Although it’s true that executive level roles have a greater strategic focus and are further away from the front line action, senior level people still have to be able to get things done. Whether it’s helping a management team to solve problems, identifying an expansion path, or overseeing core business activities, executives are accountable for (and often judged by) results. This is not an easy place to be, particularly in times of change or declining performance.
So, if people at the senior level of an organization are less involved in front line work, how do they get things done? The answer might be as simple as comparing a successful executive to one who is less accomplished in this regard; think: sound planning and direction; ensuring that a company has the right systems in place that allow staff and management team members to do more; generating a motivating environment; and, of course, having all of the right skills on hand. This could be described as a “gentle push”, that allows a company to move forward with decisive support, as opposed to stagnating or being plagued by indecision. Smart executives know that getting things done is, in part, about decision making, but also about having the necessary experience and judgement to make good decisions. It is this ability that fuels the critical act of implementation and the results that follow.
In this series, we have already considered the importance of a number of skills, including collaboration, professional development, and generating respect. Here’s more about why successful executives understand the importance of implementation and getting things done.
Where it Goes Wrong
Executives who lose focus on the importance of generating tangible results might find themselves on the outside of relevance. Whether leading a for-profit business or managing the limited resources of a not-for-profit organization, results and productivity matter. Those who spend too much time on unfocused or theoretical efforts run the risk of leading an organization to a point where it will ultimately do less; this is the risk of becoming too far removed from the front line work.
Before too long, organizations can start to have a lack of urgency; a dangerous place to be in a competitive, and resource constrained world. What doesn’t get done today gets put off until tomorrow, as the weeks and months go by with little achievement in the way of tangible results. From a customer standpoint, who wants to deal with these companies?
Ensure that upward mobility on the career path includes sufficient focus on turning the wheels of productivity. Here’s how to keep focused on generating results:
- Use meeting time wisely. Meetings should be used to communicate important information, seek input, confirm action items, and move forward. In order to ensure that the focus is kept on getting things done (and not just talking about it!), meet only when needed, maintain focus by using agendas and action items, and curtail non-productive chit chat.
- Pay attention to standards and systems. Although some might consider processes and standardized approaches to be mundane, remember that they not only benefit the company, but also those who perform well enough to meet or exceed targets. Use standards and systems as an opportunity to accelerate performance.
- Measure and monitor results. Once standards are in place, they have to be managed, which means measuring actual results to target and taking corrective action where required. Those who have the discipline and talent to do so are well regarded by the senior ranks.
- Compensate based on results. Structures that include a meaningful variable component tied to performance tend to focus people’s efforts on what’s important. Good compensation structures include short term and long term incentives, as well as measures for individual, departmental, and organizational performance. Roles that are structured in this manner can be a good opportunity for those on the way up to demonstrate their worth in tangible terms.
- Watch competitors and the marketplace. Paying attention to what’s going on in the outside world can be an important reminder that organizations need to take action in order to remain relevant to those that they serve. Remembering that any organization should be thinking about customers, competitors, and markets at least 50% of the time can help to instill a results oriented mindset.
The reality is that the more senior a position becomes, the more directly accountable it is for the performance of the entire organization, which, in turn, reflects how well the actual job is conducted. This is a significant shift from that of less senior roles, so the sooner that the “results” skillset is developed, the better.
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- MEDIA:CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (April, 2021) - April 5, 2021