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Don’t lose your head during the execution… 5 tips every leader must know

The more I see and work with high growth business leaders, the more I realise that success depends on setting and then delivering on ambitious objectives. No surprise there you’d say.  

Unfortunately, it turns out that defining a strategy and setting goals is one thing, sticking to that strategy and fully implementing it is quite another. Most growth strategies fail to materialise not because of a lack of SMART Objectives, but because things just didn’t get done! This isn’t because the leader or the people in the team are lazy or stupid… they are just really, really busy doing what they see as the “real work”.

It turns out that most growth-wish leaders do not have a “strategy problem”, they have an “execution problem”. They are unable to convert their strategic intent into an operational reality and therefore they fail to generate the anticipated uplift in profits. 

The challenge here is that just like a Premier League Football Manager, we’re all in the results business. You won’t be remembered for the courageous objectives or the elegance of the strategy, only on what you did or didn’t achieve.

So what is it that the most successful high growth leaders do, that the less well performing ones don’t? Success leaves clues. We have observed 5 common best practice behaviours that are key to successful execution:

  1. Focus on the “Vital Few Goals” - narrow your focus solely on the 3 to 5 “vital few” high level goals not the trivial many.  Vital Few Goals are not just important, they are wildly important; so important that failure to achieve these goals renders any other achievements inconsequential.    
  2. Convert lofty goals into do-able plans and tasks - just because you agree a breakthrough objective with a team member, do not assume they fully know how to implement it. I recommend working with them to agree their action plan and then offer support to help overcome the biggest challenges.
  3. Construct a compelling dashboard - when activities and outcomes are being measured people take them more seriously. It shows everyone we are “playing for real” and visibly highlights if our plan is on track or not. Ideally dashboards should feature both backward looking “lagging” measures, plus more predictive “leading” measures. Often by the time a poorly performing lagging measure is reported it’s too late to do anything about it as it’s already happened. The Leading Measures enable you to take action now to influence and improve future performance.
  4. Act as a Player Coach - leaders who execute successfully recognise the role they must play as a Coach.Through a combination of regular 1-2-1 coaching sessions they systematically challenge assumptions, overcome barriers and help change behaviours.The best Coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.
  5. Create a culture of accountability - hold regular review meetings where you re-connect everyone in the team to the actions/numbers they committed to deliver on. A weekly 45 minute review meeting can provide the ideal forum where everyone is accountable to each other and forced to re-focus on the vital few breakthroughs without “work” getting in the way.

These five behaviours are universal leadership disciplines that deliver high growth results time and time again. So next time you’re looking to make a high growth strategy happen, remember to create those ambitious goals, develop your winning strategy, just don’t lose your head during the execution. 

About the author

Steve Young, Director Winning Pitch - Steve is a Director with Winning Pitch who are a lead delivery partner for the Excelerator Consortium, that manages the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme.

Details of the Programme can be found on the website Accelerated Growth Programme


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