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Knowledge, Execution & You

I took my mandatory high school history courses during the summer prior to the academic year it was required. I had the same teacher and he would say, “The world would be perfect if it weren’t for people.” I didn’t understand the content and context until many years later. Imperfect supervisors must manage processes and lead imperfect people. Leading imperfect people should bring you to the conclusion that people do not accomplish tasks due to knowledge deficit or execution deficit and you are the most difficult team member you have to supervise.


Knowledge deficits result in tasks remaining incomplete or completed incorrectly. I do not expect my second-grade nephew and sixth grade niece to solve calculus equations because they do not have the knowledge to complete such a task yet. Leaders must be confident in knowing that all team members have an understanding of the concepts related to the task, along with the knowledge, skills and abilities to complete the task correctly, completely and on-time. A leader will never hire a team member who is all-knowing. Once you discover that a team member has a knowledge deficit, provide training, instruction, coaching, workshops, tutoring and mentoring for them. As a leader, you must document the plan to address the knowledge deficit and the progress made to increase the team member’s knowledge. You can “train” to a knowledge deficit, but not an execution deficit.


A team member with an execution deficit has the knowledge, skills and abilities to do the task completely, correctly and on-time, yet they make a choice not to complete the task. Do not invest training time, talent and treasure into these situations. An execution deficit is a matter of the mind, heart and soul. Team members must come to the team with internal motivation, integrity, and a work ethic because this cannot be taught. Therefore, a conversation is warranted to ascertain the reason, 5-Why’s and lack of motivation resulting in a lack of production. Research suggests that the main reason for execution deficits are indecisiveness and lack of persistence. As you set expectations, and yes consequences, for team members to know or learn concepts and execute within their positions, you are the person who is the most challenging team member to supervise.


Many years ago, a workshop presenter asked us to write the initials of the most challenging member on your team. I wrote my initials. The presenter asked me why I identified myself as the most challenging member. I responded that I am the only person who I can control. Leaders can choose how to think, behave and respond to team members, yet cannot control the decisions and behaviors of team members. Leaders can adjust their thinking and strategies and control the “training” and progressive discipline for team members. Expending more time and effort cultivating your own cognitive processing and behaviors is more beneficial to the team member than an entire focus on the team members’ knowledge and execution deficit.


As a leader, you are responsible for your personal development, the progression of each team member and the decision to keep a member on the team. Each team member is unique, which requires different specific approaches and strategies. The team member deserves the same attention to their growth as any other team member, yet the team member cannot impede team progress.


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