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Three Steps to Great Execution

Posted: 12/06/12 at 2:40 PM

Jim Harris, Ph.D., President, Ropella Leadership Transformation -

Today you can’t accept anything less than outstanding performance from yourself or your team. Your entire organization must execute like crazy. Here is a simple three-step process to guarantee great execution.

“Know what you do best, and relentlessly execute the basics.”

That was the response I received one day on the golf course when I asked the CEO of a world class organization how he sustains a culture of perpetual excellence.

In today’s cash-strapped market, it is absolutely essential that you and your team relentlessly execute the basics, the fundamentals of excellence for your company, whatever they may be. Here are the 3 C’s of great execution.

1. Clear Expectations. Without crystal clear expectations, employees are left on their own to determine how best to perform their job, guessing as to what you expect or to the real requirements for excellent performance. When you set clear standards, every employee can then measure their performance against the minimum acceptable performance level, regardless of how high it might be.

In fact, I suggest that 50 percent of all underperformance is due to one of three things: unclear standards, poorly communicated standards, or not holding people accountable to the standard. In the first case, an employee may not understand to what level you need them to perform. In the second case, you may not have communicated clearly enough to that employee what the standard is in a way they understand. And the third case, which is perhaps the most common of all, you may not be holding the people accountable to the standard.

2. Coach for Improvement. I teach a simple four-step coaching model that moves employees from novice to expert. The four steps are Tell, Show, Ask and Let. Initially, you tell the employee exactly what you need them to do and to what level of excellence it needs to be performed. Next you show them how to do it through a demonstration or through you actually performing the task yourself. Next you ask the employee what questions they have on how to perform the task. Finally, you let them do try the task for themselves giving specific feedback and performance-improving suggestions, all the while providing candid yet positive feedback.

Coaching for improvement is simply a matter of positively moving individuals from low levels of competence to high levels of excellence. After setting clear expectations, coach your employees toward execution excellence.

3. Catch People Doing It Right. Far too often as managers, we catch people doing it wrong rather than focusing most of our attention on catching them doing something right. We fall into the trap of focusing on the 1, 2or 3 percent of tasks someone is doing improperly rather than encouraging and rewarding the 95+ percent of tasks they do correctly.

I’m reminded of what the former manager of New York Yankees, Casey Stengel, once said, “Management is paid for the home runs somebody else hits.” Remember, it is far more powerful to catch people doing something right than to only catch them doing it wrong.

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