For many of us it's not the lack of good ideas or good intentions that holds us back from success, it's the lack of execution.

Authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan — in their best-selling book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done — write that “execution is a specific set of behaviors and techniques that companies need to master in order to have competitive advantage.” It's a discipline in and of itself, and it's something that must be built into every company.

We've all seen it. We've sat in staff meetings discussing the strategies we're going to put into place for our business and we've left the meeting feeling pretty good about the direction we've set for the company. But three months later we find that nothing has been done. No one — not even the leader of the company — has achieved their goals.

So what should a business owner do to ensure that his or her team executes the plan and delivers the best results? To begin, according to Bossidy and Charan, the leader must follow these seven essential behaviors:

  • Know your people and your business. Take the time to talk to your people and ask them the tough questions about what's going on in the areas for which they are responsible.
  • Insist on realism. Many business owners overestimate what can be done in their company, from the sales for the year to the productivity of the field staff. Avoid this denial.
  • Set clear goals and priorities. Break priorities down into short-term targets and make sure everyone understands their responsibilities.
  • Follow through. Once priorities are set, schedule follow-up meetings to discuss progress. This sets an expectation that you are going to be focused on results.
  • Reward the doers. Make it clear that those who produce get the rewards. Otherwise, the achievers lose their drive and mediocrity sets in.
  • Expand people's capabilities. One of your most important responsibilities is to pass on your knowledge. Watch your people work and give them specific feedback on how to improve. Then give them the help they need.
  • Know yourself. Understand the strengths and weaknesses that you bring to the table and have the confidence to keep an open mind to the team's input. The authors call this “emotional fortitude.” With it you will have the courage to accept points of view that differ from your own.
  • The book goes on to describe three tightly-linked core processes that are the heart of execution: the people process, the strategy process, and the operations process.

    Any business leader who reads this book will be better able to make things happen and may even see new levels of success. —Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Laurel, Md. 301.490.5620,