This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
A day seldom goes by when we don't read about the ouster of a chief executive officer, owing to a failure to produce promised results, a merger that falls apart, a product launch that does not to live up to its hype or a technology meltdown.
Companies like Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney, United Airlines' no-frills carrier Ted, Gap Inc., and many others come to mind. The single most common reason for being turfed? A failure to execute, of which there are several causes.
1. Lack of ownership
One of the reasons General Electric was so successful under Jack Welch was his personal stake – his ownership – in the programs he initiated during his tenure. He never lost sight that he was ultimately responsible for the organization's success. Today, too many otherwise good leaders fail to personally commit to oversee their initiatives or have the required level of involvement to give their programs the best chance of success.
2. Too much – or too little – delegation
Successful leaders don't micromanage, but they also don't delegate everything away and therein lies the fine line that great leaders find a way to walk. They know that too much delegation often results in the initiative veering off course while micromanaging stymies people and discourages them from risk-taking or creativity. One of the many problems that plagued the launch last fall of healthcare.gov – the website the Obama Administration built to operate as an exchange for U.S. health insurance offerings – was too much delegation. Effective leaders remember that delegating isn't a licence to pass the buck; as a leader, you need to stay directly involved and passionate in overseeing the execution of key strategies because the buck stops with you.
3. Unproductive meetings
Too often, meetings occur where attendees either discuss mundane, pointless subjects that don't affect the overall success of the project and waste everyone's time, or where consultant firms present findings yet participants leave the meeting without a precise commitment to implement the agreed-upon game plan. Meetings need to have an adhered-to agenda, as well as start and finish times with which everyone complies. If someone is late, shut him or her out, and it won't likely happen again.
Be sure everyone understands that checking messages or excusing themselves to answer a call are unacceptable, except in the case of a true emergency. Meetings without active, sometimes forceful disputation are often meaningless. Conflicting points of view much be encouraged and channelled to constructive ends.
4. Unclear metrics
The use of specific, easily understood metrics are too rarely used in evaluating initiatives. Before an initiative is launched, have a clear understanding of how you will measure success – and stick with it. If a change in direction is required in execution, course correct quickly. If an initiative failed, be sure you incorporate the lessons learned next time around.
5. The wrong people in the wrong job
How many times have you known someone who was an outstanding manager, but who failed after being promoted? Have you ever hired someone, and then realized shortly thereafter that you made a mistake? In both cases, not making necessary personnel changes in a timely way exacerbates the problem. Always be sure you have the right people in the right jobs, even if it means making some difficult decisions.
Execution is a discipline that must be infused throughout the culture of the organization and it must be rigorously applied for sustained competitive advantage.