What separates a manager that can take strategy and execute it effectively from one who struggles to get things done? There are two qualities that stand head and shoulders above others.

The first is that managers who are good at execution are focused on action (and the associated behaviour that drives the action). We are not talking here about just generating activity. That can and often is counter productive. Specifically we are pointing to the RIGHT action. Managers who execute well realize that it is a specific set of actions that cause things to happen. When given a specific outcome or a set of strategic initiatives they will zero in on precisely how the team collectively and each team member individually needs to behave in order to deliver success. At the beginning they might not know exactly what these set of actions and behaviours are but they will relentlessly search for them. This brings us to the second characteristic.

Managers that execute well carry with them a sense of humility. This does not mean weakness or lack of ambition. In the words of famous Australian Hockey coach Rick Charlesworth,

“Humility is a state of being objective about yourself and your performance and is entirely consistent with being optimistic about the future. Humility says there is room for improvement.” – Rick Charlesworth

Interestingly, we will often hear managers of under-performing teams speak about how well their team is doing, while those of high-performing teams are more prone to discuss the areas where they are looking to improve. Managers executing effectively are relentlessly looking for a way to do things better.

To get better at executing strategy and driving improvement, let’s ask two questions daily:

  • What are the RIGHT actions and behaviours required to achieve this outcome?
  • How can we improve on this?