Good ideas and “We really shoulds” won’t get you very far

You’re in your weekly leadership team meeting discussing how to close the yawing gap between your quarterly sales target and current forecasts. The team is engaged, and folks are putting out some solid ideas for closing the gap.

Around the room, folks are nodding their heads in support, offering encouraging comments like “Great idea, we really should do that,” and “Yeah—that would make a big difference.”

It seems like the entire team is on board, and they’ve identified some creative new actions that could get things back on track. When the meeting is over, folks feel a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.

But then the team members return to their offices and inboxes and…nothing much happens.

The team’s ideas were good. Their intent was positive. The conversation was productive and generated lots of good ideas. Yet, no new action.

What’s standing in the way of this team of executives executing on their good ideas?

As overly simplistic as it may sound, there’s only one of two possible things missing here: A request, or an offer.

A team’s ideas may be fantastic and their motivation strong, but this isn’t enough if they don’t know how to get into action. And in organizations, this action takes the form of personal promises—promises to achieve specific outcomes in specific ways by specific dates.

And the way you get personal promises is by making personal requests of others—or personally offering to make the promise yourself for others.  And for those requests or offers to be accepted by those other people.

This is how work gets done in organizations. Requests, offers and promises are the stuff of execution, and they happen in conversations (I refer to the specific conversations that produce and sustain good promises as “Fulfillment Conversations”).

Having effective Fulfillment Conversations isn’t complicated or mysterious, but it does require some thought and rigor.

When Fulfillment Conversations are missing or poorly managed, the best ideas in the world remain just that—good ideas and positive intentions. When people complain about lousy meetings, one of the things that’s usually missing is good Fulfillment Conversations.

Ultimately, regardless of your title, position, or pay grade, you are paid to make and manage valuable promises, and when that isn’t happening, performance suffers.

The next time you’re at the table, ask yourself: “Are we just tossing around good ideas and well-meant “we-shoulds,” or are we making real promises to get things done?

I go into much more detail about how to design great Fulfillment Conversations with your colleagues in my book, Full Contact Performance. Or, reach out to me and my team at Full Contact Institute to explore how we can help transform your team’s promises and performance.

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