Everybody has heard the Jimmy Buffet song Margaritaville, right? In the final line of the famous chorus Jimmy sings, “I know, it’s my own d___ fault.” Ok, Jimmy wasn’t talking about management and execution. But we managers can pull relevant meaning from the line nonetheless.
How often do we send out a message about something we want done and then get frustrated when it doesn’t consistently happen? How quick are we to blame the team for not executing? Or, how quick are we to throw up our hands and give up, accepting that the expectation can’t (or won’t) be met?
The truth is that it is our d___ fault as managers if our teams aren’t executing the things we want them to execute. That’s what we get paid to do – create the conditions under which those on our team can best execute and deliver results for the company.
So what’s the secret to making it happen? It certainly requires more than simply sending out an email. If that’s all it took, then managers wouldn’t be necessary. In reality, achieving consistent execution requires a series of five steps that I call “The Management Process.” Those five steps are as follows:
1. Communicate the expectation. This means a lot more than just one message to tell the team what you want done. Different people retain information in different ways. Good communication will be multi-faceted. It will be verbal, written, one-on-one, and in a group setting. And it will include good examples which paint a clear picture of the expectation.
2. Ensure team buy-in. Just because the team hears the message, it doesn’t mean they accept it. There are lots of reasons why team members might not buy in to the idea of the new expectation you have set. At a minimum, they must understand why you are asking them to do this new thing. It will be very helpful if the “why” is a compelling reason that they can easily get behind. The bottom line is that if the team doesn’t buy into the idea, there is little chance they will work hard to execute it.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Once the team understands and buys into what you are asking them to do, you must give them a chance to practice before you can hold them accountable for executing. And you must be part of the practice so that you can coach and guide them.
4. Inspect and track results. Once the team is effectively trained, you can begin to expect that they perform the expectations. You must help them establish the right habits right out of the gate by following up constantly. Without the follow up, team members may conclude that you weren’t really serious about the expectation, and they will take the easier road of not establishing new habits.
5. Apply consequences. That word – consequences – is too often used as a negative. Actually, applying positive consequences can be significantly more powerful than applying negative ones. When positive consequences are bestowed upon the early adopters of new expectations, others are more likely to jump on board to be a part of the party.
This set of five steps may sound easy and basic. However, it is unbelievably easy (and common) for managers to jump from a cursory use of Step 1 right to Step 5. This is the equivalent of blaming the team for the failure to execute. A real look back will probably reveal a breakdown in one of the earlier steps. When that breakdown is revealed, we are left singing along with Jimmy, “I know, it’s my own d___ fault.”