Category: Leadership

Ambitious business man climbing stairs to success.

Performance & Execution: Key to Successful, Individual / Business Leadership

Today’s reality is that we are living in an era marked by resource crunch, scarcity of time, multitasking, intense competition, eternal stress, complex and regulatory external environment, less of emotions and engagement. An individual trying to meet family expectation to become  more prosperous & successful, a sales person requiring to deliver his monthly budget/ target, a business organization aiming to create more stakeholder value to become the best place to work, a footballer striving to score a goal  in a derby match, a cricketer steering almost single handed winning performance in IPL matches, a Corporate honcho expected  to deliver bottom line strategy, a surgeon expected to successfully operate a critical patient to donate life, an academician immaculately delivering a lecture  as keynote speaker in an international seminar, a military  General fighting insurgency and infiltration in LOC all have them one thing in common e.g., performance execution. There are numerous other examples of such performance execution in an around us every day which we often not pay heed to. The moot point here however whether it is performance execution or performance and execution and if that be so whichever comes first. This is akin to the chicken and egg story which we are hearing since ages. Performance and Execution is complementary to each other and can be said as the two sides of a same coin. In order to perform we need to execute and unless we execute we cannot perform. And with our stretched targets, strict timelines and with the survival of the fittest we need to execute, deliver and perform religiously and relentlessly.

But how do we ensure performance delivered is execution, decide what to do as a part of our strategy that execution makes it happen?  This is true for us as an individual and for an organization as well. Of course hereinafter we’ll discuss it in terms of a business organization’s perspective. The five fundamental steps which precedes execution is (a) goal/ objective setting (b) accountability & ownership (c) engage to deliver (d) follow up (e) review and monitoring (e) further stretching our goals i.e., raising the bar. Let’s elaborate these to understand how it impacts the execution leading to performance. Goal Setting: In order to perform we need to ascertain what we need to achieve (say, execute) i.e., to set up clear goals and /or objectives which we’ll pursue. The clarity of goals for everybody in the organization is a must and it is in fact supplements the role clarity for a job which means making an employee understand what is expected out of him/her which are aligned with the overall business objective embedded in the broad organization strategy. And this goal setting has to be done in terms of defining KRAs & KPIs (Key Result Areas and Key Performance Indicators) which we are required to deliver, review, track and monitor on a regular basis to sustain our efforts to execute. Now this could be made both at macro (high level) and micro (granular level). In fact the more granular is our KPIs and action plans the more will be the likelihood of achieving the same. It is something like the entire organization is aligned in terms of its vision and mission which is then translated in to goals, strategies, action plan and last but not the least is in to seamless coordination, collaboration and co-optition (collaborative completion) to implement.  Accountability & Ownership: However this is easier said than done and requires total accountability and ownership. It is one of the key challenge today, which  if a business manager/ departmental head and or CEO handles successfully can lead to empowered teams, exceptional performance and removal of silo cultures inside the organization which often impedes performance. It is to make people assume the ownership of the job/ task internalizing it as his/her own instead of assigned or top driven and make them accountable (responsible) for their, work, action, results and the flipside of it i.e., to its consequences. Engage & Deliver: Nothing happens automatically. If having set the goals and assuming the ownership and accountability is the necessary condition for executing performance, to engage and deliver is the sufficient condition for sure. No matter whatever we do or whatever we say if all our employees having unified goals are not engaged enough they cannot deliver. This is another big challenge most of the business organizations are working with these days e.g., how to ensure that the employees are engaged effectively. An organization has to make the employees’ task interesting, meaningful & challenging, enabling him/ her with necessary resources, guidance, direction and opportunities to perform. One way of doing it could be linking it to higher/ fast track growth opportunities, rewards and recognition, giving assignment in cross functional projects or making them the change agent for new or critical initiatives. An objective and transparent evaluation of employee performance together with providing appreciative feedback also can work as a feel good factor for the employee and made him/her to remain engaged on a sustainable basis. Once this is done then delivering becomes the follow through. Follow up: However these follow through is a continuous affair and need to be done regularly and can be done let us say by doing daily work check in and work check outs. Normally check in is done at the beginning of the day to decide what we do today and check out is done preferably at the end of the day to take stock of our follow up action to ensure that we’ve made the desired progress in executing our action plans and thereby converting our goals in to strategy and implementing it on ground. This is in fact the precursor to tracking, review and monitoring of our performance. Review & Monitoring: The most important aspect in closing the performance loop is review and monitoring. A business manager /CEO would never allow this loop to keep open and squander the opportunity to consolidate further whatever quick wins have been made so far. A robust review and monitoring mechanism is an important tool in the business planning process and can work wonders in keeping the performance on track once practiced rigorously. There could be a structured and unstructured review considering the time, availability of the concerned people, criticality of the task/ project in terms of significance (urgency) and its impact on the business. An unstructured review could be done during our day to day discussions on the KPI/topic on a one to one basis or may be during conference call, telephonic discussions and visits to the work site (shop floor, customer premises, market etc.). A structured review on the other hand could be done through performance trackers, dashboards and formal review presentations involving all the stakeholders. The first one is an informal approach and the second one is a formal approach to review and monitoring. Which one should be applied is perhaps to be left to the manager and / or organization to decide in keeping in mind the frequency and importance of the review, however a mix n match of the both is seen as a rational approach these days. But merely having the review and monitoring done is far from achieving the objectives for which it is done. The progress status of our tracking, review and monitoring is then requires to be translated in to further actions wherever we are behind our prorata KPI target and revisit our target/ KPIs wherever we are ahead of our target. This has to be clearly supplemented by removing bottlenecks (if, any) distracting our performance and by quick decision making to keep our action (job) on track by reinforcing resources and motivation together. Stretching the Goals Further: Executing performance requires us to revisit the goals continuously and raise the bar. As Michelangelo said “the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”.

A god performance execution requires an organized and systematic approach to deal with the current reality by highlighting the root cause and taking concrete action on it. It is in fact a rigorous process to find out what, how and why’s of our business goals, strategies and questioning the efficacy of execution from time to time and to ensure proper follow through and accountability. The performance execution requires discipline which needs to be practiced regularly and to be made performance thy name is execution a way of our life.

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Leadership Paradigms: Leadership Strategy vs Strategic Leadership

Leadership is the current day buzzword in today’s complex world. Right from family to corporate to sports and even to diplomacy, war and politics the word (leadership) has become an oft quoted cliché. Every day we keep talking about leadership styles, examples, seminars and leadership stories in every sphere of our life. Each one of us in fact wants to become Leaders and desire to lead. And the best part of Leadership is that one can lead from wherever he or she is irrespective of position, portfolio and/ or designations. The moot point therefore is to introspect and reflect on the why and how part of leadership. While the first (why) tries to answer that Leadership is to drive success that each one of us aspire to achieve in life whereas the second part (how) defines about the strategy and course of leadership. Instead of delving in to the much heard debate whether “Leaders are born or made” let us think how leaders could steer themselves to success. Strategy plays an important role in making Leaders successful. A leader irrespective of their cast, (or, even caste) creed, position or any other nomenclature, strategizes. It an integral part of the leadership traits and the formulation and deft execution of strategy is in fact determines the quality of leadership/leaders’. The resolving of recent Doklam plateau standoff between India & China, the introduction of Jio services by Reliance, the recent whitewash of Srilanka by the Indian cricket team and the surgical strike Indian Army did across the border are the best examples of  formulating strategy and it’s adept execution.

Now let’s elaborate the point to explore further whether it is Leadership Strategy or Strategic Leadership that made it possible. In order to do that we need to understand the difference between the two to appreciate how it contributes to leadership in terms of style, culture, function, capability, effectiveness and implementation.

The strategic leadership is the micro aspect of the Leadership which is more intrinsic to the leader as an individual, his capability and competency to formulate, translate the organizations’/ individual’s vision, strategy and align the team/followers to the achievement of its business/individual goals. A strategic leader focuses on increasing the efficiency /productivity of self+individual by creating/ and developing an environment which provides transparency, openness and also enables them with adequate resources, leadership commitment and support to achieve the quick wins.  A strategic leader must possess and exhibit not only the strategic skills but also should have other traits like motivation, holistic approach, agility, nimble footing in making decisions, allocating and optimizing resources with consistency and reliability, challenge the existing norms and must innovate to succeed. It is an integral part of strategic leadership process to interwoven both the short term as well as long term vision and mission (of the organization/individual) and put in to tactical plans to implement. Today despite the fact that strategy making is needed at all levels not all are able to do justice to it. Strategic Leaders’ are scarce resources these days which require us to optimally manage them and / or to further develop to make the leadership pipeline possible.

The Leadership Strategy on the other hand talks about the macro aspects of leadership applicable to an organization, institution, society, forums etc. e.g., what is the leadership objective, quality, structures, numbers, pipeline, grooming, retention of talents and the competencies, skill sets they do have to be able to align the organization’s/institutions’ business or other goals to attain the business objectives. The leadership Strategy emanates from the organization’s culture, vision/mission for doing the business and acts as an edifice to steer the organization to success and sustenance. The major elements of a Leadership strategy may be growth, sustain, innovate and diversify which might be exclusive and/or inclusive. The major drivers’ of an organization’s leadership strategy could be its focus areas in business and/or work, organization culture, values and ethics, quality and competency of its leaders/ manpower, organization structure, systems, processes and compliance. It is the leadership strategy which in fact effectively tries to bridge the gap between potential to performance.

It could therefore be observed and construed that despite being the two different facets of leadership paradigm both leadership strategy and strategic leadership are complimentary to each other and both are required to build on the organizational as well as individual leadership to confront various internal and external risks, challenges, conventions, aspirations to attain  performance excellence.

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