Mackay: Great ideas aren't enough; you also have to execute

  • Article by: HARVEY MACKAY
  • August 5, 2012 - 7:23 PM

When comedian Larry the Cable Guy says, "Git 'er done," he's simply defining one of the buzzwords heard in boardrooms and offices everywhere -- execution intelligence, also known as XQ.

I personally prefer Larry's term to the fancier jargon, but the end result is the same: Have an end result!

Execution intelligence is the ability to convert smarts and plans into action. A true business expert knows that the idea is not king -- the solution is. In a digital culture that can find almost any kind of idea or information on the Internet, the challenge is in converting this universal knowledge into a successful result.

Michael Dell, CEO and founder of Dell Inc., said, "Ideas are a commodity. Execution of them is not."

The business world recently lost one of the giants of execution intelligence, Stephen Covey. Stephen and I shared a podium a number of times, and I am proud to have called him my friend. His life's work is an example of how to get things done: from his planning calendars that many of us use to his inspirational writing. In his blockbuster book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," the second habit is "Begin with the end in mind."

Talking in a broader sense, Stephen said, "Organizations that execute with excellence focus on very few clear objectives and align the focus of every worker and work group to those few goals. Can an organization execute its goals when its people are unclear on the goals, uncommitted to them, unempowered to achieve them and unaccountable for them? Got smart people? Got a vision? Good for you. Now, what about your XQ?"

As a lifelong salesman, I know success comes when you are able to close the deal. In the sales field, all the flashy brochures and well-practiced presentations are just the beginning. No one works until a sale is made. If salespeople can't execute sales, the business fails.

There's a whole movement defining different kinds of intelligence. For example, emotional intelligence is centered on being smart about feelings. Interpersonal intelligence deals with being smart socially. IQ tests measure smarts as defined by words or math. So someone who is classified as very smart but lacking execution intelligence might not be able to succeed.

Developing your XQ involves several steps, according to teleseminar guru Alex Mandossian:

• Don't focus on complex solutions or even elegant ones. Sometimes we get too mired in details to see the logical end. Complicating your progress is counterproductive.

• Execution intelligence forces you to zero in on answers that are pure action. Don't stall in the thinking stage -- that's when you get bogged down in meetings, memos and reinventing the wheel but never reach a conclusion.

• Don't spend all your time chasing the wrong rainbow. If you determine that a project will not work like you thought it would, let it go. Knowing when to throw in the towel is also a form of execution intelligence.

Many brilliant ideas have been thought up already, but the real genius is being able to put them to work practically. Many people know -- or claim to know -- what to do. They just never get it done.

Mackay's Moral: It's not enough to know what. You must also know how.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail

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