“And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord…” (Col. 3:23a New Heart English Bible)
What is it about leaders who execute that makes them different from those who don’t? For one thing, leaders who execute look for gaps between the desired and actual outcomes in everything from profit margins to selection of people for promotions. Their time is spent discovering and closing these gaps and leading the whole organization to higher and higher levels of performance.
Another skill exhibited by leaders who execute is their ability to persistently and constructively probe and ask questions. An example is given in the book titled Execution: The discipline of getting things done deals with a manager who plans an eight percent sales increase in the coming year even though the industry as a whole expects no growth.[i] Some leaders might just accept the eight percent target as a “stretch” and move on. But there will be some who challenge the manager asking questions such as, “Where will this eight percent increase come from? What products will generate this growth? What will be the reaction from our competitors? What will be the first quarter milestones, etc.?”
This leader—the one who executes—doesn’t just sign off on the plan; she wants an explanation. Details don’t bore her—she wants the details. She needs to understand the “how” behind the plan.
So what does an “executing” leader look like? Am I a leader who executes? Are you? Bossidy, Charan, and Burck (2011) list seven essential behaviors that form the first building block of execution:
- Know your people and your business
- Insist on realism
- Set clear goals and priorities
- Follow through
- Reward the doers
- Expand people’s capabilities
- Know yourself[ii]
We will explore these seven essential behaviors in future posts.
[i] Bossidy, L., Charan, R., & Burck, C. (2011). Execution: The discipline of getting things done. London: Random