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Has your strategy just gone out the window? 7 ways to double down on execution in COVID-19


Has your strategy just gone out the window? We hear you and we have you covered!

In unprecedented times, strong execution must be top priority for all businesses.

Here’s why. Businesses that have already executed with speed and pivoted are either seeing the rewards, or have taken measures to reduce the impact on their business.

We are even seeing some inspiring collaborations and innovation emerging from businesses who are acting swiftly.

Many businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19, however, others (such as medical, food and cleaning – and don’t forget loo roll companies!) are experiencing exponential growth. In all instances, businesses are under pressure to execute fast.

Here are the 7 steps you need to take now to double down on your execution:

1. Speed matters

Businesses need to quickly pivot to the new circumstances we find ourselves in.  Excessive planning and strategising won’t work as things are changing by the day and that strategic plan will be out of date by the time it is finished.

This does not mean do not plan. It means now isn’t the time to over think it or wait until the plan is perfect in order to execute.

Take a leaf out of Tony Robbins: “Never leave the site of a goal without first taking some form of positive action towards its attainment. Right now, take a moment to define the first steps you must take to achieve some goal.”

Things can feel very overwhelming at the moment and many of us don’t know where to start. Just take your first step and the rest will follow.

Speed is also critical when it comes to communicating with your customers.  It is vital to provide relevant and clear updates.  In some cases, the lack of communication is compounding the issue and resulting in a negative customer experience. 

2. Pivot

You might be about to take a detour to your destination. The end goal does not need to necessarily change, but the path to get there most likely will. Be open to new ideas and ways to serve the emerging needs of your customers. This may bring a healthy dose of innovation to your business and strengthen the community you serve.

Here are some companies both small and large who have already pivoted: 

  • Urban Rituelle:  An Australian Small Business, and one of our clients, developed a hand sanitiser in record speed and went to market within 48 hours.
  • Pub: A pub in my parents’ village have opened a home delivery service and have been inundated.
  • Louis Vuitton: have repurposed their perfume factories to make hand sanitiser!
  • Gyms: Multiple gyms have started live streaming classes. Sweat with Kayla Itsines have re-created 3 programs in within 24 hours to be #BBGHome with less equipment needed.
  • The Execution Zone: Within our business we have changed all of our workshops to virtual workshops and we have released a free membership model to support businesses at this time.

Pivot now, don’t wait.

3. This is the time to step up and lead

Our teams, colleagues, families and communities need people to step up and lead.

How you lead now will make a difference both internally and externally to your organisation.

Good to Great by Jim Collins showed the common denominators of “Great companies” were “level 5 leaders” and who “confront the brutal facts but never lose faith”. 

The short version of this book is that both the good and the great companies had challenging times, multiple crises and variable market conditions, but great companies still succeeded despite hard times. 

“Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. They’re incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves.” – Jim Collins

This is your opportunity to lead.

4. Stay focused

“Focus on the wildly important” is one of the 4 Disciplines of Execution by Franklin Covey.

We need to focus on what is of critical importance and at risk of not happening due to the “whirlwind” of the day.

To stay focused limit your exposure to some of the hysteria and media outlets which will lead to overwhelm. As Dr Kristy Goodwin (Digital Wellbeing Expert) says put a “fortress around your focus.”

Focus on what you can influence and things you can do to move the needle. Find the silver lining for you in this situation. 

“If we have the courage to ignore the ‘prophets of doom’ the best opportunities come in times of maximum pessimism. If we focused on that advantage, we’d feel very differently, wouldn’t we?” – Tony Robbins

Consider the Pareto principle, what 20% of activities will get 80% of your results?

Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet credit their success to focus. That has to be the best reason I’ve heard to double down on your focus.

5. Team

Whilst most of us are working remotely now it is important to keep the team communication and collaboration going.

Tools such as Microsoft teams, Zoom and Asana can help with this.

Bizarrely one of the silver linings of these situations is that teams can rally together towards the common goal under great leadership.

Implementing a 5 or 10 minute daily huddle (virtual huddle) can be very powerful to help the team all feel connected.

6. Grit to be at your best

I recently came across a surprising practice that the top 1% of high performers do; they practice having the grit to be at their best when they’re at their worst.

Treat the COVID-19 situation as an exciting opportunity to practice. When I do this at first, I absolutely feel like I am kidding myself, however it then acts as a powerful reframe.

Steven Kotler, who is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading experts on peak performance, has shared his own example of this; after a bad night’s sleep, followed by a 12-hour workday and a bloody tough gym session, he’ll get home and challenge himself to practice his keynote.

Preparing conditions such as these – when he’s exhausted and probably mentally at his worst – will prepare him for when he gets off an international flight, jet-lagged to his eyeballs and has to step up to the podium for his keynote speech.

7. Have an execution system

The ‘4 Disciplines of Execution’ methodology is one of the most robust execution methodologies after research of 200,000 individuals in thousands of organisations across the world.

Their researched shown that a system is needed for execution otherwise the day to day will take over. At the moment that day to day is a full-blown tornado and this system is needed more than ever.

The 4 disciplines are:

1: Focus on the wildly important goals

Set yourself up by choosing 2-3 goals that involve the fewest battles to win the war. Keep it really simple by ensuring each goal has a start, end and timeline.

2: Act on lead measures

The art of execution is to act on lead measures not lag measures. Lead measures must be predictive and influenceable.

In a sales context this would mean the lag measure is revenue and the lead measure would be for example number of demonstrations, trials, proposals, calls etc.  You cannot influence revenue alone, you can however influence the number of calls. This in turn will push up revenue (a lag measure).

3: Keep a compelling scoreboard

Research has found people perform differently when there’s a score being kept. Create a simple and even fun scoreboard to track progress against the wildly important goals. It might not feel like the time for fun but a little fun along the way will boost morale and even wellbeing.

Keep your scoreboard somewhere highly visible; mine sits on my desk so it’s constantly front and centre of my mind.

Execution doesn’t like complexity, keep it simple.

4: Create a cadence of accountability

If you have a team, have each member commit to one task per week they can perform to contribute to the wildly important goal. A tip here is to allow the team pick their own contribution. Giving ownership breathes engagement and commitment to the cause. 

Ensure it is a winnable game so the team feel motivated and that it is achievable.

In these times you might want to increase the frequency to twice a week, but with meetings no more than 10 minutes. We do not want lengthy meetings to take the team away from executing.

In a weekly meeting update:

  • Progress on the previous week’s commitment
  • Update the scoreboard
  • Set new commitments

In summary, whichever of these approaches you chose to adopt the key is to break it down, keep it simple and take the first step to execute now. Don’t wait!

Abbie White is the Founder of The Execution Zone a business education provider for growth hungry entrepreneurs and leaders.  She has assisted in the delivery of over $300 million in sales. The Execution Zone are offering a free membership for all Australian businesses with resources to manage the COVID-19 crisis. Please visit: TheExecutionZone.com or Instagram @TheExecutionZone for more information.

Abbie White is the Founder of The Execution Zone a business education provider for growth hungry entrepreneurs and leaders.  She has assisted in the delivery of over $300 million in sales. The Execution Zone are offering a free membership for all Australian businesses with resources to manage the COVID-19 crisis. Please visit: TheExecutionZone.com or Instagram @TheExecutionZone for more information.