As a visionary leader, you see the big picture and communicate to the team effectively – after all, it’s your vision! You also see the big picture behind every day events, such as what motivates people, what inspires them, and what issues cause them to have conflict.
You can react to those big picture hints through emotionally intelligent communication and coaching. All of these traits make you a great leader – but you must be aware of execution and how to manage it if necessary. Why do you need to be concerned with this detail?
“Make it so” leaders, the ones who communicate a vision and disappear back behind their curtain, sometimes end up causing more frustration. Organizations with this kind of leadership sometimes move forward, only to stop the forward momentum when the leader reacts badly to what’s been accomplished.
Leaders who aren’t at least aware of the details don’t understand why changes are made, why the execution path shifts, or why certain elements were delayed. Some of these leaders may become disoriented in detail, either because it’s not a natural ability or because they’ve been hiding from detail for long periods of time.
Part of leadership is understanding what’s going on, at least at a high level of detail, at all times. How can you become more knowledgeable about managing execution?
First, it should be clarified that once teams are formed and organizations move forward through the activities of empowered managers and front liners, the leaders can move up on their level of detail. But this isn’t to say that you should shun detail when it’s offered. Sometimes you’ll have to jump in and assign responsibility when it’s not quite clear.
Again, a seasoned team won’t have this issue, but a new team or an old team with new responsibilities may need a push. When you’re sure the teams are in place, and the teams have leaders of their own, you can delegate some of your responsibility down the line. Not only does this free your time, it also creates empowerment and increased morale.
When organizations encounter obstacles, the execution-ready leader will attempt to remove obstacles – or at least light the way around them. Obstacles could be economic, staff-related, equipment-related, or knowledge-related. Obstacles can also take the form of other leaders. In any case, you can use your strategic and communications skills to clear the way.
As your teams see you do this, they’ll soon learn how to do it themselves. With obstacles come resources, and you have to provide the right resources at the right time. Maybe the resource is simply your knowledge or clarification of your vision. But more often than not, resources may involve budget, personnel, education, or equipment. You must do your best to provide resources or alternatives as the case may be.
As you work your way through these actions, you’ll become familiar with the details of the execution plan. If things seem to be amiss, you can correct by monitoring the progress of the teams and providing feedback. Or, you may need to coordinate movement between team members and teams themselves. Again, as you do this, your teams will begin to pick up the skill – and you’ll find your involvement in managing execution evolves into a high level overview of what’s going on.
How can you become familiar with execution in various situations? Personally, you can become aware of detail even if it hurts. The leaders that shun details may have become accustomed to someone else handling them. For example, if someone hands you a project plan, read it. If there isn’t one, suggest that one be written and help out with it.
Perhaps the most important part of execution in family situations is to monitor progress and provide feedback – you’ve already communicated your vision, so don’t leave family members to details if they’re not yet capable of coming up with them. Communities tend to come across obstacles and stop – or work around them inefficiently. When you see this happening, practice courageous leadership and offer to remove obstacles.
By John Benson