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The Missing 98%: How to Become an Execution Expert

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” said Simon Mundell during today’s Fridays with Vistage Webinar. “As a business leader, CEO or business owner, you have to get out of the way of your business.”

Simon, co-founder of and serial entrepreneur, has helped thousands of business leaders become execution experts over the past 15 years. In Simon’s view, execution is the only role for the modern business leader–yet most of us fail to do it well (or do it at all).

“Execution is what you do. Execution is about getting things done through others, not yourself,” Simon explains. Reality often seems to get in the way, however; most business leaders spend their time putting out fires. And the bottleneck this creates at the executive level–where every decision must pass by the CEO first–is deadly.

Yet thought leaders like Tom Peters agree–execution is “the missing 98 percent” for success in business. So how do we shift gears and rise above the turmoil?

Easy: boil company strategy down to a one-page document.  That’s right. Not two pages; not 30. One.

Simon uses a simple, one-page template based on what he calls the Five Pillars of Execution. If you want to grow your business, you can too. Below, we walk you through the key elements of crafting a one-page strategy document that works.

Here’s how:

1. Vision--There are three elements to a company’s vision: core values, core purpose, and your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG, coined by Jim Collins). “Aspirational statements on a plaque mean nothing,” says Simon. “How do we behave? Who aligns with these statements? We need to understand what our core values are and recruit only people who fit those core values.”
2. Strategy–What does your company do? Can you get your strategic positioning statement into a statement that’s eight words or less? Simon thinks you can–and should. Businesses that do are, on average, 70 percent more effective.
3. Engagement–“You can’t grow your business. Only your people can,” says Simon. According to Gallup research, an astonishing 71 percent of the North American workforce is disengaged. Yet progress is the number one employee motivator.  Use profiling tools to get the right people doing the right jobs, playing to their strengths.

4. Accountability–Simon points to research showing only 15 percent of employees know their companies top priorities, and 62 percent doubt there’s a plan at all. “You can fix this with one piece of paper,” says Simon. His template outlines company action priorities and performance indicators, but it also defines personal priorities. Accountability is about alignment. Keep it to one page, keep it actionable, and your people will follow.
5. Cadence–“Cadence is a rhythm or flow so that all of this can take place whether you turn up for work tomorrow or not,” says Simon. It’s time to implement a weekly meeting around the execution of strategy–and during that time, your team needs to look closely at the data. Are they executing your strategy? Are you?

Of course, you can’t answer this until you’ve defined strategy and put it on the wall for everyone to see.

It’s important to remember that’s Five Pillars of Execution aren’t guesswork. They’re based on extensive business research, the results of which may surprise you.

Did you know, for example, that offering one blunt, overt benefit (instead of converting all of your features into benefits) makes your business 75 percent more likely to survive for more than five years?

Or that focusing on one market segment only (instead of expanding to serve many) gives you a 60 percent greater chance of success in business?

Most listeners did not, but the message is clear: without strategy, business leaders cannot execute. And you have to get out of your own way first.

“This is the reality of business,” says Simon. “You need to make the execution of your strategy have as much or more weight in your business than the day-to-day distractions.

“The enemy of execution is business as usual.”

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