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Developing Better Execution

14 June 2016

Janie read 4 Ways to Be More Effective at Execution, by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, and was relieved to find some suggestions to make sure that getting more done doesn’t need to mean working longer hours.

Tags: janie read, leadership, time management and prioritization

Execution is a skill that we all know is important, but sometimes struggle with. I know I am often guilty of making an over ambitious to-do list for the day (or the week), and then feeling disappointed with myself when I’m not able to get everything crossed off the list. I’ve always felt that working longer hours, and working at night and on the weekends, is my best defense at staying on top of my responsibilities. While I do think that there are times when working nights and weekends is unavoidable, I was delighted to see that Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman do not think that is the only answer. In their article, 4 Ways to Be More Effective at Execution, they argue that working longer and harder is not the only way we can get more done. In fact, working longer and harder can often lead to burn out, and is not a balanced way of working.

Zenger and Folkman did extensive research on sustainable ways to improve execution, and found that leaders who were rated as highly effective in this skill tended to share the same four behaviors.

  • Be clear and methodical. Start by getting organized and creating a plan for addressing the problem, don’t just jump in and take action before thinking through all the steps.
  • Set stretch goals and deadlines. Stretch goals are an important tool for keeping employees motivated and engaged, but having a deadline for the goal is also an important piece here. Zenger and Folkman found that involving your team members in setting goals and deadlines helps them feel more engaged with the big picture.
  • Give more feedback, especially positive feedback. Zenger and Folkman’s research showed that this is an excellent way to increase an employee’s intrinsic motivation. 
  • Resolve conflict and build team unity. On a great team, performance isn’t only the result of the boss motivating the team, but it’s also a function of the expectations and encouragement of peers.

I found this article very interesting, and look forward to trying some of these suggestions to make improvements to my own project execution and to the ways we collaborate at Allison Partners. If you’re interested in improving execution skills in yourself, or your team members, I would definitely recommend giving this article a read.


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