Leadership Lessons | What is the Cornerstone of your Strategy?

At this time of year, we all get excited about personal renewal, our plans for the coming year and how we can enhance our personal and professional lives in 2011.

Even though most of us have traveled the road of broken resolutions, hope springs eternal as we prepare to refresh our commitment and recharge our batteries … and make plans to overcome our shortcomings and rise to new levels of success.

There are many fashionable approaches to this process, many of them with valuable insights.

Jonathan Fields chose 10 words to focus his energy. His approach is an expanded derivation from a three-word approach used by Chris Brogan, who, like me, uses his carefully chosen words “the way a lighthouse helps a ship in a storm.”

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Ernest Hemingway used only six words to write what he called his greatest novel … and the more you think on it, the more intriguing it becomes.

It’s one more approach you can use to bring the essence of your 2011 plan into sharp focus.

Although we’re more interested in clarity than mystery in our annual pilgrimage to the altar of realistic expectations, this approach, like those of Jonathan and Chris, also celebrates the power of simplicity.

Find the Cornerstone of your strategy

[pullquote]“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” – Alvin Toffler[/pullquote]

Maybe you’ve used variations on these K.I.S.S. principles to craft all sorts of goals and objectives … memorialized in lists, notebooks and diagrams.

Yet, when we step back into the maelstrom of real life, distractions intrude, new input floods our inboxes, and without seeing it, we start to slowly drift off course. We madly implement course correction procedures, but instead of returning us to our original direction, they cause us to lurch about, each adjustment resulting in a slightly different course even further from our original objective.

So, how many words does that leave us? Let’s see, by my calculation, just one word … if we take Field’s 10 words, subtract Hemingway’s six words and then take away Brogan’s three words, there’s just one left.

Good for us, though, because I want to encourage you to focus on just one unifying word for 2011, the single theme that describes the cornerstone of your strategy, upon which all others are built.

Any port in a storm … if you have a Lighthouse

This is a great way to find your own lighthouse.

After all, the lighthouse is a pretty simple concept, isn’t it? There’s not a bunch of conflicting beams throwing us off course.


Just one … and with a singular purpose: to keep our ship from crashing against the rocks.

Just as a lighthouse sits on land overlooking the sea, we also seek the same clarity to recognize the cornerstone of our strategy, a “bright line” that separates our objectives from what Steve Jobs calls “all the crappy stuff.”

[pullquote]What unifying theme describes the cornerstone of your strategy?[/pullquote]

One of the mantras we hear most often in sports is “don’t take your eye off the ball.” Wide receivers in football, hitters in baseball, scorers in basketball, tennis aces … they all know what that means. They’ve learned despite their varied stances, footwork, clever dodges or patented moves, that if they don’t keep their eye on the ball, everything else is wasted energy.

Is that all they have to do? Of course not. But if they don’t do that one single thing, very little else will matter, their talent will never be realized, their contract won’t be renewed and they’ll soon be forgotten.

So, where are you going to focus your energies?

What lighthouse will serve as the guiding light to help you keep the cornerstone of your success in sharp focus?

Getting to the root of that question and constantly refocusing on that single theme any time the real world intrudes on our best intentions requires that we set aside our multitasking proclivities and continue to recalibrate our objectives focused on our Cornerstone Theme.

If we can extract that nugget and rivet our attention on our lighthouse, we’ll always have a welcome companion on our journey to steer us through the unexpected fog, help us dodge the stray obstacles to get back on our original course – with corrections noted – to keep advancing our ship toward its destination.

Find a stable and defensible platform on which you can build your lighthouse. Make sure the searchlight is constantly scanning the horizon to make sure that you can sail cleanly, confident that your beacon will keep you from the rocky shoals and “all the crappy stuff.”

What’s my cornerstone for 2011? Community.

The cornerstone of my 2011 plan is community.

Everything I do will focus on building a community of middle market business leaders willing to help each other by sharing the trials, tribulations and lessons of their journey.

Whether I’m working with clients or meeting new ones, whether I’m writing my column or another blog post, it will always be about community and how we can work together to build successful businesses.

Will you join me?


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