The golden execution strategies that drive success

In a world where capital is effectively priced at zero, as much as 30 percent of bottom line performance stems from the leadership process of harnessing and implementing ideas better than competitors do. Yet most companies state that their leaders reliably get only 50 percent of the full potential of their people. 

This article was first published in Orient magazine, 27th June 2017


By Colin Price, Executive Vice President & Managing Partner, & Sharon Toye, Partner, Heidrick & Struggles 


Having an accelerating mind-set and excellent execution rhythms can go a long way in helping you execute your business plans and strategies. Below are the five golden rules you should pay attention to.


Put the Right Team in Place


You can never move the needle on your own, so your team must be right. Move people out of the team quickly if they are not performing or are not a good fit, and develop capabilities of team members as quickly as possible. Executives often regret moving too slowly to restructure their teams—even when they know the tendency is to move too slowly. Executives almost never mention they regret moving too fast.


Set Your Strategic Priorities


The most important thing is to work out what three to five things you and your team can do that will move the company forward. Get them right, and you have a natural energy to execute. Get them wrong, and you get confusion. Remember that setting priorities is iterative, but don’t take more than six months to determine priorities. Engage your entire leadership team in the process, and make sure that the business case is right.


Plan Properly


Take time to develop a good execution plan. Set measurable and clear key performance indicators, and allocate responsibilities and accountabilities. Set a regular operating strategy for delivering, and constantly measure against the plan.


When Alan Mulally became CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2001, a time when the division of Boeing was having trouble executing, he set a strategy of one plane a day. If Boeing could get one plane a day out of manufacturing and off to a customer, the business would thrive. Mulally then set up a meeting of his top team every morning to discuss what they needed to do to remove any obstacles to achieving that strategy. There was no going off and studying something for days or weeks; if you promised to do something, you had to face your colleagues again the next morning and report on what you had done. Mulally got the strategy he needed.


Adopt Rigorous Strategy and Processes


Establish a fit-for-purpose strategy of meetings. Map out your annual calendar of meetings. Never miss one. If someone can’t come to a meeting, insist on a fully briefed alternative. Start and end on time and have only people on the call or in the meeting who need to be there. Use these meetings to be in control of execution, to troubleshoot problems, and to challenge, support, and coach. Be sure that you are one of those leaders who does less telling and more asking.


Generate Energy


Leaders who could sustain energy and optimism by managing stress levels were much more evident in accelerating companies than in derailing companies. We’ve all been around leaders who we refer to as “mood hoovers”—people who suck the energy out of a room or the people they work with. You feel tired after five minutes around these leaders. On the other hand, as we can see just from looking at leaders around us, those who manage their energy and point it in the most useful direction accelerate the creation of value.


Energetic leaders have authenticity, a clear purpose, passion for that purpose, discipline, and excitement around possibility and opportunity. The energy of a leader spins out into an organisation from the most senior levels through to the front line and across internal and external organisational boundaries. It’s viral. It creates a social movement that infuses customers, stakeholders, regulators, and opinion formers. Leaders who create energy prepare for every moment, meeting, and conversation in which they can bring energy. This contributes significantly to acceleration. This is how the leader sets the pace.


The goal here should be exothermic, rather than endothermic, leadership – in other words, leaders who produce more energy than they consume. There is no acceleration without energy.




You can’t know what the future will hold. However, building the discipline of adopting and maintaining accelerating mind-sets enables leaders to meet full on and with dexterity the ever-changing contexts and requirements within which they galvanize and lead those who follow them.


Think of yourself as sitting in a swivel chair—you can swivel between multiple different systems to make sense of things rather than having straight-through, simple processing. At the core is your ability to be agile as change erupts all around you.


What are the few compelling mind-set shifts that enable leaders to be agile and, in turn, set the pace in today’s ever-changing landscape? The answer can be found in the table below:


Derailing leaders’ mind-sets

Accelerating leaders’ mind-sets

I need to know the answer

I need to constantly discover patterns and connect the dots

These are my resources

My job is to optimally match resources to opportunities

It’s either/or

How do I dissolve the paradox?

I have the power and authority

Working through a traditional hierarchy takes too much time

I need to know

Doubt is powerful

It’s okay to be grumpy

I’m on 24/7, and what I do impacts every second

I don’t have enough time to be a good leader

Creating leadership is my goal

I know myself well

Feedback is a gift


Leading an organisation to thrive in the volatile world we live in today requires excellent execution strategies and an “accelerating mind-set”. Remember, simple changes could lead to big rewards! 



About Heidrick & Struggles


Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ: HSII) serves the executive talent and leadership needs of the world’s top organisations as a premier provider of leadership consulting, culture-shaping and senior-level executive search services. Heidrick & Struggles pioneered the profession of executive search more than 60 years ago. Today, the firm serves as a trusted advisor, providing integrated leadership solutions and helping its clients change the world, one leadership team at a time.


About the book


“Accelerating Performance: How Organizations Can Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility” by Colin Price & Sharon Toye gives leaders a step-by-step framework for taking action and transforming their organisations, teams, and even themselves—starting today.