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Execution and Continuous Learning

Our lives, both business and personal are driven by performance.  We all want to do our best at whatever task is in front of us, whether this is your business, family, school, or any other of life’s challenges.  Ask any business owner and they will tell their biggest challenge is finding star performers, who execute flawlessly and consistently.  But how do stars performers become standouts and how do they maintain/exceed peak performance?  The answer lies in continuous learning and practice.  Making time to examine past results and practice skill are the foundation of effective and exceptional execution.  Think about great athletes. Michael Phelps did not just jump in the pool and win gold medals.  He spent countless hours in focused training.  In addition to swimming the endless laps to build strength and endurance, he reviewed tapes of his starts, strokes and turns.  He practiced and learned in a safe environment so that he could execute when it mattered most – race day.

The same principles apply in business, but often the drive for results gets in the way of learning and practice.   An individual’s basic training, experience, and talent will enable them to succeed in terms of short term performance, but it is practice and learning that will drive long-term performance excellence.  This concept has been around forever.  Every coach in every sport preaches – “practice like you play and you will play like you practice”.  One of Covey’s Seven Habits of Effective People is “sharpening the saw”.  But businesses often fail in the execution of giving their employees and management the time and space to practice and learn in a safe environment.

Due to the day-to-day pressures of sales goals and operational production, there often “isn’t time” to work on developing or refining key skills.  Performance and execution are paramount, so the learning and practice is done in a live environment and without a net.  When this process fails, it is often spectacular.  To avoid this situation, businesses need to do three things.

  1. MAKE TIME TO REVIEW, ASK QUESTIONS AND ANALYZE RESULTS. Without a clear understanding of what went right and wrong, we cannot improve, adapt, or adjust.  In each operating group within your business, you need to create a platform to examine performance in an open and non-threatening manner.  This will allow the company and individuals to identify where and how performance can be improved.
  2. PRACTICE AND TEST IDEAS IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT. Create the space to test ideas and practice proposal or operating approaches before the due date.  No one can deliver a successful key note address on a consistent basis without practice.  Actors do not wing their lines, they rehearse in the off hours when few are watching.  Do the same in your business.
  3. MAKE REVIEW, PRACTICE, AND QUESTIONING PART OF THE CULTURE. Lead by example, ask the key questions not from the result point of view (how did we do?).  Rather, from the improvement point of view (what can we do better?).  Reward openness, practice and learning as well as performance and execution.

Practice/Learning and performance/execution are separate activities that are bound together.  You cannot learn strictly “by the book”, you must execute.  Nor can you perform at a high level if you do not practice and learn from your actions.  The bottom line is you cannot afford to not take the time to review results, learn from mistakes and practice to refine the skills required to succeed.

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