Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Recently, I attended a seminar on leadership development and a burly COO asserted to the group that “executives are born, not made”. I realized, as I sat there shocked at his assertion, that without the idea that people can learn, grow and change, then it is true that not much can be done to “make” an executive. But people can learn, grow and change.

In this article are some of the key areas a person has to perfect to become a GREAT executive (one who executes). Anyone who learns these simple areas well can become a great executive, beloved by her team and company.

If you ask the average person whether they would rather be an executive or an individual contributor, most will say “executive” because the pay is better. But what really makes an executive earn his or her pay? Why does he deserve the big bucks?

Below is a list of our non-negotiable attributes you have to have to take on an executive nameplate:

1. Risk-taking
2. Delegation
3. Strategic Thinking
4. Certainty
5. Organization
6. Inspiration and Motivation

Risk-taking. Where risk-taking is concerned, most executives will tell you it has been a bumpy road whether they own their own business or run a division of a company. Being responsible means being responsible, period. There isn’t anyone else to blame and it means your reputation, money and resources are on the line, every minute of every day. In case you haven’t seen the news in the past decade, some CEOs have even gone to jail for decisions their employees made. That’s no small risk.

Delegation. Probably the one attribute I see most new executives fail in is delegation. There are two things that stand in the way of good delegation. The first is the idea that it is “mean” to control someone else or ask them to do something and to follow up with them. This is just false information. Most people expect an executive to get things done and they respect the ones who make them work hard and get things done. The second barrier is not knowing what to delegate and therefore doing it all yourself. The solution to this is to write down all the things you do in an average week, group them into categories by similarity and then figure out how to delegate 50% of them and to whom. You might be surprised at the number of things you do in a week and how much more you could get done by delegating. If you think you can’t afford someone to delegate to, consider how long one of the small tasks takes you. Multiply it by your hourly rate. Now imagine someone else at a lower hourly rate was doing that task. That’s how much money you can save the company per hour. Find what you can most easily delegate and try it. You will never grow and expand if you don’t!

Strategic Thinking. You probably would never guess that strategic thinking is related to delegation, but it IS! Strategy comes from the Greek word for “general” and meant the person who decided which battles to fight. You have to do this in your business or division. Decide which battles to fight with the main purpose of overcoming your competitor! This means you have to have a big picture view. You will never have this if you aren’t delegating some of the detail work to someone else. So the delegation and strategic thinking are like peas in a pod. If you need help thinking strategically, read 60-minute Strategic Plan by John Johnson.

Certainty. No one likes a wishy-washy executive. Really. Decide what you are going to do and either do it or educate yourself more on how to and THEN do it! Be certain. Maybes are the stuff of which hell is made!

Organization. Remember, organization is knowing how tasks fit together to make a whole product and arranging them to increase flows and eliminate slows. Organized executives get more DONE. Period. Executives = those who execute. Read R U ORGNZED? on Biznik for more information.

Inspiration and Motivation. This is another area of downfall for new executives. Most people want to be inspired, to have purpose and interest in what they are doing. You, as the leader, have to provide a vision of where you are going and then use stories to make it interesting and fun. Throw in a sense of humor too. Not inspired yourself? Then start with you. As they say in sales, “The first close is you.” So sell yourself on how exciting your company is, and then communicate that to your team. Get them excited.

Inspire your team with certainty, a grand, strategic vision, then organize them and delegate to accomplish work and you have it! This is the winning formula for an executive who GETS THINGS DONE! Now go forth and execute.