March 9, 2023 6 Min Read
Strategy Execution: Myths And Key Behaviors for Success
“Vision without action is fantasy. Action without vision is chaos,” say the philosophers. This describes the crucial pairing of strategy development and strategy execution. The best strategy is worthless if it can’t be implemented. Leaders play a critical role in the successful execution of strategy in any business by relying on key behaviors and skills necessary to motivate, guide, and empower their team to achieve the strategic objectives of the organization. Without those behaviors and skills, the action results in chaos.
Key Behaviors For Success
Strategy execution involves translating the strategic vision of an organization into actionable steps that can be implemented across different departments and levels of the organization. One person, even the CEO cannot alone implement a strategy. That leader needs to harness the entire team to action through communication, motivation, and direction.
One of the key leadership behaviors required for successful execution of strategy is effective communication. Leaders must be able to articulate the organization’s strategic objectives clearly to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors. This involves communicating the purpose of the strategy, the expected outcomes, and the specific roles and responsibilities of each team member in achieving these outcomes. Effective communication also involves active listening, feedback, and responding to questions and concerns from team members. When leaders communicate effectively, team members are more likely to understand the strategic vision and feel motivated to work towards its achievement.
Paired with communication is the leadership behavior of motivating and inspiring team members. Leaders must be able to create a positive work environment that inspires team members to work towards the strategic objectives of the organization. It begins with sharing purpose and passion for the strategy and then recognizing and rewarding team members for their achievements in executing the strategy. When team members are motivated, inspired and feel the passion, they are more likely to work towards with urgency to achieve the strategic objectives of the organization.
Both communication and motivation must be done authentically. Authentic and transparent leadership will build relationships of trust. Leaders must be able to build strong relationships with team members, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Strong relationships help to facilitate effective communication and create goodwill which is sometimes needed to manage conflicts effectively and build consensus among stakeholders to ensure that the strategy is implemented successfully.
Now that the team is motivated, they need direction. Direction is provided by setting clear goals and expectations. Leader action to ensure that every team member understands the specific goals and expectations associated with the strategy. Team members will see the work of breaking down the strategic objectives into smaller, achievable goals and communicating them to each team member. Clear goals and expectations help to create a sense of focus and direction for the team, enabling them to work towards a shared vision. Leaders must also ensure that they hold team members accountable for achieving their goals and provide support and guidance when necessary.
Some underlying skills associated with strategy execution are delegation, change management and resilience. Effective leaders must be able to delegate tasks and responsibilities to team members based on their skills and abilities. This involves identifying the strengths and weaknesses of team members and assigning tasks accordingly. Leaders who are effective at delegation can free up their time to focus on more strategic tasks, while also empowering team members to develop their skills and take on more responsibility.
If the strategy and its execution are a change from previous cycles, then change management skills will be needed to align on the need for change, building a sense of urgency, and providing the necessary support and resources for team members to adapt to new ways of working.
And as with all plans, there will be setbacks. That’s where resilience comes in. Staying agile and responsive to changing market conditions and bouncing back from setbacks sets a tone for the team and organization.
Moreover, successful strategy execution capabilities require awareness of the common myths around strategy execution. Leaders aware of these myths can communicate more effectively about strategy execution with their teams and stakeholders. They can educate others on the importance of avoiding these myths and promote a shared understanding of what it takes to execute a strategy successfully.
Common Myths Around Strategy Execution
Despite the importance of strategy execution, several myths exist around it. These myths can lead to misguided approaches to strategy execution, ultimately failing. Here are some of the most common myths around strategy execution to be aware of:
- Strategy Execution Is Just About Planning: While planning is an essential component of strategy execution, it is only one part of the process. Effective execution requires planning, communication, execution, and monitoring to ensure that the strategy is implemented effectively.
- The CEO Is Solely Responsible For Strategy Execution: While the CEO plays a critical role in setting the company’s direction, successful execution requires the involvement and buy-in of all stakeholders. This includes executive leadership, middle management, and individual contributors across the organization.
- Execution Is A One-Time Event: Successful strategy execution is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, adjustment, and refinement. Executing a strategy is not a linear process with a definitive end point. Instead, it involves a series of interconnected activities that require constant attention and adjustment as circumstances change.
- Execution Is Just A Technical Process: Some leaders believe execution is purely a technical process that can be managed through technology, metrics, and procedures alone. However, this overlooks the importance of effective communication, collaboration, accountability, and leadership in successful execution. Without clear communication, alignment, and ownership, even the most well-designed plan can fail to achieve its goals.
- Strategy Execution Is Only For Large Companies: Another myth assumes that only large companies need to worry about strategy execution. However, every company, regardless of size, must have a clear strategy and effective execution to achieve its goals. Even small companies face challenges related to coordination, alignment, and accountability. Leaders must prioritize execution as a critical component of their overall strategy, regardless of their company’s size.
- Execution Is All About Following A Plan: Some leaders assume that execution is a straightforward process of following a predetermined plan. However, successful execution requires flexibility and adaptability to respond to unexpected challenges. In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable business environment, leaders must be prepared to adjust their plans as circumstances change. Execution is not just about following a plan but also about being agile and adaptable.
- Execution is Only About Getting Results: Another myth assumes that execution focuses on achieving specific results and performance only. However, successful execution also involves creating a culture of accountability, learning, and continuous improvement. Leaders must foster a culture that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and innovation. By doing so, they can create an environment where employees are empowered to contribute to the company’s success and feel ownership over their work.
A Coach’s Perspective
There may be ways in which you, your team or the organization don’t exhibit the behaviors required for successful strategy implementation on a consistent basis. Other priorities or emergencies get in the way of the best laid plans. There may be skills that you recognize as lacking. These are reasons to consider whether a coach may be able to guide and support you.
Also, a leader needs to be aware of the myths around strategy execution because these myths can lead to ineffective or failed strategy execution, which can have significant negative consequences for the organization.
Leaders who are unaware of these myths may fall into their traps, resulting in wasted resources, missed opportunities, and a loss of trust and confidence from stakeholders. By being aware of these myths, leaders can avoid these pitfalls and take steps to ensure successful strategy execution.
Coaching conversations can support you in gaining awareness around the pitfalls of strategy execution but also help you identify what you can do to improve the strategy execution at the individual level, at the team level, and at the organizational level.
Write down three questions that will form the foundation of a 1:1 conversation with a TaskHuman coach about strategy execution. For example, how can I increase alignment to the execution plan and delegate effectively? Formulating your questions will make for a productive coaching conversation. Then, use the TaskHuman platform to connect with a coach – search by topic or name to book a call.
Interested in chatting with Coach Nawar Touzani or another leadership coach? Schedule your first session today to get started.