This past weekend I was leading a leadership retreat for business owners and CEOs when the topic of "strategy" came up.

It's been my experience that there are two layers to strategy. Layer one is your "stated" strategy. This is where you say you company will invest its best time, attention, talent, and money to progress the company to its most important goals. This is the "theoretical" part of creating your strategy.

Then there is the second layer - the actual strategy your company is following regardless of what your pretty strategic plan says. This second layer is the practical, "on the ground" reality of how your company's daily decisions actually direct your top company resources. It is the accumulation of all these small decisions about where you and your team actually do invest your time, talent, attention, and money that define what your strategy actually is in the real world.

You might say your strategy is X, but if day-to-day you don't back that up by actually investing your key resources (e.g., employee time, customer attention, money, equipment, capacity, etc.) in this area, then this reality isn't your strategy. Your real strategy is the one that gets the resources, regardless of what you say your strategy is.

If I were there with you in your business as informal observer, what would I actually see your business investing resources in? Whatever your business consistently invests its best resources into defines what your real strategy is. This is such a stark truth that if you find yourself arguing with it, likely you're lying to yourself.

This can be a painful realization when you finally see how much of your resources are being wasted and that your beautiful strategy has no legs. Further, despite what your strategy is, or whatever the posters on your walls say, your team will always respond to the things that you yourself seem focused on. They will spend their best efforts on the things you actually judge them on, not the theoretical plan you created at the beginning of the year.

So it's gut check time:

  1. What is your stated strategy for growing your company? What markets, products, and initiatives have you chosen to invest your best resources into pursuing?
  2. Look back over the past 90 days. How does your team's behaviors, focus, actions, and decisions match up with your stated strategy? Where are you in alignment? Where are you out of alignment?
  3. What are you going to do with these insights? By when?

One last suggestion for you, apply "reverse leverage" by deciding in advance which tempting opportunities or urgent fires are you going to say no to so that you can protect your most valuable resources into those limited few areas that will have the biggest impact (i.e. that are in alignment with your stated strategy.)

The idea of "reverse leverage" is to say no to something ordinary so you can free up resources for better, more potent things.

Considering your chosen business strategy, what activities or initiatives should your business reduce, discontinue, phase out, or avoid altogether?

Actually list these activities or behaviors on a "Stop Doing" list.

Every quarter, revisit this list, adding new items that might otherwise tempt you to squander your limited company resources.

If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.