A recent LinkedIn Thought Leaders post—The Most Underestimated Skill of A Great Leader—focused on the idea that being an execution driven organization is essential to success and at the heart of being execution driven is a both an attention to detail and a culture of getting things done until they are completely, 100% done and done. Finished. No bits left or loose ends. Andreas von der Heydt’s post stipulates that this attention to getting things done (not to be confused with the productivity system) must start at the top. Andreas is right that the belief and practice must start at the top, however like all simple answers to common problems there might be a dark side to this approach as well—not delivering anything at all and driving your people crazy in the process.
Picking the right traits to focus on
In his post, Andreas says these seven points are the cornerstones (building block one of three, in fact) of the practice:
- Know your people and your business
- Insist on realism
- Set clear goals and priorities
- Follow through
- Reward the doers
- Expand people’s capabilities through coaching
- Know yourself
He continues that the other building blocks are: being a force of cultural change within the company and picking the right people for the job(s) at hand, together Andreas makes a compelling argument. Don’t skip the details. Make sure “stuff gets done” and your company will be on a path to success. Having seen the results of leaders just lettings things be released half-baked to get them out the door, you can be assured that instilling an attentional to detail is crucially important in today’s business world. No one can afford marketing plans that don’t cover all the bases or leave out details like checking websites and phone numbers for accuracy. Could there, however, be a dark side (and extreme side) of this practice? A point at which nothing gets done because too much must be done (or done exactly right)?
Knowing when to draw the line
The true challenge of a great leader isn’t an obsessive attention to detail and making sure things are done and done right, but rather a sense of picking the right things to get done in the right order and building a team that you can trust to do it. Regardless of your business, it is impossible to get everything done immediately. In software developers talk about getting to the MVP stage—Minimum Viable Product—something that can be finished and shipped that customers can use, find useful, and be primed for the next release. That product is “done”, but it’s done in the sense of that moment in time, not “done and done”. As a leader you need to see what your real MVP is for each task you need done. What needs to be done for it to be great, not everything that it could ever be. Then you need to trust your employees and let go to let things get done—and not change the rules while in play. CEOs and leaders who keep changing feature priorities, launch features, and meddle in the minutia of tasks only make projects drag on and frustrate the people you need (and hired) to get the job done.
Instill the attitude of getting done with a sense of trust from the top
All together what Andreas proposes is making sure that everyone in the organization believes to their core that nothing goes out half-baked or incomplete. Couple this with picking the right people to get things done and trusting them to do it. It’s a balancing act of being obsessive about detail and getting done and letting go enough to let the people you hired to get things done, get it done.