How to Run Strategy Meetings Like a Pro

How to Run Strategy Meetings Like a Pro

I’ve attended and led many strategy meetings over the years. Some were a colossal waste of time.

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. Image of two figures lifting a puzzle piece.

3 questions successful strategy meetings answer:

  1. How can we create customers?
  2. How can we keep customers?
  3. What do we do better than competitors that is difficult to copy?

Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.”

7 ways leaders screw up strategy meetings:

  1. Throw them together at the last minute.
  2. Define customer value poorly.
  3. Don’t think about what customers love about you.
  4. Believe your business is your product. Generac doesn’t sell generators. It sells a feeling of security.
  5. Get lost in minutia. Nothing like a rabbit hole to destroy effectiveness.
  6. Focus on solving problems rather than exploiting opportunities.
  7. Waste too much time predicting an uncertain future.

10 ways to run strategy meetings like a pro:

  1. Define what you really do. What’s your business?
  2. Determine the real value you bring customers, from your customer’s point of view.
  3. Clarify competencies and values that make you unique.
  4. Make success obvious. How will you know when you succeed?
  5. Exploit opportunities more than solving problems.
  6. Eliminate “good” options. Porter said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
  7. Advantage the entire organization (even if it might limit your department).
  8. Develop simple language that expresses strategy so that everyone, especially customers, know the value you bring.
  9. Institute mechanisms to monitor and measure progress.
  10. Engage in persistent, tenacious, recurring follow through and execution. 

Bonus: Make time for casual conversation and private reflection.

Great strategy explains how you will be uniquely useful to current and potential customers.

What happens during the worst strategy meetings? The best?

Still curious:

93% of Successful Companies Abandon Their Original Strategy

Keeping Your Strategy Meetings Focused on the Long Term (

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Overcoming the 4 Lies of Status

Overcoming the 4 Lies of Status

Status is more than the way others see you. It governs the way you see the world. It’s a lens you use to see yourself. Loss of standing assaults your confidence. You wonder who you are.

Self-importances rides the wave of status. Social standing swells on the way up. Prestige splashes on the beach and vanishes on the way down.

Self-importance rides the wave of status. Image of a person carrying a surfboard.

The 4 lies of status:

#1. The more status you achieve the less you care about personal growth. After all, others need self-development, not you.

#2. High status makes you smart. You can’t wait for others to shut up so you can give them the real answer.

#3. Status insulates you from responsibility. The higher you go the more you blame. When you’re really good you set others up to take the blame.

#4. Status is happiness.

Status and self-perception:

Status distorts self-perception. Losing status is an opportunity to rediscover yourself.

  1. Negative feedback destabilizes when it persecutes self-perception.
  2. Relationship struggles make you wonder who you are. Are you loveable?
  3. Losing your job chokes identity. The more you identify with status the more you gasp.

You have intrinsic value, but we usually define ourselves by the things we do. When you can’t do what you did you become human again. You remember, for example, how it feels when you’re on the other side of termination.

Overcome the lies of high status:

#1. Practice self-reflection but remember self-reflection done in isolation leaders to self-deception. Read our book, The Vagrant, for more on structured self-reflection.

#2. Learn when you think you don’t need to.

#3. Seek input and help before you need it.

#4. Practice humility.

#5. Listen and ask curious questions (Not judgmental questions).

How do you see the impact of status on others and yourself?

Go deeper:

Eye-opening Self-Reflection Questions for Leaders

4 Ways to Seek Help Before You Need It

My Disappointing Adventure with Humility

A little book about humility.

John David Mann and I give readers an opportunity for structured self-reflection in our new book, The Vagrant. There’s hope for you if you occasionally see yourself in the story.

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So How Can I Start to Become a More Emotionally Intelligent Leader? 

So How Can I Start to Become a More Emotionally Intelligent Leader? 

I love hosting book giveaways!

20 copies of, “Emotional Intelligence for dummies,” are available!!

Leave a comment on this guest post by Dr. Steven Stein to become eligible for one of 20 complimentary copies of his book, Emotional Intelligence for Dummies.

Deadline for eligibility is 05/25/2023. International winners will receive electronic version.

Emotionally intelligent leaders know how to win the hearts and minds of people. Image of book, Emotional Intelligence for dummies.

Emotionally intelligent leaders know how to win the hearts and minds of people.  

To be an effective leader, you need to know how to get people to change their behavior. Motivation and readiness to practice are pivotal for individuals to successfully enact change.   

Emotionally intelligent behavior involves knowing how to strike the right balance between social and emotional relationships. Emotional intelligence isn’t about being nice to people. It includes recognizing another person’s perspective and using your emotions effectively. 

Being a leader means having one or more followers. If you want to lead others, you have to know how to get their attention, set clear objectives for what you expect from them, and monitor their performance. 

Here are a few things you can do to become an emotionally intelligent leader. 

  1. Pay attention to the people with whom you work. 
  1. Learn more about their interests. 
  1. Reflect on your interpretation of what others tell you to ensure that you’ve captured the other person’s concerns accurately. 

  1. Check whether you accurately reflect the other person’s feelings after they express them to you. 
  1. Show others that you are interested in them, their family, and their interests. 
  1. Avoid trying to make yourself the center of attention. 

Emotions can help you think as well as help focus your attention and guide you when you’re solving problems. 

Which of the above practices help you become more emotionally intelligent?

Which of the above practices would help your leader become more emotionally intelligent?

Dr. Steven Stein is a world-renowned clinical psychologist, international best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and founder and Executive Chair of Multi-Health Systems (MHS), a publisher of scientifically validated assessments for over 40 years. His most recently published books include Emotional Intelligence for Dummies and Hardiness: Making Stress Work for You to Achieve Your Life Goals. You can learn more about Dr. Stein on his website

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3 Ways to Serve Your Future Self Today

3 Ways to Serve Your Future Self Today

The power of living is decisions have a life of their own. It is disappointment and dread. All action has a future. Choices have lifespans. Poor choices feel good in the present but persecute you in the future.

To my future self: I think I need to remember what you will remember about me. Image of a pen to paper.

I didn’t connect consequences with actions when I was young. I just did what I wanted. Now that I’m a gray hair I know decisions keep breathing long after you wish they would gasp and die.

Actions are seeds. Consequences are fruit. Every choice impacts the future.

3 ways to serve your future self today:

#1. Morning orientation:

What can you do today that will cause you to pat yourself on the back tonight? Invite the near future into this moment. Choose one thing.

#2. Personal goal setting:

Serve your future self today.

What goal can you set for yourself this month that you will thank yourself for a year from now? The trouble with fruit is delay. You want the juicy fruit but cultivating, planting, watering, and weeding drag on.

Write your near-term goal on paper. Talk it over with a friend. If you suck at keeping goals, make it small enough that you will actually do it. Just commit to put on your gym clothes. Next, commit to drive to the gym.

#3. Consider others:

A leader’s decisions shape other people’s lives. People respond to the way you show up. Your tone of voice. Your demeanor.

The way you treat others impacts the quality of your life. Your actions are the wake of a boat. Consider your wake.

Make a list of three things you respect about everyone on your team. Carry it with you for a few days. Read it before meetings.

What can you do today to brighten the future of others?

How can you serve your future self today?

Still curious:

12 Promises to My Future Self

6 Ways to Honor Your Future Now

From Teen Magazine: A Letter to My Future Self

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4 Secrets of Trust Building

4 Secrets of Trust Building

Distrust interprets action as manipulation. When people don’t trust you, the things you do for them feel insincere. Skeptics believe compliments obscure self-serving ends and gifts mask selfish motives.

Trust reflects how others feel about your intentions.

Nothing you do to strengthen relationships matters until people believe you care.

4 Secrets of trust building

#1. Show care.

Trustworthy leaders commit to serve the best interest of others. Trust reflects how people feel about your intentions.

The questions are, “What motivates you?” Or “How are you at cheering when others make progress?”

Tip: Express your intentions with words. Never assume they are obvious.

Trustworthy leaders: Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest. Image of a high-five.

#2. Demonstrate competence.

I don’t trust my dentist to fix my car. He’s a great guy and a wonderful dentist, but he’s unqualified to repair my broken muffler.

The question is, “Can you deliver results reliably?”

Tip: Deliver on your promises.

#3. Practice humility.

Humility expresses willingness to learn and grow.

Defensive people inspire apprehension and anxiety. Humble leaders admit they are wrong and commit to improve.

The question is, “How are your listening skills?”

Tip: Let people know what you are learning.

#4. Exemplify transparency and vulnerability.

You give permission for people to be themselves when you exhibit frailty (along with improvement). Inauthentic leaders are surrounded by posers. People don’t speak the truth until they see your protective barriers go down.

The question is, “How are you at receiving help?”

Tip: Speak openly about challenges.

A note on receiving help: When competent reliable people offer to take on new responsibilities, don’t simply let them, encourage them (especially when it takes something off your plate). But don’t delegate the core responsibilities of your job.

Which of these ideas seems most challenging for leaders?

There’s more to this than the above four items. What would you add to the list?

Still curious:

The Top 5 Tips for Building Trust and Multiplying Impact

How to B.U.I.L.D. T.R.U.S.T.

Everything Starts Here (

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4 Myths about Coaching You Must Reject

4 Myths about Coaching You Must Reject

Coaching provides people centered approaches to development and results.

“Coaching is the universal language of change and learning.” Julie Winkle Giulioni

Coaching is the universal language of change and learning. Image of a person playing scabble.

4 myths about coaching:

Myth #1: Coaching isn’t leading

Coaching is a tool and a way of being. Leadership is a way of being.

Coaches focus on people. Asking questions feels awkward at first, but it’s empowering and freeing when mastered.

Tip: Learn to ask forward-facing questions that clarify action. Use “what” or “how” when clarifying action. Use “why” when exploring purpose.

Myth #2: Coaching is slow

In the short-term command and control is fast. Eventually, authoritarian styles stifle initiative, create bottlenecks, add stress, cause adversarial relationships, and demotivate.

Coaching requires up-front investment that produces long-term benefit. Coaching-leaders go slow to go fast.

Tip: Ask yourself, “Is development fast enough to get us where we need to be in a timely manner?” Don’t over-invest in people who don’t fit.

Myth #3: Coaching is soft

Coaching-leaders expect people to own their own development.

Questions that energize:

  1. What does success look like in terms of behaviors, not simply results?
  2. What are you great at and how can you do more of that?
  3. How can you move the ball down the field today? We don’t need a touch-down, just a first down.
  4. What’s holding you back?
  5. What are you learning about doing well? About yourself? About team members?
  6. What’s working?
  7. What’s not working and what new approaches might you try?

Myth #4: Coaching is easy

The rigors of coaching include:

  1. Creating space where people take ownership of themselves.
  2. Resistance from ingrained expectations.
  3. Developing coaching skills.
  4. Solving with instead of solving-for.

Coaches trust talent to pull organizations forward.

Not all the time:

Coaching doesn’t work when:

  1. The house is on fire.
  2. Talent needs training.
  3. External factors impede success.
  4. Employees are know-it-alls.

What suggestions do you have for leaders who aspire to coach their team members?

The four myths are adapted from, “Coaching for Engagement,” by Bob Hancox (My coach).

Still curious:

4 Questions that Guide Your Most Important Conversation

3 Insightful Questions You Can Ask Today

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The Goldilocks Paradox – Leadership Freak

The Goldilocks Paradox

Robert Southey wrote the short story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in 1837. A little girl happens upon the house of three bears where she finds three bowls of porridge, three chairs, and three beds.

Goldilocks samples the porridge and finds pappa bear’s is too hot, momma bear’s is too cold, and baby bear’s is just right. She eats it. She finds three chairs. One is too hard. One is too soft. Baby bear’s is just right. Upstairs she sees three beds. The big bed is too hard. The medium-sized bed is too soft. Baby’s bed is just right.

Goldilocks falls asleep. The bears come home. Goldilocks wakes up and runs away. I’ve been afraid of bears ever since.

The story illustrates the dance between too much and too little constantly.

The Goldilocks Paradox - Extremes reveal norms. Image of two puppies playing tug-of-war.

The Goldilocks Paradox:

Extremes reveal norms.

The path forward rises between extremes.

Challenge and support:

Tension between challenge and support illustrates the dance. Too much challenge causes frustration and discouragement. Too little challenge leads to boredom. Extreme leadership results in two things, poor performance and strained relationships.

4 questions to dance with extremes:

  1. What level of challenge brings out your best?
  2. How challenged do you feel right now?
  3. What’s causing you to say your challenge level is X?
  4. What could you/we do to move toward the right level of challenge for you today?


Too much help leads to helplessness. Too little help causes disengagement. The amount of help you provide speaks to your nature. Some lean toward overhelping. Others naturally push people too hard.

Before helping ask, “What have you tried?” Don’t do someone’s job for them. The best way to help novices is with assurances. Let them know they’re on the right path.

Monitor energy to dance the Goldilocks Paradox effectively.

How are you dancing the Goldilocks Paradox?

What suggestions do you have for succeeding with the Goldilocks Paradox?

Author’s note: Paul Thornton’s comment on the May 10th post motivated me to explore this topic. Thanks Paul.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence in 5 Easy Steps 

Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence in 5 Easy Steps 

It’s another wonderful book giveaway!!

20 copies available!!

Leave a comment on this guest post by Kathy Stoddard Torrey to become eligible for one of 20 complimentary copies of her new book, Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence: A Parable That Reveals the Path to Better Relationships and a Happier Life.

Deadline for eligibility is 05/18/2023. International winners will receive electronic version.

In Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence, the reader follows John’s journey from down-and-out to balanced, happy, and enjoying positive relationships. He achieves his new stature over time by increasing his emotional intelligence.

In its simplest form, emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-discipline, relationship awareness, and relationship management.

Five easy steps to follow to elevate your emotional intelligence:

Step 1: Know Yourself

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. One way to know yourself is to define your values and priorities. You cannot make good decisions without knowing what’s important to you and why.

“Our words have no meaning when the nonverbal message contradicts them!” Image of a child holding fake lips over her mouth.

Step 2: Determine the Desired Outcome

Leaders can’t get what they want from a conversation unless they clearly define what that is and know the techniques to get it. One way to keep your desired outcome at the forefront is to constantly ask yourself before you speak or act, “Will these words or this action help me get the outcome that I want?”

Step 3: Read the Room

Discerning what others are thinking and feeling is a skill we can learn. One way to read the room is to pay close attention to people’s nonverbal communication. Do their tone of voice and facial expressions support the words that they are saying?

Step 4: Listen More, Talk Less

Telling others how to solve their problems isn’t the best way to help them. One way to listen more is to always ask three curious questions before offering any input or advice.

Step 5: Create a Peaceful Foundation

There are many ways to create peace and happiness in our lives. One research-backed way is to meditate. There are many other ways, and you must find what works best for you.

Which emotional intelligence skills is serving you well? Why?

Kathy Stoddard Torrey is a leadership coach, trainer, and speaker who helps individuals and organizations achieve success by creating positive relationships. She provides leadership and interpersonal communication seminars internationally to leaders in a variety of industries and to companies such as Deutsche Bank and GE Aviation. She is the author of Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence: A Parable That Reveals the Path to Better Relationships and a Happier Life. Learn more about Kathy’s work here


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Dear Dan: I’m Running Out of Steam

Dear Dan: I’m Running Out of Steam

Dear Dan,

As a strong self-motivator and leader, I am, for the first time, finding myself running out of steam.

I work with my teams to remain positive and productive. Here’s my issue: I have approached the CEO with realistic solutions to move the company in a more positive direction financially. What can you do though, after continual effort, where your well-presented ideas are overtaken by the bobble heads who never present an individual thought, and do nothing more than post an inspirational meme on a group thread?


Running out of Steam

Find ways to fuel your energy when you're running out of steam. Image of an antique steam engine.

Dear Running Out of Steam,

It’s disheartening when suggestions are ignored. Your situation is more common than you might think. You’d rather hear, “No,” than head-nodding without action.

Here are some ideas for your reflection. First the don’ts. Then the dos.


Avoid defensiveness. It makes you talk too much.

Don’t jeopardize future opportunities by straining relationships unnecessarily. Decide if relationship is more important than being right. Nurture relationships, while you serve your current company. Strong relationships make tough conversations useful.

Leadership quote: Find ways to open your heart when you encounter resistance. Image of an open sign.

Don’t become adversarial. Frustration often leads to self-defeating behaviors. CEO’s don’t like feeling pushed.

Refrain from criticizing the CEO in public. The Wallstreet Journal pointed out that Howard Shultz, the retired CEO of Starbucks, publicly criticized the current CEO and board. Battle in private. Hug in public (Unless you see unethical or illegal actions). If you can’t be supportive, move on.

Don’t disengage. Pulling back is self-sabotage. Find new ways to move forward. Your current approach isn’t working. Never disengage even if you plan to move on.

Don’t take it personally. We might like to blame others, but we do what we do because it’s who WE are.


Discuss ideas with leaders of influence. Who has influence with the CEO? Bring your ideas to them. Seek suggestions. Explore options. Clarify outcomes. When you present ideas to the CEO mention the individuals who contributed. Don’t embarrass anyone or reveal confidences.

Pull with. Vocally align with organizational goals. Work hard even though you’re disappointed. I’m pretty sure you are. That’s why it’s frustrating.

Practice forward-facing vulnerability. One of my coaching clients recently taught me vulnerability produces clarity. Tell your CEO, in private, what you notice and explore ways to move forward. For example:

“I’m working to find ways to improve our company’s performance. When I offer ideas, I notice you seem to agree but I don’t know what to do next. A hard no or a yes that moves the idea forward would help me. Could you give me some guidance on what to do next after you signal agreement?”

Another approach might…

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My Battle with a Tractor: Tools Make the Job

My Battle with a Tractor: Tools Make the Job

Yesterday I wrestled our garden tractor into submission. She almost pinned me until I called a friend for help. There’s always one nut or bolt that laughs when you try to loosen it.

Joe had the impact driver I needed. He offered to come help, but I refused. When you’re in a battle of pride, winning with another’s assistance is defeat. But borrowing tools is acceptable humility.

The old girl trembled when she saw the glint in my eye. She surrendered when the red Milwaukee cordless impact driver spun into action. Just the sound made our 17-year-old Craftsman riding mower shiver. Success came in the time it took to pull the trigger. My wife mowed the grass after dinner.

Tools make the job. Image of tools.

Tools make the job:

Skills are tools.

Skills are learned. The beautiful thing about skills is anyone can learn them. Lousy communicators learn to provide clarity. Think of kindness, gratitude, and humility as skills. They can be learned.

Skills, used well, are the only way stuff gets done.

Skills get in the way when they don’t fit. The first law of the instrument is we tend to overuse familiar tools.

A Phillips screwhead mocks a flathead screwdriver. Fixing a garden tractor’s drivebelt isn’t the same as replacing a well pump. Stay humble after success. You can always learn new skills.

Abraham Kaplan said, “Give a boy a hammer and everything he meets has to be pounded.”

Skills are often acquired through others. You learn to use body language to indicate you’re listening by seeing a skillful listener do it.

Notice people who achieve things you aspire to. What are they doing that produces results? Find ways to emulate their skills. Let yourself feel like a fraud when you pick up new tools.

What skills are most important for leaders today?

What leadership tools do you love using?

Still curious:

The Skill Leaders Neglect to Their Peril

7 Ways to Master the Most Important Leadership Skill

A little book about humility.

John David Mann and I give readers an opportunity for structured self-reflection in our new book, The Vagrant. There’s hope for you if you occasionally see yourself in the story.

Click here to learn more.

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