Successful execution means seizing and acting on opportunities that support the business strategy.
Leadership is never easy, and executing on strategic goals can be particularly challenging.
In order to make real progress, you must be able to strike a balance between two important factors:
- Taking action with the right frame of mind
- Building and executing on a well-thought-out plan
Leading a team to achieve superior outcomes requires knowing what you want to accomplish while also carefully coordinating the efforts of team members and departments to achieve the organization’s strategic goals.
Larry Bossidy, retired former CEO of AlliedSignal and GE executive, said execution is “the missing link between aspirations and results.” Leaders are often very good at strategic planning but poor at executing on those plans.
Successful execution requires us to develop our strategic plans and our methods for executing on that vision in a seamlessly integrated way.
The plans we make should remain flexible over time; this will allow us to respond to the changing needs and conditions in the marketplace with agility and speed.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team knows how and where to contribute while you simultaneously manage other urgent day-to-day responsibilities and carve out time to focus on strategic priorities.
You must be able to communicate strategic intent, inspire others to contribute, and create attainable, incremental goals that indicate that you and your team members are making measurable progress on the plan.
This requires a set of key leadership behaviors and attributes.
You must have personal drive, the right frame of mind, and great determination and perseverance, as well as the ability to set direction, instill ownership, lead the change, build a plan, establish accountability, and coach and recognize others for their contributions. Each of these qualities is described below in more detail.
Drive – Leaders with drive have the personal energy needed to move beyond the routine, day-to-day activities and make a difference through bold new ideas that will enhance the competitiveness of the team, the department, or the organization. They create early wins for the team and help others stay inspired.
Frame of Mind – The ability to maintain a healthy, positive outlook, and remain focused on what you can do (rather than what you can’t) will allow you to recover quickly from any challenges and setbacks you encounter. Competing priorities can often get in the way of making progress. Creating a realistic to-do list with a prioritized series of tasks can ensure that the progress you make is sustained over time.
Perseverance – Having the tenacity and personal commitment to remain steadfast over the long term will allow you to pursue your goals even as you encounter resistance, objections, questions, and concerns. Leaders must be prepared to address people’s fears and feelings towards change while remaining persistent and continuing to move forward.
Setting Direction – Using your communication and influence skills allows people to understand the big picture and desired outcomes. Only after people know how the work they’re doing makes a difference for the organization will they become truly engaged and motivated by the tasks at hand.
Instilling Ownership – Successful execution requires leaders who can convey clear expectations early on so that everyone knows how they will personally contribute to the whole team’s success. Helping others recognize what’s in it for them, how they fit, and why they matter will transform them into key supporters and partners. Whenever possible, develop your plans collaboratively so that people are personally invested in the outcomes of the execution process.
Leading the Change – Communicating the purpose and rationale for the change and guiding others through the discomfort and fear that often accompanies new ways of conducting business is imperative for successfully integrating new processes and responsibilities into the organization.
Building a Plan – Nothing helps a leader accomplish more than a good plan. Your plan of action should define the roles, responsibilities, objectives, and actions that will help you achieve what you have set out to accomplish in a clear and compelling way.
Establishing Accountability – Leaders must hold themselves and others accountable for their behavior and results. A lack of discipline or an inability to define milestones or measure success can derail any strategic plan.
Coaching and Recognizing Others – Providing candid feedback when expectations are not being met allows people the opportunity to correct their behavior. In addition, recognizing positive behavior and giving credit for specific contributions will encourage everyone to continue to produce the desired outcomes.
Mastering the art of execution requires leaders to develop new behaviors and skills. And while learning new things is rarely easy, it can certainly be done—and it will be worth the effort.
Learn more about how CMOE can help your organization execute on its goals more effectively.