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May 26, 2016

Four ways to improve follow-through—without working longer hours

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This story was updated on July 25, 2018.

Becoming more productive isn't all about burning the midnight oil. Rather, you can work on a few sustainable habits that help you follow through on projects, two experts write in Harvard Business Review.

"Most people recognize that execution is a critical skill and strive to perform it well, but they may a) underestimate how important it is to their career advancement or b) not realize that you can improve on execution without working longer hours," write Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of Zenger/Folkman

Folkman and Zenger share the four behaviors that stand out among leaders who are highly effective executors:

1. They have a clear strategy

Jumping into a project without a clear plan of action will only derail your progress. This is especially true when multiple people are involved; without set directions, your team can't execute tasks efficiently. Create a plan that clearly outlines everyone's roles and expectations.

Another upside to having a road map: "Providing others with clear direction and a sense of connection to the strategy of the organization helps people understand how the work they are doing dovetails with the organization's mission," Zenger and Folkman write.

2. They set stretch goals

Push your team to go further by setting stretch goals paired with deadlines. Figure out what it will take to accomplish your goals in less time but with the same level of quality.

"By challenging your team and supporting them in accomplishing a difficult goal, team members actually feel more engaged and satisfied with their jobs," Zenger and Folkman write.

Remember to be reasonable about the stretch goals you set, and be sure to include your team in the process of setting deadlines.

3. They give plenty of feedback

Great executors give great feedback. That means taking the time to listen to employees' perspectives rather than just talking at them. Engage in conversations that truly help your employees grow.

Also focus on giving as much positive feedback as possible. Zenger and Folkman's research shows that the most successful executors also dole out the most positive recognition.

4. They resolve conflict

Following through on tasks is possible only when team members are able to work together toward a common goal. A strong team culture makes for an environment in which everyone wants to do their best.

"Many of the problems within a team come from differences and conflict between team members," Zenger and Folkman write. "On high-performing teams, team members trust each other and conflict is constructive, not destructive or personal" (Folkman/Zenger, Harvard Business Review, 5/23).

Here are 4 ways to be a less-stressed leader

Stress is endemic in today’s health care workforce, but the good news is that leaders have much more control over their stress levels at work than they might think. The most effective leaders take steps to proactively keep their own stress in check—while modeling healthy habits for their teams.

Use this infographic to review effective stress management strategies that can help you become a less-stressed leader.

Get the Infographic

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