When leaders start thinking strategically, the creative juices flow.  What are we capable of doing?  How far can we take this?  What could tomorrow look like? What would happen if…?

This is the fun part!

But guess what?  Now we have to make it happen.  We have to execute, and this is where, so often, it all falls a part.  It’s kind of like that familiar phrase… “be careful what you wish for”.

Once all of the fun is over and you are staring at an attractive binder with loads of background documents, the infamous SWOT analysis and the 10 page “Action Plan”, you, as a leader,  have two choices: let the team take it over or take ownership yourself.

One of these choices will lead to probable failure while the other will lead to probable success.

The fundamental element of successful strategy execution is ownership and accountability.   If you don’t own it, most likely it will not happen. 

I had an interview with a board member of a large national bank a few years bac.  At the time, I was introduced to the logic of the current CEO who made it very clear to the board that his single responsibility going forward had to be the execution of a proposed merger with another institution. He needed to own it.  If the Board put any other pressures on him other than this key responsibility, the merger would fail.

Great leaders will own the plan.  The more critical the plan is, the more important this is.

But many leaders will run. The execution phase is the part that many do not want to be a part of.  There are few possible reasons:

  • They are so busy already; they don’t have the bandwidth to take on more work.
  • They are natural strategic thinkers and typically do not like the detail (the execution phase).
  • They have an ego problem and think the execution work is beneath them.

“Many people regard execution as detail work that’s beneath the dignity of a business leader. That’s wrong … it’s a leader’s most important job.” ― Larry Bossidy, former chairman and CEO, Honeywell International

So. when you are planning, keep asking yourself and all others “who will own this”. 

The answer should not be too far away.

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