Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” — Robert Burns

Working with senior executives across industries, whether they work for small business or Fortune 500 companies, I’ve realized there is one main thing that separates top performers: execution.

The most common theme I’ve heard from top performing executives is that they focus on only two or three main objectives at any one time — not a dozen or more. They ask themselves and their people the following question:

“What 2 or 3 things must we accomplish over the next six to twelve months to achieve our objectives/goals?

They then relentlessly pursue those goals and avoid getting sidetracked by others. One major distinction to make is that these top-level executives don’t get caught up in the planning; they focus on actually putting the plan into action. If you’re struggling to balance planning, strategy, and execution of said plans and strategies, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan have several tips I’d like to share with you.

Tips for Execution in Your Organization

In Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan outlined seven essential behaviors that help with execution:

  • Know your people and business — Leaders who are out of touch with the day-to-day realities of their organization and only get information filtered through direct reports will be at a disadvantage. It’s important to maintain authority while also being open to communication and involvement.
  • Be realistic — Good executives expect to hear the truth and don’t avoid confrontations or challenges. Top executives demand the facts, debate them openly, look for holes in the logic, and make decisions that lead to execution.
  • Set clear goals and priorities — Having 2 to 3 goals is the best way to move forward with planning, strategy, and execution. Too many irons in the fire will prevent anything from getting done.
  • Follow through — Expect to run into obstacles but give your team the confidence and tools to bust through or work around them. Teach them that they will learn from mistakes by acknowledging your own mistakes and making transparent course corrections.
  • Reward the doers — Rewarding top performers monetarily and otherwise (e.g., acknowledgment, advancement opportunities, etc.) is the best way to show that results are recognized more than just showing up.
  • Work with your team — Helping employees learn and grow is probably the most difficult part of an executive’s job. It takes time, awareness, discipline, and a ton of patience. To make this process easier, make it acceptable for people to ask for help. Offer to observe employees in action and provide supportive, specific, useful feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Know thyself — Top leaders do what they can to become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. They build on their strengths and either correct their weaknesses or learn how to work around them. Leaders who are self-confident and disciplined tend to work hard at developing themselves and often hire and promote people who have skills that complement theirs.

Improving Your Organization Starts with You

As an executive, it’s your job to ensure that the organization operates at the highest level possible. Of course, the biggest component to this is knowing how to execute actions that will get the results your organization needs. Charan and Bossidy’s tips hopefully show you how to enhance your execution skills, but it’s important to remember that: 1. Execution is a discipline. 2. Execution is linked to strategy. 3. Execution is the major job of the executive, not developing a strategy.

Building a team that gets the work done and developing a culture of execution will grow your organization by leaps and bounds — but it all starts with your commitment to moving forward.

What a great way to start the New Year! Cheers and thanks for subscribing to my newsletter.

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store