Thursday, September 13, 2007

Leaders Execute

It is the end of our performance year and we are totally focused on execution. This is, rightly so, the way our leadership is ultimately measured. Namely, do we accomplish the mission? For me and my team, it is time to knuckle down between now and September 30 - and get the job done.

Here are some of the leadership lessons that I am learning as we approach the finish line:

Communicate with rigor. We cannot have any surprises. If someone needs help they must know to come up on the net immediately, not try to solve their problems on their own…until it is too late to receive assistance. I am constantly calling my key leaders, asking where they stand on key projects and milestones (our top 10), and offering my help. We must proactively communicate with project partners and customers. And we must ensure that the vertical team (my higher headquarters) is fully aware of our expected outcomes. They don’t like surprises, either!

Schedule it / Measure it / Execute it. We can’t have empty promises. I want to know where we are versus the schedule. And I want to see a schedule that is realistic and results in success no later than the key date (30 September for our fiscal year-end). We must be able to measure our progress against our commitments. And if it looks like we are coming up short…see “communicate with rigor,” above. For example, we made some commitments on Monday as to what would be completed by Friday in order to meet our end of year goals. Well…we’ll be working late on Friday. And I’ll be standing at the door…with my schedules in hand!

Align Resources. I believe that among a leader’s most critical tasks is the alignment of resources. Money, people, facilities, tools must be appropriately allocated to those tasks that will enable our end of year success. This is no time for equity (one slice for everyone). The top projects must be provided whatever they need to be successful. Leaders make decisions – timely, well informed, and transparent. See “communicate with rigor,” above.

Watch the clock. Perhaps the most precious resource that must be protected here at crunch time - is time. Protect the team’s time. There is no space for superfluous meetings. And forget about vacations, travel, and training (all important…but not something for the home stretch). In many cases, the way I can enable the success of my team is to minimize distractions and help keep the team’s collective eye on the ball.

Win. Regardless of how and when it is measured, leaders must do everything in their power to win. At the end of the fiscal year, we want to come out on top. A team that understands that second place is not good enough, and whose leaders are willing to do everything to help the team succeed, will leave it all on the field. That is where we want to end up – with our tongues hanging out, exhausted, helping each other cross the finish line. In FIRST PLACE!

Most of us don’t have these end of year constraints. But we all have crunch time: project due dates, proposal submission timelines, end of the semester, election time. What we do here really is the difference maker. This is how leaders influence the battle. Execution is what leadership really is all about.

Execution is…Leader Business.

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