hacking at the branches of disengagement to each one who is striking at the
Today I want to highlight the comment of one of my readers
after the post “Working with Disengaged
Teams”. Peter Hadas is a Change
Management consultant located in Toronto.
“I enjoy your blogs. Here’s a comment for this one as it hits home, since organizational change management is my passion and livelihood.
You ask the question, “So, what can we do about this?” But rather than getting into actioning solutions directed at the staff right away, I think it’s important to first sit back and listen. You mention that in this environment people don’t really care. Nothing new here – we’ve both been there, done that, got the T-shirt. So, hearing why they feel disengaged provides very valuable clues.
Where I have been successful in turning these environments around is realizing that if people don’t care, it’s usually because they feel management doesn’t care about them, about the business, or about the customers. Or all of those. I imagine you had similar experiences.
So, the problem becomes about leadership. Part of my change management strategy in these projects is to develop a set of Leader Change Activities that demonstrate genuine care. I don’t want to get into a whole lot of details about how and what kind of activities, but once I get this going, disengagement changes to engagement and adoption picks up.
Leadership is where it’s at in this case. To paraphrase Thoreau, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of disengagement to each one who is striking at the root.” I prefer to strike at the roots.”
Thanks Peter. Well
said. I completely agree. If management doesn’t care then why should I?
I am a serial entrepreneur and a dreamer. I come up with new ideas all the time, which comes
with good news and bad news.
The good news is that some of these ideas, well under 50% admittedly, are good
ones: ideas that could serve my community well, or employ many people or even,
shockingly, be profitable.
The bad news is that sometimes (OK… often) my ideas don’t
stand up well to the Strategy Stress Test (STT). In fact, last year, I was cut-off from any
new ideas unless it was given the OK by my coach and by my wife/business
partner. From that day on, I had to
include these two individuals in my own STT.
We all need an STT – organizationally, professionally and
personally. We need a test that will put
our strategic plans through the scrutiny that will ideally help avoid disasters
or disappointment in the future.
I would love to be able to present a perfect STT that will
fit all organizations and all individuals, but I cannot. Every strategic plan
is unique and thus every STT is unique.
Here is my STT for new ideas:
Do coach Korol and partner/wife Karen agree that
this is a good and viable idea?
Does it fit into the 5 year plan? Something that will take ‘just a few months’ still
needs to fit into the longer term plan.
Do I have the resources to make it happen? Time and money.
If it fails, what are the costs and other
If it takes other people to implement, are they
on side and do they have the bandwidth?
I am a very small business, but this STT idea can apply to
your not-for-profit or commercial organization. For instance, with your next
business idea ask yourself:
Does this fit in to the longer-term plans?
Do we have the resources to make it happen?
Can we get everyone onside?
What are the risks that could make or break this
What happens if we fail?
We often move too fast and sometimes very recklessly.
The Strategy Stress Test can very well slow us down or
better yet… stop us when we need to be stopped.
I was recently listening to a group of teenagers talk about
their summer jobs and most of the talk was a rant about the leadership style
that one of them was dealing with.
I heard the words, “They don’t set a good example” numerous
times in the rant. Coming from a teenager, this raised my ‘leadership
radar’. Great, good and even mediocre
leadership has to start with setting an example. You cannot preach one thing and do another.
As a leader, you are always being watched. Your team is taking its que from you: the
good and the bad.
Here are 5 things you should do to set a good example:
Be on time
Be Excellent – or at least try
Always be committed
Show empathy, kindness when dealing with people – and take
Timeliness. Are you always on time, to a fault? Do your meetings start on time and end on
time? Do you arrive at work early – like
clockwork? Do you make promises and
deliver on time… all the time?
Performance. Are you
are known for your excellence in performance – or at the very least, a
performance level that is recognized as the very best you can do?
Commitment. Are you
looked upon as the most committed to the organization or department?
plans never die on the vine with you? Do
you follow through on everything?
Dealing with People.
Are you the one in the group who defines kindness in another’s troubles,
empathy for those who need it, forgiveness always and a smile even through your
If people start arriving at meetings late, seem to be
slacking off, look like they don’t care anymore, deliver late or seem to be no
longer getting along with others, look in the mirror. You might be a lot closer
to the cause than you think.
Yes, leadership is tough.
Everyone is watching you constantly and expecting you to set the tone
and to set an example. Great leaders set
great examples… all the time.