This week, Dr. Pilcher discusses the common job we all come to work to do each day: Execute Well. Do we take quick decisive, meaningful actions every day? Or do we find ourselves waiting for our next assignment, redoing our work, or missing deadlines? Executing well plays a critical role in moving organizations forward and exceeding results. Dr. Pilcher recommends four actions for executing well in this week’s show.
This episode addresses questions, such as:
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Today, we’ll focus on “A common job – execute well.”
We’re usually good at meeting and planning. And on we go doing our jobs day in and day out. Down the road we meet again when our results aren’t what we expected them to be. So, we meet and off we go again. People are doing the same things they’ve always done, and the results aren’t improving.
And, then here it comes – our leaders restructure the organization. Change the configuration of who reports where and announces how they will modify the structure.
Re-organizing is not necessarily bad or a wrong decision. Regardless of the way we structure our organizations, if we don’t know how to execute a plan, we will not see improved results.
About a month ago, I had breakfast with a friend who was having difficulty getting his salesforce to achieve the sales goals. I asked him to bring the sales leader’s actions and communication decks to the breakfast meeting. We reviewed the first three decks together. They included the changes they were making to their sales organizational structure. I asked him to show me the specific actions focused on executing to achieve results. Specifically, I asked, “What are the quarterly, monthly, and weekly actions the sales team was executing to achieve the goals?”
He said that once the sales leader had the right structure with the right people, he would then work on execution. I asked, how long has your sales leader been making these structural changes? He said, three years. I asked about their growth results the past three years and he said the organization has seen a steady decline. And, he also said the sales leader reassured him that this new structure was the one that would make the difference. He failed to mention that the sales team had a 40% turnover rate and three vacant positions.
Maybe he is right - The fourth org change will be the charm. I also know that without focusing on a strategy that includes an execution plan, the likelihood for success declines. Even if we get lucky in one year, our ability to sustain high performing results over time is difficult to do.
Can you think of a time when you’ve been part of re-orgs and wondered if the madness would ever stop?
I know I had a few faculty and staff that felt this way in our college when I was the dean. We had one department that was not performing nor getting along. I kept re-organizing every year thinking if this group worked in a different structure, under a different leader, with a different group of people, something good would occur. Guess what? It kept getting worse not better. The people kept doing the same thing, just in a different structure. I had it wrong – I failed to work with the team to define the behaviors and actions that would lead to positive results. From there we could have determined what we needed to do together and then we could have determined how to get it done. And finally, we would have known how to hold each other accountable for what we decided on.
After several years of failure, I finally determined that goals and strategies with a solid execution plan would help our faculty and staff and most importantly, our students. We also began working as a team on individual actions we could take to execute well.
Execution has always been a challenge for organizations. As workplaces get more and more complex, it’s more difficult than it’s ever been to execute well. There are several actions we as leaders can take to create organizational systems that support solid execution strategies. What’s most significant is to start with very specific actions people can take to enhance their personal execution skills.
Do we take quick, decisive, meaningful actions every day? Or do we find ourselves waiting for our next assignment, redoing our work, or missing deadlines?
We come to work with one common job every day – to execute well. When we are a skilled executor we play a vital role in moving our organizations forward. That means coming to work on time and ready to act. That means meeting deadlines and being a team player. That means really owning the job and doing what’s necessary to overcome obstacles.
So, what are some simple, yet powerful actions we can take to execute well that I find get in our way? I’m going to suggest what I believe to be four critical ones.
First, do what we say we are going to do and do it well.
Have you ever depended on someone who committed to something, but didn’t complete it at all or on time, and if completed, it was of such poor quality you wished you had done it yourself?
Last week, I went to the store to buy a new cell phone. I took the plunge and decided to upgrade to the newest iphone. Because of my travel schedule, I needed to get my cell phone quickly. The iphone was not in stock, but they ordered it while I was there and said it would be in the store in two days. They would text me later in the day to let me know when it would be in the store. I did not receive a text, so I called the next morning and asked for the rep who helped me. Of course, he was not working. The attendant told me the internet was down the prior day and the phone would not be at the store until two additional days from when promised. She did tell me it was in Memphis on its way to Pensacola. You get the point, and you’ve felt this frustration. The phone would not be in before I had to go back on the road to travel for the week.
I took the sales person at his word. We should be able to trust what people say they are going to do, and if they can’t, they owe it to others to tell them why not.
Let’s do what we say we’re going to do when we say we are going to do it.
What’s one way we execute well? We assume the ball is always in our court. When we are assigned a task, we always do what is needed to move the task forward. We are never the hold up for a project getting accomplished. If there are barriers and we need help, we ask for help to solve the problem to keep the team moving forward in a positive way.
Here’s the second action we can take to execute well. Spend the right amount of time and the right time of day on actions that require critical and creative thought.
Have you ever entered the day motivated to complete a critical task and before you know it the day is over with no work on the task?
We start the day by opening our email and become buried in it. Someone in the office comes by and asks if we have just a minute that turns into an hour. We then jump on a conference call or two, and have 30 minutes between a call and a meeting. We are at the end of the day, feeling tired so we get on social media and check our social media accounts. The morning we had planned to devote time for critical and creative thinking slipped away. If this time is important to us and our team, let’s put it on our calendar similar to the way we put client and team meetings on.
What’s a second way we can execute well? Similar to the way we schedule meetings, we schedule times on our calendar for critical and creative thought and we honor it with all our might.
One of my biggest obstacles last year was not honoring this time. I missed the deadline for completing the writing of a new book. To adjust and do better, as I entered the new year, I shifted some responsibilities to our executive leadership team so that I could put times on my calendar. I asked us all to honor this time together. I promised myself and our team that I would do my part.
Here’s the third action we can take to execute well. Involve the right people when needed and not more than needed to make decisions or take actions.
Have you been in a situation where the team is ready to move forward and feels confident in doing so, but the leader of the project holds until she gets input from other people who don’t really need to be involved in the decision? The feedback then takes the project off course.
Or have you been part of team where the project moved forward without going through the necessary review and the team had to backtrack and re-do their work?
What’s a third way we can execute well? We make sure we know who the point person is. Here’s why. We overcomplicate our work when we ask co-workers to provide an answer they may or may not know. We also put them in a no-win situation. They may not want to provide input, yet they feel obligated to say something. They may provide just enough information that we interpret as support for a decision. So we could gain false confidence that leads to bad decision-making.
Here’s what I have to be careful of doing. We have an open office and my desk is in the open area with our team. I’m on the road more than in the office. When there, some of our team members may ask me questions about a project or strategy.
If I’m not careful I will do the wrong thing – I answer the question that may be on or off target – I’ve not been in the decision-making or communication link. I don’t have the context, nor the intel needed to always answer in the best way. Because I am the executive leader, my answer may hold weight and could send the team down the wrong path. And, make the leader’s job more difficult and cause the leader to become frustrated with me.
What’s the lesson for me? Answer with asking a question. Ask, what would you do or what do you think? I could ask them, if you were me answering this question, what would you say? Or, I could suggest that the question be directed to the leader to ensure an accurate answer.
As the executive leader, I always want to make sure I don’t provide mixed messages to our team. This keeps our teams executing without confusion and aligned to the outcomes.
Here’s the fourth action we can take to execute well. Make decisions with enough data and don’t let perfection be the enemy of execution.
Have you ever had team members who could not start or finish a task because they are continuing to gather data that provides the best information on how to proceed? These team members work and work on a project and never feel good enough to deliver. And, then when they do, we all wonder why it took so long because it doesn’t seem that special.
What’s a fourth way we can execute well? We work to complete a task in a timely way without compromising our work. And, we don’t want to do too much guessing so that we go way off course. We want to do enough to get the right type of feedback and remain open to feedback from our team and leaders to advance the project.
I work with the University of West Georgia. To break through long standing barriers, we created a Barriers Team comprised of members throughout the university. We wanted to create a way to break down silos to solve problems.
Their job was to identify a long-standing barrier, do the research on the problem, and work with the respective department to solve the problem. A major goal was to gather just enough information to solve a long-standing issue in a timely way. In our next podcast episode, we will focus on how to create and launch a Barriers Team to solve problems.
What we know is everyone in the organization has this common job of executing well. Today, we’ve focused on four actions that will help us better execute at work and by doing so we help our organizations. I find that these four actions as well as others help us achieve results and sustain them over time. We’ll come back to the topic, executing well, time and again – that’s how important it is.
As I review the four actions one more time, select the one you think you need to work on this coming week.
· Do what we say we are going to do and do it well.
· Spend the right amount of time and the right time of day on actions that require critical and creative thought.
· Involve the right people when needed and not more than needed to make decisions or take actions.
· Make decisions with enough data and don’t let perfection be the enemy of execution.
Once you’ve made your selection, think about a time when you did not execute this action well. Reflect on what you could have done to be a better executor. Then, do one thing this week that will improve your execution skills and keep doing it.
You know mine – schedule time on my calendar for creative thinking and honor it so that I can finish my new book.
Thank you for tuning in to Accelerate Your Performance. I look forward to connecting with you on our next episode where we focus on “Breaking Down Barriers.” Have a great week.