The Art of Execution

by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Rendel

Jeff Rendel

“I’ll take a well-executed, one-page, written-on-a-legal pad strategic plan over a poorly (if at all) executed, twenty-page, four-color, complete with charts and graphs strategic plan any day. Substance over style – all day long.” Those are the words of a large bank’s CEO as he discussed the value of executing for results. Slapdash, one might think, of his remarks. Effective, others might believe, when recognizing that directors and executives place a premium on the art of execution.

What makes for successful execution? One hundred plus C-level bank leaders provided their insights to that straightforward question. To them, three behaviors stood out as making the biggest difference in the most significant executive skill – execution.

Be precise and disciplined. Coming out of a strategic planning session, it’s easy to be enthusiastic and jump right in to busy undertakings. But, does all of the commotion lead to strategic success? Several CEOs shared that their most valuable tactical planning sessions focused on insisting that all decisions support an end strategic objective. “One of our objectives is to ‘Increase the Measured Lifetime Value of All Customers,’” said one CEO. “That in mind, we ask how every refined and new action – from my desk to the drive-through window – supports lifetime value. Our discipline and connection to a strategic element give us clear direction in all that we do.”

Stretch your team. Like it or not, when CEOs set stretch goals, it changes performance. Too much pressuring can lead to doubting motivations or loss of support; however, the right amount of challenge increases commitment and determination. One CEO described how his team had developed a reasonable and well-designed sales and business development plan that would be fully functioning in 18 months. “What would it take for us to accomplish this in 15 months?” he asked his team. “Include my role, too,” he insisted. He left the room and brought back lunch a few hours later, discovering a better plan for execution than before. In the end, the plan was executed in 13 months, and the team was more engaged and self-assured than before.

Settle conflict with confidence right away. Conflict is natural, especially when a team is composed of leaders from many functional areas. With any project or endeavor, differences will arise, often due to limited resources, time, and patience (personalities are always in the mix). “In every meeting, I ask, ‘What roadblocks are you facing?’ explained one CEO. “I note these challenges on a whiteboard for all parties to see. I also write the objective of our meeting and ask what step – and I ask for one step only – moves us closer to success and away from this test. More often than not, the parties settle the difference and move forward without a need for me to step in. We’re more unified as a team, and I’m a better executive because I kept us moving forward in spite of the trials.”

Leadership experts loosely define “execution” as “the ability to achieve goals and objectives.” Several bank leaders who contributed to this article added “the ability to help others achieve goals and objectives.” Apply your peers’ wisdom as a catalyst in your growth as an executive, working more effectively on your own part and teaching your team leaders how they can do the same.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with banks that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 banks and their business partners.

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