Execution: Employees emulate behavior of the company’s leaders

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

I was recently watching a worship service of Joel Osteen, pastor of one of the largest and fastest-growing Christian churches in the United States. As part of his sermon, he was telling parents that their children are like video cameras with legs. He said children see, record and mimic everything their parents do.
Well, in this way, the workplace is not a lot different from the home.
In most companies, employees see, record and mimic the behaviors of the leadership team. If the leadership team struggles with follow-through and execution, chances are good that the employees will also struggle with follow-through and execution. If the leadership team always has an excuse to hide behind to explain the reason for their lack of follow-through and execution, then the employees will mimic that very same behavior.
Rather than developing a proficiency in follow-through and execution, the employees will develop a proficiency for creating excuses that they too will hide behind explaining their lack of follow-through and execution.
Some business leaders are perplexed about why their organization continually struggles with follow-through and execution. It should be of no surprise to anyone that if the business leaders within an organization set a good example with regards to follow-through and execution, then the team will follow their lead and do the same.
As a business leader within an organization, if your follow-through and execution is below average, it would be inappropriate for you to expect your team’s performance to be any better.
The problem
When I am helping organizations uncover obstacles to improving earnings performance, each year employees from a company or two will comment about their concerns and frustrations about the leadership team at their organization. The comments most frequently heard are as follows:
1. Nothing ever gets done around here.
2. Projects get assigned, and they never move forward.
3. We make excuses around here, not progress. Why bother making plans for the future?
4. Nobody cares.
5. Morale is terrible.
6. Leadership doesn’t follow through on their commitments. Why should we?
7. There are no consequences for not following through.
8. We are a sleepy organization. We will always under-perform.

Leadership does not intentionally fall behind on their commitments. Often times they are simply over-worked and have no more capacity. Sometimes they are forgetful. Sometimes they are disorganized. Sometimes they actually don’t know how to solve a particular problem.
The solution
Don’t over-commit. It’s OK to let your team know you are buried. It’s even OK to ask them for help when it makes sense. As long as people believe in the company’s vision, and in leadership’s ability to drive performance, good people will jump at the chance to participate at a higher level even if it means they will have to put in a couple of extra hours.
Delegate more. Business leaders of mid-sized to large organizations understand that if you are going to accelerate the growth of your earnings performance, then you will need to delegate more while having a system for keeping track of the teams’ (yours and others) commitments. Some business leaders work themselves into becoming less effective over time. This happens as a result of picking up more responsibilities while never passing other responsibilities to someone else who may be more qualified at that particular responsibility. Over time, business leaders must make sure they are spending their time only on the activities that provide the greatest value to the organization while delegating other activities.
Communicate more. Let your team know, in advance, when you anticipate missing a commitment. Remember, your employees will mimic this very same behavior, and as a result, if someone is in need of assistance in order to meet a certain commitment (follow-through and execution), you and your team will have advance notice, being in a position to provide the assistance necessary to improve overall execution.

Philip Mydlach is the owner of Mydlach Management Advisors, a corporate planning and performance improvement practice in Waukesha. He can be reached at (262) 662-4646 or pmydlach@aol.com.

July 22, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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