I had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite clients in Texas this last week at a beautiful lake home in the Hill Country, south of Austin. One of the leaders of the client’s leadership team asked me why it is SOOOOO very hard to get things done? (emphasis on the word SOOOOOOOO… indicating she found it VERY difficult. Much of the time, if not most of the time, when we fail to get things done, it’s because the time to work on getting the priority thing done slips between our fingers as we work on all the other stuff that comes our way in a standard business day, or business week. Our intentions are solid, but our execution has holes in it, like a wedge of swiss cheese. We need to start teaching people how to execute so that we can result far more often, but because teaching execution is neither easy, nor is it sexy, or fun, we usually don’t get around to teaching our charges how to execute. If you occasionally struggle to get things done, or you usually struggle to get things done, this blog article is for you.
It’s Not As Easy As It Looks A lot of Leaders attempt to order their way or legislate their way to execution, telling their team, “Here’s what we’re doing. Get it done!” It almost never works, when execution is dictated with a stroke of the pen. People fear change. Executing solutions to problems almost always involves a healthy dose of change, and in my experience, people are wired to resist it or hate it, or something in between. If we’re going to lead and inspire our people and our teams to embrace and regularly proactively execute change, we’re going to need to talk with them in a whole new manner than just ordering them to get it done….
Start With Respect, Finish With Candor, and Context Behavior change is a heck of a lot easier to inspire when your conversation starts as a dialogue instead of a diatribe. If you disrespect your team by ordering them around, you miss the opportunity to demonstrate your faith in them and your respect for what they’ve learned as they provided products and services to your customers. Signal to your team that you believe a change is in order and lay out the logic behind your recommended action and change. Ask them to think about it for a moment and ask them if they believe that a change should be made as well. Walk them through your reasoning. Help them to understand the WHY behind what you want to do, and ask them how they think it will impact the team and more importantly, how it is likely to impact your customers. In my view, changes that hurt the team and hurt the customer are not worth attempting, but a change that could well inspire delight from customers and make the team’s work easier has got a fighting chance of garnering some emotional support and seeing the light of day.
Beware The Whirlwind! I listened to an audiobook a number of years ago, The Four Disciplines Of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling. I was mesmerized by the audiobook, it was spellbinding. McChesney was giving a workshop live somewhere and they recorded him working with and facilitating an audience about how to execute. I learned about this phenomenon he called “The Whirlwind” as he spoke. I had been struck by lightning, or at least, by the whirlwind. McChesney defined the whirlwind as all of the “stuff” that you have to respond to and handle during a typical business day. YES! The whirlwind! I recognized that I had one of those, and I realized that it regularly sapped my energy, my time, and ultimately, my ability to get the most important work done. I learned that if you work on every crisis that comes up every day, you often will never have time or energy to work on anything else.
Beware the whirlwind, my friends, or your time will disappear into the vortex…
Focus On The BIG Stuff! Jim Collins called them BHAGs, Gino Wickman calls them Rocks, and McChesney et al called them WIGs (wildly important goals). Whatever your preference, they’re essentially the same thing. The most important work, when it’s done, makes things better and often makes everything else easier. Think of this BIG stuff as Strategic stuff that matters, and improves efficiency. McChesney encourages us to focus on it and get it onto our Calendar, and then avoid the frequent temptation to let something else take its place. That discipline will give you a fighting chance of executing better.
Take Steps To Act-On Lead Measures There are lead measures and there are lag measures. Most of the time we measure lag measures and think that somehow measuring them is going to help us to make great decisions and gain momentum and make improvements. To do that, we need to be measuring and taking action on lead measures. Lead measures are something that you can influence and are something that will predictively LEAD to something that you’re trying to make happen. A company that wants to grow revenue by 15 % Year over Year may measure Sales Revenue thinking that measuring sales will magically make the sales revenue grow. Won’t necessarily happen because Sales Revenue is a lag measure. Sales Calls, Educational Workshops, Proposals, and Sales Presentations, on the other hand, might well become lead measures when done with intelligence. A company that wanted to grow revenue by 15% YOY, might conclude that if 10 Sales Calls Per Week Translated to $100 Million in Annual Revenue, might strive for 15 Sales Calls Per Week and measure to see if it might lead to $115 Million in Revenue. If it did, that might make it a very relevant LEAD measure.
I’m convinced that many Mid-Sized and Small Companies really struggle with execution and have an abundance of employees who are making excuses for not getting things done. “I’ve been so busy!” is one of my personal favorites. I hear that one a lot! Those companies also have an enormous opportunity for upside potential and growth, if they can move the needle significantly on Execution. If you liked today’s blog article stop back soon because we’ll share some more really terrific techniques and strategies for executing with discipline. If you would like to check out this wonderful book, you can find it on audible, you can buy it from Amazon or wherever you like to purchase your books. You won’t regret it for a moment…
Michael is a Business Advisor for Fast-Growth Companies all over the United States. A member of the Professional Business Coaches Alliance, Michael is a Certified Master Business Coach who specializes in coaching C-Suite Executives and Emerging Leaders for Mid-Sized Technology Companies, and other companies interested in Fast-Growth and running a highly profitable business. If you’d like to learn more about Execution you can stop back in a few days for our next blog article or you can send Michael an email at email@example.com.