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The magic is in the execution, not the strategy

Anyone with a pen and a sheet of paper can come up with a strategy. In both sport and business, it’s the execution that really counts. I was reminded of this recently, the hard way, during my seventh Ironman race. The lessons we’ve learned transfer very well to our businesses, so here they are.

I consider my triathlon coach to be one of the best in the business. He had skilfully devised a fine strategy for my most important race of the year. The plan was detailed, personalized, covered nutrition, race pace, everything was perfect.

But after 9 hours of running, halfway through the marathon, which had been preceded by a 3.8 km swim and 180 km bike ride, all the wheels came off! In triathlete terms, I’ve exploded!

I was having the perfect day, so what went wrong? The execution went badly wrong. Not strategy. Insufficient hydration at the start of the race had serious consequences later in the day.

Please note: I had every intention of following the plan. But I was ¨immerged¨ in the action, I stopped visualizing the plan regularly and without realizing it, I executed poorly, leading to a disappointing result.

Every week, I speak to executives with the aim of tailoring my talks to each client, company or audience. During these discussions, a recurring observation was that the pace of change is accelerating. We’re so busy putting out fires that we sometimes feel we don’t have time to do our jobs. Customer expectations are on the rise, as is competition. Not to mention the way technology is transforming many workplaces.

To make sure we focus on execution and actions that generate results, here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way, whether in my sports competitions or in my professional career:

  1. You need systems. Don’t assume you’ll remember what to focus on, and when. Intention and action are not from the same world! Set triggers and reminders to make sure you stay on track.
  2. Alignment. Before taking action and spending your most precious asset – time – always ask yourself: “Is this action aligned with and supportive of the end goal?”.
  3. Reassess often. Don’t assume you’re on the right track, be humble and question your actions. Correcting the course is always easier when you do it early.
  4. It means saying no. Execution is more about saying no than saying yes. Recently, I was the guest speaker at a Fortune 500 company’s top 100 executives meeting. This was the CEO’s main message: “We have to learn to say no. We can’t be everything to everyone. We can’t be everything to everyone. I want fewer projects, but more attention and resources for the biggest opportunities. We need to find the courage to say no to small opportunities in order to achieve our goals”.
  5. Have a clear destination. The clearer the destination, the easier it is to identify priorities and the actions that lead to them. It will also become easier to say no.
  6. What do I have to do to win? Simple question. Do you spend most of your time on these actions, and do you perform the right tasks at the right time?
  7. Don’t celebrate too soon. Execution requires 100% concentration right to the end. Keep analyzing the plan, questioning and re-evaluating it, and be ready to adapt it as the environment changes, right up to the end.
  8. Be focused, not obsessed. I’ve been to the top of Mount Everest. There are two reasons why some people don’t come back from this trip. Firstly, they refuse to re-evaluate the plan and fail to adapt to a changing environment. Secondly, they are obsessed with the top and forget the mission, the WHY. In my motivational talks, when I address the management team, the mission, our purpose and the impact we have on others are central elements. Interestingly, when the WHY is strong, we end up with an unlimited supply of energy…

I sincerely hope these tips help you.
Good luck,


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