I have coached children in all kinds of sports; baseball, basketball football, softball – you name it. What do they all have in common? No one likes to practice. But if you want to improve, you have to focus on the fundamentals and commit to practicing regularly.
And it’s no different when you grow up. Let’s take execution as an example. If you want to earn a reputation as someone who executes, you have to work at it. It takes a disciplined approach and a focus on the fundamentals of execution.
Here are 5 fundamentals that my team and I practice repeatedly every day.
1. Set clear expectations.
An agreement to execute is a promise. Be specific about the promise or you may disappoint, even though technically, you executed. Be deliberate about exactly what you will deliver and exactly when you will deliver it, and share an example of what the end result may look like.
That said, do not get caught in the trap of defining how you will do it; you need flexibility and opportunity to get it done the way you see fit. Remember, you likely were chosen due to your expertise in a specific area and your clients trust that you know how to deliver.
2. Confront conflict head on.
Do not run from the truth; confront it. Deal in reality. There will be conflict. If you avoid it, you will waste quality time and compromise your end results. If you’re a leader and you let this happen, you will lose the support of your team.
3. Talk. A lot.
Most action or activity happens as a result of communication and open dialogue. There are 3 types of conversations you need to conduct in order to execute well:
- Understanding and level setting– see #1 above
- Possibilities – what are the options you can use to build an action plan?
- Action – this is where most of us just want to focus and that’s a big mistake. We may waste a lot of energy focused on the wrong problem out of the gate.
4. Keep people informed.
Most of us are so focused on the deliverables, we forget to keep people informed throughout the process. Often, clients put as much value in the process as they do the end result, and if they do not have a solid understanding of where the project stands at any point, you risk losing support along the way. Worse yet, you could be missing their ideas for improvement, which will be a much bigger issue if they are identified too late in the process. I cannot underestimate the importance of proactive, regular communication and open dialogue throughout the process. It’s what drives reliable execution.
5. Do not ignore emerging issues, especially if they contradict your strategy.
Execution can be emotional. Having an “intended” strategy can provide objectivity and focus when things get emotional. It can keep teams centered and settled. But if you choose to ignore emerging trends as you are executing because they don’t necessarily fit into the original intended strategy, then your strategy may falter. You need to be open to the impact of emerging trends and address them proactively through regular communication.
Perfect the fundamentals
Once you put a fundamental approach in place, you and your team need to practice, practice, practice. It will help you get better together.