Strategy Matters: Why Working Hard Should Not Be Confused With Delivering Results

Far too often, leaders get caught up in the day to day tasks of leadership. We become almost unconscious about our work, sticking to routine and compliance out of habit, yet losing any intentionality or deliberateness in our work. When we are called on not being intentional or lacking strategy, we tend to respond with these classic statements- ” We are working so hard!” Or “We are already doing that”.

Leaders have a responsibility to prioritize their work, to design a strategy for delivering that which they are held accountable for, implementing a structure to support the work in a way that is centered on delivering results, and formalizing their efforts. If we aren’t careful, we can work ourselves “to the bone,” but never deliver the results we are tasked with producing.

We may find ourselves speaking about things that are happening in our organization as if they are occurring by chance instead of by deliberate design. When presented with an opportunity to be intentional, we may feel apt to say, “we’re already doing that,” when that perspective isn’t held by all. To know what is being prioritized and held as important in our efforts, we must ask those who are held responsible for executing the very strategies and actions that are said to be already happening. If leaders aren’t careful their skewed and misguided perceptions become the centralized point from which they lead, and creates gaps in their individual perception and the collective view of the larger group.

There are ways, however, that leaders can avoid this trap that so many fall into so often.

Be Purposeful

Leaders must be purposeful in how they organize, spend, and use their time. In other words, planning is essential. When leaders jump to doing without thinking about what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, what the goals or outcomes are for the work, and how they will get it done, they put themselves in a position of expending effort with no focus on outcomes. Frame your efforts using the Why-What-How framework. Leadership isn’t about how hard you try or work. It’s about doing the right work at the right time and delivering the right results. Sounds simple? Think again.

Be Intentional

Make sure you have clearly communicated and articulated your intentions to those who are tasked with carrying out the work. Be specific, and emphasize the rationale and your intentions repeatedly. Recognize that sometimes this will require multiple explanations presented in a variety of ways for some to understand why they are being asked to implement a strategy or activity. Some may take much longer to see the importance of what you’ve asked of them or the reasoning behind it, but this isn’t necessarily a flaw in your communication. It could be that they lack the ability to think about things and truly be open to multiple perspectives. Most of us, in my opinion, have to work at such a skill.

Do The Right Work

What work are you focused on and what results are you seeing in return? To get the right results you must do the right work. How do you determine your work priorities? What lens do you use to filter what’s immediate and what can wait? What do you do to set goals for the work you complete? How do you determine that what you are working on is, in fact, the right work-what you should be working on? Do you revisit your assigned deliverables or professional goals routinely? Do you check for alignment between what you are working on and your deliverables? If leaders aren’t careful about ensuring they are working on the right work, they can easily spend time working on something that has the possibility of being good work, but not the work you should have been doing. Make sure you are doing the right work!

Timing is Everything!
How intentional are you about how you organize your work time? Do you block out time on your calendar to ensure you are doing those things that are core activities essential to you accomplishing your goals or delivering outcomes? For a leader, this might mean blocking time off on your calendar to provide written, specific, and robust feedback to subordinates. For example, for a superintendent, it might mean blocking time off on your calendar to plan for an upcoming courageous conversation, questions and look-fors when you visit a school and speak with principals. Intention matters. If we aren’t deliberate about how we spend our time, it can become the one commodity that keeps us from delivering the results we are tasked with, not because we don’t have it, but because we don’t use it effectively.

Deliver The Right Results
How do you quantify your effectiveness? What data or evidence are you using to determine if you are delivering the right results? How often do you revisit your professional growth goals and evaluation targets? Do you have them visually posted in your office or routine workspace so that you and your team can see them and ensure your level of awareness is where it should be? Do you revisit them routinely in staff meetings, in conversations with members of your organization, etc.? Are you transparent about your likelihood of success to deliver the result or any obstacles or barriers you are encountering that might compromise your ability to deliver the results you’re tasked with on time and at a quality level?

Until next time-be you, be true, and be a hope builder!


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