Execution or Discussion?

The difference between high performance and failure for most companies can come down to a very simple management choice: execution versus discussion. In straightforward terms, execution is getting something done; discussion is talking about getting something done. It’s not hard to figure out which of these two creates a high performance culture in the workplace.


When we over-discuss problems, issues and opportunities, we tend to exaggerate the obstacles and we eventually talk ourselves out of making a decision. Sometimes we’ve discussed an issue to such great lengths that we can be said to be admiring the problem. It is this admiration of our issues that leads to inaction and subsequent failure. In the economic climate we’re faced with today, there is no place for inaction; no place for admiring our problems.


Interestingly, it is often the seasoned managers who tend to excel at discussing the issues, while more junior members of their team are usually foaming at the mouth to solve issues. The argument for born leaders falls flat when you discover corporate cultures that stifle innovation and cause senior “leaders” to retreat to the safe haven of avoiding decisions at all costs. (I use quotes around “leaders” because they’re not really leading as much as they are treading water to maintain a status quo.)


It’s nurture, not nature, playing the key role here. The will, desire, and drive we’re all born with is decimated by someone or something by the time we reach the executive offices. We got there because our boss, our boss’ boss, and our boss’ boss’ boss all got there the same way. They avoided risks, chose no decisions over potential bad decisions, and they got along just fine.


Welcome to a whole new world. Globalization, a weak dollar and the economic slowdown are forcing companies to layoff, restructure or fold. The inability to make decisions – good or bad – worked for us during the good times, but as every recession has taught us, companies willing to take chances are ahead going into and coming out of these downturns. It’s unfortunate that during good times we tend to reward everyone regardless of contribution. Moreover, we enjoy the comfort of “maintenance” and we tend to ignore metrics or trends that point to a need for change until it’s too late.


Perhaps, if we when we turned 50, we had the same exuberance and wide open eyes we had at 25, we would attack the problems with abandon. The cruel paradox of business is this: we finally reach a position where we’re “allowed” to make decisions right around the time we’ve had the desire to change beaten out of us.


In the first sentence of this post I indicated that it’s a choice between execution and discussion. That’s true – we all make choices everyday in our work and family life. And with each issue, problem or opportunity we discover, we choose whether or not to execute. Gaining comfort in the status quo is not the fault of the ineffective management you serve, it is your fault. You, and you alone, are the only person who can effect this change. Start today by empowering your team to make decisions. Celebrate their failures as much as you celebrate their successes, and you’ll go along way to creating true leaders for the future of your business. Then, trying throwing some crap against the wall to see what sticks. Some of it will and some of it won’t. Just make sure you can tell the difference.