To execute is to get the job done and deliver results. Telenor’s Managing Director of Common Operations Øystein Mikkelsen knows a thing or two about execution. In the early days of his career in Telenor his manager told him that a good leader “has ink on one hand and dirt on the other.” At the time, Telenor was facing its first bouts of competition in Norway, and the company had to come together with clear measurable targets in order to fight back.
“If strategy is about what a company should do, execution is about getting it done,” explains Øystein. “I see three criteria for being successful: 1. Clear, measurable targets 2. A system for measuring 3. Accountablity for production.”
The greatest challenge
Executing is one of the greatest challenges that organizations face, and failing to execute is often the main reason that companies fail to keep their promises. Without execution, the leadership attitudes of explore, engage and empower will not yield any results. Execution is the gap between what we want to achieve and what we as an organization actually deliver. Consider whether you would rather invest in a company with a strong strategy and weak execution, or a company with weak strategy and strong execution?
In Telenor, the best leaders set ambitious and clear goals; they are persistent and realistic when driving decisions into results; and they act fast and strive for simplicity. Execution starts by selecting the right people, followed by continuous alignment of targets and processes. It also requires motivation and coaching of the team to reach goals and create tangible results.
Back in 2000, I was heading the fixed telephony business in the Norwegian consumer market. We needed to respond quickly to challenging market conditions. So we brought together several cross-functional experts. Together, we explored alternative solutions and agreed on how we would act, as quickly and efficiently as possible. We resolved to challenge 20-year-old price plans and replace them with new and more targeted plans. The result was profit and pride among the team. In this particular experience and countless others, I see execution take place when you gather people together, plant some inspiration in the group, set very clear targets and make sure that you don’t leave that room until everyone is on the same page. It’s about putting the company first, getting a grip on the situation and making a plan of action. Last but not least, follow through.
How to be an execution-oriented leader in Telenor
- Communicate clearly what results we are looking for
- Discuss what is needed and how to get those results
- Reward and praise people for producing results – catch them in doing a good job!
And if people come up short, don’t wait too long to take action. Seek additional coaching for that person, find new tasks and roles, set a development plan or evaluate alternatives for that person. The worst thing you can do is nothing.