Managing the Push and Pull of Strategy Execution

Does strategy execution sometimes feel like a tug of war in your organization? Are you constantly juggling the trade-offs between delivering short-term results and making longer term changes?

Managing performance within a team, or in an organization overall, almost always involves finding a balance between opposing ideas or approaches or needs. If you find yourself in this arena, you will most likely enjoy the recent Harvard Business Review article entitled Good Strategy Execution Requires Balancing 4 Tensions.

In this article, the authors expertly identify the four key tensions predictably found in organizations, and bring them to life with relevant examples. The four tensions are:

  • Tension #1: An inspiring end-state versus challenging targets – you need to balance a clear picture of what life will look and feel like once change has been successfully implemented with aggressive targets and milestones to be achieved along the way.
  • Tension #2: Top-down control versus democratization of change – you need to balance capitalizing on the energy created through empowerment with reigning people in when they get too far off track.
  • Tension #3: Capability development versus pressure for results – you need to balance taking the time required to develop the new capabilities you feel are necessary to achieve your goals with making do in order to meet timelines and budgets.
  • Tension #4: Creativity versus discipline – you need to balance the insight and excitement of creativity with the realism and necessity of discipline.

This is a short but clever article with some very useful advice, and I think it is well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it.

To read the full article, you can go to

Find Your True Voice as a Leader

Do you feel your communication style resonates well with all the different people you interact with on a daily basis? Do your messages land the way you intended them to?

To be effective as a leader, you have to react appropriately in a variety of situations, and you have to connect with a variety of people inside and outside your organization. One of the many tools you use for this is your leadership voice, and Harvard Business Review has recently published an article which you might find helpful, it is entitled You Don’t Just Need One Leadership Voice – You Need Many.

Over time, and possibly without really being conscious of it, you will have worked on developing your leadership voice. As pointed out in the article, though, this might leave you feeling as though you are living with imposter’s syndrome or exhausting yourself by wearing a game face all day.

To help you be more genuine is this endeavour, and ultimately more successful, the author defines the different types of leadership voices you can cultivate:

  • Your voice of character – the fundamental principles voice.
  • Your voice of context – the big picture voice.
  • Your voice of clarity – the focussed voice.
  • Your voice of curiosity – the asking good questions voice.
  • Your voice of connection – the storyteller voice.

Discovering and developing your voice as a leader is work you will do over your entire career – and there is no time better than right now to get started.

To read the full article, you can go to

Embracing Constructive Conflict – Once and For All

You probably consider yourself a determined business leader, perhaps even courageous a lot of the time, but do you still manage to step around conflict if there is reasonable opportunity to do so?

We have written before on what we feel is the very significant, but often unappreciated, value of constructive conflict, or creative friction, or whatever label you would like to put on it. It is also a well-documented fact that most people, at all levels in an organization, will go to considerable lengths to avoid or minimize disagreements.

Harvard Business Review has started 2019 with an article entitled Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work, and we thought you might want to begin the New Year tackling this thorny issue too. There is a very real business case for embracing dissenting opinions and working through opposing views, and this articles presents the benefits under the following banners – better work outcomes, opportunities to learn and grow, improved relationships, higher job satisfaction and a more inclusive work environment.

So, how do you get comfortable with dissent and debate, and thereby create a safe environment for your employees or team members to do so? This article offers the following ways to start:

  • Let go of needing to be liked
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Don’t equate disagreement with unkindness
  • Find a role model and emulate them

It’s time to step into the arena, even if it’s just a toe at first. Put your reticence behind you, and start reaping the benefits of vibrant and challenging interactions.

To read the full article, you can go to

Finding the Sweet Spot in Strategy Execution

Do you often feel you are banging your head against the wall, crafting corporate strategies that aren’t embraced and executed as you feel they should be?

Well, sometimes there are things you just have to get your head around, whether you want to or not.

Harvard Business Review published an article entitled Great Corporate Strategies Thrive on the Right Amount of Tension, and they let you know right up front that strict compliance with your carefully crafted strategy doesn’t always correlate directly to performance. What you need is just the right amount of strategic stress between the deliberate execution of your plans and the responsive actions you take to emerging issues.

This thing called strategic stress, according to the authors, is characterized by three zones:

  • Strategic Burnout (too much strategic stress) – usually caused by such things as too much autonomy, unrealistic strategic plans and/or unexpected market dynamics.
  • Strategic Boredom (not enough strategic stress) – causing complacency which may, in turn, lead to rigid execution of the strategy and being blind to emerging risks or opportunities.
  • Strategic Sweet Spot (just the right amount of strategic stress) – which is characterized by a sufficient balance between alignment and nonconformity.

Perhaps it is true after all that we learned everything we need to know in kindergarten, and Goldilocks might have taught this lesson. To stay alert and responsive you need the right amount of tension between compliance and autonomy – not too much, and not too little.

To read the full article, you can go to

The Real Value of Talent Management

Are you very clear on the impact talent management has on your bottom line? Or do you feel it is a bit fuzzy, and not really worth a significant investment?

Well, just in time to help take this important, but often undervalued business practice out of the dark corners, McKinsey & Company have published the results of a new global survey in an article entitled Winning with Your Talent-Management Strategy. In their words – organizations with effective talent-management programs have a better chance than other companies of outperforming competitors and, among publically owned companies, are likelier to outpace their peers’ returns to shareholders.

Through this survey, McKinsey was also able to identify three common practices that had a significant impact on the effectiveness of talent management as well as organizational performance:

  • Rapid allocation of talent – this is facilitated by effectively deploying talent based on skills needed, ensuring executive team involvement in talent management, and having employees work in small, cross-functional teams.
  • HR’s involvement in fostering a positive employee experience – key to this practice is having an agile HR operating model, as well as an ability to deploy talent and skills in a way that supports the organization’s overall strategy.
  • A strategically minded HR team – simply put, this is an HR team with a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s strategy and business priorities.

If you haven’t done so already, it is time to really come to terms with the importance of effective talent management. This article can help.

To read the full article, you can go to

The Smart Leader’s Checklist

As a new CEO, could you use a transition checklist to help ensure you are making all the right moves? As a leader at any stage, would you like to have a look at that list too?

As a leader, new or otherwise, one of the greatest gifts you can receive is sage advice from a wise mentor. Imagine your luck, if someone would take the time to write you a letter with a 10-point checklist of tips, gathered over many years of experience as well as interviews with leading CEOs and chairmen from around the world.

Well, it’s your lucky day! Published in the McKinsey Quarterly is a Letter to a Newly Appointed CEO, written by their former managing director Ian Davis. It is written for a new CEO, but it is valuable to all leaders who believe in self-reflection and lifelong learning.

Here is a small sample of the advice offered:

Context is critical – you must be keenly observant both internally and externally, and remember that what worked in one context doesn’t necessarily transfer well to another.

Don’t just surround yourself with people you are comfortable with – it is important to have a bit of grit to reduce decision making bias and risk.

Make mindful choices – rather than letting circumstance or your staff determine your priorities.

Get objective, balanced feedback and information – find some room and time for mavericks and talking to your frontline staff.

I feel strongly that you will find several, if not all, of these ten pieces of advice extremely valuable.

To read the full article, you can go to


Leading the Clevers
Igniting Champions
Embracing New Mindsets
Become an Influencer
How the Mighty Fall
Managing Mental Models
the beacon group …
why CEO’s fail
thoughts on thinking
this idea must die
“I don’t know!”
leading a winning team
Opportunity Sensing
Faint Signals Matter
It’s About Choices
The Coach as Leader
Opening Our Minds
The Human Dynamic
Caution or Courage?
The Evil of Compromise
Karaoke Capitalism
Lies We Tell Ourselves
Shifting Relationships
Mastering Complexity
Breakthrough Strategy
Early Warning Systems
Banishing Dependence
Book Launch Party
Navigating the Future
Disciplined Thinking
No Time to Waste
leading to the future
Mastering Pivot Points