Team Leadership: The Myth of ‘Flawless Execution'

Rob “Waldo” Waldman

I love being flawless. It puts a big smile on my face. Whether giving a speech, making a cold call, or bluffing at poker, it’s nice to have a perfect mission.

OK, let’s get real here. It almost never happens.

So many companies have a mission of flawless execution for their employees. They wear it like a badge of honor and preach it at their annual sales meetings and company newsletters. They think that pushing for perfection really works. I disagree.

I have a question for you. Are you flawless in your sales processes? Do you never make mistakes?

No fighter pilot mission is ever complete until we debrief. We do this because 99.9 percent of the time mistakes are made and we need to figure out how not to make them again. No mission is ever perfect, regardless of if you’re a fighter pilot, sales manager, or an IT specialist. We’re all human beings, and human beings make mistakes.

The problem with having a flawless execution business philosophy is that it often backfires. It backfires because when people are pushed to be perfect, they stop taking risks and start accepting mediocrity. They become afraid to push the envelope and make mistakes. After all, if they don’t perform flawlessly, they must be messing up.

In essence, they become fearful and fear takes away our winning spirit. In an age where innovation and risk taking are so critical to business growth, that type of behavior can prove fatal.


Here’s another question - Do you want to operate in an environment that promotes mediocrity? I didn’t think so. Nobody wants to be a mediocre salesperson. Don’t sell out to the myth of being flawless.

My friend Jeffrey Gitomer is one of the top sales trainers in the world. He actually pays his employees when they make a mistake. That’s right. When they use their best judgment and make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of his company, they get paid. Wow, talk about motivating your employees to take risks.

The best fighter pilots are the ones who have made all the mistakes in the book, but they took action to correct them so they wouldn’t happen again.

In sales, this is also the key to success. You have to push the envelope by trying a new sales tactic, aborting a weak prospect, or flying out to see a client out of the blue. Dare to be different and test the waters.

Here’s a Wingtip: Rather than demand flawless execution, command flawless preparation. You command it through your words and actions. Now that’s something that is attainable. Discipline yourself to:

• Extensively study your prospects and competition;

• Mission rehearse (chair-fly) every sales call or product demo;

• Plan for contingencies (the what-ifs of business);

• Attend seminars to strengthen your personal development or business skills;

• Build trusting relationships with wingmen you can turn to for help.

The list goes on and on. The bottom line is take the focus off of the flawless execution of your sales missions and focus on the flawless preparation that will eventually lead to flawless (or near flawless) execution.

That’s how you win.

Push it up!

Publication date: 04/21/2008

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