Many parts of your job are important, but among the skills that leaders must possess, execution rises to the top.
It’s simple. Unless you can execute, the work doesn’t get done. It’s tough to stay focused on your own priorities, and when you add oversight of your executive team and their performance, things can get complicated.
What gets in the way of your team’s ability to execute – and what can you do about it?
Use the following checklist to see where you need to put a system, process, or behavior in place to get things done:
Does your planning session reflect clear goals, deadlines, and assigned responsibilities?
Valuable time is wasted when clarifying these components are ignored. Your executive team members certainly know their areas of responsibility well. But they may not be eager to take on additional work, especially if the project under discussion has pieces that touch multiple areas. And when this is the case, your planning session may suffer from “Bystander Effect.” This social psychology phenomenon says that that when a group is faced with a crisis or critical question at hand, each person in the group will assume someone else will take care of it (and perhaps look the other way!). Your role as leader is to make sure these pieces are well-defined – and well-assigned!
A chief piece that you as leader must own is to drive accountability.
What will the process be for reporting on a particular initiative or project? What essential information will you need to receive in updates so that key issues aren’t buried, or meetings aren’t consumed with minutia? In other words, how will you know the work is being done? And finally, you must define to your team members how you want them to report back to you so you aren’t chasing them for answers.
You and your team will need to reassess your workloads, and make sure all agree as to any shifts in focus.
If taking on a new project, revisit expectations about other work that is already scheduled. You will save time and team morale by holding a quick meeting to discuss what timelines on other projects each feels needs adjusting and come to a shared agreement on these items. Otherwise, left to individual decision, one team member’s adjustments may adversely affect another team member’s expected outcomes.
Time-block your own work into a calendar.
Executives who don’t do this often complain that “the real work gets done when everyone else leaves the building.” Granted, peace and quiet is important, and unexpected interruptions can slow things down. But it is sadly more often the case that executives stack meetings back-to-back on their calendar, and then wonder why they cannot catch up. Block out time each day to work on your responsibilities – or someone else’s priorities will steal that time from you.
This is most often where I find executives stall.
If you have completed steps 1 and 2 above, but you still feel stalled, it may be due to an unconscious fear around completing your assignment. If you find yourself ready to work but frozen, ask yourself these questions: “What do I fear as I look at executing this project? Do I know what the next step is? Or am I fearful I will fail? That my work won’t be good enough and others will discount my credibility?” A time management system is often touted as the answer to procrastination. But behaviorists know that in many cases, stalling is an indication that the executive is worried that he or she will actually complete the task at hand! Fear of measuring up, or on doing so well that one is assigned even more responsibility in future, can be at the basis of poor performance.
Where do you need to fine-tune your own team’s ability to execute? And are you as leader on top of your game when it comes to holding them accountable? I look forward to hearing about your thoughts and experience.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.