Execution Prowess: The ability to get things done – faster, better. High Impact Leaders lead by example, empower others and address the causes of any Knowing-Doing gap.
This is the fourth article in my series looking at the characteristics of High Impact Leaders:Leaders that make a difference. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/want-high-impact-leader-heres-what-takes-dr-steve-wyatt
High Impact Leaders have an orientation for action.
Leaders of Impact, commit to having an impact! They lay out the plans, take decisions, allocate responsibilities, ensure accountability and track and review performance – of themselves, of others and of the organisation. They make sure that they are visible role models of effectiveness, of results and of dynamism, they expect others to be equally energised and committed. Leaders in industrial revolution 4.0 are seen, take decisions and are directly involved.
High Impact Leaders actively work to overcome what Pfeffer and Sutton described as the ‘Knowing-Doing Gap’ - i.e. barriers to action. They identified 5 commonly found reasons why action is not achieved – are you or is your organisation falling into one or more of these traps?
Leaders of Impact embrace talent and empower the organization to act. They expect talent to come in all shapes and sizes, from inside and from outside the organization. They seek out, are able to recognise and to attract into the organization non-standard talent as well as talent that looks more conventional. They recognise that diversity of perspective and insight will lead to tensions between managers but that if led correctly such talent and tensions will accelerate performance through stimulating creativity and productivity. However High Impact Leaders do expect loyalty and commitment.
High Impact Leaders establish goals and metrics for the performance of their executives – they relax the ‘reins’ of input and behaviour control, typically policies and procedures from HR and Finance, in order to allow the organization to run faster. Instead they define clear performance and outcome metrics and then align policies that reward the performances delivered, e.g. merit-based and results-based compensation, promotion and recognition.
Unfortunately, many an aspiring leader fails to ‘move the needle’ of performance of their organization despite their bold vision, their key initiatives and personal authenticity - because they fail to align the application of policies and procedures by which control is exerted. This is frequently observed in East-West cross-cultural organisations and joint ventures where one or other (or both) parties focus on compliance and control rather than adopting the mind-set of empowerment.
Trust is an essential foundation for High Impact Leadership.
Without trust the leader cannot empower others. It is essential that the managers and employees trust how the policies and procedures of the organization will be applied if they are to actually follow a leader who seeks to energise and empower them. It is essential that they trust each other if they are to collaborate.
David Horsage, author of The Trust Edgecomments, “Leaders who inspire trust garner better output, morale, retention, innovation, loyalty, and revenue, while mistrust fosters skepticism, frustration, low productivity, lost sales, and turnover. Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing”.
Stephen Covey, author of The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything says that trust is built on two dimensions: Character and Competence. Character includes integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes capabilities, skills, results, and track record. Building trust requires time and consistency of behaviour, of words and results.
Jim Dougherty, lecturer at MIT Sloan says, “Establishing trust is the top priority. The best way to start building trust is to take the time and meet as many individual contributors as you can as soon as you can. In addition to meeting customers, meeting rank-and-file employees should be your top priority”.
The ‘Art and Craft’ of getting things done.
In 2013, Harvard Business Review published an article about the management approaches of Sir Alex Fergusson, who had then recently retired after an incredibly successful career as manager of Manchester United football club, dubbed the “Fergusson Formula” there are several relevant insights for Execution Prowess.
1. Start with the foundations: Ensure the organisational health of the fundamentals of the business
2. Dare to rebuild your team: Keep talent fluid, attract in new, redeploy, move out under performers
3. Set high standards and hold everyone to them: Role-model of values, energy and commitment.
4. Never, ever cede control: To lead, the leader must be followed; the leader sets the stage for soliciting inputs and may invite debate, but the final decision must clearly remain with the leader and then the team must move ahead accordingly.
5. Prepare to win: Focus on the results, align everything to achieve the outcome
6. Rely on the power of observation:See how the external context is changing and the internal workings of the organization are developing and performing
7. Match the message to the moment: Intercede directly with the right action in a timely manner delivered to the right place and person
8. Never stop adapting: Flexible, quick to adapt to changing circumstances, embrace new technology
Quick Check: Are you getting things done? Are difficult decisions made and commitments followed through by yourself and the leadership in your organization? Do initiatives slowly get abandoned without explanation? Do decisions get ‘reinterpreted’ after the results are realised?
Snap to Action: Create a list of decisions taken and identify the subsequent actions – and results. Reflect on each of the 5 reasons for the Knowing-Doing Gap – which ones are found in your organization. Decide to act on one of the issues this week; share this decision with a colleague and ask them to hold you accountable that you will have acted by the end of the week.
For those that feel there is room for improvement in your own Execution Prowess I refer you not only to all the authors and texts noted above but also for a framework to enhance execution in an organization Kaplan & Norton's book ‘The Balanced Scorecard’; alternatively for personal effectiveness to David Allen’s book ‘Getting Things Done’
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A business consultant and educator; focusing on global and regional firms operating in multiple fast changing contexts. Dr. Steve has consulted with major corporations on strategies and operations globally, Asia, Western Europe and UK. Dr. Steve is also an accomplished executive trainer and educator, with particular depth of experience in business strategy and management practice in Asia.