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Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja

The Execution Of A LeaderMick Ukleja

March 11th, 2013 - “70% of strategic failures come from poor execution of leadership . . . It’s rarely for lack of smarts or vision”
– Ram Charan, co-author,
Execution: The Discipline
of Getting Things Done

It’s one thing to develop a strategy but quite another to execute the same. Strategy is discussed on a regular basis in management classes. Yet I dare say that if you have an MBA or a degree in organizational change, it is a fair bet you’ve never had a course in execution. At first glance poor strategy becomes the villain. A good strategy is the sine qua non – without which you have nothing. But it doesn’t end there.

One of the main problems is the clutter that invades our space – both workspace and life space. The amount of activity that surrounds us screams for our attention. It’s like a whirlwind, which packs an enormous amount of energy and vocational debris. It’s easy to lose your way and run for cover.

Don’t misunderstand. The death of a strategy is not like a stellar death with the horrific brilliance of a supernova destroying everything in its path, while capturing the attention of a large portion of the universe. The death of strategic initiatives sort of sputters to the ground after a slow descent hardly even noticeable. The whirlwind got our attention, not the slow decaying strategy. It’s more of a drift. Let’s call it Organizational Drift.

Smart, intelligent and motivated people are not the cause. What’s the cause? One word: BUSINESS. Sometimes it’s simply too many priorities and strategic initiatives. They become part of the tornado that causes strategic amnesia. Good people no longer see clearly the goal, let alone possess strategic consensus.

The Franklin Covey Group surveyed 150,000 workers to name their organization’s top goals. Fifteen percent were able to answer the question. Only 9 percent knew what to do about the goals. A paltry 6 percent felt a high commitment to the strategic goals. It’s pretty frightening to think that for every 100 people working, 15 know the prioritized direction of the organization, and just 6 of the 100 people had a level of commitment to that direction.

The effects? A loss of vitality at work. Good people stay busy, but not energized. The lagging numbers become a matter of, at best, anxiety, and at worst, desperation. This often leads to the blame game if not properly diagnosed. The team blames the strategy, the leader blames the team, and some team members resent the leader, while others wallow in guilt for lack of accomplishment.

What we have here is a failure to set priorities that add value. There is also a failure to eliminate or put on the back burner the potential or actual debris that energizes the whirlwind. Add to that the failure to communicate clearly the strategy and make sure it’s a filter for decision making.

The point is, don’t be busy. Be strategic. That turns activity into accomplishment. Answer the simple question, “How will we succeed?” What are the intentional decisions we will make that will differentiate us from our competitors? And, “What is most important right now?” In other words, what’s our top priority for the next 3 to 12 months? Without this clear priority there are simply too many things that could be “important” which causes a drift right into mediocrity.

Doing this helps build an organization where clarity reigns and success becomes very likely.

(Mick Ukleja is a consultant, author, coach, keynote speaker and president of LeadershipTraq, a leadership consulting firm. His clients have included Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. Check his weekly blog at www.leadershiptraq.com.)