Braggarts and Executors

Skiing and Execution
One of the best parts of skiing is the drive up the mountain to the resort. Excitement is in everyone’s eyes as they get closer to the slopes. There is something about the intense beauty and serenity surrounding most ski resorts that contrasts remarkably with the anticipation of launching oneself down a slope or off a fifty-foot tabletop. It is fun to listen to the talk during the drive up, with everyone anxiously reminiscing their most daring feats; from jumping off that monster jump to pulling off their first back flip. Listening to all this bravado can be quite intimidating, until you get to the mountain. As everyone starts skiing the mountain, braggarts quickly get sorted out from the experts, and their presumptuous stories become insignificant.

In business, especially in small business and its entrepreneurial atmosphere, it is easy to get caught up in exciting dreams and plans. We are business people, so we remember every self-help book that stresses the importance of setting goals, researching trends and potential clients, and writing a solid business plan. In fact most of us can probably recite lines from Good to Great like it was a Shakespearean sonnet. The reality of the situation is that the most successful businesses are those that create a culture of execution and action — not just talk.

In Getting Things Done, David Allen suggests that we ask, “What is the next action?” at the end of a meeting or conversation. Asking this simple question creates accountability among the team, forces execution. Try it the next time you have a meeting. There’s a strong chance that if this question becomes a part of your company’s culture, you’ll find the number of meetings you have will significantly decrease while the ones you do have will be shorter and more productive.

And while the braggarts and talkers hobble some companies, sometimes there are other emotions that hold us back. Fear is one such emotion. If you are unsure about who to hire, whether to buy some new property, or what to say to a potential client, go with your gut, be prepared to accept the consequences and learn from the results. This is the business equivalent of saying a little prayer, closing our eyes, and letting ourselves fly off of a jump. It is scary, yes, but taking action is what business is all about. In fact, you may find that agonizing over a decision is more painful than the results of the decision.

So, stepping away from this post, think about the decisions before you right now. Is there something that you are avoiding or procrastinating? Take David Allen’s advice, tell yourself, “the next action is…” and go do it.

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