by Holly Green
What is the ONE thing that gets in the way of your ability to execute?
I work with hundreds of CEOs and business owners who are deeply concerned about a lack of execution and consider it to be one of their biggest competitive threats. They are also increasingly worried that old, entrenched ways of thinking and doing is a source of real vulnerability in their organizations.
Getting the right things done involves a systematic process of rigorously discussing “how and what,” questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability. It requires making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization’s capabilities, linking strategy to operations and the people who will implement that strategy, and then linking rewards to performance and results.
To get it done — however you define it — make sure to focus on these four actions:
1. Set performance goals:
Getting it done starts with focusing on where you want to go. Give yourself a target. Define excellence with as much specificity as you can. Then think about what you need to move out of the way or suspend in order to hit that target. Once you have a firm goal/destination, keep it in front of you and everyone else in the organization at all times.
Too often, we hold ourselves back from imagining a desired outcome unless someone can show us how to get there. But that’s not how our brain works best to generate and recognize solutions and methods. Creating clear outcomes is one of the most powerful skills in the world – and one of the most important for getting it done. When we have a clear target of where we want to go, the brain automatically focuses on getting there.
Once you set a target, compare your current reality with your destination in order to see the gap between the two. Then constantly define and re-define what you’re trying to accomplish and where you’re trying to go as the world around you changes.
2. Establish priorities
Make a list all the things you do and identify which ones contribute most to reaching your destination. The challenge comes from staying focused when interruptions and unexpected work want to push those priorities aside.
We can’t avoid interruptions. But we can make informed choices about how we spend our time. How important is the unexpected work compared to what you thought you needed to get done? How long can you let your in-basket go unprocessed and all your stuff un-reviewed and trust that you’re still making good decisions?
For two weeks, track how you spend your time by listing it in one of four quadrants:
- Important and urgent
- Important and not urgent
- Not important and urgent
- Not important and not urgent
Identify how much time you spend in categories 1 and 2. Then look at what you need to shift and how you can you create a context for shifting it. There really is no magic wand for getting the right things done. You have to make informed choices (sometimes tough ones) regarding limited resources.
3. Measure progress
Many people see measurement as a means of controlling behavior or micro-managing others. In reality, it’s an essential tool for getting it done.
A scorecard can help to clarify the strategy and goals while managing alignment across individuals, departments, and initiatives. When used effectively, it becomes a team communication vehicle, not a constraint for employees. A scorecard provides a variety of views into the business, and helps you maintain focus across all the important indicators.
Measurement tells a story (by tracking key financial and operational metrics) that links the measurements directly to your destination. It also forces ongoing consideration of limits, risks, and barriers.
4. Feel and act accountable
In an accountability-based company, people:
- Understand what they and others are accountable for
- Understand the consequences for not meeting clear expectations
- Have the resources — tools, time, and people — to get it done
For these to happen, leaders and managers need to clearly define what people should and cannot do so that everyone understands the boundaries and decision-making authority. Leaders and managers should also encourage direct reports to exercise discretion and creativity within the defined boundaries. And they should make those boundaries wide enough so people can do their work effectively.
Additionally, managers ensure people feel appreciated for doing great work.
Employees receive regular feedback on how they’re doing. And managers have sufficient authority to provide appropriate rewards in forms that employees value.
Your current system produces exactly what it is set up to produce. If you’re not getting it done, look at these key elements and see which ones you’re not giving enough attention.
Holly is CEO of The Human Factor, Inc., and helps business leaders and their companies achieve higher levels of performance and profitability.
Holly’s top selling book, More Than a Minute: How to Be an Effective Leader and Manager in Today’s Changing World (available in 9 languages globally) goes beyond the theory of leading and managing by providing practical, action-oriented information.