Ten Strategy Thought Starters

Strategy definition: Creating distinctive, sustainable competitive advantage. Not difficult to articulate but for many organisations difficult to do well.


Distinctive means being discriminatory, rejecting options, not doing everything, focus, focus, focus .
All things being equal culture defeats strategy because strategy is about change.
Revolutionary goals are achieved through evolutionary steps, both revolution and evolution are required in delivering a kick-ass strategy.
Strategy is not a synonym for growth. Some strategies are about contraction, profit not sales, lateral moves. Sometimes in difficult terrain is it necessary to go tactically south to go strategically north.
Strategy is not about operational improvement. If you need to improve margins, cost/income ratios etc. do it. That’s price of admission, strategy is in addition.
Strategy won’t work without accountability, scaled to the relevant role. Middle/front-line managers are the catalysts for strategic delivery, they need to be mobilised through effective engagement.
Strategy is about time. Look far enough into the future, but make sure it always stays connected to today. Strategic time horizons are shortening, even for the most capital intensive plans.
If you must have dedicated strategy departments, make them fixed term appointments, regularly convert the roles into executional ones. Give them big bonuses not for devising the strategy, but for delivering it.
Never have a specialist board director responsible for strategy. The CEO or FD are much better candidates for strategy management, the whole board should have relevant parts of the strategy (devising and implementation) written into their individual KPIs.

A World of Words

Many languages have some great words that just don’t translate well.  Those words seem to say something about differing priorities in the cultures that use them.


What does your everyday vocabulary say about what preoccupies you?

25 Facts About Sales People

A Sales Director asked Father Christmas for the ability to really understand sales people. Having Santa as a strategic partner has allowed us a sneak preview of the Sales Director’s present.


  1. All salespeople believe that when they succeed its all down to them, and when they fail it’s down to factors beyond their control.
  2. The best salespeople are secure enough to cope with rejection, but insecure enough to need the constant reassurance of success.
  3. Sale people have learnt it’s not how confident they feel that matters, but how confident they appear.
  4. Technicians/engineers who sell dislike salespeople or even being thought of as ‘in sales’.
  5. Sales people live, and are encouraged to think, in the world of the possible; so don’t be surprised (or too critical) when they apply the same thinking to their sales forecast.
  6. Sales people are hugely conflicted when they think of customers. They love them and hate them – at the same time.
  7. The worse a salesperson is doing the less they think about how to improve things. They often need to be pushed in front of difficult customers by someone else.
  8. Top performing, high earning salespeople are hated by the rest of the organisation.
  9. Salespeople love anything that signifies differentiated status.
  10. More salespeople than you might think don’t like other people very much.
  11. Because field based salespeople are dislocated from the physical organisation their rumour/gossip dial is turned to 11. If you want to find something out, ask a sales person.
  12. If you want to upset a sales person, change something. Regular changing of their incentive scheme is a guaranteed hostility generator.
  13. Sales people love a short training course where they learn something genuinely new and implementable. They hate training based on old ideas wrapped up in new language.
  14. Sales people aren’t negative about company policy, simply misunderstood.
  15. All sales people under the age of 30 believe they are immortal and can only fail if their employer gets in their way.
  16. All sales people over 50 have developed hugely finessed ways of working that they are reluctant to reveal to anyone else.
  17. A sales person will offer to mother/father your children if you deliver them a reliable, easy to use, sales generating, non-time consuming CRM system.
  18. Only being as successful as their last set of numbers eats into salespeople’ souls to varying degrees.
  19. Sales conferences are attended for the craic, the rest is management propaganda.
  20. Having to sometimes bend the truth, suspend disbelief, deal in misinformation or give the briefest of detail creates a kind of interpersonal hysteria, which can lead to odd behaviour.
  21. Leaving a customer with a big order/contract that smashes their target and wins their favourite incentive is the daydream of choice.
  22. Salespeople love a manager who knows when to get out the way and when to pile in and save them, and then pretends they didn’t (save them).
  23. The words role-play make sales people die a little.
  24. The best sales team contain both men and women.
  25. Sales peoples’ biggest fear is that they will be found out.


It will be really interesting to see what this Sales Director does with this information.

Eleven Smart Questions To Ask

When you feel a little stuck in a meeting or interview, it’s great to have some go to questions that get the other person talking and give you the kind of answers you need to gain some insight and think clearly.


Here’s eleven of the best that you can apply to all sorts of meetings and situations.

·         How would you compare “X” with “Y?”

·         How would you evaluate success in “X?”

·         What are the three most important difficulties you face in achieving “X?”

·         You said that “X” and “Y” are important.  Is there also a “Z” that fits with these two?

·         What does the problem with “X” cost you in lost opportunities?

·         If you could organize this operation in any way you desired, how would you do it?

·         Suppose you had no financial constraints in the next two years.  How would you do “X?”

·         Suppose you could write an ideal equipment specification for this product.  What would it include?

·         How do you feel about the trend toward “X” in your company?

·         You said that achieving “X” will be an important goal for the next year.  How do people in the division feel about your company’s ability to achieve “X?”

·         How does top management feel about the problems you have been describing in completing “X?”


Just remember to switch out X, Y and Z with actual words!

A Quick Coaching Checklist

Here’s an easy 13 point checklist to help with your next coaching session:


  1. Try not to be directive
  2. Avoid asking, “How do you feel it went?” Instead ask, “What do you feel went well?”
  3. Use open questions to encourage the individual to think through their actions and draw out their own solutions
  4. Listen to understand
  5. Use a mix of questioning techniques e.g. open, closed, probing, hypothetical, clarifying, reflective etc.
  6. Confront and challenge when appropriate, using specific, recorded examples
  7. Suspend your judgement and use objection handling skills as appropriate
  8. Create additional coaching opportunities by demonstrating the skill and giving the individual the opportunity to practice
  9. Use summaries
  10. Seek agreement to key development areas
  11. Elicit/highlight the benefit of change
  12. Elicit/suggest options to bring about change
  13. Set agenda for next steps to include follow-up/review