Leadership Execution

There are many things that can cause a leader to fail. One of those things, and one that is not often talked about, is lack of execution.  

 

Holding a leadership position doesn’t automatically make someone more disciplined. Leaders may be superior vision casters but if they don’t have a solid plan to make that vision happen then their vision soon becomes clouded. If they do have a plan then they must also have the discipline to follow it. Many leaders don’t have the required discipline needed to execute their plan. 

 

Leaders also sometimes focus on less significant things at the expense of the things that really matter. I’ve literally seen leaders who were more concerned about what’s on the buffet table at lunch than they were about the content of a meeting. Some things matter more than others and leaders who execute well can tell the difference between the two. 

 

Another reason some leaders don’t execute well is that they don’t have the right people in the proper roles to make their vision come to life. Many leaders, perhaps even most leaders fail to realize the importance of placing people in roles where they have an opportunity to use their strengths. 

 

A large majority of people within an organization are promoted because they were good at what there were doing before the promotion. The assumption is that because there were good in one role they will be good in another role too. That may be partially true but there is more to consider. Much more.

 

Let’s say a person was a particularly skilled customer service representative. You recognize that skill and promote them to a leadership role within the customer service department. Their customer service skills may still shine but are they also good at helping other people shine as well? 

 

Your first level of execution may have been spot on. But if the people you put into leadership positions can’t help other people develop then your second level of execution is lacking. If you have potential superstar performers being “led” by people who aren’t truly leaders then your second level of execution is severely lacking. 

 

If your future top performers are not being led by your very best leaders then you’ve not only missed the boat on execution you didn’t even make it to the dock. One of two things will happen when your future top performers are being “led” by non leaders. The first one is their star will simply burn out; they stay with your organization but their potential has now been tamped down to almost nothing. The second and more likely result of potential superstars not being developed by the people above them is that they leave your organization and go on to succeed somewhere else.

 

How long do you think an organization can withstand that type of poor execution?

 

Leaders who execute well are two or three or four steps ahead of leaders who don’t. They not only consider the consequences of their decisions they consider the consequences of the consequences of the consequences. 


Successful leaders develop their plan and focus on the end goal to help themselves stay disciplined. They prioritize well and never let small things obscure the important ones. And most importantly, they grow their people on the way to success through solid execution with every level of their organization. 


The Lottery of Life

I don’t often buy lottery tickets. I do when there is a jackpot over $500 million or so but why bother with those pesky $200 or $300 million ones. 

 

I think lots of people are just like me. Lottery officials seem to confirm that. The higher the jackpot the longer the lines to buy tickets and the faster the jackpot grows. 

 

There are a lot of people who play the lottery of life the same way. They ask for a little help but what they mean is “do it for me.” They will actually refuse “some” help because they want enough “help” so that they don’t have to do a thing on their own to succeed. 

 

The people who truly win the lottery of life are the ones who have developed the discipline and work ethic to succeed on their own. Except they know they never really do it on their own. They work their butts off and accept whatever help they can get along the way and use it to boost their own efforts, not replace them.

 

There are certainly people who seem to “luck” their way to success. There are people who have the appearance of success handed to them. There are also a whole lot of people hoping for success to somehow magically appear.

 

But the surest way to find success is to look for it in the hard work and effort you put forth to earn it. 

 

The legendary baseball player Babe Ruth once said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Are you that person? Do you suffer the setbacks that life offers and bounce back to try again? Are you working for success or hoping for success?

 

I don’t want anyone to stop hoping for something better but hope alone doesn’t accomplish much. Never allow hope to stop you from making a concerted effort to earn the success you’re hoping for. 


If you’re willing to work for it then I’m willing to bet you’ll find it. You’ll find it or you’ll make it but either way you’ll have won the biggest lottery of all. You’ll have won the lottery of life! 

The Line Between Respect and Fear

A leader needs the respect of their people. But do they also need their people to fear them? At least a little? 

 

It wasn’t too many years ago that one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies sent all of their new managers through what they called “Fear School.” It was designed to teach the new managers methods for instilling fear into their employees. 

 

That company believed that while respected leaders were a “nice to have” feared leaders were a “must have.” They knew that fear was a powerful motivator and it worked for them. Or at least it appeared to work. 

 

What they succeeded in doing was forcing the compliance of their people. Compliant people can produce immediate results that sometimes leads to short-term progress. Fear appears to create a sense of urgency in people but it’s not really urgency, it’s anxiety. That anxiety creates a lot of activity but very little productivity. 

 

People who are led by fear tend to live in survival mode. They aren’t interested in what’s best for the company or it’s customers. They are concerned with their own well-being and not making waves that could swamp them. Their focus is on themselves not the organization and that is not a recipe for success. 

 

Fear kills! It kills trust. It kills creativity. It kills communication. It kills good decision making. It kills action. 

 

Lead on fear long enough and you’ll kill your organization. 

 

While fear can force at least temporary compliance only respect can earn the commitment of your people. 

 

Leaders who earn the respect of their people have the opportunity to make them better. Respected leaders inspire their people to do more, be more and accomplish more. People who respect their leaders don’t feel the need to watch their backs. Instead they focus on the customer to make sure they are taken care of as well.

 

Earning respect comes from showing respect so Authentic Leaders put their people first. They build the trust necessary to create clear, open and effective communication. These leaders are not afraid to admit when they are wrong and they never dump the blame for their mistake on someone else. 

 

Respected leaders have to opportunity to build more leaders. Fear-based leaders can only hope to hang onto the followers they have. While respected leaders grow, fear-based leaders eventually just go. Go away that is. 

 

And yet the temptation for many a leader is to believe that they still need their people to fear them at least a little bit. If you’re one of those leaders I’d say to you to make certain that your fear-based leadership is not just a cover up for your own fear and insecurity. You may think you’re hiding beneath layers of intimidation and authority but eventually you’ll be discovered to be just another person with a leadership position who doesn’t lead at all.


If you’re going to truly lead you’ll need to risk allowing your people to see you fail from time to time. So stop with the fear tactics. Begin developing a strategy for building the trust of your people. You’ll soon discover that respect grows best when fertilized with that very same trust.


Does Your Company Have Culture?

The answer to that question is an absolute yes. Your company most certainly has a culture. That makes the next few questions even more important if you’re at the top of your company’s organizational chart. 

 

Are you able to describe, with a high level of specificity what your company culture is? Are you the person creating, driving and nurturing that culture or did your culture develop by default? And maybe most important, can the people in your organization, at all levels, accurately describe the culture of the organization you lead?

 

A CEO or top leader in an organization can delegate many tasks but designing and fostering the organization’s culture is not one of them. Culture is driven from the top, the very top, down. Top leaders who understand that have the opportunity to create a culture that becomes a competitive advantage. It also attracts top talent to their organization.

 

Peter Drucker has been credited with saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This phrase doesn’t appear in any of his 39 books so some people claim the quote is not his but it certainly sounds like him. Regardless of who said it first the fact remains it is 100% correct. 

 

Organizations that spend tons on strategy while allowing culture to develop on it’s own greatly limit their potential success. 

 

Despite the importance of culture, research shows few organizations do more than pay lip service to it. While culture is reported to be one of the top three priorities for businesses only 20% of top leaders report investing any time to develop it. This after 62% of them also reported they were primarily responsible for their organization’s culture.

 

When asked when was the last time they had conducted an internal or external audit of their organization’s culture the vast majority answered never. Most relied on sources like employee feedback or surveys, customer surveys and risk events such as rule breaches, human resources issues and the monitoring of compliance.

 

If you’re a leader at the very top of your organization you must realize that you can’t simply let culture happen. Your culture needs to be intentional, focused, live-able and meaningful. 

 

As John O’Brien co-author on The Power of Purpose says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast but culture gets its appetite from purpose.”

 

If your culture doesn’t have a purpose and you can’t clearly state exactly what that purpose is then you are likely offering your culture a very unappealing menu. Developing an organization’s culture in not a “time expense” it is a “time investment.” If you’re in the 80% of top leaders not making that investment today then you need to begin now. 


Carve some time out of your strategy sessions and use it to develop what matters even more. That would be your culture!


Easier Said Than Done

I shouldn’t be, but I often am, surprised at how many people respond to a blog post or something I post on Twitter by telling me “that’s easier said than done.”

 

That got me to thinking…yes I know that scares a lot of people….but it got me to thinking about what is easier to do than it is to say. I’m stumped! It seems to me that everything is easier said than done. In fact, it seems to me that the biggest accomplishments are way easier said than done. 

 

It’s far easier for anyone to say they are going to do something than it is to actually do it. That’s especially true for things that are worth doing. 

 

When I hear the response “that’s easier said than done” I’m almost certain that the person saying it will never know how easy or hard it is to do because they have no intention of even trying. 

 

I know some of you won’t like hearing this but “easier said than done” is an excuse and a poor one at that. It provides people with the cover they need to do nothing. Except in the long run that “cover” turns out to be as transparent as glass. 

 

If you’re reading this you should know that the device you’re reading it on wouldn’t even exist if the person or people who invented it had bought into the “easier said than done” excuse. 

 

Pretty much everything you take for granted today was once thought impossible and it would still be impossible if the person who overcame that seeming impossibility had accepted the lazy excuse of “that’s easier said than done.”

 

So what’s one thing in your life you would like to change if only it wasn’t easier said then done? 


Clear you mind of the success limiting thinking of “easier said than done” and just do it. Once you’ve accomplished it, once you made that change, once you’ve succeeded it won’t matter anymore how hard it was; it will be done. Even better than that, YOU will have done it! 

Second Thoughts

It is okay to doubt yourself for a moment. The only people who don’t have second thoughts are the ones who have few thoughts in the first place. 

 

Having a doubt in your mind doesn’t mean you’re a doubter. It means you have the mental capacity to re-think something. Many times a second thought will sharpen your decision, not change it. 

 

Second thoughts cause you to ask yourself questions, find alternatives and take the appropriate action. Second thoughts slow us down and give us time to reflect on the decision we just made. Second thoughts can serve a valuable purpose. 

 

But…

 

Second thoughts can also come straight out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of being wrong, fear of upsetting or disappointing someone. Second thoughts born out of fear are almost always a very stressful experience. 

 

Second thoughts sometimes stem from a lack of self-confidence. Those second thoughts are demotivating and cause you to doubt not just your decisions but your abilities, values, and even your relationships with others. Second thoughts based on a lack of confidence in yourself actually feed on themselves and grow every time you experience doubt. 

 

Second thoughts from fear or a confidence issue serve no useful purpose because they cause you to ask the wrong questions. They cause you to question yourself more than the decision you made. These kinds of second thoughts don’t sharpen a decision or even change a decision, they simply delay it or eliminate the decision completely. 

 

So when you’re having second thoughts you need to determine the source of that doubt. If it’s coming from fear then remember that the only place that fear exists is in our minds. Fear can not make a home in your head unless you allow it. The fastest and most effective way to deal with fear is to take action. Do the thing you fear the most and fear will no longer have control over you. 

 

If your second thoughts are coming from a lack of self-confidence then you need to remind yourself of all your past successes. If you’ve succeeded before then you can absolutely do it again. You need to ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if you move forward with your decision. Realize that in most cases you are perfectly capable of dealing with that “worst.” Rethink your decision to determine how you can minimize that “worst case” and then move forward. 

 

Not making a decision due to second thoughts IS a decision. It’s a decision to do nothing and doing nothing is almost always wrong. 


People who never have second thoughts are know it alls who most often know nothing at all. You actually want to have second thoughts. Use them to make better, more confident decisions. There is no doubt, no doubt at all, that it will lead you to a better life!

Last Second Sam

There are people who claim to believe that procrastination helps them be more successful. To them I would say that once you become comfortable misleading yourself you can, and most likely will, mislead anyone. 

 

Procrastination will kill your opportunity for success. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but eventually it most definitely will. That much is certain!

 

People who believe procrastination helps them because they think better under pressure are not being honest with themselves. People who believe they are more productive when working under stress are fooling themselves. 

 

Approaching deadlines do not make people smarter, calmer, more productive or more logical. They make everything more challenging.

 

The real reason many people procrastinate is that they see low value in the task. It’s either not fun enough or they see no reward for doing it. Some people procrastinate because they do not have confidence in their ability to complete the task. Fear of failure is a driving force behind many a procrastinator’s behavior. 

 

For some people procrastination is part of their personality. They are just more impulsive than other people. These are the people I call last second Sam or last second Sally depending on…well you know what it depends on.

 

One of the most effective tools for overcoming the tendency to procrastinate is a Prioritized Daily Task List. A prioritized task list is a to-do list on steroids. You list all the things you need to accomplish on a given day but you list them in order of importance. You DO NOT do the second most important thing until the most important thing is accomplished. 

 

Don’t worry about working on one thing all day if it’s truly the most important or most productive thing you could do that day. You’ll still be better offer than if you spent the day doing a bunch of unimportant or unproductive things. 

 

Many procrastinators put off doing things that are quick and easy to do. They don’t see a lot of fun or reward in doing them so they just put it off. Answering an email is a good example. A quick answer might take only a minute but they still open and read the email several times before answering it. 

 

So here’s a good rule of thumb to help stop at least some procrastinating. If a task takes a minute or less to do then do it immediately. No delay, no hesitation, and NO PROCRASTINATING! You will be amazed at how many things you do in a day can be completed in under a minute. 

 

Don’t kid yourself into thinking being a last second Sam or Sally has one ounce of benefit. You will not find even one very successful person who will tell you their success is due to putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today. 


And you’re highly unlikely to be the first.