How to master ‘strategic laziness’ this year

“Being crazy-busy is just part of executive leadership, right?”

This was a comment from a CEO client of mine, pulled in a million directions by her board, her team and her clients.

And yet, I was reminded of another conversation with a CEO of a publicly traded business just a few days before. He’d explained how he’d fully extracted himself from operational detail, and had plenty of ‘white space’ in his day, which he could use in whatever way he felt was most helpful. Put it another way, he’d created bucketloads of strategic time.

Two CEOs, two very different realities.

To move from one state to the other, no matter what level you are at, I recommend adopting a mantra of “Strategic Laziness”.

This is a concept I developed when I realised that my best strategic thinking has emerged when I’ve been looking for shortcuts to avoid boring or repetitive work. Being slightly lazy actually forces you to become more creative and strategic!

Let’s dive in…

STEP 1: Think less about the challenge…

Instead of focusing on the challenge, focus on the stretch. When I ask execs about their biggest challenge, they typically talk about an external problem or goal (“my biggest challenge is hitting this year’s revenue goal”).

But the real question is: what’s the stretch for you in that? What’s the skill you need to develop to overcome that challenge most effectively?

This is at the heart of Strategic Laziness: building a new skill is easier and more fun than just working harder at the problem.

For example, if your top challenge is hitting your revenue targets, perhaps you decide that your personal stretch is providing more effective coaching and accountability to your team (and thereby driving their sales performance). That then becomes the domain of skill acquisition. The better you can coach and challenge your team, the better they will deliver.

If you want to accelerate your impact, focusing on skill development is one of the most important habits you can build. So read voraciously. Invest time and money in yourself: training, mentoring, coaching. The ROI of investing in yourself is huge , because the benefits compound over your entire life.

Don’t wait for your corporation to pay. I’ve personally written almost 50K of cheques in the last 3 months to invest in my own professional development and learning edge. All in the name of strategic laziness!

What’s your personal stretch, the skill to develop that will help you achieve your goals for this year more quickly and simply?

STEP 2: Engage in deliberate practice

Your impact accelerates when you build the right new skills, simple as that. You get better results with less effort.

Your impact accelerates when you build the right new skills, simple as that. You get better results with less effort.

One of the secrets of the success of our Impact Accelerator coaching programme is our focus on the deliberate practice of a high-leverage leadership skill.

To understand what deliberate practice is, imagine you’re a guitar player. You might feel you’re practicing every day, but if all you’re doing is playing through songs you already know, you’re actually in your comfort zone and you’re not actually improving. 

Contrast that with learning to play some new scales at the fastest possible speed. You’ll be fully concentrated, playing just at the edge of your competency (repeating those scales until you no longer fluff the notes, then speeding up again just out of your competency zone) 

So get very specific about the skill you want to develop. If your stretch is, say, “becoming a more inspirational speaker,” then break this down into different sub-skills: starting with a powerful hook, telling great stories, expressing emotion, closing powerfully, or whatever. And then deliberately focus on one of those sub-skills until you nail it.

Continuing the example, above, you could see if you can open every presentation, large and small, with a powerful hook that draws people in. You could experiment not just in your conference keynotes but in your 1:1s, your team meetings, your monthly reports… any opportunity to deliberately practice the skill.

What’s the specific element of your desired skill that you want to focus your deliberate attention on first?

Engaging in strategic laziness

So, how will you lean into ‘strategic laziness’ this year? What’s the leadership skill you need to deliberately practice each day?

Let me end by testing your commitment to that. If I look around your workspace, will I see a reminder prompting you to pay attention to that skill and practice it today?


PLUS, whenever you're ready, why not hit the accelerator on your journey of exponential impact by working with us, or by picking up a copy of Making TIME For Strategy?

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