Are you leading execution well? | 5 questions to ask your team

03 Oct Are you leading execution well? | 5 questions to ask your team

4768222518_74e09e0b4b_oWe have all seen seemingly sound strategic models, and sure-fire revenue streams crumble to ash and dust. But why could this be? What keeps most companies among the ranks of the unknown and unproductive? It’s time to ask five important questions about how you are leading execution.

It is widely agreed that business is art, as opposed to science. There is always multiple correct answers – and even more wrong answers – to the problems we face when leading our companies. We wish there was a periodic table of elements for success that could simplify the tangled web of management, execution, and analytics. But such a tool does not exist in the real realm of business.

Today’s world is becoming more flat. Everyone is canny, capable, and creative. But not everyone can DO. And doing, after all, is what counts. The 2008 HBR article Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution says, “A brilliant strategy, blockbuster product, or breakthrough technology can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution can keep you there.”

Maybe it was your most recent flawless (or so you thought) strategy that failed to play out as scripted. Let’s backtrack and see if we can find the actual problem. Based on the aforementioned piece from HBR, here is our snappy checklist for leaders to ask their selves and their employees about how they are getting things done.

1.Does each team member know his or her role?

This may sound elementary, but it is inherently crucial (that’s why it’s #1). Employees can only operate at their highest efficiency when they understand which actions and decisions they are responsible for. Once they know their lane, they can take ownership of responsibilities without the distraction and temptation of overlapping into the lane of another teammate.

2. Is there a clear channel to home base?

Communication is often difficult across multinational or multi-segment organizations. However, it is vital to relay important information or intelligence in your arena of operation to headquarters in a timely manner. The competitive nature of your local market, or the nuances of your remote location are key to the execution of corporate strategy and policy.

3. Are you analyzing decisions that have already been made?

There is a time and place for hindsight: The time is infrequently; and the only place is among high-level decision makers. Once made, decisions should rarely be second-guessed. Growing up working on projects with my father, I learned a valuable lesson: Measure twice, cut once. This means do your analysis and investigations concerning alternatives, and then make the best decision. Once it’s made, forget about it. Don’t waste time analyzing what you should have done. Focus on getting better from where you are.

4. Does information flow freely between segments of the organization?

Let’s go back to communication. There are many benefits that exist when business units can communicate freely about their processes and experiences. Don’t forfeit economies of scale and the sharing of best practices because one segment of the organization is seemingly unaware that the others exist. As a leader, it is important to express to managers the importance of understanding how their decisions impact all other levels of the entity. If all segments and units communicate openly, management will be familiar with many areas of the company. And because they have seen the way things are done across the company, you will create well-rounded, big-picture future leaders.

5. Do the mules understand the money?

It is important that all levels of the organization – even the workhorses – understand their role in the bottom-line. It is important to know if the daily decisions of every member of your team are being made in-line with the financial goals of the company. If you discover that field level employees don’t understand the bottom-line impact of their day-to-day decisions, it is likely not their own fault. As a leader, it is key that you provide them with the information they need in order to hold them accountable to their impact – positive or negative – on the financials.


In order to come out on top, projects must be executed efficiently. Even the best leaders can allow things to fall through the cracks sometimes. And without proper order, even the best campaigns and products will only create short-term success. Successful execution is an enduring mission. Run a tight ship in these five areas, and your organization will be on its way to new levels of achievement. Leaders – go forth and execute.

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Adam Highfill

Leader and Entrepreneur at heart. Lover of travel and activity. Bachelor of Finance. Master of International Business.

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