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I remember sitting in a productivity seminar in an Entrepreneurs’ Organization Conference in Chicago a few years ago when the speaker asked a series of interesting questions.

The first was: “Who in the room is habitually late for everything?” The second was: “Who in the room prides themself with being on time?”

Then he asked: “For those of you who are always late, what do you think the impression you leave with people is?”

The answers around the room were, “I’m busy, important, successful, value my time, etc.”

Then the speaker asked: “For those of you who are always on time, what do you think about people who are late for meetings?”

The answers they gave included: “rude, inconsiderate, poor planners, not very thoughtful, selfish, disorganized, etc.” You could have heard a pin drop.

A 1997 McKinsey and Company survey coined the phrase “the war for talent.” It forecast a two- decade demographically fuelled net reduction in talent in the workforce due to baby boomers retiring.

The recent recession slowed that war, as boomers planning to retire saw their RRSPs, investments and pensions take a massive hit. As these investments begin to recover to pre-September 2008 levels, it’s again becoming attractive for boomers to consider retirement or early retirement.

"There can be as much as a 10- to 15-year experience gap between retiring leaders and high potentials."

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Very rarely do I hear from CEO's and executives who are worried they will not be able to plot a strategy that makes sense for their company. More often than not, their greatest challenge lies in execution of the plan. One of the core issues in execution that holds back progress is ineffective decision making systems that result from a limited understanding of how decisions are made, who has the ability and responsibility to make decisions and what criterion is being used to make those decisions.

The ability to make clear, definite decisions in a timely fashion can be the difference between leading and lagging the competition. If key people in your organization are in decision paralysis what effect is that having on overall progress? Can you afford the extra time it’s taking to make decisions in your competitive industry?

So what can you do about it? Take a good look at how your decision-making culture might be slowing down the execution of your strategic plan by starting to understand which of these common blocks may be holding you back from making timely decisions:

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Let me paint the scene: you have a group of executives and senior managers, all well-paid, spending most of their weeks in meetings pretending to be paying attention to mind-numbing updates being read from the document they have sitting in front of them while doing the “Blackberry/iPhone Prayer”: holding their smartphone under the table, replying to email, texting, or furiously working to beat their high score on Angry Birds.

One of the most common complaints I hear from CEOs, Executives, and Senior Managers is that they spend most of their time in meetings, unclear what the purpose is other than the fact that the meeting is supposed to happen once a week, leaving them with little one-on-one time with their teams, desperate to clear out an overflowing inbox, and dreaming about having some whitespace in their calendar so they can actually be innovative and think creatively about the strategic direction of the business, organization, or even simply their division or team.

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Your behaviour as a leader has an enormous impact on your team and your organizational culture. Understanding the effect of your leadership behaviours on the execution of your strategy is the first step in guiding your team in the right direction.

As a leader, the best way to harness momentum and motivation around your strategy is by consistently behaving in ways that you want to see others behave, and exhibit the behaviours that you want to ingrain into your culture and ultimately pass down to everyone in your organization.

Here are a few things you can do to sustain momentum and support the execution of your strategy by being intentional with your leadership behaviours:

Be decisive and take action, however small, towards your goal. When temptation to postpone, cancel or move deadlines presents itself, let people see you take one small step toward the goal – when you can’t do it all, something is better than nothing; if you can’t do all of it, do some of it. When you put a visible emphasis on forward motion in the execution of your plan, chances are others will follow your lead.

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Over the years, I’ve become convinced that the “10/90 rule” is the best guide for dividing your time and energy between strategy and execution: 10% of the value of strategic planning is in the creation of a plan that outlines direction and priorities for the coming year; 90% of the plan’s value comes from an organization’s ability to effectively execute that plan.

If your organization is like many, once the executive team leaves the room after strategic planning, the daily grind takes over, the months start to tick away and before you know it you’re partway through the year and have made virtually no headway in executing on your strategy.

The reality is, there can be a giant gap between what needs to be done to execute a plan successfully and the potential of the organization to make it happen; it’s about more than resources and capabilities. It’s about culture.

The truth is that cultural norms can make execution far more challenging than it needs to be. Execution takes buy-in, emotional commitment to the plan and discipline. But the one element that has the greatest impact on successful implementation is your organizational culture.

Here are a few ways you can begin to shift the culture of your organization toward one that’s focused on execution.

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