Walking the Talk on Execution

By Liz McBride

dateTue, Mar 24, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

This year, my husband, Mike, gave me a Fitbit for Valentine’s Day. I’d heard a story of people gaining fruits-465832_1280weight after using this device. As a coach who helps CEOs determine accuracy in prediction and successful execution, I was determined to change the ending to my story.

I entered my weight goal and was excited to see the recommended daily calories I was allowed to partake was much higher than expected. I started executing on my goal of 10,000 steps per day and stayed within the recommended calories. At the end of the day, I’d plop down on the sofa to curl up to read and notice I still had 1200 steps to take. I’d toss my Girl Scout cookies aside (still within my allotted calories) and grab the leash to take our new lab puppy, Maddie, for another walk. At the end of week one, I checked my progress on the scale and did not see any change.

Let’s pretend for the purposes of this blog (and his ego) that my Valentine is the CEO. Here’s what it would look like if I were to evaluate this situation using the Seven Essential Behaviors of Execution in Bossidy and Charan’s Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done:

  1. Know your people and know your business - Know the risks; know your people by being a good listener and be accessible.
    • Mike knew I was already walking Maddie and am competitive with myself. I’d recently hit a weight loss plateau and was frustrated.
  2. Insist on realism - Encourage constructive debates so you can truly see things as they are.
    • Mike set up my Fitbit and, for the sake of his well being, never asked me my current weight.
  3. Identify clear goals and priorities - What parts of the business are impacted, what are the metrics, how will it get done, and who is accountable?
    • I’d entered a realistic weight goal.
  4. Follow through – Create milestones so everyone can track progress.
    • Mike was tracking his steps as well, and he’d report who was ‘ahead’ in steps daily (as all good men with a competitive wife should).
  5. Reward the doers – Create a compensation strategy to reward those who are getting it done.
    • I did mention I was eating Girl Scout cookies. Sweet, sweet reward! There was an intrinsic reward of walking with my Valentine and my puppy daily while working towards a goal. Fitbit also gave me badges towards my progress, which helped feed my competitive hunger.
  6. Expand peoples’ capabilities - Develop and provide stretch goals for your team.
    • On the weekends, Mike would challenge me to 15,000 steps per day.
  7. Know yourself - Lose the ego, listen and identify your blind spots.
    • I knew I’d been at a weight loss plateau, and this new calorie goal was too good to be true. I should have adjusted sooner.

The CEO was on board. I’m motivated for success and have been provided the right tool to make this happen. Why wasn’t the scale moving? I used the same approach to this problem as I would if coaching an executive team.

Whenever you aren’t reaching your milestones towards a goal, here are things to consider:

  • Are the success criteria flawed for your Red-Yellow-Green dashboard? - On a recent coaching call, the CEO stated that his employee health surveys showed they were in the “green”; however, hallway conversations and rumblings didn’t mirror these results. One of the issues was the success criteria for green was too low and didn’t provide a true picture of health.
    • I looked at the Fitbit settings to make sure I had entered my weight goal correctly and discovered that my husband had entered my starting weight at a number I had not seen since high school. Therefore, Fitbit was trying to bulk my poor, skinny frame up by increasing my caloric intake by 500 calories more per day than I’d been eating. Bye-bye, cookies. 
  • Are your KPIs leading indicators (steps/calories), or do they only show results (evil scale)? If you are only looking for results, it’s too late to make adjustments along the way and you could be blind-sided.
    • In my example, I had the right mix of leading and results KPIs; however, my success criteria were flawed.
  • Are you getting input from the team? Leaders should get input from team members closer to the work to ensure the goals are realistic. Creating a culture of collaboration will keep blinders off of your eyes as the team executes.
    • Mike should have asked me my weight. I’m kidding. I should have set up my Fitbit alone in a dark, dark room.
  • Are you using Action Items to execute towards the goal and follow through? It’s not enough to set a goal with success criteria and then expect it to happen. Action items are what keeps you accountable and break the goal down into manageable, executable steps.
    • In order for me to get back on track, I had to increase the number of steps per day and change my diet.
  • Are you making weekly adjustments to get back on track? Execution should be iterative. By having a good mix of leading indicator KPIs, input and collaboration from the team, and action items for accountability, you are able to gauge how you are moving the needle towards executing your goal. You’ll be able to make weekly adjustments towards your goals in order to get back on track.
    • I adjusted the steps and caloric target for the next week, and within two weeks I’ve lost 5 pounds!

It’s not too late to take a look at last quarter’s goals and think through the adjustments you should make towards next quarter. I hope I’ve given you food for thought - food, like Thin Mints.

Cheers to walking the talk on execution...10,000 small steps at a time.


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Liz McBride


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