Along with every privilege comes responsibility. So while small business owners may be a privileged group of people, we must also recognize that others are watching the things that we do. Just as the CEO of a multi-national company may be a target, we as owners and senior managers of small companies are targets as well. People watch the things we do very closely and are quick to offer judgment when a mistake is made. But they also watch to see how we behave when we succeed in order to follow our direction.
The second skill business leaders need to master in order to have success with their companies is Discipline. The discipline I’m referring to isn’t the kind many of us are familiar with from our childhoods, or the kind of discipline we occasionally have to use with unproductive employees. Instead I’m referring to the disciplined behavior that prompts us to consistently do the things necessary in order to grow our companies.
Within this broad category of Discipline are three sub-categories. The first of these is the ability to execute. In my opinion the characteristic that separates truly successful companies from those that limp along is the owner’s ability, and willingness, to execute on the things that need to be done.
The foundation of execution is the ability to make decisions quickly, fairly, and consistently. The executive who is paralyzed by indecision or who waffles on making basic decisions misses opportunities that could move his business forward.
To help determine if you’re executing effectively ask yourself whether you’re majoring in major things or majoring in minor things. Is your day spent doing the work and making the decisions worthy of someone at your level in the company? Or is your day consumed with muddling around in minor activities and making minor decisions?
Do you acknowledge the reality of the situations you’re in and make the tough calls when needed? Or do you find yourself caught up in a world of “if only”? Effective managers confront the reality of their situations and make decisions based upon them.
A key characteristic of effective execution is a leader’s ability to let go of the past. One who can make decisions that are best for the future of the company and not ones encumbered by personal agendas, past hurts, or the belief that something won’t work today because it didn’t work before. It means trying new things rather than doing things you may be comfortable with, but which may be on the verge of becoming obsolete.
Perhaps the truest indicator of effective execution is the ability of the leader to attack the future. Naturally I’m not talking about blindly or recklessly, but rather I’m referring to that inner burn that prompts a business leader to continually look for innovative ways to improve his product or service, operate more efficiently, and find new and more profitable markets to explore.
Execute is the foundation of the word executive for a reason. It defines what the business leader is supposed to do. Execution doesn’t have to be flawless, but those who develop the discipline to execute swiftly, fairly, and consistently are the ones who usually win the game.