profileArticle Author


Keith McCambridge

Keith McCambridge



London Office
Tel: +44 207 224 2071


Send Keith An Email

view allPrevious Articles

Developing leaders Strengthening Leadership Capability by Rachel Gascoigne
Maximise Opportunities How to Maximise the Chance of a Successful Hire by Adam Hillier

Candidate Guide

Provides information on different selection methods that you may encounter in your job search. Read The Candidate Guide

exploreWalk With...


Learn more about our friends in South Africa

Thought Leadership


The art of getting things done

Recently, I was asked by one of our clients to speak at a conference about the simple concept of getting things done. It sounds simple, yet at an organisational level, it is far easier said than done. Wickland Westcott is constantly being asked by its clients to assess senior leaders and specifically, to understand their capacity to deliver change, performance and results. Yet we also encounter a fundamental bias towards prizing the skills associated with strategic capability - essentially the capacity of an individual to read the commercial context and challenges facing an organisation and subsequently develop a strategy to create value in that context.

Today more than ever, reading the market and predicting outcomes is a difficult task. We face tumultuous times with significant shifts in the political, economic and social paradigms that challenge many of the strategies and business models that worked so well previously. Organisations live in a dynamic world where change can happen so suddenly that confidently made assumptions become nothing more than guesses. What was previously "known" becomes suspect and at its worse, this can lead to hesitation, wrongly made assumption and even paralysis.

There is a new pragmatism emerging - one that is led by individuals who believe that strategy without execution is nothing short of hallucination. As one CEO being coached by Wickland Westcott said, "If I can't make this plan happen, none of these pretty slide packs matter." Many of this new generation of "doers" believe strongly that success does not come from innovation or new thinking, but instead through flawless execution. These leaders challenge the assumption that organisational leaders sit above delivery and should be primarily focuses on the creation of strategy.

When we assess the capability of leaders on behalf of our clients, we focus a great deal of energy and time understanding where they come from and what they have actually done. We believe that the most powerful predictor of future performance is past performance. The chances are that if someone has done something before, they are likely to do it again. We are fundamentally interested in track record and now more than ever, we look for the ability to execute - especially at Executive level.

In their book, "Execution, the discipline of getting things done" Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan and Charles Burck outline "The leader's Seven Essential Behaviours." They are a great starting point for anyone interested in refining their own ability to flawlessly execute.

  1. Know your people and your business - do you really know how it works?
  2. Insist on realism - "hope" has its place in religion but not in business
  3. Set clear goals and priorities - if your people can't tell you what they are, you are in trouble
  4. Follow through - get it over the finish line, not just through the investment committee
  5. Reward the doers - if you don't, you will lose them
  6. Expand people's capabilities - specifically regarding their ability to deliver
  7. Know yourself - "contain your ego and recognise your blind spots"

This is a great starting point for those who want to challenge themselves and ask the question, "Do I really know how to get stuff done in my business?"

The behaviours imply a true connection to the organisation - to really know what it is capable of and how it works. Interestingly, a recent coachee who had just moved to a new business after a long period with his previous employer struggled in the first 6 months to really know how to get stuff done in his new environment. There was no manual - there rarely is, so he needed to immerse himself in the business from the frontline up.  He needed to know when he was being managed with only half the story and he needed to identify the likeminded "doers" who could help him activate his work.  He encouraged people to confront the brutal reality of what was happening and to speak truth to power. Critically, he needed to ensure the organisation was crystal clear with what it was going to do, by when and by whom. The doers were rewarded and others soon caught on - landing tangible results was what it was all about.

Vision, creativity, and strategic insight are of course important qualities still. Yet these are totally insufficient in a world that has no respect for 5 year plans. Customers want service and flawless execution now - those who are capable of delivering this are the new rock stars. One could argue they always have been.

For a discussion about any aspect of leadership development, please call Keith McCambridge on 0207 224 2071 or email him on

Wickland Westcott has been providing a fully integrated leadership service for nearly 40 years. In-house occupational psychologists work alongside market-focused Search professionals to deliver exceptional client service and satisfaction. With extensive experience at ‘C Suite’ level, and half of our top 20 client list featuring in the FTSE 250/NYSE, Wickland Westcott has a clear picture of what makes for leadership success.

Share This Thought Leadership Article

Enter the letters as they are shown in the image